Accessibility links

Breaking News

The Morning Vertical, November 1, 2016


On yesterday's Daily Vertical, I argued that Russia was effectively waging a nonkinetic war against Europe and the United States, using methods including disinformation, cyberattacks, and the financing of extremist parties to undermine Western institutions.

I also argued that it was time to start a conversation about how the West should contain Russia's aggression. Veteran Kremlin-watcher Edward Lucas, author of The New Cold War, just got the ball rolling with an excellent piece for CAPX (featured below).

At the heart of Lucas's argument is that Putin's power to undermine the West is greatly augmented by his Western enablers, such as the bankers and lawyers who help launder Russian money. The West, Lucas argues, could go a long way toward containing Russia by naming and shaming the Kremlin's Western helpers and by simply enforcing existing laws more effectively.


U.S. judges have given a cool reception to an appeal by notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, dubbed the "Merchant of Death," to nullify his conviction for illegal arms trafficking.

Vladimir Putin has signed a law halting an agreement with the United States on the disposal of weapons-grade plutonium, a move that comes amid a continuing deterioration in bilateral ties.

The Dutch government is seeking up to six more weeks to broker a complex deal to prevent the Netherlands from withdrawing its support for a partnership agreement between the EU and Ukraine.

Georgia's ruling political party, Georgian Dream, has secured a constitutional majority in the second round of parliamentary elections held on October 30.

A man reportedly faces a fine for putting a sack over the head of a controversial statue to Ivan the Terrible, in what appears to be the latest in a string of protest actions against the recently unveiled monument to the ruthless Russian tsar.

U.S. Democratic leaders have blasted FBI Director James Comey for refusing to join other top government officials in naming Russia as the hacking operation behind leaked Democratic e-mails in what one called a "blatant double standard."

The head of the British intelligence agency MI5, Andrew Parker, has warned that Russia is acting in "increasingly aggressive ways" to foil opponents in the West.


Today's Must-Read Piece: Edward Lucas On Punishing Putin

Veteran Kremlin-watcher Edward Lucas, author of The New Cold War, has an excellent piece for CAPX looking at what the West can do to contain Russia's aggressive campaign against Western institutions.

"The weakest part of the Putin machine: its Western accomplices," Lucas writes.

"Russia can’t launder money on its own. It uses Western -- often British -- bankers, lawyers and accountants. These are the 'guilty men' of our era. They have enabled the theft of tens of billions of pounds every year from the Russian people. They knew what they were doing, and they thought nothing would ever happen to them. We can change that."

More Valdai Reax

In his column for, Moscow-based foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov argues that Putin's Valdai speech reflected a desire for detente with the West -- albeit without any policy changes in Moscow.

And in his column for The Washington Post, Daniel Drezner, a professor at Tufts University, gives his main takeaways.

Estonia's Insurgents In Training

In a piece in The New York Times, Andrew Kramer looks at the Estonian Defense League.

"Estonia, a NATO member with a population of 1.3 million people and a standing army of about 6,000, would not stand a chance in a conventional war with Russia. But two armies fighting on an open field is not Estonia’s plan," Kramer writes.

"Since the Ukraine war, Estonia has stepped up training for members of the Estonian Defense League, teaching them how to become insurgents, right down to the making of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, the weapons that plagued the American military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another response to tensions with Russia is the expansion of a program encouraging Estonians to keep firearms in their homes."

The Revolution Of 2017?

Writing in, political analyst Valery Solovei, a professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, argues that changes in Russia will begin in 2017.

Putin's Tory Enablers

In a piece for The Sunday Times, Andrew Gilligan looks at Putin's influential friends in Britain's Conservative Party.

Putin's Syria Payoff

John Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council's Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center and the former United States ambassador to Ukraine, explains how Syria turned Russia into a power broker in the Middle East.

The Politics Of History

Maxim Trudolyubov, a senior fellow with the Kennan Institute and editor at large of Vedomosti, argues that politicized history has replaced politics in Russia.

"The Kremlin finds it useful to tamper with Russian society’s reading of its own history because it works. One need only consider how few people come to the Lubyanka memorial to give their tributes to the victims of the state terror, how many spend hours on social networks arguing about Ivan the Terrible instead of paying attention to shrinking incomes or dilapidated hospitals," Trudolyubov writes.

"This doesn’t just limit our political choices; it also impoverishes our understanding of our own history. Most of Russian history is now 'public history,' a field of poorly informed public controversy rather than scholarly research. People fight about Nicholas II or Stalin as if both were still alive and a consensual view of their respective periods did not exist. And in truth, it does not exist. A future Russia will not just need engineers and doctors; it will need unbiased historians too."

Russia Futures Report

The U.S. Naval War College has released its Russia Futures Report. The full text is available here.

Meanwhile, Nikolas Gvosdev, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, offers a postmortem on U.S. President Barack Obama's Russia policy and offer recommendations for the next administration.

"Whatever administration takes office this coming January, it will have to wrestle with difficult questions of where to seek compromises with Russia and where to stand firm. Proposals like 'new détente' or 'new containment' both carry significant costs and risks --neither is a silver bullet that will solve the recent problems in U.S.-Russia relations quickly and easily," Gvosdev writes.

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


Latest Posts

Latest Podcast