The Morning Vertical, March 14, 2018

ON MY MIND

In a piece featured below, political commentator Yury Felshtinsky argues that the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in the U.K. illustrates that Vladimir Putin sees no rules in his confrontation with the West.

According to Felshtinsky, the Kremlin has learned the lessons of the 2006 assassination of Aleksandr Litvinenko, noting that “the only conclusion which the Russian government drew is that punishment will not follow such crimes.”

Felshtinsky is correct. But the poisoning of Skripal also illustrates something else. It is a stark reminder that the confrontation between Russia and the West is, at its heart, a battle of governance.

It is a struggle between a world where things like political assassinations, extrajudicial state-sponsored harassment of regime opponents, and arbitrary application of criminal justice are acceptable — and a world where such things are beyond the pale.

In the heady optimism that followed the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the assumption was that as Russia integrated with the West, it would adopt Western norms and values, like the rule of law.

A quarter of a century on, what we are instead witnessing is the Kremlin exporting its norms to the West.

IN THE NEWS

British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to announce measures against Russia today, after Moscow ignored a midnight deadline to explain how a nerve agent developed during the Cold War was used to poison a former Russian spy in Britain.

A lawyer says a Russian businessman who associated with a prominent critic of the Kremlin has died in London.

A last-minute complaint from Yevgeny Nikulin, the Russian cybercrime suspect at the center of a tug-of-war between Moscow and Washington, has delayed a final decision on his extradition to the United States or Russia.

The Russian motorcycle club Night Wolves, known for its staunch Russian nationalism and allegiance to President Vladimir Putin, has announced a “Russian Balkans” tour of Bosnia and Serbia in mid-March.

A former member of the Moldovan parliament has been sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges of high treason and espionage for Russia.

A U.S. company has agreed to pay $2 million to settle charges that it bribed a Russian executive to win contracts to ship uranium to the United States, U.S. authorities said on March 13.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned that Syrian rebels under siege in the enclave of eastern Ghouta will be given no relief, saying a 30-day cease-fire approved by the United Nations does not include “terrorists.”

Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who opposed Moscow’s seizure of Crimea and is now in prison in Russia, is “ready to ask for clemency” in order to be exchanged for Russian nationals held in Ukraine, his lawyer says.

A Russian man has been taken into custody in the southern French city of Marseille in connection with an attack at the Euro 2016 soccer tournament in which an English fan was seriously injured.

Wess Mitchell, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, has warned of what he called Moscow’s “increasingly destructive role” in the Balkans, saying that Russia is undermining democracy in the region.

WHAT I’M READING

Book Launch — The Vory: Russia’s Super Mafia

The Vory: Russia’s Super Mafia, the long-awaited book on Russian organized crime by Mark Galeotti, my longtime co-host on The Power Vertical Podcast, will be published in the United Kingdom on April 10 and in the United States on May 22. You can find information about launch events here.

Tillerson’s Departure: The View From Moscow

In Republic.ru,. Moscow-based foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov weighs in on the departure of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Russia’s Real Election: Putin Vs. The World

Also in Republic.ru, opposition journalist and political commentator Oleg Kashin looks at Russia’s March 18 election in the context of Moscow’s tensions with the West.

A Game Without Rules

In Kasparov.ru, political commentator Yury Felshtinsky argues that the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in the U.K. illustrates that Vladimir Putin recognizes no rules in his confrontation with the West.

Fake News, Then And Now

In The Washington Post, U.S. State Department historian Alexander Poster looks at a Moscow-sponsored fake news campaign against Washington — in the 1980s.

What The West Didn’t Promise

In The American Interest, former U.S. State Department official Kirk Bennett makes the case that Moscow did not receive assurances on NATO enlargement in the 1990s and that NATO’s post-Cold War enlargement is not the reason for the current crisis in European security.

This Ain’t No Cold War

Stephen M. Walt, a professor of International Relations at Harvard University, has a piece in Foreign Policy arguing that the Cold War analogy is counterproductive for foreign policy strategy.