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The Morning Vertical, October 16, 2017


How far can Alyaksandr Lukashenka's flirtation with the West go? How far will Moscow allow it to go? How much will the West embrace a man who is essentially a dictator for geopolitical gain?

Johannes Hahn, the EU's enlargement commissioner, is due to to visit Minsk this week amid reports that Lukashenka is about to be invited to the EU's Eastern Partnership summit for the first time.

Hahn's visit also comes as relations between Minsk and Moscow are skidding to new lows in the wake of the Zapad 2017 military exercises. (See the Power Vertical blog post, The Zapad Hangover, featured below.)

On this week's Power Vertical Briefing (also featured below), we discuss these issues and also look ahead to Vladimir Putin's speech this week at the Valdai Discussion Forum.

So be sure to tune in to get a jump-start on this week's events!


In case you missed it, the latest Power Vertical blog post, The Zapad Hangover, looks at the deteriorating relations between Minsk and Moscow.


And on this week's Power Vertical Briefing, we discuss the potential and limits of authoritarian Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's courtship of the West.


Russian State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin has said Moscow will not consider itself bound by the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if Russia is not allowed to participate in the selection of judges.

Dozens of people have been detained in the Russia-occupied Ukrainian region of Crimea for demonstrating in defense of Crimean Tatars.

Russian officials have questioned the United Nations inquiry into who is to blame for a toxic gas attack in Syria and threatened it might not support extending the investigating team's mandate if it is not satisfied with the resulting report.

Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev's drama Loveless has won the best-picture prize at the London Film Festival, three years after his previous film, Leviathan, won the same award.

An unmanned Progress space freighter carrying supplies to the International Space Station was launched by Russia from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on October 14.

Russia has accused the United States of denying entry to military officials who were planning to conduct a joint Russian-Chinese briefing criticizing U.S. missile-defense systems at the United Nations.

Ukraine has banned a new Russian banknote that includes images from the annexed Ukrainian region of Crimea.

Thousands of Ukrainian nationalists have marched through the capital, Kyiv, to mark the 75th anniversary of the creation of the controversial Ukrainian Insurgent Army.


The Drama-Free Election

In his column for, opposition journalist Oleg Kashin argues that next year's presidential election -- in contrast to previous elections -- is conspicuously lacking in drama. And this means we should expect something dramatic soon.

'Strategic Provincialism' In Central Europe

Andreas Umland, a senior research fellow at the Kyiv-based Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, has a piece on the Carnegie Europe's website arguing that "strategic provincialism" and "geopolitical myopia among the elites of NATO’s new member states is helping to preserve an unstable 'gray zone' in post-Soviet Europe."

Assessing Navalny's Latest Protests

Richard Arnold, a professor at Muskingum University, has a piece in The Jamestown Foundation's Eurasia Daily Monitor looking at the latest round of protests organized by opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.

Russian Defense Spending

In The Moscow Times, defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer looks at Russia's military spending and what it reveals about the Kremlin's strategic thinking.

The Death Of Stalin

Shaun Walker has a piece in The Guardian on how Armando Iannucci’s dark satire film The Death Of Stalin is being received in Moscow.

A Peace Plan For The Donbas

In a commentary for the European Council on Foreign Relations, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt lays out a road map to peace in the Donbas.

Putin's Extremist Pals

In Think Progress, Casey Michel looks at Russia's alliance with far-right extremists around the world.

The Kaspersky Scare

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky looks at Western concerns about Kaspersky Lab's antivirus software.

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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