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The Morning Vertical, May 24, 2016


One has to wonder how much longer the charade of the so-called Normandy Format can continue. Vladimir Putin, Petro Poroshenko, Angela Merkel, and Francois Hollande spoke yet by telephone again this week about ways to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine. And as far as I can see, all the call did was provide the Kremlin with yet another opportunity to pretend it is a peacemaker in a conflict in which it is the instigator and the aggressor. Meanwhile, fighting spiked in the Donbas yesterday with Kyiv reporting 31 attacks by Russia-backed separatists.

This conflict will only end when Putin wants it to end. It will only end when the costs of continuing it are unacceptable for him. And continuing to treat the aggressor like a mediator with more "Normandy Format" phone calls does little to raise those costs.


The Supreme Court has approved criminal penalties for insulting Russia's national anthem.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has told pensioners in Crimea that there "simply isn't enough money" to index pensions.

Russia's banning of Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev from his homeland appears to be headed for the European Court of Human Rights.

France has granted an entry visa to a Russian official banned by the EU.

The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany have spoken by telephone about ways to settle the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Russia says it summoned a U.S. defense attache after claiming that an American military aircraft flew into civilian airspace during a reconnaissance mission near Russia's border in the Far East.


The End Of The Petrostate?

Russian billionaire Petr Aven teamed up with economists Vladimir Nazarov and Samvel Lazaryan to pen a provocative article in The National Interest, Twilight Of The Petrostate, arguing that "the age of oil rents is over" and "a political and geopolitical revolution is on the way."

"As trade, investment, and migrant flows between oil-producing countries and the rest of the world decline, the body of globalism will certainly grow leaner. Its spirit, however, will revive," the authors write.

"The full enjoyment of Western comforts and technologies will no longer be compatible with a negation of its values and institutes. Only those countries that embrace modernization and carry it further than they did in the previous oil downcycle can hope not be relegated to a historical footnote."

In his column for Bloomberg View, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky argues that Putin should heed the warning.

"The rules of debate in Russia have changed significantly in recent years, but the debate itself hasn't quite ceased. Influential modernizers -- or, rather, Westernizers -- can still get their voices heard. Russia's future course depends on whether Putin is willing to listen, even just a little bit," Bershidsky writes.

Prokhorov's Deal With The Devil

Writing in Intersection, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya argues that Mikhail Prokhorov's deal to fire RBC's editors in exchange for cessation of pressure won't work.

Victims Of Russian Aggression Unite!

In an interview with, Andreas Umland of the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kyiv argues that it is time for the victims of Russian aggression to unite to form a defensive bloc.

"Ukraine's accession to NATO is unrealistic. It is also questionable to say that the Association Agreement with the EU gives Ukraine security guarantees," Umland says. "Therefore, I see no other way out than to try to create some kind of a coalition of countries that are experiencing the same problems."

A Canadian Magnitsky Act?

Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul has criticized Canada for its failure to adopt its own Magnitsky Act.

Russian Trolls In Finland

Journalist Jessikka Aro has a report in European View about the activities of Russian trolls on social media in Finland.

Aro herself has been targeted in a coordinated campaign of harassment and character assassination by Russian trolls.

And My Shameless Promotion Of A Friend's Accomplishment

And finally, congratulations to my good friend Peter Pomerantsev for winning the RSL Ondaatje Prize, which honors the best writing "evoking the spirit of a place" for his excellent book Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible: Inside The Surreal Heart Of The New Russia.

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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