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The Morning Vertical, December 30, 2016


So 2016 is over and 2017 promises to be just as tumultuous -- if not more so.

In foreign affairs, we'll see how the relationship between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump will play out in practice. In Europe, we'll see if the populist wave Moscow has been aiding and abetting will sweep through the Netherlands, France, and Germany. In Russia's neighborhood, we'll see if Moscow tries to claim its coveted "sphere of influence" and exert imperial dominance over its neighbors -- and how the Ukrainians, Georgians, and Moldovans will respond.

Russian domestic politics should prove no less turbulent as the country gears up for the 2018 presidential election and the Kremlin prepares for the tricky undertaking of marking the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution.

The Morning Vertical and all The Power Vertical's products will be there to help everybody make sense of the coming year.

So Happy New Year everybody, thanks for the support, and we'll see you again in 2017.


The United States says it is expelling nearly three dozen Russian diplomats as it announced new economic sanctions and other punitive measures in response to alleged Russian hacking during the presidential election.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his ministry had sent to Putin the names of 31 U.S. diplomats in Moscow and four from the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg with the recommendation that they be expelled in retaliation.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has called on the country to "move on" after the White House hit Russia with major new sanctions for interfering in the November election through cyberattacks.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said Russian security services are waging a cyberwar against the country, with hackers targeting Ukrainian state institutions about 6,500 times in the past two months.

Russia's security agencies say they have arrested seven people suspected of preparing New Year's terror attacks in Moscow on orders from the Islamic State extremist group in Syria.

A Russian stadium that is due to host a 2018 World Cup semifinal match has been officially completed after many construction delays and corruption scandals.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, have discussed what the Kremlin said were "plans for the resumption of regular flights between Moscow and Cairo in the near future."

A Russian military official says there was was no explosion aboard a jet that crashed in the Black Sea en route to Syria but that terrorism has not been ruled out as a possible cause.

Russian President Putin says the Syrian government and its opponents have signed an agreement on a nationwide cease-fire and a declaration expressing willingness to begin peace talks.

A new nationwide cease-fire in Syria brokered by Russia and Turkey appears to be largely holding, despite reports of isolated clashes, a monitoring group has said.


The Power Vertical's year-ender blog on domestic politics looks back as The Year The Collective Putin Died.

And in case you missed it, the Power Vertical's year-ender blog on foreign affairs surveyed the damage from Putin's Perfect Storm.


What Changed? What's Coming? has a piece asking the experts: What changed in 2016 and what can we expect in 2017?

Putin, Trump, And The Culture Wars

Masha Gessen has a piece in The New York Review Of Books looking at how Putin thinks he won the global culture war -- and what this may portend.

"Putin has declared victory in his war on modern culture, which gives him the right to call himself the most powerful man in the world. But, of course, that description has generally been part of the definition of a different job—the one to which Trump has in fact just been elected," Gessen writes.

"One suspects that having two men who believe themselves to be the most powerful in the world can't go well."

Britain's Dangerous Year

Veteran Kremlin-watcher Edward Lucas, author of The New Cold War, writes that Britain is now facing its most dangerous year since the Cold War.

Russian Emigres has an interesting piece up on where Russians go when they emigrate.

The Sanctioned looks at at the individuals who have been sanctioned by the Obama administration over alleged Russian interference in the U.S. elections.

Calling All Hackers

Andrew Higgins has a nicely reported piece in The New York Times on how Russia recruits hackers for its cyberwar.

Moscow On The Chesapeake

The Baltimore Sun takes a closer look at those Russian facilities in Maryland that have been closed under U.S. sanctions.

Boxed In

Bloomberg has a news analysis claiming that "President Barack Obama is forcing his successor Donald Trump into a difficult choice: reverse the sanctions the departing president just imposed on Russia for hacking the U.S. election or put at risk his campaign vow to improve relations with Vladimir Putin."

Kasparov Appears On The Waking Up Podcast

Former world chess champion and self-exiled Russian opposition figure Garry Kasparov appears on Sam Harris's Waking Up Podcast

Ukrainians In Defense Of Russian Historian

Ukrainian authorities are asking for the international community to protect Russian historian Yury Dmitriyev, head of the Karelia branch of Memorial, who is facing criminal charges in a case many see as trumped up and politically motivated.

Kleptocrats Playground

Ben Judah, author of the books This Is London and Fragile Empire, has a piece in The New York Times on how London rolls out the red carpet for kleptocrats.

Russian Words Of The Year

Global Voices has a fun piece identifying and explaining Russia's "words of the year."

SRB Podcast

The latest SRB Podcast, hosted by Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, looks at The Perils of Donbas Fatigue. Sean's guest is aid worker Brian Milakovsky, who lives and works in Ukraine's Luhansk Oblast.

NOTE TO POWER VERTICALISTAS: The Morning Vertical and all Power Vertical products will not appear next week, from January 2-6. All Power Vertical products will resume their regular schedule on Monday, January 9.

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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