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The Morning Vertical, November 7, 2016


Be careful what you wish for because you may get it. For years Russia has been trying to get the attention of the United States and the West. For years, Moscow has been trying to get Washington and Brussels to take it seriously.
Well now it has succeeded and the results will probably not be in Russia's interests.

By interfering in a U.S. presidential election, the Kremlin has alerted national security establishments throughout the West of the dangers Vladimir Putin's regime poses. By attempting to cause unrest in Montenegro, Moscow has alienated a traditionally friendly country -- albeit one that is about to join NATO.

And as I note on today's Daily Vertical, now there are increased signs that the West is pushing back. The release of Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov's e-mails and the leak that U.S. military hackers have penetrated Russia's vital infrastructure shows that two can play the cyberwar game.

We're not in a Cold War. But a period of containment of Moscow is about to begin.


U.S. military hackers have penetrated Russia's electric grid, telecommunications networks and the Kremlin's command systems, making them vulnerable to attack by U.S. cyberattacks should Washington deem it necessary, NBC News reported, citing U.S. intelligence officials.

Authorities in Montenegro say an investigation shows that Russian nationalists were behind an alleged coup attempt that included a plot to assassinate the country’s pro-Western leader because of his plans to have the Balkan state join NATO.

More than 5,000 people are expected to participate in a Moscow parade to mark the 75th anniversary of a legendary 1941 parade in which soldiers marched through Red Square to celebrate the 24th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Yevgeny Zinichev, a former bodyguard of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been named the deputy director of the country's Federal Security Service.

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has resigned as governor of Ukraine's Odesa Oblast.

Pyotr Tolstoi, the deputy speaker of the State Duma, says he wants to stop Russian Internet users from mocking patriotic values.


In case you missed it, the latest Power Vertical Podcast, Homo Putinicus, looks at Vladimir Putin's quest for a unifying national ideology. Joining me was 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.


On this week's Power Vertical Briefing, The Day After, I discuss the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election with RFE/RL Senior Editor Steve Gutterman.


The Putin Factor In The U.S. Election

There is no shortage of material out there on Russia and this week's U.S. presidential election. Here's a sampling.

The Atlantic has published an interesting conversation between Peter Pomerantsev, author of the book Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible: Inside The Surreal Heart Of The New Russia, and Arkady Ostrovsky, author of the book The Invention Of Russia, on what Putin wants from U.S. elections.

The Financial Times has a good reported piece in "the Russia factor" in the U.S. election.

And cyber-experts Andrew A. Weisburd, Clint Watts, and J.M. Berger have an in-depth piece up on the War on the Rocks blog: Trolling For Trump: How Russia Is Trying To Destroy Our Democracy.

Public Opinion In The U.S.-Russian Relationship

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs has a new report out on how insecurity and mistrust shape U.S.-Russian relations.

"New polling data from the 2016 Chicago Council Survey and the Levada Analytical Center in Russia -- both independently conducted and funded -- show that mutual perceptions between Russians and Americans are now at levels not seen since the Cold War," the authors write.

"While there is common ground in public concerns about global threats, the surveys also show a great deal of mutual distrust. Russians express a sense of insecurity about U.S. strength and influence, and prefer that their country aim to limit U.S. international sway. Although Americans believe that Russia is acting to contain U.S. power, the U.S. public favors cooperation and engagement rather than containing Russia."

The Imported War

Gustav Gressel, Kadri Liik, and Fredrik Wesslau of the European Council on Foreign Relations have a report out in New Eastern Europe titled Donbas: An Imported War.

"The war in Donbas is an imported war," the authors write.

"The power to resolve the conflict sits with Moscow, but what the Kremlin wants to achieve -- leverage and veto rights over Ukraine’s future decision making -- is not just unacceptable to Ukraine and Europe, it is impossible from a practical point of view. There is no local constituency for 'special status.'"

War Preparations In Europe

The Daily Signal's Ukraine correspondent Nolan Peterson has a piece in Newsweek looking at how some European countries are quietly arming themselves against a Russian invasion.

The Montenegro Operation

Journalist Julia Petrovskaya has a piece in Intersection Magazine on Russia's recent hybrid operation to destabilize Montenegro.

"Moscow's attempt to influence the outcome of the parliamentary election in Montenegro in order to stall the country’s accession to NATO due to take effect in 2017 has led to accusations that Russia is plotting 'a bloody scenario' aimed at destabilizing the Balkans," Petrovskaya writes.

Red Star On The Nile

Political analyst Maged Mandour, author of the Chronicles of the Arab Revolt column for Open Democracy, has a piece on the Carnegie Europe website on the pro-Russian drift in Egypt's foreign policy.

Politburo 2.0

The latest report on the Russian elite by prominent political analyst Yevgeny Minchenko claims that former Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Ivanov and businessman Gennady Timchenko have fallen out of Vladimir Putin's "politburo."

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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