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August is half over and so far it has been relatively quiet.

There have been no disasters, coup attempts, invasions, or other dramatic events that have caused annual speculation about Russia's "August curse."

Vladimir Putin has been keeping a low profile, and even disappeared from public view for a week.

But this also has the feeling of a calm before the storm.

Russia is entering a potentially volatile political season, with Putin set to seek a fourth term in elections in March, amid rising discontent over corruption and falling living standards.

Moscow's war in eastern Ukraine simmers on with periodic and sinister hints that it could escalate at any time.

And tensions with the West remain high as Russia prepares to hold the Zapad-2017 joint military exercises with Belarus -- the largest war games since the end of the Cold War -- near NATO's borders in September.

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we'll take advantage of "cucumber season" to take stock and look at potential tempests below the surface in Russian domestic politics and foreign affairs.

Joining me will be two veteran Kremlin-watchers: Donald Jensen, a former State Department official, a fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations in the Nitze School of International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, and a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis; and James Sherr, an associate fellow with Chatham House's Russia and Eurasia program, a senior fellow at the Institute of Statecraft, and author of the book Hard Diplomacy And Soft Coercion: Russia's Influence Abroad.

Enjoy...

Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to The Power Vertical Podcast on iTunes.

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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