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The Daily Vertical: It's The Kremlin's World (Transcript)

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

The data points are hard to miss.

We've had an escalation in fighting in the Donbas.

We've had a State Duma deputy, Pavel Shperov, ominously saying that "borders are not eternal," referring to Russia's former Soviet neighbors as "so-called countries," and calling for Moscow to take back what he called the "eternal Russian lands" of northern Kazakhstan.

We've had escalating tension with Belarus over energy, meat imports, a proposed Russian airbase, and border checkpoints.

And oh by the way, Vladimir Putin just ordered snap military drills involving 45,000 troops, 150 aircraft, and 200 antiaircraft units -- a move that caused jitters across the Baltic states.

The Kremlin has also announced that massive military exercises will be held near Russia's western borders later this year.

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Now Russia bullying its neighbors, of course, is nothing new.

But what is new is that the Kremlin now sees a more favorable geopolitical environment for its bullying.

Putin's regime expects less pushback from the West and so it is testing the waters to see what it could get away with.

An escalation in fighting here, a provocative statement there, and some political pressure someplace else.

But Putin is not just testing the West's reaction.

He's also sending a message to Russia's neighbors.

He's saying: We're in a new world now and whether or not you know it yet, in that new world, your sovereignty is limited and it's conditional.

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