If one thing became abundantly clear this past year, it's the following:
Vladimir Putin's Russia may be a lot weaker than the Soviet Union was; but it is also able and willing to cause a lot more damage to the West than the Soviet Union ever could or would.
This was the year the Kremlin turned a quarter-century of Russian integration with the West into a Trojan horse.
It was the year it became clear that Russian integration into the world financial and trade system is a sleeper cell that has now been activated to sabotage Western values and institutions.
The Kremlin's black cash, it turns out, is the new Red Menace.
It was the year that Russia's integration into the world's information and cyberspace was weaponized and targeted at the West's most vulnerable points at a time when the West was suffering from its worst crisis of confidence in generations.
Hacking, doxing, disinformation, and fake-news dumps are the weapons of choice in Putn's strange, new looking-glass war.
And it was the year the Kremlin used tactics long deployed in Russian domestic politics -- corruption, confusion, distraction, and "kompromat" -- and aimed them at the West.
So, we're in a strange spot.
A quarter of a century ago, when the Cold War ended, many assumed that Russia would slowly but surely adopt Western values and institutions.
But today, it appears that the opposite has happened: Putin's Russia is successfully exporting its values and undermining the West's.
I'm Brian Whitmore, and that was the year-ender Daily Vertical for 2016, and it sure has been one helluva wild ride.
I'll be taking a week off to recharge my batteries for what promises to be an equally wild 2017.
So Happy New Year everybody. The Daily Vertical will be back in action on January 9.