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The Morning Vertical, November 21, 2017


With an election that is completely devoid of suspense just four months away, attention is quickly turning to what happens after the vote.

And as both Mark Galeotti and Tatiana Stanovaya note in separate pieces featured below, the first "tell" about Russia's political direction will be whom Putin -- after his all-but-inevitable reelection -- names as his prime minister.

A strong prime minister -- somebody like Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin or Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu -- would likely be interpreted (correctly or incorrectly) as a sign that Putin views his next term as his last and is grooming a successor.

The appointment of a regime "liberal" like Economic Development Minister Maksim Oreshkin or Central Bank chair Elvira Nabiullina would be interpreted (correctly or incorrectly) as an indication that economic reform was in the offing.

And a weak "technical" prime minister that Putin plucks out of obscurity, on the other hand, would be seen (again, correctly or incorrectly) as a sign that Putin is either planning to stick around beyond 2024 or that he wants to delay talk of a successor until later in his fourth term.

And then, of course, there is Dmitry Medvedev.

Stanovaya notes that after being all but written off and ridiculed as ineffectual, Medvedev's stock has been rising in recent months and the consensus among Moscow pundits is that he has a pretty good chance of remaining prime minister after the election.

Medvedev's strength, the virtue that makes him very useful for Putin, is that he could be a weak technical prime minister and a potential successor -- all at the same time.

As Galeotti notes, Medvedev "is not dangerous" and "is unlikely to be considered presidential material, except as a front man for an oligarchic coalition."

A second Medvedev premiership, in short, allows Putin to keep all his options open.

That doesn't mean it is going to happen. But it does explain Medvedev's strange rehabilitation.


After surprise talks in Sochi with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about the need to move from military operations in Syria to the search for a political solution to the country’s six-year civil war.

Russia's meteorological service has confirmed there were "extremely high" concentrations of the radioactive isotope ruthenium-106 (Ru-106) in several parts of the country in late September, AFP reported.

Russia has named a man detained at its request in Ukraine under the accusation of involvement in the assassination of American journalist Paul Klebnikov in Moscow 13 years ago.

A speech given before Germany's parliament by a Russian high-school student at an annual German remembrance for the military personnel and civilians killed in wars and from political oppression has sparked an uproar in Russia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has arrived in the Armenian capital of Yerevan as part of a regional tour that included talks in neighboring Azerbaijan.

Czech President Milos Zeman has arrived in the Black Sea resort of Sochi for talks scheduled today with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said.

Ukraine is marking the Day of Dignity and Freedom, a holiday commemorating the beginning of the Euromaidan protests that started in November 2013 and pushed President Viktor Yanukovych from power three months later.

The Belarusian KGB says it has arrested a Ukrainian journalist on suspicion of espionage, accusing him of being a military intelligence agent -- a claim immediately rejected by Ukraine.

Belarusian authorities say they have detained a Russian man who attempted to rob a bank and took several people hostage in the eastern city of Mahilyou.


Power Games

In her column for, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya looks at the speculation surrounding the political future of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and what it means for Russia's political future.

In BNEIntellinews, Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague argues that despite appearances, who becomes Russia's prime minister actually matters.

Levada Poll: What Russians Think About Putin

The Levada Center has released a new poll on the attitudes of Russians toward Vladimir Putin.

A Banker In The Dock

Bloomberg has a piece looking at the trial of banker Aleksei Kulikov and what it reveals about the shadowy world of Russian money laundering.

Framing The Information War

Peter Pomerantsev, author of the book Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible: Inside The Surreal Heart Of The New Russia, has a piece in The American Interest looking at the linguistics of the information war. "The way we describe things," he writes, "will define whether we prevail."

Disinformation And Its Discontents

In Novoye Vremya-New Times, Moscow-based military analyst Aleksandr Golts looks at the so-called "Gerasimov doctrine," the Russian military's use of disinformation and psyops, and how this often results in blowback.

Book Review: Masha Gessen's The Future Is History

The Guardian has a review of Masha Gessen's new bookThe Future Is History.

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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