There is no question that tensions between Russia and America are on the rise. The forced annexation of Crimea, the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17, and the Russian government's treatment of homosexuals have created diplomatic standoffs and led to a volley of economic sanctions. In America, much of the blame for Russia's recent hostility has fallen on steely-eyed President Vladimir Putin and many have begun to wonder if they we are witnessing the rebirth of Cold War-style dictatorship.
There is more to it, argues veteran historian Walter Laqueur. For two decades, Laqueur has been ahead of the curve, predicting events in post-Soviet Russia with uncanny accuracy. In Putinism, he deftly demonstrates how three long-standing pillars of Russian ideology-a strong belief in the Orthodox Church, a sense of Eurasian "manifest destiny," and a fear of foreign enemies-continue to exert a powerful influence on the Russian populous. In fact, today's Russians have more in common with their counterparts from 1904 than 1954 and Putin is much more a servant of his people than we might think.
Timely and provocative, Putinism contains much more than historical analysis. Looking to the future, Laqueur explains how America's tendency to see Russia as a Cold War relic is dangerous and premature. Russia can and will challenge the West and it is in our best interest to acknowledge and prepare to face that challenge.
"An aptly timed and much needed look at the mercurial master of the Kremlin . . . Into this examination comes Mr. Laqueur, with trademark scholarly discipline deconstructing Mr. Putin, who in his 16 years as prime minister and president has defied the understanding of some of the world’s best-informed leaders and best-financed intelligence agencies . . . Mr. Laqueur, who has studied Russia for more than 60 years and has written more than 25 books, does not fall for the easy traps. While some in the United States see Mr. Putin as simply a revanchist Soviet, even a latter-day Stalin, Mr. Laqueur understands it is not so simple."—Peter Baker, The New York Times
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