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The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 13 May 2014
A very readable book which described both internal Russian developments under Putin and foreign relations. In particular there were interesting quotes from the participants of various conferences and one-on-one discussions between western and Russian leaders and from Russian economic policy makers (albeit now all out of favour and office).

The intention of the book seems to have been to convey the message that with more sensitivity to Russian concerns (particular on the part of the Bush administration) things might have been different and Russia might have become a 'responsible' and co-operative member of the 'international community'.

The question which was not raised however throughout the book was that of the possible and in my opinion likely connection between the internal and external developments in Russia. Each was depicted in separate chapters as if Putin, the operator in foreign affairs has no connection with the Putin who, as the book points out is presiding over the descent of Russia into a state of legal nihilism and corruption on a mind-numbing scale. Is it really the case that for instance American intransigence on missile defence in Eastern Europe played more of a role in shaping Russian foreign policy than the type of regime which developed internally Russia or vice-versa could it have been the case that a different relationship of Western governments (actually the Americans) to Russia would have led to Putin retaining his early promise of democratic development? The latter seems unlikely but the matter is never addressed in the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 2015
The Strongman: Valadimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia. This is a very good that gives an interesting
background to Putin and what has been happening behind the scenes in the country of Russia.
A very good read for someone who is interested in Vladimir Putin's life and the country he has been trying to rule.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 19 August 2013
More readable than many crime thrillers, this mixture of clear analysis with entertaining anecdotes has an authentic ring, Roxburgh being a former BBC Moscow correspondent and sometime PR advisor to Putin's press secretary.

He acknowledges Putin's initial success in restoring law and order, curtailing the power of the oligarchs who hijacked Russia's rapid adoption of capitalism in the 1990s, stabilising the economy, reducing debt, achieving growth (admittedly with the aid of high Russian oil and gas prices) and even in supporting the Americans in their fight against Afghanistan - perhaps not in itself a good thing.

Roxburgh expands on the depressing recent turn of events as an increasingly authoritarian leader establishes the "vertical of power", appoints cronies to senior positions in key industries, and turns a blind eye to, if not exactly ordering, the liquidation of anyone who dares to criticise corruption in such chilling cases as the shooting of the journalist Anna Politovskaya and the killing in prison of the young lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, "arrested by the very officials he had accused of fraud".

Thought to have accumulated a vast personal fortune, Putin seeks to retain personal majority support as president partly by impressing people with his often stage-managed macho exploits, but also by resorting to ballot-rigging and laws to restrict the freedom of speech, conscience and mass media, "the fundamental elements of a civilised society" which he promised on first coming to power. Opposition is still too fragmented to bring him down, and he can dismiss the disaffected middle classes as the tools of western influence. Roxburgh is particularly interesting on the comparisons between Putin and his one-term presidential stooge, Medvedev, who seems more liberal and flexible, but unable to stand against him.

Roxburgh is fair-minded in showing how the West has repeatedly failed to see matters from the Russians' perspective, to sense, for instance, how humiliated they felt to be excluded from NATO when former Eastern Bloc countries have been admitted, and to be regarded as the enemy against which NATO must protect itself. The author points out how the US has repeatedly tried to get Russia to give up nuclear weapons, without relinquishing its own one-sided plans for anti-missile defence. How can Putin be expected to take lessons over Chechnya from a government that went to war with Iraq on spurious grounds, without UN approval and which makes drone attacks on Pakistan?

After an almost naïve expectation of being welcomed by the West, it is sad to see Putin growing hardened and bitter in his sense of rejection borne of a mutual lack of understanding. It is no criticism of Roxburgh that he has no solutions to offer except, "the evidence of history suggest that pragmatic engagement is the only chance of success.....that in the end Russia will reform from within, not under outside pressure".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 June 2014
I wasn't sure when I bought this but it proved a really good read. Informative but with a light touch.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 8 December 2012
having just read 'russia -a mafia state' by luke harding of 'the guardian' this was a similar tone although a little more explicit. could have done with a little more detail on Putin's character. tended to stray to many other areas but helped give a bit more information of the vastness of the ex-U.S.S.R.
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on 10 June 2014
Thorough balanced view from a creditable source - the case is still out on VP (and Roxburgh does not pull any punches) but he's right to show that VP is partly what he's been made by the West.
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on 11 June 2014
Some very good information on Putin post KGB years and certainly sheds light on the make up of the man. Feels a little light on his earlier years pre- and during KGB times, however.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2012
I was very pleased and even surprised by the author's insights and understanding of Russian politics, Russian mentality and their "eternal" distrust of the West. Everything in this book could be verified which makes it trustworthy, no gossips just hard facts. Well done and I wish Angus Roxbourgh all the best. Highly recommended!

Albert from Ireland

[...]
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on 18 November 2014
Da......Western bias aside.......bloody good read and what a brilliant Russian.....never underestimate the Russians.......history must at least teach us that.
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on 28 July 2014
Thorough wide raning analysis, builds the picture in a systematic manner toward the conclusion. Well written and highly informative.
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