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The Morning Vertical, January 30, 2017


It is pretty clear what Russia wants to get out of a grand bargain with the West.

It wants the end of sanctions and Moscow's international isolation.

It wants implicit recognition of Russia's imperial dominance over its neighbors.

It wants a new world order based in spheres of influence.

And it wants to be recognized as a global superpower.

But a much harder question to answer is: What exactly does the West get in return?

Cooperation against Islamic State?

Isn't it in Russia's interest to do that anyway?

A Kremlin commitment to stop its political shenanigans in Europe?


But in that case, as Celeste Ward Gventer notes in a piece featured below, it wouldn't be a grand bargain at all.

It would be giving in to extortion.


The White House said the first official phone call between President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin "was a significant start to improving the relationship between the United States and Russia that is in need of repair."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Trump stressed the importance of the NATO alliance to global security during their first call since Trump’s inauguration.

Russian authorities say security forces have killed three suspected militants in the North Caucasus province of Daghestan.

More than 2,000 people rallied in St. Petersburg to protest a decision by the city administration to turn the landmark St. Isaac's Cathedral over to the Russian Orthodox Church.

A youth activist in Russia's Tatarstan region is being tried on terror-related charges over a social-media post praising the killing of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Florida last year.

Russian whistle-blower Yulia Stepanova says she doubts her country's attitude toward sports doping has changed substantially since she and her husband exposed the problem with performance-enhancing drugs three years ago.

Ukraine says five of its soldiers have been killed and nine wounded in some of the worst fighting in eastern Ukraine in weeks.


In case you missed it, the latest Power Vertical Podcast looked at Russia's moves to destabilize the Balkans.


Today's Power Vertical Briefing explores what last week's phone call between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin means for Russian-U.S. relations going forward.


The Trump-Putin Phone Call

RFE/RL's Steve Gutterman looks at the White House and Kremlin readouts of the Putin-Trump phone call and looks ahead to what it all means for sanctions, Ukraine, Syria, and terrorism.

Ben Rosen has a piece in the Christian Science Monitor on why Putin and Trump did not discuss sanctions.

In Foreign Policy, Celeste Ward Gventer, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense, asks: What can Russia offer the United States in a grand bargain?

The FSB Arrests

Brian Krebs has a piece on his blog about infighting in Russia's cyber-security community and how it is playing out in the arrests of top FSB officials accused of espionage.

"According to information obtained by KrebsOnSecurity, the arrests may very well be tied to a long-running grudge held by Pavel Vrublevsky, a Russian businessman who for years paid most of the world’s top spammers and virus writers to pump malware and hundreds of billions of junk emails into U.S. inboxes," Krebs writes.

Humpty Dumpty Had A Great Fall

Dmitry Filonov has a piece in looking at the beleagured hacker group Shaltai-Boltai (Humpty Dumpty) and who stands behind it.

Moscow Tries To Sell Syria A Constitution

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky looks at Russia's attempts to sell a new constitution for Syria and what this says about Moscow's goals.

"Russia, a country not known for strict constitutionalism, has offered Syria's warring sides a draft constitution that will probably get rejected. But the document sheds light on Russia's goals in the war-torn Middle Eastern nation," Bershidsky writes.

Target: Germany

Stefan Wagstyl has a feature in the Financial Times looking at Germany's elections this year and Russia's efforts to influence 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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