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The Morning Vertical, November 4, 2016


Today's National Unity Day holiday marks the start of what is shaping up to be a year of ideology for Vladimir Putin's Russia.

It comes just days after Putin called on the State Duma to pass a law defining the Russian nation. It will be the last Unity Day before next year's 100th anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution -- an anniversary that comes just months before the 2018 presidential election. And the signs are evident that the Kremlin will attempt to use that anniversary to try, once and for all, to establish a unifying national idea.

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we will discuss Unity Day, the proposed law on the Russian nation, and the 1917 anniversary as elements in Putin's effort to forge a national ideology and what that portends.
Joining me will be co-host Mark Galeotti, a senior policy fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, and Moscow-based journalist Anna Arutunyan, author of the book The Putin Mystique: Inside Russia's Power Cult.

Be sure to tune in later today!


Nationalists and government supporters are marching through the streets of Moscow as Russia marks National Unity Day, a holiday established by the Kremlin more than 10 years ago.

The FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies are examining faked documents aimed at discrediting the Hillary Clinton campaign as part of a broader investigation into what U.S. officials believe has been an attempt by Russia to disrupt the presidential election, Reuters reported.

Protesters from a group known as the Syria Campaign blocked the entrance to Russia's embassy in London on November 3 with 800 mannequin limbs, a move they said was taken in response to the killing of hundreds of civilians in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland said he has talked with Russian officials about reports that rights activist Ildar Dadin has been tortured and beaten in prison.

The Russian military said one of its helicopters in Syria came under rebel fire and made an emergency landing on November 3, but no crew members were hurt.

Russian authorities say four suspected militants were killed in an operation in the North Caucasus region of Daghestan.

U.S. law enforcement is investigating Andrei Baranov, a Russian sports agent, on suspicion of bribery and corruption, The New York Times reported. Investigators are probing whether Baranov conspired with organizers of the New York Marathon to allow athletes to compete using performance-enhancing drugs.


Clinton And Putin

The Washington Post has an interesting reported piece, From 'Reset' To 'pause': The Real Story Behind Hillary Clinton's Feud With Vladimir Putin, looking at the U.S. Democratic presidential nominee's contentious relationship with Vladimir Putin.

The Cold War Playbook

In an interesting piece for the War On The Rocks blog, James M. Ludes, executive director of Salve Regina University's Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy, argues that Putin's tactics against the West are reminiscent of the United States' early Cold War playbook against the Soviet bloc.

"Putin has borrowed a page from America’s Cold War playbook and seeks to expose the rot within the West, and especially within the United States, as a means of destroying Western cohesion, diminishing American influence and leadership, and reinforcing Russia," Ludes writes.

"The means employed by Russia are modern, including hacking and cyberespionage, but, at its core, this is an influence operation of the kind embraced by the United States in the first decade of the Cold War."

How To Wrong-Foot Putin In Syria

Steven Heydemann, a professor of Middle East studies at Smith College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy, has an op-ed in The New York Times arguing that it is possible to pressure Russia in Syria without a no-fly zone.

"There is little that matters more to Mr. Assad or to Russia than the regime’s claim that it represents the legitimate, sovereign government of Syria, a claim that Russia and Iran use as legal cover for a murderous campaign against civilian targets and political moderates," Heydemann writes.

"The most effective diplomatic means for the United States to regain leverage in Syria is for Washington to lead an international effort to undermine the Assad government’s claims and recognize a different government as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people."

The Sino-Russian Axis

The European Council on Foreign Relations has a new report out on cooperation between Russia and China.

"The 'axis of convenience' between China and Russia has, without question, grown larger. And the positive dynamics pushing cooperation forward are largely economic," Francois Godement, director of the ECFR's Asia and China Program, writes in the report's introduction.

"But there is also a negative dynamic, coming from the West. Both countries have a perception of regime insecurity that emerges from the international promotion of democracy, and the attractiveness of corruption-free and comparably safe Western societies for individuals, be they Chinese or Russian."

The Politics Of Nord Stream

Judy Dempsey has a piece on the Carnegie Europe website on the battle over Nord Stream-2 and how it is playing out in German politics.

"An unlikely coalition is emerging in Germany between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and the opposition Greens. Increasingly, leading members of both parties want to stop the construction of a second pipeline that will transport gas directly from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea," Dempsey writes.

Upcoming Report To Watch: The Kremlin's Trojan Horses

The Atlantic Council will release a report, The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses: Russian Influence In France, Germany, And The United Kingdom, later this month.

According to the announcement, the report "exposes the Kremlin’s networks of political influence in Europe’s core" and "documents how the Russian government cultivates relationships with ideologically friendly political parties, individuals, and civic groups to build an army of Trojan horses across European polities."

The report will be presented at the Atlantic Council in Washington on November 16.

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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