Books by Dimitri K. Simes

Released: March 1, 1999

If much of what passes for foreign policy analysis is instant-formula baby food, this is the real thing and approaches developments in Russia over the past decade with refreshing if brutal candor. Simes, himself a Russian exile, was an advisor to Richard Nixon and arranged his last trips to Russia. It is a "profound misreading," Simes contends, to think that the relationship with Russia will continue to be an "easy ride" for the US. Yeltsin's reelection was not a "triumph of democracy," and the Clinton administration does a significant disservice to the relationship and to its influence on Russia to pretend that it was. Indeed, Yeltsin has created a system in which "Al Capone would be more at home than Thomas Jefferson," an oligarchy run by corrupt officials and industrialists which has alienated the people and done a rotten job of running the country. The bleakness of these views makes Simes's own "cautious optimism" that much more surprising and perhaps persuasive. Despite an economic catastrophe in Russia more severe than the Great Depression in the US, he sees hope in the sheer extent of Russia's resources, its well-trained labor force, its new entrepreneurial spirit, and the reluctance of the majority to contemplate a return to Soviet-style socialism. Which is not necessarily that good for the US: Simes believes that it is inevitable that Russia will increasingly direct its own path in foreign policy, particularly as it resolves its current economic difficulties, though for the time being it will be constrained by the need to retain Western support for its economy. He believes that the US, for its part, will need to show more understanding, more restraint, and less capriciousness in its foreign policy—which may be the one point at which the realism of the analysis becomes suspect. A bracing cold shower of a book, but all the more refreshing for it. (maps, not seen) Read full book review >