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The Morning Vertical, May 31, 2017


Margarita Simonyan's response to French President Emmanuel Macron's accusation that RT and Sputnik were "agents of influence and propaganda" was priceless -- and quite telling.

The RT editor in chief said that by Macron's standards, all Western media should be "thrown out of Russia."

In the view of the Kremlin and its surrogates, independent Western journalists who are simply doing their jobs are a component of Western information warfare against Russia.

This is part of the same mindset that leads Vladimir Putin's regime to view Western NGOs as part of a hybrid war against Russia. And it is part of the same mentality that causes them to believe that genuine popular uprisings against corrupt authoritarian regimes are always orchestrated by the CIA or the State Department.

The thing is, I don't think the Kremlin and its surrogates are being disingenuous here. I think they really believe this.

And it points to a fundamental weakness of Putin and his cohorts. They simply don't understand how Western society operates. They don't believe that independent media, independent NGOs, and civil society itself exists -- or can exist.

And as long as this persists, they will continue to get the West wrong and make flawed policy as a result.


The Russian Defense Ministry says a Russian warship and a submarine in the Mediterranean Sea have fired four cruise missiles targeting positions and equipment of the Islamic State extremist group near the Syrian city of Palmyra.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump both dismissed allegations of Russian meddling in last year's U.S. presidential campaign as "fiction" or "fake news" created by Democrats to explain their defeat in the election.

A Moscow court is set to hold a second day of hearings in a defamation lawsuit filed by Kremlin-connected oligarch Alisher Usmanov against opposition politician and anticorruption activist Aleksei Navalny.

Moldovan President Igor Dodon said he hopes to discuss the expulsion of Russian diplomats from his country with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg this week, Russian news agencies reported.

A court in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region of Daghestan has sentenced a local man to 19 years in prison on terrorism charges.

Russia and Saudi Arabia praised their agreement on oil production curbs, which they said had helped stabilize global oil prices, and agreed to pursue more cooperative efforts.

The Dutch Senate has approved the European Union's Association Agreement with Ukraine, paving the way for ratification of the pact strengthening ties between the EU and Kyiv.

Polish President Andrzej Duda is on his first official visit to Georgia.


The Franco-German Front

The European Council on Foreign Relations has released a report on Germany's upcoming federal elections. Of particular interest for Kremlin-watchers, the always insightful Kadri Liik authored the chapter on Russia's role in German politics.

Judy Dempsey has a piece on the Carnegie Europe website on the fledgling partnership between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, and what it means for how Europe deals with Russia.

Macron, Ukraine, And Minsk

In, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya looks at how the election of Emmanuel Macron in France can influence the Ukraine conflict and the implementation of the Minsk accords.

Russia's Gilded Youth

Meduza and Transparency International Russia take a look at the children of Russia's power elite.

What The Russian Papers Say About Putin And Macron

The BBC's Steve Rosenberg's daily video press review has a nice rundown of how the Russian print media is spinning Putin's meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Remembering Zbigniew Brzezinski

MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski has produced a heartfelt tribute to her father, former U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who died on May 26 at the age of 89.

Cultural Appropriation

Meduza and Vox have weighed in with pieces looking at the online spat between Russia and Ukraine over the legacy of Anna Yaroslavna of Kyiv.

Putin's Defender

And finally, Slate's Isaac Chotiner has a remarkable interview with Stephen Cohen in which the veteran Russia scholar questions the conventional wisdom about the war in Ukraine and Putin's electoral meddling. It truly has to be read to be believed. I'll just leave it at that.

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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