A systematic account of Russia’s emergence from the wreckage of the Soviet Union with a renewed sense of authoritarian mission.
There isn’t really anybody to blame for “losing” Russia except for “its own creators.” In this painstaking account, Sunday Times foreign editor Conradi (The Great Survivors: How Monarchy Made It into the Twenty-First Century, 2012, etc.) meticulously lays out the record, from Mikhail Gorbachev to Vladimir Putin. The author emphasizes that with the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russians were more preoccupied with their own economic viability than with political woes—a fair assessment considering the sudden collapse of price controls in the early 1990s and rise of hyperinflation. As privatization was carried out painfully in Russia under Boris Yeltsin, the West did not lend its aid in a gushing “new Marshall Plan.” The minority countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain moved for independence, prompting military action in 1994 against Chechnya and a conflicted reaction by the Russian people and consternation by the Bill Clinton administration. The enlargement of NATO delighted the U.S. but alarmed the Russians, while the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia and loss of Ukraine compounded Russia’s isolation. Conradi notes that all Russia needed, at the end of Yeltsin’s regime, was “a figure able to harness this sense of grievance and thirst for revenge,” and Yeltsin handpicked his successor in former KGB officer Putin in late 1999. After assuming power, Putin gradually slid into old Soviet-style authoritarianism—e.g., the arrest and Siberian exile of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, head of the oil giant Yukos; the Russian storming of the school taken hostage in Beslan, North Ossetia, in September 2004; and the resistance to the detaching of Ukraine from Russia’s orbit and invasion of Crimea in 2014, among other developments. Despite the “reset” button pushed by President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Putin has continued to show a desire to re-create the lost Soviet empire.
A cold-eyed examination of recent Russian history that seems to show that there was never a solid plan to integrate Russia into the West.