ON MY MIND
It may be a far cry from the Vladimir Lenin's Comintern. But hey, there's still time.
Over the past three months, the ruling United Russia party has signed formal agreements with two far-right European parties: Italy's Northern League this week and Austria's Freedom Party in December.
And reports surfaced this week that a third agreement is in the works with Italy's Euroskeptic Five Star Movement.
The Kremlin's courtship of Europe's antiestablishment forces has, of course, been going on for years. But now Vladimir Putin's regime seems ready to start formalizing these partnerships.
On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we'll look at what this means going forward as Europe heads into a year of crucial elections.
Joining me will be co-host Mark Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations; and Anton Shekhovtsov, a visiting fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences and author of the forthcoming book Russia And The Western Far Right.
Be sure to tune in later today!
IN THE NEWS
Leaders of the European Union are voicing concern about "external influences" fueling divisions in the Western Balkans after recent moves by Russia and its Balkan allies to block closer ties with the West.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, who is also head of the Russian Football Union, says he has been barred from running for reelection for a place on the FIFA Council.
Russian activist Ildar Dadin was briefly detained in Moscow today, two weeks after his release from prison.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks on issues including the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, economic and energy ties, and efforts to combat terrorism.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told Russian President Vladimir Putin there can never be peace in Syria as long Iran maintains troops and advisers there.
U.S. Congressman Ed Royce says that the future of the European Union could be in danger if "Kremlin-backed politicians" come to power in France.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has warned Russia about the danger of a new arms race triggered by the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and called for reducing the number of conventional weapons.
The Moldovan government has warned its officials not to travel to Russia, citing what it calls "humiliating" abuse and harassment by officials from Moscow's security apparatus.
Yelena Isinbayeva, the new head of Russia's anti-doping board, says her main task will be to establish an independent and transparent system to combat the use of performance-enhancing drugs by the country's athletes.
Putin has dismissed several senior law enforcement and officers and told the authorities they must do a better job fighting a range of problems from extremism to teen suicides.
A European Parliament committee has voted to scrap visa requirements for Ukraine in a further step to give Ukrainians easier access to EU countries.
WHAT I'M READING
Reconstructing the Political Theater
In a piece in BNEIntellinews, Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague (and co-host of The Power Vertical Podcast), looks at how Putin is overhauling Russia's political stage.
"Arguably the very reason for the apparent absence of politics in Russia at the moment is precisely that the visible drama is currently in hiatus while the theater is being rebuilt," Galeotti writes.
"Everything now is about 2018, with Putin's intended electoral triumph and then his fourth and likely final presidential term. For a president whose eyes are firmly fixed on his historical legacy, this play needs just the right stage, scenery and seating."
Post-Putin With Putin?
In a piece in Republic.ru, political analyst and former Kremlin aide Gleb Pavlovsky argues that Russia is headed for a post-Putin future --with Putin still in charge.
The Kremlin's Dilemma: Framing 1917
Bartlomiej Gajos, a research fellow at the Center for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding, has a piece in Intersection magazine explaining why the Kremlin is having such a hard time framing the centennial of the revolutions of 1917.
The Struggle For Eastern Europe
Ian Bond of the Center for European Reform has released a new policy brief: Contested Space: Russia And EU Relations With Eastern Europe.
How The Cold War Ended
In The New York Review Of Books, Archie Brown reviews Robert Service's book The End Of The Cold War: 1985-91.
The State Of Sino-Russian Relations
Stacy Closson, a fellow at the Kennan Institute, has a piece on The Russia Files blog looking at the Sino-Russian relationship.
The Rise Of Antidemocratic Propaganda
Christopher Walker, vice president for studies and analysis at the National Endowment for Democracy, writes in Politico on how antidemocratic propaganda is sweeping the world.
Profile Of A Russian Gun Enthusiast
In The Daily Beast, Tim Mak profiles Maria Butina, a Russian gun-rights activist who has become a key conduit between Moscow and U.S. conservatives.
The Kremlin's View Of Huntsman
Foreign-affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian Foreign Ministry official (and a regular guest on The Power Vertical Podcast), has a piece in The Moscow Times on the how the Kremlin views the likely appointment of Jon Huntsman as U.S. ambassador to Russia.
Has The CIA Forgotten How To Spy?
Alex Finley (the pen name of a former CIA officer and author), has a piece in Politico on How The CIA Forgot The Art Of Spying.