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The Morning Vertical, December 29, 2016


The contrast between Vladimir Putin's apparent victorious year abroad and Russia's deteriorating conditions at home is striking.

As Maxim Trudolyubov notes in a piece featured below, as Putin struts the world stage, a failing economy kills destitute alcoholics with toxic booze at home. And as I note in today's Daily Vertical, Russia's regions -- from oil-rich Tatarstan to destitute Mari El Republic -- are getting increasingly restive as the economy slides toward stagnation.

On the surface, 2016 may look like the year Russia restored its coveted status as a great power. But the basis of any great power is a strong economy. And on this score, Russia is faring little better than its Soviet predecessor.


U.S. media report that the United States will soon announce retaliatory measures against Russia for allegedly leaking hacked U.S. Democratic e-mails during the presidential campaign in what the CIA and others believe was an effort to help Donald Trump win the election.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham says that Russia and President Vladimir Putin will be hit with tough sanctions as a result of suspected Russian cyberattacks during last month's U.S. presidential election.

Russian authorities have sought to cast doubt on a New York Times report that said the country had conceded the existence of a widespread doping conspiracy among sports officials and athletes, claiming that statements by its anti-doping chief were "distorted and taken out of context."

The Russian Embassy in the Syrian capital of Damascus has been shelled twice, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Turkey and Russia have prepared an agreement for a cease-fire in Syria, Turkey's foreign minister has said.

And Reuters reports that Russia, Turkey, and Iran are considering dividing Syria into zones of influence.

The United States said it has no plans to provide portable rocket launchers to Syrian rebels, dismissing rhetoric from Russia after Moscow warned that such weapons might fall into the hands of Islamic militants.

Russian officials say they have recovered a second black box from the military passenger jet that crashed in the Black Sea en route to Syria on December 25.

Russian plane maker Sukhoi said it will repair defects in its Superjet 100 aircraft by late January after safety problems prompted the grounding of 18 planes in Mexico and Russia.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has suffered a "major" cyberattack, a spokeswoman has confirmed.


In case you missed it, my year-ender Power Vertical blog post on foreign affairs, Putin's Perfect Storm, looks at how in 2016 "the Western angst and malaise from the 2008 financial crisis, the eurozone crisis, and the migrant crisis crested and dovetailed with a concerted Kremlin campaign to undermine Western institutions."


Russia's 2017 Intrigues

In a piece in, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya looks ahead to the top five political intrigues we can expect in Russia in 2017.

A Chechen Whistle-Blower

Anna Nemtsova has a powerful piece in The Daily Beast on Chechen whistle-blower Ramazan Dzhalaldinov. "One man decided he had to speak out against the ferocious repression in Chechnya. His family has been beaten. His house burned. But he won’t give up," she writes.

Putin's Good Year Abroad...

Alexander Kliment of the Eurasia Group has a piece on Putin's good year.

"Russia has advanced its interests with remarkable success, given its relative economic and military weakness compared to other major global players," Kliment writes.

"But Putin plays a weak hand well. He picks his spots and exploits vacuums of power in key areas where Washington is indecisive or insufficiently committed. He relies on postmodern tools of power such as cybertechnology and (dis)information campaigns that prey upon the antiestablishment backlash in the Euro-Atlantic world, complicating efforts to identify and condemn Russian subterfuge."

...And His Problems At Home

In an op-ed in The New York Times, Maxim Trudolyubov notes that as Putin struts the world stage, a failing economy kills destitute alcoholics with toxic booze at home.

Fake News Jujitsu

Ben Collins has a piece in The Daily Beast on how Kremlin media are claiming that stories about the slaughter in Aleppo constitute "fake news."

Fighting Fake News

The Guardian has a piece on a Czech plan to fight fake news with a new Center Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats.

And writing on his blog, Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague assesses the new Czech center's potential effectiveness.

And according to reports in German media, Berlin also has a plan to fight fake news.

More On Russian Hacking

Uri Friedman interviews Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, about Russia's interference in the U.S. presidential election.

And Emily Tamkin at Foreign Policy asks: Is Russia responsible for a recent hack at the OSCE?

CalExit Makes Strange Bedfellows

Business Insider has a piece looking at how a far-right Russian party is helping an American secessionist set up a "California Embassy" in Moscow.

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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