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ON MY MIND

We should all watch very closely what Russia does next in Ukraine.

The developments in recent weeks -- Russia recognizing documents issued by separatist authorities, the so-called "Luhansk People's Republic" adopting the ruble, the Ukrainian nationalist blockade of separatist-held territories, and the seizure of Ukrainian oligarchs' properties by separatist authorities -- makes a couple things clear. The Minsk process is dead in the water. And the last links between the separatist-held territories in the Donbas and the rest of Ukraine are being severed.

We are moving into a new phase of this war.

If Russia chooses to escalate, it would be a clear sign that the Kremlin believes it will face little push-back from a distracted West. It would also be a test of what Moscow can get away with in what it sees as an increasingly favorable geopolitical environment. And it would mean that Vladimir Putin's regime believes it can get what it wants -- a free hand in the former Soviet space -- without a so-called "grand bargain" with the West.

Escalation can take various forms. Moscow could recognize the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics' independence and freeze the conflict. It could outright annex them and claim victory. Or, in the most extreme case, it could launch a drive to take more territory.

And any of the above would be a clear signal about Moscow's broader intentions.

IN THE NEWS

Russia says the International Court of Justice in The Hague has no jurisdiction to issue an order Ukraine seeks to halt Moscow's support for separatists in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

Envoys from six European countries that border Russia have pushed for more U.S. military and economic support, as they repeated warnings to U.S. senators about an increasingly aggressive Russia.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin says U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has assured him that Washington will continue to support Kyiv in its standoff with Russia.

The U.S. House Select Committee on Intelligence will hold its first public hearing on March 20 in its investigation into Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.

A U.S. federal prosecutor who is poised to oversee Justice Department investigations into alleged connections between Russian officials and White House aides during the 2016 presidential election campaign has said he isn't aware of any reason for him to recuse himself from those probes.

The United States says it has begun deploying a missile-defense system in South Korea, prompting a quick rebuke from Russia and China.

The chiefs of staff of the Turkish, Russian, and U.S. militaries have met in southern Turkey in an effort to boost coordination in Syria and prevent skirmishes between rival groups that are all battling Islamic State militants.

Russian Orthodox Church officials in the Kremlin-annexed Crimea region have refuted a controversial claim by State Duma Deputy Natalya Poklonskaya that a bust of Tsar Nicholas II in Simferopol wept tears on the centennial of his abdication of power.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has pardoned a woman who was convicted of high treason for sending a text message to a friend in Georgia during the brief August 2008 Russian-Georgian war.

The prosecutor-general of Russia's Tatarstan region has asked a judge at a high-profile terrorism trial to sentence the defendants in the case to prison terms ranging from 22 years to life.

Europe's top human rights court has prolonged its suspension of an attempt by the government in Tbilisi to put the country's biggest independent television station under the control of an alleged close government ally.

WHAT I'M READING

2017 Is Not 1917

In Republic.ru, Dmitry Travin, head of the department for modernization studies at the European University of St. Petersburg, looks at four scenarios for revolution that won't happen in Russia.

Hysterical About Russia?

Nikolas Gvosdev, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College, has a piece in The National Interest on how "hysteria" has harmed U.S.-Russian relations.

Corruption and Espionage

In the Jamestown Foundation's Eurasia Daily Monitor, Pavel Baev argues that for Western politicians, "the problem with Russian connections is corruption, not espionage."

The Changing Russian View On Trump

Peter Savodnik, author of the book The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside The Soviet Union, has a piece in Vanity Fair on why the Kremlin is reassessing its view on the Trump presidency and what it means for Moscow.

Ukraine and Historical Memory

In a piece for New Eastern Europe, Andreas Umland, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kyiv (and a regular guest on The Power Vertical Podcast), tackles the thorny and divisive issue of historical memory in Ukraine.

Faking Democracy and Fracturing Democracy

For readers in London, Andrew Wilson, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (and regular guest on The Power Vertical Podcast), will give a public lecture at University College London titled: The Faking Of Russian Democracy And The Fracturing Of Democracy In America: Political Technology Versus Disruptive Technology. Details are available here.

SRB Podcast

The latest SRB Podcast, hosted by Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies (a frequent guest on The Power Vertical Podcast), looks at Perestroika And The Chinese Model. Sean's guest is Chris Miller, associate director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy at Yale University and author of the book The Struggle To Save The Soviet Economy: Mikhail Gorbachev And The Collapse Of The USSR.

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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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