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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If even half of this is true, this book is a significant wake-up call, 3 May 2012
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This review is from: Deception: Spies, Lies and How Russia Dupes the West (Hardcover)
The problem with the world of shadows is that, by definition, one never really knows what's going on in it. But just occasionally, the grubs and moles rise to the surface and we catch a glimpse. The recent coroner's enquiry in London into MI6's Gareth Williams mysterious death is a case in point, as were the horrendous radiation-caused death of Aleksandr Litvinenko in 2009 and the unmasking of Anna Chapman since then.

But Edward Lucas is a respected journalist with 25 years of experience covering Eastern Europe and Russia - and so deserves to be taken seriously when he claims to cast light on the shadows. His is a well researched and careful book, but his writing style is punchy and very readable. If the subject matter wasn't so sinister and threatening, it would be an enjoyable read. But it is profoundly relevant - not least because Vladimir Putin has only just returned to the seat so carefully kept warm for him by Dmitry Medvedev. And what Lucas rather grimly terms the unholy trinity of Gangsterdom, Spookdom and Officialdom that controls modern Russia (p78) presents genuine threats to the rest of the world, and especially Europe (now that the USA is becoming more concerned with its Pacific rather than Atlantic vista). Having lost an empire, he rightly notes that while there is little nostalgia for the ideology of the Soviet era in Moscow, many clearly feel a sense of humiliation at their lost power and prestige. With an economy in tatters through corruption, bureaucracy and the failure to innovate, the power of the old intelligence services is one of the few things to remain intact and functioning well.

As evidence, Lucas carefully examines the details of a number of important recent cases. Most disturbing was the case of Sergei Magnitsky - a courageous lawyer who suffered primarily for doing his job of defending his client's interests. And this elicits one of Lucas' characteristically pithy and devastating verdicts: "It is a sure sign of a rotten legal and political system when lawyers are punished for the crime of representing their clients." (p39) Later, he examines the modern Russian illegals, of whom Anna Chapman was the most notorious (and, from the profile here, clearly the most inept). While it is clear that the western intelligence services can't claim a consistently impressive record in recent years, they have not stopped functioning either. And it fascinating to read, in passing, his articulations of the paradoxes of the spy world, the sorts of mentality a good spy needs, the huge difficulty of creating illegals. But the overall impression is clear. Russia's security and intelligence services are hard at work, perhaps as much as they have ever been.

The reason this is all serious is that the west has let its guard down - for political and economic reasons, it wants to do business with Russia, to put the old Cold War antipathies behind them. But this creates an open door for the FSB & SVR - an open door which is being exploited with alacrity. This book certainly does not appear to hanker after the past, nor harbour a blinkered outmoded prejudice against Russia (as a previous reviewer has suggested). In fact, what makes the problem feel most contemporary is that the issue is no longer ideology - but power and wealth. This is serious because it is actually a matter of state-sponsored crime and exploitation. Which means that we should be wary of exactly what Russia's intentions are. Of course, it seems clear (e.g. from Wikileaks) that behind the press-statements, governments have few illusions about what they are dealing with. But the prevailing anxieties about preserving good diplomatic relations (the USA's 'reset'), the focus on counter-terrorism rather than counter-espionage, and the difficult politics involved in being more openly alert, seem to have put the west on the back foot. If this book can bring about more transparency and vigour in dealing with this issue, then Edward Lucas will have done us a great service indeed.
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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 23 Feb 2013 10:27:26 GMT
Great review, I will probably buy the book. But is it really a "wake-up call"? What are you going to do about it?

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Feb 2013 12:45:26 GMT
Mark Meynell says:
Fair question - key is to get this sort of thing in the hands of the policy makers and influential: local MPs, opinion writers, global business people. The good news is that Lucas has done precisely this - and in fact there was a seminar at the House of Commons only a few months ago given by him about this book. But it's the same with all public affairs issues, isn't it? Half the battle is getting this sort of stuff out into the public domain.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Feb 2013 13:26:35 GMT
Last edited by the author on 23 Feb 2013 13:47:49 GMT
Mark Meynell:
"key is to get this sort of thing in the hands of the policy makers and influential: local MPs, opinion writers, global business people."

Having not read the book I am not sure what specific issues we are discussing. It seems to me that policy makers are usually the ones causing the main problems. Having swapped emails with MPs I feel they have little power or influence. Much of their time is wasted.

When Silvio Berlusconi can invite 30 (very young) women to stay at his villa for New Year celebrations then it seems that there is as much corruption outside Russia as inside it.

Global business people are the problem (Ashcroft, Green etc). We need a revolutuon in marriage, divorce laws, tax implications, corporate law; the whole thing. Look at the the corruption in the EU, Greece, Spain. Corrupt King Carlos of Spain, head of WWF and shooting elephants in Africa while most of his country is unemployed. What a hypocrite! Jose Barrose on 300,000 euros a year - what for? Mark Carney will get £800,000 for being the new governor of the Bank of England. Again, what for? Pay him around £100,000 ( and that would still be too much!

"Half the battle is getting this sort of stuff out into the public domain."

It's already there. But people don't care. They are too busy gambling, getting p*ss*d and sleeping with anything they can - like John Terry, or Ryan Giggs, or Katie Price.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Feb 2013 13:35:41 GMT
Mark Meynell says:
I suppose the main issue os to avoid naivety about precisely what Russia, and Putin in particular, are up to...

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Feb 2013 13:51:56 GMT
Last edited by the author on 23 Feb 2013 13:52:54 GMT
Mark Meynell:

They seem to be up to the same thing as everyone else; controlling loads of money so that they can control others (and get more women or children if they are into that kind of thing): Peter Morrison, Jimmy Savile et al!

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Feb 2013 14:21:52 GMT
Mark Meynell says:
fair enough - i'm not implying that people shouldn't keep an eye on those in power here!

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Feb 2013 08:08:28 GMT
Last edited by the author on 25 Feb 2013 08:39:22 GMT
Mark Meynell:
"i'm not implying that people shouldn't keep an eye on those in power here!"

I wasn't inferring that you were.

It's an excellent review and your original assertion is correct: "if even half of what is in the book..."

It's the same here. Many people have written about the corruption in the (British) establisment. Imagine a book by a Russian about the British government: loads of meaningless titles (Sir, Lord, etc) given to people for nothing, many who are corrupt.

I would be impressed if those who supposedly run the country could stop making the negative news themselves, almost every month. Is it really that difficult to turn up and do what you were elelcted (and paid by the taxpayer) to do?

Only yesterday (24) the main news was led by (Lord) Rennard and Cardinal O'Brien's allegations. And they have yet to be proven, which also says a lot about journalists in this country. In other words, it wasn't really news.

Who are those in power here? It's the ones with the titles: The likes of Ashcroft, Dennis Stevenson and Victor Blank. These people all call themselves "philanthropists" (though they happily avoid paying taxes); they're charitable; they want to give to society. So they claim (go to their websites).

Remember Savile: he had a title and he was "charitable"! You can work the rest out yourself about the above!

It's all about statistics: 1/20 men (approximatley) is a paedophile while around 25% cheat on their partners. But the percentages go up the higher up the power scale you go. So when you see a room full of Freemasons or Catholic Cardinals, work the rest out yourself!

In reply to an earlier post on 1 May 2014 01:30:22 BDT
I am staggered by your cynicism. But, on balance, I think you are right: a lot of people do not care and are completely indifferent to the issues raised in this book. And these same people will only care when they are directly affected in some mundane way.

"Half the battle is getting this sort of stuff out into the public domain."

Yeah, right! As you correctly pointed out, people generally speaking do not care as long as it does not affect them. Hedonism is all that matters in the West's contemporary society.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 May 2014 18:21:06 BDT
Mark Meynell says:
Thanks Danny - I'm not often accused of cynicism! but i fear in this case, it is a matter of realism. Recent horrors in Ukraine merely serve the point.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Feb 2015 00:49:20 GMT
al-gee says:
You mean the recent horrors sparked off by the US and NATO?
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