Accessibility links

Breaking News

The Morning Vertical, November 8, 2016


At first glance, this seems like Vladimir Putin's moment. As Julia Ioffe argues in a piece featured below, "it doesn’t matter who wins" the U.S. election, "Putin has America right where he wants it" -- with a deeply divided public and a fractured political system. And with big elections coming up in France and Germany, they'll be more opportunities for the Kremlin leader to troll the West and make mischief in the future.

It's an easy time to be a pessimist. But I'm not -- for two reasons.

First, Putin's antics -- which crossed something of a Rubicon by interfering in the U.S. election -- have woken up Western national security communities to the danger of the Kremlin's active measures campaigns. It's only going to get more difficult for Putin to continue trolling the West going forward.

And second, we've been here before. Remember the 1970s? The West was in a funk. There was a sense that democratic institutions weren't working. The transatlantic bond was frayed. And as both Jeffery Gedmin and Leonid Bershidsky note in a pieces featured below, the Soviet Union deployed a whole range of active measures to exploit the situation.

We all remember how that movie ended.


Up to 300,000 NATO troops have been put on alert amid rising tensions between Russia and the Baltic states.

Russia's Federal Security Service says it has detained several alleged members of the banned Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir in St. Petersburg.

A man whose public complaint about corrupt officials in his tiny village in Chechnya brought him fame across Russia has disappeared, prompting new worries about his safety.

Officials in Moscow say Russia and Turkey are resuming military cooperation and plan to hold a meeting of an intergovernmental commission before the end of 2016.

Russia appears to have backed off a threat to suspend air travel to Tajikistan after a day of talks between the two countries' aviation authorities in Moscow.

Former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says Russia's assertive behavior toward NATO may last for decades.

Opposition groups in Russia have asked the office of Moscow's mayor for permission to stage a protest against what they call the "mass annihilation of residents" of Aleppo, Syria.

Partial results from Bulgaria’s presidential election show that Rumen Radev, a pro-Russian candidate who is backed by the Socialist Party, has won the most votes in the first-round ballot that was held on November 6.


Election Day

The U.S. presidential election continues to block out the sun and there is no dearth of commentary out there on the Russian angle.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Julia Ioffe writes that for Russia, "it doesn’t matter who wins" the U.S. election, "Putin has America right where he wants it."

"The desired result in this election has not necessarily been the presidency of Donald Trump. In fact, he seems to them to be rather disposable," Ioffe writes.

"The mission is sowing disruption, chaos. And in doing that, Putin will have accomplished something for himself, regardless of who wins next week: a deeply fractured American system, once held up as a shining alternative to Moscow’s style of power, now tarnished beyond recognition."

In an in-depth piece for Newsweek, Kurt Eichenwald writes about how the NATO allies are increasingly alarmed by Republican nominee Donald Trump's ties to Moscow.

"In phone calls, meetings and cables, America’s European allies have expressed alarm to one another about Donald Trump’s public statements denying Moscow’s role in cyberattacks designed to interfere with the U.S. election.

"They fear the Republican nominee for president has emboldened the Kremlin in its unprecedented cybercampaign to disrupt elections in multiple countries in hopes of weakening Western alliances, according to intelligence, law enforcement and other government officials in the United States and Europe."

Peter Pomerantsev, meanwhile, has a piece in Politico on how Putin became "the Che Guevera of the right."

And in his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky argues that there is an upside to Russia's interference in the U.S. election.

Notes From The Cyberwar

Russia has apparently been preparing for this moment for awhile. A new report in Meduza claims that since 2012 the Kremlin has been "recruiting hackers and blackmailing criminals to do their bidding, all the while testing the limits of their cyberabilities on Eastern European states before, ultimately, turning their attention to the U.S. this year."

Buzzfeed has a summary of the piece in English here.

Simon Shuster has a piece in Newsweek arguing that the hack of Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov's e-mails "could signal a turn in the U.S.-Russia cyberwar."

"Though a Ukrainian hacking group has claimed responsibility for hacking the e-mails of Vladislav Surkov, experts suspect the involvement of U.S. intelligence agencies," Shuster writes.

Cold War Parody

Vladislav Inozemtsev, a visiting fellow with the Atlantic Council and professor at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, has a piece in Intersection Magazine looking at the current conflict between Russia and the West.

"We are reliving the past today. It has been said that no matter what kind of party the Kremlin builds, it will eventually turn out to be the Communist Party. Along similar lines, we may say that no matter how many different ways Moscow forges its relations with the West, it will eventually come up with the 'Cold War,'" Inozemtsev writes.

"This war is now under way even though it may be considered a parody in comparison to the last one, just as United Russia is a parody of the Communist Party. Its consequences, however, shall be identical to those of the last 'Cold War': destruction of the national economy, impoverishment of the masses, terrible (albeit perhaps temporary) disappointments, and failed superpower ambitions."

Losing The Peace

Jeffrey Gedmin, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and Georgetown University, has a piece in The American Interest arguing that while the West may have won the Cold War, Putin may yet win the peace.

Mixed Signals On A Thaw

Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Open Wall web portal takes a look at what is behind recent signals that the Kremlin is considering a thaw.

Where The Money Goes

In a piece for Intersection Magazine, economist Sergey Zhavoronkov notes that as Russia's economy falters, "Putin has gifted almost $200 billion to other states by waiving outstanding debts and issuing donations."

The New Minchenko Report

The new report on the Russian elite, Politburo 2.0, is now available for download.

The Forest Brothers

Olavi Punga, a captain in the Estonian Army, has a piece looking at the lessons learned from the Forest Brothers, the insurgents in the Baltic states who fought against the Soviet Army during and after World War II.

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