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The Power Vertical

Tuesday 25 July 2017

The Morning Vertical, July 27, 2017

  • Brian Whitmore

Your daily roundup

ON MY MIND

Post-Soviet Russia and Ukraine were separated at birth.

Both experienced identical political crises early on, in 1993-94. Ukraine resolved its crisis with early elections. Russia handled its crisis with the military shelling the parliament.

Every Ukrainian election since independence has been competitive and in only one case has the incumbent been reelected. None of Russia's post-Soviet elections has been truly competitive.

Ukraine has a vibrant civil society that consistently challenges the authorities. Russia's civil society has been persistently repressed or co-opted.

The two countries have traveled such divergent paths for the past quarter century that, despite a shared Soviet past, today they are in entirely different places.

Despite lingering problems with corruption and cronyism, today Ukraine can fairly claim to be the easternmost Western country -- as opposed to the westernmost Eastern country.

Yet despite this, Vladimir Putin's Kremlin clings to the myth that Ukraine's destiny is to be dominated by Moscow.

As I argue on today's Daily Vertical, Moscow's continued efforts to dominate a country that has made its choice to move West is akin to an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.

It is also a recipe for a protracted conflict with no end in sight.

IN THE NEWS

The German government says Germany, France, Russia, and Ukraine have agreed on a number of "immediate measures" to push forward with a peace deal brokered in 2015 to end the bloody fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin meets today with Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi vice president and former prime minister, Russian state-run media and Maliki’s office say.

Russia’s Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak has called on oil producers to show greater discipline in adhering to agreed-upon output cuts designed to raise the price of oil.

Novak also downplayed any risk to the country’s oil sector following the disputed delivery of gas turbines built by Siemens to the Crimean Peninsula.

A leading Republican senator says a bill toughening sanctions on Russia has not been finalized, despite earlier announcements of a bipartisan agreement.

Russia and the European Union are both expressing concern about proposed new U.S. sanctions against Moscow, focusing in particular on how they might affect joint energy projects.

A top Russian official says military police have deployed to the eastern suburbs of the Syrian capital, Damascus, where they will monitor a cease-fire in the safe zone there.

A Moscow court has ordered a university instructor accused of trying to stoke mass disorder through anonymous Internet postings and republishing a Kanye West rap video be transferred from prison to house arrest.

Russian law enforcement officials said two men suspected of abducting a top official in the troubled North Caucasus region of Daghestan have been detained.

Russian, Kazakh, and Iranian naval vessels are in Baku ahead of a four-nation "competition" that is to be held off Azerbaijan's coast in the Caspian Sea from August 1-11.

Russia is planning to send 19 competitors to the track-and-field world championships in London, although they will perform as “neutral athletes” because of an international doping ban.

WHAT I'M READING

Parsing Ukraine

On The Atlantic Council's website, Rutgers University Newark professor Alexander Motyl debunks "twelve myths about Ukraine."

In The National Interest, Luke Coffey explains why Ukraine's future is brighter than it seems.

In BNE Intelinews, Mark Galeotti explains why the Russian-controlled territories of the Donbas remain "unpredictable and unloved."

And Diane Francis of The Atlantic Council spells out "the only winning strategy for Ukraine."

Fake Economic News

In Wired, Cameron Colquhoun looks at how Russia could devastate Western economies with fake news.

The FSB's Black Sites

In a disturbing piece in Republic.ru, Ilya Rozdestvensky looks at the FSB's network of "secret prisons" where suspects are tortured.

How Maps Explain Russia

In Business Insider, George Friedman looks at "10 maps that explain Russia's strategy."

Putin's Rich Pals

Vedomosti looks at the meteoric rise of Vladimir Putin's dissertation adviser Vladimir Litvinenko, now the extremely wealthy rector of St. Petersburg University.

Disinformation In Latvia

The Center for European Policy Analysis looks at how the pro-Kremlin media in Latvia is spreading disinformation about NATO troops.

Budget Cuts

RBK is reporting that Russia is cutting funding to pro-Kremlin NGOs that promote Moscow's foreign policy agenda.

Why Levada Isn't VTsIOM

Vedomosti has an interview with Lev Gudkov, director of the Levada Center, in which he explains how the independent pollster differs from the Kremlin-backed VTsIOM.

The Significance Of Santa Barbara

Mikhail Iossel, the Russian-born author of Every Hunter Wants To Know, has a thoughtful essay in Foreign Policy on the impact the U.S. soap opera Santa Barbara had on post-Soviet Russia

The Russian World

The Pew Research Center has released a new poll about the attitudes of ethnic Russians in former Soviet republics.

The New Russia Sanctions

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky looks at the new sanctions bill in the U.S. Congress.

Buzzing NATO

In The National Interest, Andrew Foxall explains why Russian warplanes keep buzzing NATO aircraft.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

The Daily Vertical is a video primer for Russia-watchers that appears Monday through Friday. Viewers can suggest topics via Twitter @PowerVertical or on the Power Vertical Facebook page.

A transcript of today's Daily Vertical can be found here.

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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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