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ON MY MIND

The results of the French center-right's presidential primary must be making Vladimir Putin smile. Former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who favors an end to sanctions and a rapprochement with Moscow, finished first. Fillon, who took more than 44 percent of the vote, is heavily favored to win a runoff against another former prime minister, Alain Juppe. And with the French left in disarray, what this means is that the second round of France's presidential election in May will probably be between Fillon and National Front leader Marine Le Pen, whose affinity for Vladimir Putin is well documented.

As far as elections in the West are concerned, Putin appears to be on a roll.

IN THE NEWS

Ukraine is marking the Day of Dignity and Freedom, a holiday commemorating the 2013 beginning of the Euromaidan protests that ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said a criminal case against the country's former economic-development minister has no impact on privatization plans.

Putin also says there is a "highly probability" that the world's oil producers will reach an agreement to cut production and boost flagging prices later this month.

The World Anti-Doping Agency has urged Russia to admit to state-sponsored doping in a bid to regain the trust of the sporting world.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Putin spoke briefly on November 20 on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Peru about Syria and Ukraine, a White House official said.

Obama also says he wants to reach a negotiated peace settlement in Ukraine before he leaves office in January.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said a peace treaty with Russia is "coming into sight."

China and Russia will push for a free-trade area in the Asia-Pacific region.

Estonia's new prime minister comes from a party with ties to Russia.

Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte has praised Russia as a "great country" in his first meeting with Russian counterpart Putin.

THE LATEST POWER VERTICAL PODCAST

In case you missed it, the latest Power Vertical Podcast, Putin's Nationalist International, looks at Russia's exploitation of antiestablishment forces in the West.

THE NEW POWER VERTICAL BRIEFING

And this week's Power Vertical Briefing looks at France's upcoming presidential election, which is shaping up as a battle between two candidates who want a rapprochement with Moscow. The Briefing also looks at the effect Donald Trump's victory in the United States is having on Russian domestic politics.

WHAT I'M READING

Baltic Jitters

Paul D. Miller, a professor at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., has a piece in Foreign Policy explaining how World War III could start In Latvia.

Veteran journalist Leonid Ragozin has a lengthy piece in Bloomberg about rising fears in the Baltic states that they will be less secure during Donald Trump's presidency.

In The New York Times, Andrew Higgins looks at how Trump's victory is being received by Estonia's ethnic Russians.

The Hand Of Moscow

In a column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky argues that Russia is wielding its influence in Europe by cutting deals with technocrats as much as it is by backing antiestablishment parties.

Indispensable Nation No More?

In The Financial Times, Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the book The World America Made, argues that Trump's victory marks an end to the era when the United States shoulders the burden of global order.

Not So Fast

In a piece in The Washington Post, Josh Rogin argues that Republicans in the U.S. Congress may spoil Trump's hopes for a reset with Russia.

Crime And Punishment

In Intersection Magazine, Vladimir Rubashniy looks at the Russian penal system.

Ulyukayev And The 'Regime Liberals'

In his column for Republic.ru, political commentator Andrei Arkhangelsky looks at the effect Ulyukayev's arrest is having on so-called "regime liberals."

The Fall Of The House Of Romanov

In The New York Times, Serge Schmemann reviews Dominic Lieven's new book The End Of Tsarist Russia: The March To World War I And Revolution.

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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