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The Morning Vertical, December 28, 2017


Foreign investors are reportedly fleeing Russia in droves in anticipation of possible new U.S. sanctions next year.

Kommersant reported that Russia could lose as much as $1 billion in investment due to the year-end exodus.

Earlier this month, Russia's Central Bank nationalized Promsvyazbank, the country's ninth-largest lender, and bailed out its creditors. It marked the third major bank failure in four months.

These tremors point to one of the key questions as we look ahead to 2018: Will sanctions and a struggling economy finally force Vladimir Putin's regime to reset its foreign policy, seek an exit strategy from its war in the Donbas, and ease its confrontation with the West?

In a piece (featured below), Russian historian and political activist Aleksandr Skobov offers a skeptical take. Skobov argues that just as during the Cold War, conflicts between the West's liberal system and the illiberal Putinist system have an irreconcilably and irrevocably antagonistic character.

He concludes that this "'Second Cold War' will only grow and can end only with the complete destruction of one of the systems."

It's a pessimistic take to be sure. And a sobering one for anybody hoping for a new reset, or a new detente.


Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, who has been barred from challenging President Vladimir Putin in a March election, is calling for a "voters' strike" and nationwide demonstrations on January 28 in support of a boycott of the ballot.

Vladimir Putin says that a blast that injured at least 10 people at a supermarket in St. Petersburg on December 27 was a terrorist act.

And Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee is leading the investigation into the blast.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko has been replaced as chairman of the 2018 World Cup organizing committee amid pressure over allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russia.

Russia is planning to begin shipments of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems to Turkey in March 2020, a senior official says of a deal that has raised eyebrows because Turkey is a NATO member.

A Russian court has ruled that Yury Dmitriyev, a historian and activist who is being tried on child-pornography charges his supporters say are politically motivated, will be released from pretrial custody on January 28.

A group of teachers and linguists is mounting a petition drive to urge President Vladimir Putin to preserve the mandatory status of Ossetian-language classes in the North Ossetia region.

Rafis Kashapov, a Tatar activist who was convicted of separatism and inciting ethnic hatred in a case he said was politically motivated has been released from prison in northern Russia after serving a three-year term.

European leaders have hailed a long-awaited exchange of prisoners between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists that enabled hundreds of former captives to return to their homes for the New Year holiday.


Soviet Spycraft Today

Michael Weiss has a piece in The Daily Beast looking at a Soviet-era KGB manual on how to recruit spies that is still relevant today.

Russia's Evolving Tactics

On the website of the Center for European Policy Analysis, Edward Lucas, author of the book The New Cold War, explains Russia's evolving tactics in its confrontation with the West.

The Empty Spectacle

Masha Gessen, author of the recently published book The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, has a piece in The New Yorker on Aleksei Navalny and the "empty spectacle" of Russia's election.

The 'Low-Calorie' Election

Yekaterina Schulmann has a piece in looking at the "low-calorie election" that will kick off Putin's next term.

Predictions And Rumors

Artemy Troitsky has an op-ed in The Moscow Times looking at predictions, rumors, and speculation about what is in store for Russia in 2018.

Skirting Sanctions

In, economist Oleg Shibanov looks at the Kremlin's efforts to evade Western sanctions.

Two Worlds Colliding

Historian and political activist Aleksandr Skobov has a blog post on arguing that Russia and the West comprise two distinct systems that -- just as in the Cold War -- are incapable of finding a permanent compromise between them.

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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