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The Morning Vertical, November 22, 2017


There is one provision in the Russian Constitution that Vladimir Putin has been adamant about following: the prohibition on three consecutive presidential terms.

Back in 2007-8, Putin rejected the advice of some aides who were urging him to ignore or amend Russia's basic law and stay on for a third term.

Putin of course settled on the so-called "castling," using Dmitry Medvedev as a placeholder president for four years before returning to the Kremlin in 2012.

But now, as Putin prepares to campaign for what would be his final term under the current law, talk of an impending "constitutional reform" is gaining currency among Kremlin-watchers. (I wrote about it here and here).

In a good piece featured below, the always insightful political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya looks back at the history of the idea of changing the Russian Constitution and makes a compelling case that it could be in the offing after the presidential election in March.

How Russia's ruling elite will handle a lame-duck Putin, and what measures they might take to keep him in power one way or another, will be one of the key developments to watch in 2018.


U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin and discussed the need to bring peace to Syria and Ukraine among other matters, the White House said.

Moscow has threatened to retaliate if Google gives less prominence in its search results to articles from Russian state-funded news websites Sputnik and RT, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.

News reports say French police have detained Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov as part of a tax-evasion investigation.

More than a dozen environmental groups in Russia have shuttered their operations since the authorities required them to register as "foreign agents" under a politically charged law that critics say is stymieing civil society and political dissent, the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch says in a new report.

The Kremlin has slammed what it called the "exalted persecution" of a Russian high-school student who said that some German soldiers did not want to fight in World War II.

Russian state oil company chief Igor Sechin, who was summoned twice last week to testify in a former economy minister's extortion trial but failed to show up, says he will also skip a hearing today, despite a third summons.

Belarus says President Alyaksandr Lukashenka will not attend the European Union's Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels on November 24.

During a visit to Armenia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said there is no cause for "too much optimism" over a resolution of the long-standing conflict over Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

A spokesman for Armenia’s ruling party on November 21 dismissed as "ridiculous" an accusation made on a Russian television channel that Armenia’s government elites "glorify Nazism."

Armed men in unmarked uniforms have taken up positions in the center of Luhansk in what appears to be part of a power struggle among the Russia-backed separatists who control the city in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine has expelled a Belarusian diplomat amid a spy scandal between the two neighboring countries.


Constitutional Reform

Political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya has a good piece in looking at the history, politics, and speculation surrounding proposals to change the Russian Constitution to keep Vladimir Putin in power beyond his next term. has an interview with Communist Party lawmaker Vladimir Bortko, who has proposed convening a constitutional assembly to amend the basic law.

And in a commentary for Novoye Vremya-New Times, Andrei Kolesnikov of the Moscow Carnegie Center critiques the idea of constitutional reform.

Myths, Counter-Myths, And Scandals

In his column for, opposition journalist and political commentator Oleg Kashin weighs in on the scandal surrounding Russian student Nikolai Desyatnichenko's speech to the German Bundestag.

Development Without Modernization

Also in, Dmitry Travin looks at how Russia can develop in the absence of a clear modernization program.

Deterrence In The Digital Age

Edward Lucas, author of the book The New Cold War, has a piece on the Center for European Policy Analysis website arguing for a modernized concept of deterrence.

Poland And The Eastern Partnership

In a commentary, Chatham House's Kataryna Wolczuk argues that abandoning a leadership role in the Eastern Partnership would be a mistake for Poland.

NOTE TO POWER VERTICALISTAS: Due to the Thanksgiving Day holiday, The Morning Vertical and The Daily Vertical will not appear on Thursday, November 23, and Friday, November 24. The regular schedule resumes on Monday, November 27.

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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