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The Morning Vertical, May 22, 2017


Vladimir Putin's attempt to establish an anti-West is on full display today with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's visit to Moscow.

In an interview on the eve of the visit, Duterte told RT that his "foreign policy has shifted" and that he wants to "deal with China and Russia. Because in the Western world, it's double talk."

Duterte added that "Russia sells weapons [with] no conditions. With the U.S. it’s a different story. They make conditions. But I'm not gonna stand on bended knees."

Putin is happy to encourage this sentiment. He has been playing this courtship game with a series of Western allies, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The Kremlin leader is trying to establish an axis of illiberal regimes to challenge the West's dominance of international affairs and to drive wedges into the West itself.

But how much of it is simply trolling, and how much of it will actually translate into geopolitical gains is still unclear.


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte flies to Russia on May 22 to meet President Vladimir Putin and strengthen ties, part of an apparent effort to steer his nation's foreign policy course further away from the United States, Manila's longtime ally.

Mexican authorities say an angry mob has attacked a Russian man in the resort city of Cancun, and the Russian is accused of fatally stabbing a man during the incident.

James Comey, the former FBI director whose firing by U.S. President Donald Trump last week triggered an uproar, will testify about his experiences with Trump and the FBI's investigation into Russia-Trump ties, lawmakers have said.

The Washington Post is reporting that a senior White House adviser is a significant "person of interest" in the investigation of possible ties between Donald Trump's election campaign and Russia.

Russia is pledging to send 60,000 tons of wheat to Venezuela each month, helping alleviate a food crisis in the troubled South American country.

Ukrainian officials have announced a criminal investigation into Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and his secret police chief, Lavrenty Beria, for the mass deportation of Muslim Tatars from the Crimean Peninsula during World War II, which killed tens of thousands.

A protest march organized by Moldova's LGBT community on May 21 in the capital, Chisinau, was halted after just several hundred meters as police sought to avert a confrontation with participants in a counterprotest made up of "Orthodox priests and believers."


In case you missed it, the latest Power Vertical Podcast asked: What are the real goals of "Putin's Perpetual War" on the West?


On the new Power Vertical Briefing, we look ahead to a week of diplomacy, including Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's visit to Moscow, the NATO meeting in Brussels, and a G7 summit in Italy.


Church And State has an interview with religious scholar Nikolai Mitrokhin about the rising influence of the Russian Orthodox Church and the true nature of Russians' religious beliefs.

Riga's Ethnic Russian Mayor

Meduza has a profile of Nils Usakovs, the ethnic-Russian mayor of Riga, who will seek a third term in office in June.

Investigating Russia's Energy Weapon

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that U.S. investigators are looking into growing Russian leverage over the Citgo Petroleum Company amid fears that Moscow will use energy as a weapon against the United States.

Patrushev Speaks

Rossiiskaya Gazeta interviews National Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev about hacking, the war in Ukraine, and the threat from Islamic State. As always, it gives useful insight into the Kremlin's thinking.

Why Putin Is Laughing

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky writes that "Russians are laughing at the U.S., not just at Trump."

What Putin Wants

In Quartz, Max de Haldevang interviews MIkhail Zygar, author of the book All The Kremlin's Men, about what Russia really wants.

And in a video for The Atlantic, Julia Ioffe explains what she thinks Putin wants.

Putin And Kadyrov

Amy Knight, author of the forthcoming book Orders From Above: The Putin Regime And Political Murder, has a piece in The New York Review Of Books explaining why Ramzan Kadyrov is "Putin's Monster."

Pinpoint Propaganda In The Donbas

The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab has a piece on how Russia-backed separatists in the Donbas use electronic warfare and "pinpoint propaganda."

Putin To France?

Kommersant is reporting that Putin may make an unannounced visit to France on May 29.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


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