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books like The Man Without a Face need to be read ...
on 11 July 2015
I give this two stars because it's a readable account that gives some flavour of the times, much as a historical novel will. I give it no more than two stars because it is a hatchet job from page 1. I don't doubt Putin's a nasty chap to cross, with some fairly unpleasant habits, but there are two things I find unacceptable in Gessen's approach. One is her habit, on just about every page, of trading in innuendo and unsubstantiated allegation. The other is her ignoring Russia's remarkable economic progress - impacting on rising living standards after the years of casino capitalism under Yeltsin - under Putin in the eight years prior to the global crash of 2008.
Her bias is all the more disturbing given the expansion of NATO over the past 15 years: Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic in 1999; Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia in 2004; Albania and Croatia in 2009. A dangerous game is being played out; a nuclear power being pushed into a corner by an America that couldn't give a fig for democracy - in Russia or Ukraine - other than as a stick to beat Russia with. Amidst this scary scenario, The Man Without a Face needs to be read with great caution.