From the Globe and Mail’s former Moscow bureau chief, a vivid, fact-crammed report on how the Kremlin’s efforts to rein in the 14 former Soviet republics has led to Cold War–like conflict with the United States.
Chief players in the ongoing drama are former KGB agent Vladimir Putin, Russia’s enormously popular president since 2000, who is bent on restoring the former Soviet empire; American philanthropist George Soros, whose money and “Open Society” approach have aided democratic forces in Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus and other formerly communist nations; and the U.S., which applauds Putin’s help in its “War on Terror” even as it fosters anti-Putin unrest in the republics to keep Caspian Sea oil and gas flowing to the West. Bringing us into street protests and government machinations in Moscow, Kiev and elsewhere, MacKinnon details the headline-making revolts that removed the despotic Milosevic, Shevardnadze and Kuchma, bringing U.S.-friendly leaders and a new freedom to Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine respectively. Putin has imposed his quasi-authoritarian, managed democracy by using Russia’s immense natural gas and other resources to control the ex-Soviet republics, writes the author. At the same time, the Russian president deals ruthlessly with Chechen terrorists and with Russian “oligarchs” whose new-made fortunes under privatization sometimes breed dissidence. (For example, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s wealthiest man, was convicted of fraud and sent to a Siberian prison camp in 2005.) Putin’s popularity rests on having restored stability to the former Soviet bloc after the chaotic freedom of the 1990s. For the U.S., his years in power have had mixed outcomes: Russia is “more hostile” to the West than at any time since 1991, declares MacKinnon, but a growing string of friendly neighboring regimes now protects U.S. energy interests and provides investment markets.
Close-to-the-bone reporting that led the Kremlin to designate the author as a hostile journalist.