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ON MY MIND

So we woke up today to news that two more countries -- Bulgaria and Moldova -- have elected pro-Moscow presidents.

Vladimir Putin's policy of using active measures, corruption, and disinformation to restore influence among Russia's former satellites is working for the time being.

A new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies concludes that "Russia has cultivated an opaque web of economic and political patronage across the region that the Kremlin uses to influence and direct decision making."

Corruption, it appears, is the new communism. And it may yet prove just as damaging to the countries of Eastern Europe.

IN THE NEWS

Igor Dodon, Moldova's pro-Russia Socialist Party leader, has claimed victory in the country's presidential election over pro-European candidate Maia Sandu.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has announced he will resign after Moscow-friendly Socialist party candidate Rumen Radev won the country's presidential election.

Russian authorities say they have arrested 10 alleged members of the Islamic State militant group and accused the group of planning simultaneous terrorist attacks in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has expressed a desire to hold a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the near future.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN that Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump are alike in being pragmatic and focused on solving problems.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says the European Union will not change its policy towards Russia even if the United States were to alter its position under the administration of incoming president Donald Trump.

A delegation from Russia's upper house of parliament has begun a two-day visit to Iran, led by the Federation Council's speaker, Valentina Matviyenko.

Iran's deputy minister of petroleum for international affairs and commerce says a delegation of Russian oil and gas companies will visit the country this week for talks about possible oil contracts.

LATEST POWER VERTICAL PODCAST

In case you missed it, the latest Power Vertical Podcast, Brave New World, looks at how the election of Donald Trump will change the geopolitical equation in the post-Soviet space.

NEW POWER VERTICAL BRIEFING

On this week's Power Vertical Briefing, we look ahead to how Russian-American relations might develop under Donald Trump, as well as the fallout from the victories of pro-Moscow presidential candidates in Moldova and Bulgaria. Joining me are Senior RFE/RL Editor Steve Gutterman and Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague.

WHAT I'M READING

Putin And Trump

Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague has a piece in Foreign Policy explaining why the Kremlin probably isn't all that thrilled about a Trump presidency.

"The Russian president has gotten a lot of mileage out of his 'craziest man on the world stage' shtick. In a Trump White House, he may have met his match," Galeotti writes.

In Republic.ru (formerly Slon.ru), Georgy Neyasky and Yevgeny Karasyuk also look ahead to the Trump-Putin relationship.

In The Guardian, Shaun Walker looks at how the "macho vs. macho" relationship between Trump and Putin could develop.

The Telegraph has a piece on what it describes as a brewing diplomatic crisis between the United States and the United Kingdom over Trump's plans to forge close relations with Russia.

"Influence over Ukraine and an abandonment of U.S. missile defence would be the Kremlin’s key priorities in Europe, though it is unclear what Putin could offer Trump in return," Walker writes.

In an editorial, The New York Times warns of the dangers of going soft on Putin's Russia.

In a commentary for The Daily Mail, historian, author, and political commentator Anne Applebaum argues that Trump will put Putin first -- and Britain last.

The Kremlin's Playbook

The Center for Strategic and International Studies has a new report out looking at Russia's "playbook" for influencing Central and Eastern Europe.

"There was a deeply held assumption that, when the countries of Central and Eastern Europe joined NATO and the European Union in 2004, these countries would continue their positive democratic and economic transformation. Yet more than a decade later, the region has experienced a steady decline in democratic standards and governance practices at the same time that Russia’s economic engagement with the region expanded significantly," the authors write.

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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