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ON MY MIND

When you step back and look at it, Russia's behavior over the past month has defied logic. In early September, Moscow secured a cease-fire in Syria that was clearly in its interests. And it was making progress toward getting Europe to ease sanctions.

But Moscow chose to violate the Syrian cease-fire with an all-out assault on Aleppo, bombing two hospitals in the process and sparking widespread condemnation. It sent surface-to-air missiles to Syria, suggesting it was seeking an all-out military victory. It seized a Ukrainian journalist and accused him of espionage. And it reacted defiantly to a report by a Dutch criminal investigation into the downing of Flight MH17.

Now, not only will Russia not get relief from EU sanctions over the Ukraine conflict, but according to a report featured below, Germany is considering pushing for additional sanctions over Moscow's behavior in Syria.

In the past couple weeks, the Kremlin has managed to accomplish what its fiercest critics have failed to do: convince much of the world that Russia has effectively become a rogue state.

IN THE NEWS

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Germany is considering a push for additional European sanctions against Russia for its behavior in Syria.

Russia says two of its warships are heading to the Mediterranean Sea to reinforce the country's military presence in the region.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet in Moscow with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault today as France attempts to pass a UN Security Council resolution for a Syrian cease-fire.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart resumed discussions on Syria on October 5, despite a U.S. decision earlier this week to suspend direct talks with Moscow on trying to end the conflict.

Russia has suspended another nuclear agreement with the United States, this one on working together to conduct nuclear energy research.

The Kremlin says it is unhappy with frequent references to Russia and President Vladimir Putin in the U.S. presidential campaign.

Lawmakers in Ukraine have called on parliaments across the world to help defend the rights of two Ukrainian journalists held in Moscow and the Crimean Peninsula.

Sergei Kiriyenko, a former prime minister and the outgoing head of Russia's state nuclear corporation Rosatom, has been appointed first deputy chief of Putin's administration in charge of domestic politics.

The Russian government has doubled the penalties for tax evasion.

Russian consumers increased their spending in September for the first time in three years.

Russia has returned the skull of Keiki Batyr, a leader of the Kazakh national liberation movement who was killed in 1923, to Kazakhstan for burial.

Chechnya's Ramzan Kadyrov has been formally inaugurated for another term as head of the volatile Russian region.

Kadyrov, meanwhile, is facing criticism after his three sons -- all aged between 8 and 10 -- took part in a televised mixed-martial-arts fight.

WHAT I'M READING

Lana Estemirova, the daughter of slain human rights activist Natalya Estemirova, has a heartfelt piece in The Guardian remembering her mother and journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot dead 10 years ago this week.

"My mother, Natalia Estemirova, and the investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya had worked together for several years by 2006, and their professional bond had evolved into a deep friendship," she writes.

"My mother worked at the human rights center Memorial, where she gathered evidence of state abuses, while also delivering aid and medication to those in need. Together, they were a super team who investigated the most heart-wrenching and dangerous cases in war-torn Chechnya."

Going Rogue

Veteran Kremlin-watcher James Sherr has a thoughtful piece in The Moscow Times on how Russia has become a rogue, but is not yet a pariah.

"Russia, an emphatically modern state that elevates national (and regime) interest above all other things, has proved singularly adept at manipulating the conscience of a post-modern West distrustful of 'certainty' and lacking confidence in itself," Sherr writes.

Confronting Putin

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman writes that it is time for the West to give Putin a taste of his own medicine.

"For a long time, Putin's excesses were just a tragedy for the Russian people and for many people in Ukraine and Syria, so President Obama could plausibly argue that the right response was economic sanctions and troop buildups in Eastern Europe. But in the last nine months, something has changed," Friedman writes.

In a piece for The National Interest, meanwhile, Gerald F. Hyman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in The American Interest asks, what does Putin want and how should the West deal with him?

"In short the policy should be firmness about core interests, openness to opportunities for cooperation, but all without illusions," Hyman writes.

"The alternative is the world’s second-strongest military power whose policies are determined entirely by a single man more sullen, isolated, resentful, wounded, mercurial, and bitter than perhaps he needs to be."

Is Putin Really Winning?

Also in The National Interest, Nikolas Gvosdev argues that the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine are not going as well for Putin as many believe.

"Russia was clearly banking on being able to gain some concessions from Europe before the new U.S. administration took office in January. But it appears that the pleas of the outgoing Obama administration to maintain the status quo on Russia will be honored," Gvosdev writes.

Kiriyenko Goes To The Kremlin

Political analyst Aleksandr Morozov has a piece in Slon about what we should expect from Sergei KIriyenko in his new job as deputy Kremlin chief of staff, where he replaces the the regime's chief political strategist, Vyacheslav Volodin.

Another Putin Pal Unmasked

Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Open Wall web portal has a piece on Pyotr Kolbin, a childhood friend of Putin and the former co-owner of Gunvar.

Marketing A Tragedy

The Washington Post's newly minted Moscow bureau chief David Filipov has a feature out on the Russian company is selling children’s beds resembling the missile launcher that downed MH17

Preparing For War?

The Independent takes a look at the civil-defense drills Russia launched this week involving 200,000 emergency personnel and 40 million civilians.

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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