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ON MY MIND

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's remarks that Brussels should seek better relations with Russia "without renouncing our values and principles" is a perfect illustration of the paradox the West faces with Vladimir Putin's Kremlin.

Because while it may be possible to achieve better relations with some future Russia without sacrificing values and principles, it appears all but impossible with this Russia, with Putin's Russia.

And this is because as a price for better relations, Putin wants something -- a free hand in the former Soviet space; limited and conditional sovereignty for Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova; and an effective revival of its empire -- that the West simply cannot give it while at the same time upholding its values.

IN THE NEWS

Russia says that upcoming Zapad-2017 military exercises with Belarus will be "purely defensive" and pose no threat to Russia's neighbors, NATO, or the West.

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, who is visiting Belgrade, has urged Serbia not to grant diplomatic status to the staff of a Russian disaster-relief center that some Western officials suspect harbors spies and disseminates propaganda.

Russia's central bank said it was stepping in to save the country's eighth-largest lender, Otkritie, after it suffered a sustained run on its deposits amid worries about its loan portfolio.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel says that Washington and its European partners should ensure that new U.S. sanctions targeting Russia do not lead to a "new ice age" between Moscow and the West.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said that the EU should seek better relations with Moscow, but without giving up its values.

German prosecutors have charged a German-Russian dual citizen suspected of bombing the Borussia Dortmund soccer team's bus with attempted murder.

The Russian human rights center Memorial has recognized Danis Safargali, a Tatar activist who is currently on trial, as a political prisoner.

WHAT I'M READING

Donbas Diplomacy

Moscow-based foreign-affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov has a piece in Republic.ru looking at the diplomacy surrounding the war in the Donbas in the aftermath of Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov's meeting with U.S. special envoy Kurt Volker.

The Aleksashenko 'Defection'

In his column for Republic.ru, opposition journalist Oleg Kashin weighs in on the strange case -- and apparent "defection" -- of Russian economist Sergei Aleksashenko.

Russia's Reticent Intelligentsia

Also in Republic.ru, Sergei Medvedev looks at why the Russian intelligentsia is reluctant to support Aleksei Navalny and speak out in support of Kirill Serebrennikov

Bastrykin Speaks

It's always a good idea to take a look at what messages the Kremlin is trying to send via official media channels. Investigative Committee chief Aleksandr Bastrykin has an interview in the official government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta in which he discusses efforts to improve the image of law enforcement.

Trump's Business In Moscow

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky takes a close look at Donald Trump's record negotiating business deals in Russia.

China And Zapad

In a piece for The Diplomat, Nicholas Trickett explains how "China quietly looms over" the Zapad-2017 military exercises."Any Russian aggression out of the exercises," he writes, "could hurt Sino-Russian relations."

Wiseguys In Yekaterinburg

In a post on his blog In Moscow's Shadows, Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague looks at recent developments in the Russian criminal underworld in Yekaterinburg.

New Book Announcement: Tango Noir

Russia And The Western Far Right: Tango Noir, the long-awaited book from Anton Shekhovtsov of the Vienna-based Institute for Human Sciences, has hit the stands.

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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