ON MY MIND
The signs continue to mount that the Russian elite is preparing itself for life after Vladimir Putin.
On The Power Vertical blog last week, I argued that "there's a specter haunting the Russian elite. The specter of Putin as a lame duck."
And as the reality of this settles in, Russia is probably headed for a prolonged period of intensified and very high-stakes clan warfare.
And now in a smartly argued piece featured below, political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya argues that Putin looks increasingly sidelined in intra-elite conflicts -- more a bystander than an arbiter or a master.
If this trend continues, Stanovaya writes, "Putin may soon not be Russia's demiurge, but a boring part of the background in processes that no longer depend entirely on his own desires or priorities."
"Under Putin," Stanovaya adds, "the post-Putin system is being born."
Putin, of course, is all but certain to seek and win a new six-year term in the Kremlin; and the Russian presidency remains a powerful institution.
Moreover, analysts have written Putin off in the past only to see him come roaring back.
But something significant does appear to be happening.
Politics is "about control of the imagination," Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague argued in a video commentary featured last week in The Morning Vertical.
And "as soon as people begin thinking about life beyond Putin, this eats into a key element of his own legitimacy, which was that he was in effect the irreplaceable man. They're already thinking: we can replace the irreplaceable man."
IN THE NEWS
Facebook has informed U.S. investigators that the social network recently discovered it sold advertisements to a Russia-based operation targeting U.S. voters during last year's presidential election.
The European Union will prolong its asset freezes and visa bans on Russian officials and Moscow-backed separatists in Ukraine for another six months, with Russia's new ambassador to the United States likely to remain on the list, diplomats said.
Vladimir Putin has again voiced opposition to imposing further sanctions on Pyongyang, saying that the crisis over North Korea's missile and nuclear tests could be resolved by "diplomatic means."
The leaders of Japan and South Korea called for stronger sanctions against North Korea on visits to Russia's Vladivostok despite Putin's warning against "pushing North Korea into a corner."
The Russian energy minister says his country will consider extending a deal with OPEC to cut oil output further into next year if supplies continue to glut the market and keep prices down.
John Teft, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Russia, has defended Washington's decision to order Moscow out of diplomatic facilities in the United States amid a mounting standoff straining already frayed bilateral ties.
Human Rights Watch says that Russian police are "systematically" interfering with attempts by opposition leader Aleksei Navalny to campaign for the March 2018 presidential election.
A man who took four people hostage at a Citibank branch in downtown Moscow last year has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.
A Moscow court has sentenced two Russian hackers to three years in prison each for breaking into the e-mail accounts of top Russian officials and leaking them.
A man accused of carrying out an arson attack on a movie theater in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg has been sent to pretrial detention.
A court in Moscow has sentenced a man to 30 months in prison over violence at an anticorruption rally in the Russian capital in June.
U.S. President Donald Trump's eldest son will testify privately before the Senate Judiciary Committee today as it investigates allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
A Moscow court has ruled in favor of a flight attendant who said Russia's flagship Aeroflot airline stopped assigning her to work on international routes because of her weight.
Authorities in Ukraine say three political analysts, a journalist, and an activist died in a traffic accident in the western region of Rivne on September 6.
A Kyiv court adjourned Viktor Yanukovych's in absentia treason trial until September 21 after the former Ukrainian president's new lawyer asked for more time to prepare.
WHAT I'M READING
The Birth Of Post-Putin Russia
In Republic.ru, political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya argues that Vladimir Putin increasingly looks more like a bystander than an arbiter in conflicts among the elite.
(In case you missed it, see my post on The Power Vertical blog, Lame-Duck Putinism, on this theme.)
War And Politics In Ukraine
Andrew Wilson of the European Council on Foreign Relations reviews the book Everyone Loses: The Ukraine Crisis And The Ruinous Contest For Post-Soviet Eurasia by Samuel Charap and Timothy J. Colton.
Oleksandr Fisun, chair of the political-science department at Kharkiv National University, has a piece in PONARS Eurasia on "Ukraine's semi-managed democracy."
In The Kyiv Post, Paul Niland offers a checklist of Russia's unmet obligations under the Minsk agreement.
In an op-ed for the Financial Times, Jeffrey Mankoff and Jonathan Hillman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies argue that Russia is using infrastructure projects to close Ukraine's window to the West.
And Euromaidan Press looks at Putin's proposal to send UN peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine, Kyiv's response, and what it all means.
Kazakhstan Surpasses Russia
According to a report in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Kazakhstan has surpassed Russia in per capita consumer spending.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta and Moskovsky Komsomolets have pieces previewing this weekend's local and regional elections.
Russia's Bosnian Intrigue
Jasmin Mujanovi, author of the forthcoming book Hunger And Fury: The Crisis Of Democracy In The Balkans, has a piece in Foreign Affairs looking at Russia's efforts to destabilize Bosnia-Herzegovina.
And Putin's Korea Games
In his column for The Washington Post, Josh Rogin looks at the spoiler role Russia is playing in the North Korean crisis.
And Kommersant looks at Putin's efforts to expand in South Korea's energy market.