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The Morning Vertical, November 13, 2017


One has to wonder why Vladimir Putin proposed sending international peacekeepers to Ukraine back in September.

Putin's proposal, of course, limited any peacekeeping mission to the line of contact between the war zone in the Donbas and the rest of Ukraine.

And as I argued on today's Daily Vertical, this created the false impression that Russia was giving in to a key Ukrainian demand (Kyiv has long called for international peacekeepers throughout the Donbas and on the Russian-Ukrainian border).

It also appeared to be an effort to legitimize Moscow's narrative that the conflict is an internal Ukrainian affair and not a Russian war of aggression.

But did Putin anticipate that his proposal would reanimate discussion on a real peacekeeping mission with actual teeth? Did he anticipate the United States proposing a 20,000-strong mission as some media reports are suggesting?

If not, it was a major miscalculation. And if so, one has to wonder what the Kremlin leader's endgame is?

We should get some hints today when Kurt Volker, the U.S. special envoy for Ukraine meets with Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov in Belgrade.

On today's Power Vertical Briefing (featured below), we preview that meeting. So be sure to tune in!


Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi today.

A Russian judge has summoned state oil company chief Igor Sechin to court a second time after the powerful ally of Putin failed to show up to testify in a high-profile extortion trial.

The U.S. envoy for efforts to end the Ukrainian conflict, Kurt Volker, is set to meet with Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov today to explore deploying United Nations peacekeepers in eastern Ukraine.

U.S. President Donald Trump, in a stream of Twitter postings, has said having a positive relationship with Russia is "a good thing" and that Moscow can "greatly help" solve crises in Ukraine, North Korea, and Syria, and with global terrorism.

Trump also said that an agreement with Putin on Syria would save many lives after the two met at a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders, while the Russian leader called the statement "extraordinarily important."


On this week's Power Vertical Briefing, we discuss the upcoming meeting on the war in the Donbas between Kurt Volker, the U.S. special envoy for Ukraine, and Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov.


Is Kazan Russia's Barcelona?

In his column for, opposition journalist and commentator Oleg Kashin argues that as Moscow cracks down on Tatarstan's autonomy, Kazan is becoming "Russia's Barcelona."

Rumblings In The Regions

In a commentary on the Carnegie Russia website, Andrei Pertsev argues that Russia's regions are increasingly asserting themselves vis-a-vis Moscow.

Russia's Wild '90s

In an op-ed for The Moscow Times, Natalia Antonova warns us not to romanticize Russia's "wild '90s."

Russian Disinformation And American Vulnerability

Former CIA analyst Kent Harrington has a piece for Project Syndicate on how Americans became vulnerable to Russian disinformation.

Putin's Trojan Horse

In The Daily Beast, Anna Nemtsova argues that Putin is trying to use Hungary to undermine Europe.

Is Peace In The Donbas Risky For Russia?

Peter Dickinson of The Atlantic Council argues that Putin cannot risk peace in the Donbas.

Separatists, Trolls, And 'Extreme Propaganda Videos'

The BBC has a report on how a Russian troll factory is collaborating with Moscow-backed separatists in Donetsk to produce "extreme propaganda videos."

Ovechkin And Putin

Adrian Karatnycky, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, has a piece looking at why Russian hockey player Alex Ovechkin, captain of the NHL's Washington Capitals, has decided to start a pro-Putin movement.

Agora Report On Russian Whistle-Blowers

The Kazan-based human rights organization Agora has released a new report on Russian whistle-blowers.

And has an interview with one of its authors.

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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