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ON MY MIND

Vladimir Putin played a little mind game yesterday when he suggested to factory workers in Chelyabinsk that he was tired of being president. And make no mistake.This was no off-the-cuff remark.Putin says things like this for a reason -- and the reason is obvious. Now he can watch and see how the elite reacts. Will speculation begin about a post-Putin Russia? Will would-be presidents start maneuvering? If so, Putin will know who is disloyal. Will people start panicking about instability? If so, Putin achieved the result he desired. It's a cute little psy-op. It's par for the course. And it's a sign that Putin's 2018 campaign has begun in earnest.

IN THE NEWS

Russia and China have vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution pushed for by Western powers and calling for a seven-day truce in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Ukraine is ready to join European Union talks on natural-gas issues with Russia, Ukrainian state energy company Naftogaz said on its Twitter account.

Russia says it will hold talks with the United States on a complete rebel withdrawal from the Syrian city of Aleppo, where forces allied to the Syrian government have made sweeping advances.

Vladimir Putin has signed a new information-security doctrine for Russia.

The Russian Defense Ministry says two female Russian Army medics were killed on December 5 and a third medic was seriously wounded in what it said was the rebel shelling of a field hospital in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta says it has uncovered substantial falsifications at 68 polling places in the Moscow suburb of Mytishchi during local and national legislative elections in September.

Vladimir Putin told factory workers in Chelyabinsk that he would like to complete his career and travel more.

WHAT I'M READING

Propaganda Paper Tiger

In a piece in Politico, Jack Shafer asks, Who's Afraid Of A Little Russian Propaganda?

"Once a society commits itself to the free-speech radicalism of something like the First Amendment, propaganda will automatically enter the media equation. We need to combat it the way we combat all bad ideas: with our vigilance and wit, knowing that we can’t ever completely expunge it from the atmosphere," Shafer writes.

"Like its cousin, 'fake news,' propaganda has always been with us and always will be. By our best nonhysterical efforts, refuting propaganda with the diligence we fight cockroaches, we can hope to reduce propaganda's effect to that of background radiation. The truth loses battles but never the war."

Moscow On The Seine

Journalist Adam Plowright has a piece in Coda on "Where Putin wants you to pray in Paris."

Russia's Trump Obsession

MIkhail Khodorkovsky's web portal The Open Wall has a post up looking at Russia's obsession with Donald Trump.

Russia's Castro Fixation

Open Wall also has a post on how Russian television is reacting to Fidel Castro's death.

Russia's Embarrassing Aircraft Carrier

In his column for Bloomberg, Tobin Harshaw looks at the mishaps plaguing Russia's aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, in the Mediterranean.

"Russia continues to roll out some impressive weaponry in Syria, most recently the sophisticated S-400 air-defense system at its naval base at Tartus. This is only going to help its arms-exporting business, which hit a record $15 billion last year," Harshaw writes.

"But, unless the purpose was to show off the effectiveness of Russian ejector seats and tugboats, the Kuznetsov should have stayed home. Or, better yet, been sent to the graveyard. It's undoubtedly worth more as scrap metal than as a projection of Russian power."

Weaponizing The Internet

Maria Farrell, a writer and consultant on Internet governance, has a piece in Slate explaining "why Russia is using the Internet to undermine Western democracy."

Russia, she writes, "took the West's proudest, strongest, most transformational tool and helped to turn it against us. Internet jiujitsu, in the form of information war (what we used to call propaganda) and cyberwar (plain old hacking and sabotage), turned the energy of the networks against their creators."

Hack The Vote

Vox's Sean Illing has an interview with media historian Vasily Gatov on Russia's role in the U.S. presidential election.

And in a column for Project Syndicate, Harvard professor and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Nye asks, "Did Russia cross a line by interfering in the U.S. election?"

New SRB Podcast

The latest SRB Podcast, hosted by Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, looks at Rasputin: The Man And The Myth. Sean's guest is historian Doug Smith, author of the books Former People: The Final Days Of The Russian Aristocracy and Rasputin: Faith, Power, And The Twilight Of The Romanovs.

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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