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The Morning Vertical, October 2, 2017


After nearly 42 months of war, the Russia-occupied areas of the Donbas have become the land that nobody wants.

Moscow wants Kyiv to reabsorb the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk "people's republics" into a decentralized and federalized Ukraine, with the separatist leadership intact, where they would serve as a Trojan horse.

And Russia is content to keep the conflict alternatively frozen or on a low boil until it gets its way.

Ukraine says it will only reabsorb the territories on its terms -- after Russian forces have left, the separatist authorities disarmed and dethroned, and Kyiv regains control of its border.

And Kyiv appears content to keep the conflict frozen until it gets its way.

Russia's goal in the Donbas is not gaining territory in eastern Ukraine but exerting political control over Kyiv. And Kyiv knows this and is determined not to let this happen.

So 3 1/2 years after Moscow manufactured a conflict in the Donbas, the territories it seized are left in limbo -- and probably will remain so for the foreseeable future.


Jon Huntsman, the new U.S. ambassador to Russia, has arrived in Moscow.

Russia has denied allegations from Ukraine that it left troops behind in Belarus after staging military exercises there, despite Moscow's pledge not to do so.

Facebook says it will provide the U.S. Congress with copies of some 3,000 advertisements that the social network says were likely bought by people in Russia before and during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny is scheduled to appear at an administrative hearing on October 2 on charges of repeatedly organizing illegal demonstrations.

In the World Economic Forum's 2017-18 Global Competitiveness Report, Russia ranked 38th on the list of 137 countries rated.


Just in case anybody is wondering what I was doing during The Power Vertical's two-week hiatus, here's a rundown:

I appeared on The Sunday Show on Ukraine's Hromadske International television (my segment begins at about the 44-minute mark):

I spoke on the panel The War Of Narratives In The Information Age at the CEPA Forum in Washington, D.C.

I also spoke at the conference Eastern Partners In European Security And Defense in Vilnius.

And I moderated the panel Quo Vadis Russia at the Riga Conference.


On this week's Power Vertical Briefing, we look at U.S.-Russian relations as Jon Huntsman arrives in Moscow as the new American ambassador.


Russia In Syria, Two Years On

In a commentary for The Moscow Times, foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov looks at the stakes in Russia's intervention in Syria, two years on.

In a piece for the War On The Rocks blog, Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague looks at the role of Russia's military police in Syria.

Active Measures Then And Now

Also in The War On The Rocks blog, Laura Daniels at the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin looks at the lessons we can learn from Russian active measures in West Germany during the Cold War.

Russia And The Catalonian Referendum

Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow for information defense at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, looks at Russian interference in this weekend's Catalonian independence referendum.

Navalny Vs. Solovyev

In his column for, opposition journalist Oleg Kashin looks at the war of words between Aleksei Navalny and Vladimir Solovyev after the anticorruption crusader's report targeting the pro-Kremlin television presenter.

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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