The end of the Cold War has been one of the watershed moments of the twentieth century. The tension between the Soviet Union and its allies on one hand, and the Western capitalist democracies on the other, has completely dominated all of international relations for almost half a century. The collapse of the Soviet Union had spurred hopes that the days of bipolar world and the constant threat of total nuclear holocaust are finally behind us. For some time it looked that Russia and a myriad other post-Soviet republics are firmly on a path of joining the West in emulation the institutions and practices of modern liberal democracies. Russia in particular, despite all of its massive economic troubles, seemed to be opening more and more and getting increasingly integrated in the international institutions and treaties. However, the beginning of the twenty-first century saw a dramatic reversal in political and personal freedoms within Russia and an increasing hostility and open challenge to the Western nations on international front. This renewed Russian belligerence and repression of political freedoms is the consequence of the arrival of Vladimir Putin on the scene, and his systematic attempts to reverse what is perceived by many in Russia as the whole scale national decline into chaos and lawlessness.
All of these developments and many others that are not so familiar to the western observers are chronicled with an unprecedented detail and thoroughness by Edward Lucas in "The New Cold war." Edward Lucas is one of the best journalists who specialize in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics. He relies heavily on his own journalistic contacts and experiences to weave a powerful and informative narrative of Putin's Russia and the power structures and mechanism that it employs. The picture is oftentimes very brutal and ugly, but this is just a reflection of the facts on the ground.
The second part of the book deals with the geopolitical threats that the resurgent Russia poses to its neighbors and the West. This part of the book is much shorter than the part that deals with internal Russian affairs, and the information is not as fresh and original. This is all rather unfortunate, since the book's title and the premise imply that the main focus of this book is on new Russia's foreign affairs and dealings, and how this constitutes a threat to the World on par with the Cold War. The reader takes home the message that Russia, despite its very sketchy and unsavory domestic and international politics is nowhere near to its erstwhile power to disrupt the peace and stability in the World. This may indeed be the accurate picture of the true potential and importance of Russia right now, but if the author wanted to alert the public to Russia's international aspirations then this book falls short. I truly hope to find the answer to this dilemma, and would like to read a book that is in fact entirely devoted to Russia's current diplomatic relations.