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on 25 April 2009
The author makes a convincing case that a cadre of former KGB officers are now the owner-operators of Russia. He makes no secret of his past as an anti-Soviet campaigner and as such, he clearly finds this a disturbing development. This book is a polemical exploration of this thesis and the conclusions that might be drawn from it. As a sometime vistor to Russia with Russian friends I had hoped and expected Russia to evolve towards a "normal" capitalistic society but it's clear that at present at least, it is proceeding in the opposite direction. Lucas goes a long way to explaining why but perhaps does not go far enough in exploring the mindset and motivations of Putin and his allies. Nevertheless, a fine and enlightening read.
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on 16 December 2013
Entertaining and informative for those interested in Russia and in her relations with the west. Lucas makes the reader wonder if the Old Cold War really ended or if it was just a pause before relations between Russia and the west would get chilly once more. Although the author points out that the new Russia is not the Russia of Stalin or even the Russia of Brezhnev, he nevertheless shows that Russia is far from being a country that the west can deal with openly and on an equal basis. Russia's Baltic neighbors know this all too well, but unfortunately the west and the European Union do not know or choose not to know and turn a blind eye to what the Russian Bear does both at home and abroad. Highly recommended!
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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.
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on 6 April 2015
In 2008 Edward Lucas of the Economist produced his best-seller, The New Cold War, on Russia's current role in the world. His main focus was the power of oil and gas, and in particular of Gazprom which he insisted should not be treated as a private company but a state organ of Russia's foreign policy operating to divide foreign opponents and to force weak independent nations of the former Warsaw Pact and of the former Soviet Union to enter within an unofficial umbrella to kow down to the designs of the new leader, Vladimir Putin. At the time two wars had been launched against smaller neighbours: first against Georgia, and then cyber-warfare against Estonia, and unfortunately met with few strong reactions from allies in the West.

Six years on, the second edition, is simply a reprint of the first, with the addition of a long introduction until the annexation of Crimea and the port of Sevastopol, and the Dombas rebels making moves in eastern Ukraine in April 2014. He underlined the advances made by the West against the Russian "energy" policy, and the US desire to expand shale energy is presented in Russia as an imperialist threat to the livelihood of Mother Russia, and a personal affront both to the leader and his billionaire oligarch cronies.

What does not get mentioned by this economist is as the energy power is so important for Russia's foreign policy he do not enter into the effects on Russia since its admission to the World Trade Organization in August 2012; moreover, what is not repeated enough as might be found in the pages of the Economist is about the growing political allies of Russia within the EU. British readers may be familiar of the backing Putin gives to Miss Le Pen of the National Front in France to unsettle President Hollande, perhaps less is known of the support for the extreme Right (NPD and the AfD) and Left (Linke) in Germany directed against Chancellor Merkel, the support for Berlusconi and the Northern League in Italy, for the Nationalists in Britain, as well as for the right in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, and the new left (Podemos) in Spain. It is clear that Russia is trying to create political instability in all the West in order to make governments focus on domestic problems and their political survival. When necessary Russia will adopt a new needy pawn by backing dissenting EU members who are more willing to give them their support: in February 2015 it was the new Greek Syriza government, a year before Russia received the support of small debt stricken Cyprus - all to cause friction, possible deadlock, to weaken if not help the break up of a disunited capitalist EU. In a period of economic recession, of growing national concerns, Putin seems to be pulling the strings, and winning the upper hand.

Just as it is important never to ignore that an enemy's foe can also be one's friend at some time, one must regard Russia current negotiations with Argentina to lease supersonic bombers to attack the British Falklands as a further attempt to force the cash-strapped British further into debt and worry itself with unnecessary projects. However, the author does stress that should Britain take a strong line against Russia it is certain to get the CEO of BP breathing down the neck of government ministers to lay off otherwise the company would face major losses there. Lucas repeats Gazprom's interest is Putin or Russia's interest; that message the normally meek Foreign Office and hesitant Downing Street since Thatcher needs to impress on BP. (He is equally critical of Italian and German governments)

The author hints as he noted more at length in his next work, Deception Deception: Spies, Lies and How Russia Dupes the West of Lucas, Edward on 17 January 2013, that once a client enters into the mafia type Russian system it is almost impossible to leave without experiencing a bloody nose. So, even without mentioning it, one must presume that joining the WTO after 18 years negotiation was intended as another means to attack her enemies from within the international capitalist system, as has been the use of Russian banks to operate money laundering for Gazprom and the Russian state, and finally to resurrect in the minds of all the scaring existence of an aggressive system that collapsed in 1991. He reminds all, however, that isolating Russia from investing in London, New York, or Frankfurt will not deter its banks and businessmen from trying elsewhere whether in Shanghai, Mumbai, or Dubai, for they know there will be less scrupulous bankers who are quite willing to accept large investments whatever their origins.

The real weakness of the first edition Lucas admits was the limitation spent on the military dimension - since he had half believed it was little more than angry rhetoric by hard-liners but would never arise. In reality, he now is open to the idea of similar initiatives already attempted in Georgia, and Ukraine being tried out in Trans-Dniester, the poorest area of Moldovia, dominated by Russian speakers, and even an attack either on Poland or Estonia as effected in the Zapad exercises in 2009. The question is will NATO take these moves seriously, otherwise not only will the organization cease to have a real future, nor will the furthest eastern unprotected Baltic States in the EU feel secure, having real visions of a repeat of 1940 with Soviet troops goose-stepping into Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and becoming territories of the Soviet Union when the West was preoccupied elsewhere.

Putin's aim is to create a new Soviet Byzantine empire - that lasts an eternity or one thousand years - against the sexually and morally-deprived "fascist" West and the fanatical Muslim world, and unfortunately he has too many fellow travellers in the West - anti shale, anti-gay right groups, anti US militarists, and Eurosceptics who don't disagree with certain of his ideas, but may find it difficult to recognise themselves as being conditioned pawns to his overall global plan.

The author does not mention how the future lies with the will, or lack of it of the US and its President. With Obama's Presidency terminating in 2016, the Kremlin may feel that it has freedom to manoeuvre until 2017-18 when a new face has become more informed of the global framework. The new face might be older than expected should it be a Democrat Clinton administration -experienced in foreign affairs as current Secretary of State, or a Republican with another Bush. Obama and Europe need to show immediately before his end that they mean business, and not have a re-run of Hitler's growth following the appeasement policies offered after the bullying threats which brought him first Austria, and then Czechoslovakia, before the major powers, Britain and France, finally chose not to concede any more over Poland in 1939. This is something, obviously, which Poles and Czechs realise more than others. The author may offer various suggestions, but if no one listens, much less takes the bravest decision to declare the ultimatum, he becomes little more than the prophet of doom of Biblical times whaling in the wilderness.

Lucas leaves many questions left unanswered, saying that as Putin has too many enemies at home they would be happy to eliminate him once his present constitutional tenure ends in 2024, so his best solution is to take a leaf out of the African states or of the Vatican and extend his tenure for life. There is also the belief that whoever legally replaces Putin, or attempts a coup, will behave no differently from most Russian leaders throughout history, from the Romanov dynasty, including Ivan the Terrible, and Peter the Great, to the Soviet fraternity, Lenin, Stalin, to Andropov, who were authoritarian and tyrants. In other words, after Putin, there is a Putin alive or dead, which for Westerners sounds like a frightening, unbelievable nightmare.

Opposition in Russia has virtually been eliminated. Any contact with foreign journalists or foreign workers has become an act of treason, by "fifth columnist" or "spies", requiring a lengthy period in the new opened re-education gulags in Siberia, or undergoing strict psychiatric treatment in clinics believed to have closed down since Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Penguin Modern Classics). Too many in the West imagined the arrival of Yeltsin in 1991, or Kerensky in 1917, would bring change; it did, but not necessary the right change which would bring Russia back on the long awaited road to democracy. Lucas claims he is not a Russophobe as he has been described, rather he is as he is aware, he is simply not a Putinophile.

The book remains as brilliant as it was in 2008 even without all the above exclusions. Edward Lucas is still very honest, and is aware of his limitations. Any Russian writing such ideas would have either disappeared into the unknown or met a strange demise. Perhaps he is their proxy, a true Russian patriot, meriting being listened to. He is no scaremonger; he is simply putting a mirror up to the world, as Churchill often did in the 1930s, and then declaring, "do you now see what I see?"
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on 10 May 2015
Good background reading for something we should all be more knowledgeable about in the current climate.
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on 26 February 2008
While every reader might not agree with every idea Lucas puts forward in this important book (Mr Berezovsky will certainly have a few words to say, I'm sure!), I think most would agree that it is an extremely interesting and on the whole accurate explanation of Russia's present relationship with the West.
Lucas has lived through much of what he writes about in this account and his first hand knowledge imbues this work with both detail and common sense. He has spent most of his journalistic career examining Russia and is therefore particularly well-placed to write such a useful book.
Although the ideas are dense and in some places extremely complex, Lucas writes with clarity and deftness.
A thoroughly interesting book.
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on 29 May 2014
I bought this book when it was first published but it had languished on my bookshelf, but with recent events I picked it up to read. I only wish I had read it earlier. Edward Lucas has a depth of experience having worked in Russia and many East and Central European States. I completely disagree with the previous reviewer who thought this book was pure propaganda. The writing shows that Lucas likes Russia as a country but thinks it could be so much better if it pursued another course and does not intimidate its neighbours. Although I was aware of many of the events and issues he highlights, I had never before seen them described in such a convincing overarching narrative. I liked that Lucas footnotes all his comments so it is easy to delve deeper into topics. Although packed with information, I did not find reading it heavy going as the text flows very well and it is not some turgid dry book but engaging and thought-provoking. A warning that it can make you feel quite dispirited with EU foreign policy as it shows how Russia has divided and picked off different Member States. As Applebaum states on the cover, it is "essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Russia today". If you are new to Russian politics, I would suggest reading some brief guide before attempting this book as it assumes some knowledge of events and Russian politicians. I would highly recommend this book, especially for those working on foreign policy.
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on 3 March 2015
Excellent service and product; Recommended.
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on 24 April 2015
It confirms what I always believed
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on 16 March 2008
Although usually I do not bother to buy anymore books having cold war in the title this time knowing the author as a distingue Central and Eastern Europe editor of The Economist I made an exception. The book is certainly worth to read and gives an informative image of the present state and politics of Russia. The author makes a convincing case that Russia moved from a cleptocracy to a agressive autocracy and the West must deal decisievely with a agressive monopoly (Gazprom) run from Kremlin. But you must try hardly to find any relation between the title and the content. The case for a cold war agenda of Kremlin targeting more than our wallets is missing. Some chapters are excellent like the chapter analyzing the economic situation of Russia and the pipeline politics. But a lot of pages are spent on not related issues as Stalin years, Brejnev,Andropov. In many pages rhetoric about the new tsarism, new cold war is used in the detriment of arguments. I miss why we need to start a real cold war for backing with cold war tactics deplorable autocracies as Georgia and Armenia in their messy fight with other autocracy (Russia) about Russian minority living in this countries is missing. Contradictions in argumentation are also present . If Gazprom is a inefficient monopoly as how unable to rise his production as the book rightly argues how can be the pipeline politics and the hidden Kremlin agenda be taken seriously?. Overall a very good book but the reader must do sometimes a lot of effort to separate the excellent parts from rhetoric and sideline information.
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