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The Morning Vertical, May 30, 2017


Moldova and Estonia have expelled Russian diplomats for espionage. Ukraine is investigating the Russian Internet giant Yandex for illegally collecting data on local citizens. The Czech Republic and Finland have set up centers to combat Russian disinformation.

It may not look like much yet, but we are in fact seeing the early stages of an emerging policy of nonkinetic containment taking shape.

For years, Russia has been waging a nonkinetic war against its neighbors and against the West, weaponizing everything from information to finance to corruption. The goal has been to destabilize potential foes and establish local networks of influence.

It was spectacularly successful for a time because Moscow was able to operate stealthily. Methods road-tested in Russia's neighbors were later deployed in points farther West.

But the mask came off, first with Russia's war on Ukraine and later with its brazen efforts to interfere in a series of Western elections. And as a result, the need for a new 21st-century form of containment is becoming evident.

And Russia's neighbors, who were the first victims of Moscow's nonkinetic war tactics, are leading the way.


Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin has promised a "tough" response after Moldova ordered five of Moscow's diplomats in Chisinau to leave the country.

Russian authorities say the death toll from a violent storm that swept through Moscow and the surrounding region on May 29 has risen to 16.

A Moscow court has begun hearings in the case of a defamation lawsuit filed by Kremlin-connected oligarch Alisher Usmanov against opposition politician and anticorruption activist Aleksei Navalny.

Usmanov also fired a new salvo in a high-profile dispute with Navalny, announcing an online competition for "the best stickers, caricatures, parodies, videos, and memes" about the standoff.

A Russian man who faces charges in the United States of hacking computers at U.S. companies is facing an extradition hearing at a prison in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.

U.S. Senator John McCain has said Russian President Vladimir Putin is a bigger threat to global security than Islamic State and called for increased sanctions on Moscow for allegedly interfering in the U.S. presidential election.

Montenegro has protested the "inappropriate" treatment of a lawmaker who was prevented from changing airplanes at a Moscow airport.

Russian prosecutors are seeking a five-year suspended sentence for the former head of Moscow's Ukrainian Literature Library, who is accused of extremism and embezzlement in a case that has been denounced by rights activists.

A 76-year-old former space researcher who was sentenced to prison on a treason conviction has asked President Vladimir Putin for clemency.

The Ukrainian Security Service says that searches of the Kyiv and Odesa offices of Russian Internet giant Yandex as part of a treason investigation found that company management had "illegally collected" personal data on local citizens.

Ukrainian authorities are blaming Russia-backed separatists for a hail of artillery fire that injured at least eight civilians, damaged buildings, and interrupted water supplies in the frontline town of Krasnohorivka over the weekend.

Deputy foreign ministers from Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia are scheduled to meet in Berlin on May 30 to discuss the conflict in the Donbas.


In case you missed it, my latest Power Vertical blog post -- Europe, Russia, And Quantum Mechanics -- riffs off the discussion I led at the GLOBSEC Bratislava Forum on the European Neighborhood and looks at the parallel universes occupied by Russia and its neighbors on the issue.


When Vladimir Met Emmanuel

Nicholas Vinocur has a piece in Politico on "Macron and Putin's awkward first date."

In The Daily Beast, Christopher Dickey notes that Macron got "under Putin's skin."

Novaya Gazeta noted that Putin arrived at Versailles 30 minutes late and added that "powerful people stick to their principles, even when they are in difficult diplomatic situations." noted Macron's public criticism of RT and Sputnik, which he called "agents of influence and propaganda" in the French election. "The dialogue between the two countries has clearly begun on a high note," the paper wrote.

Putin's Plans

Moskovsky Komsomolets has a piece looking ahead to Putin's plans for the 2018 election and speculates about who might replace him should he decide not to run.

Putin's Little Helpers

Andrew Higgins has a piece in The New York Times on the proxies the Kremlin uses to disrupt elections in the West.

Deal With Russia, Ignore Putin

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky argues that the "smartest way to deal with Russia" is to "ignore Putin."

The Politics Of Language

In a piece on the Carnegie Europe website, Thomas de Waal asks if Ukraine's language wars are being reignited.

Russia's New Tank

The BBC's defense and diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus asks: "Should Russia's new Armata T-14 tanks worry NATO?"

The Changing Information War

In a piece for Intersection magazine, Stepan Goncharov of the Levada Center notes that Russians' trust in state media has fallen below 2012 levels and argues that the Kremlin's "virtual war with the West is smoothly turning into a conflict between the authorities and the opposition."

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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