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ON MY MIND

Well, there is one thing we can be sure of. Russian-American relations are headed for one of their strangest epochs ever.

We don't yet know, of course, whether the dossier claiming that Russia has been "cultivating, supporting, and assisting" Donald Trump for years and has gathered compromising and salacious material on the U.S. President-Elect is accurate.

But accurate or not, it is nevertheless now part of the political ecosystem.

And it comes on the heels of the declassified U.S. intelligence report accusing Russia of interfering in the election on Trump's behalf.

And it comes as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are pushing for more sanctions on Russia.

And it comes as Trump continues to insist that he wants to improve relations with Moscow.

Everything that happens in the Russian-American relationship -- any reconciliation, any conflict, or anything in between -- will now happen under the cloud of all these events.

We truly are in uncharted waters.

IN THE NEWS

The FBI briefed U.S. President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump last week on claims that Russian intelligence agencies have compromising personal and financial information about Trump, U.S. and British media reports said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied the claims.

The Obama administration will take more retaliatory measures against Russia over alleged hacking of the U.S. presidential election last year, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said.

Trump's choice for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, will express concerns about Russia's actions around the globe and insist that NATO should be alarmed by a resurgent Moscow when he faces a Senate confirmation hearing on January 11, according to the text of the opening statement Tillerson plans to give during the hearing.

Russian hackers targeted the U.S. Republican Party's national organization but did not succeed in intruding on the presidential campaign of Republican Donald Trump, FBI Director James Comey has told lawmakers.

Kremlin spokesman Peskov says a recent U.S. decision to impose personal sanctions on three Russians and a U.S. Senate proposal to expand sanctions against Russia are "further steps in the artificially created degradation of our relations."

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is pushing new legislation that would cement into U.S. law the sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

An association of 19 national anti-doping groups has called for a ban on Russia from all international sporting events until that country can show it has put credible systems in place to prevent further doping incidents.

Aleksei Yablokov, a prominent Russian environmentalist and opposition politician whom a colleague described as a "hero of our time," has died at the age of 83.

A Moscow court has extended the pretrial house arrest of former Economic Development Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev by three months, until April 15.

The World Bank is predicting 1.5 percent growth in Russia’s gross domestic product in 2017 and sees a gain of 1.7 percent in 2018 and 1.8 percent the following year, helped by increases in commodity prices.

A monument in western Ukraine honoring the memory of some 900 people who were massacred during World War II has been severely damaged by unknown vandals.

WHAT I'M READING

The Trump-Russia Dossier

So reports that Russia has been "cultivating, supporting, and assisting" Donald Trump for years and has gathered compromising and salacious material on the U.S. President-Elect are pretty much blocking out the sun today.

BuzzFeed published an opposition research dossier on Trump, compiled by a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official.

CNN had earlier reported that both Trump and outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama had been briefed on the dossier, which was contained in a classified U.S. intelligence report.

The Guardian reported that U.S. Senator John McCain passed the documents to FBI Director James Comey in December.

Lawfare has a piece arguing that everybody should all "take a deep breath."

In the Dutch publication Raam Op Rusland, Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague offers a skeptical take.

And The New York Times reports on how BuzzFeed is coming under fire for publishing the dossier before it was substantiated.

The Secret History

Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald has an extensive report on Trump, Putin, And The Hidden History Of How Russia Interfered In The U.S. Election.

A Letter From Europe

A group of 17 European dignitaries -- including former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, former Romanian President Traian Basescu, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, former Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski, and Former Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg -- have published an open letter to Donald Trump warning that Russia is not America's ally.

The Case Against A Ukraine Deal

James Sherr of Chatham House has a commentary arguing that a preemptive compromise would imperil Ukraine. "There is no advantage to conceding Ukraine’s autonomy in the face of renewed geopolitical pressure," Sherr writes.

The Year Russian Media Won?

Russian political commentator Aleksei Kovalyev has a piece in The New Times on how in 2016 Russian state-controlled media have managed to convince the world of its own incredible influence.

The Hacking Of The Future

In a piece for Prospect Magazine, Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, authors of the book Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia's Digital Dictators And The New Online Revolutionaries, argue that if you think hacking is bad now, "you ain’t seen nothing yet."

'Propaganda' Is So 20th Century

Mark Teeter, a columnist for The Moscow News, has a piece arguing that it's time to think up some new words for "propaganda."

What's Past Is Prologue

Mark Kramer, director of Cold War Studies at Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, has a piece on The Deep Soviet Roots Of The Russian Election-Hacking Campaign.

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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