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Who is Vladimir Putin? Observers have described him as a "man from nowhere"-someone without a face, substance, or soul. Russia experts Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy argue that Putin is in fact a man of many and complex identities. Drawing on a range of sources, including their own personal encounters, they describe six that are most essential: the Statist, the History Man, Who is Vladimir Putin? Observers have described him as a "man from nowhere"-someone without a face, substance, or soul. Russia experts Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy argue that Putin is in fact a man of many and complex identities. Drawing on a range of sources, including their own personal encounters, they describe six that are most essential: the Statist, the History Man, the Survivalist, the Outsider, the Free Marketeer, and the Case Officer. Understanding Putin's multiple dimensions is crucial for policy-makers trying to decide how best to deal with Russia. Hill and Gaddy trace the identities back to formative experiences in Putin's past, including his early life in Soviet Leningrad, his KGB training and responsibilities, his years as deputy mayor in the crime and corruption-ridden city of St. Petersburg, his first role in Moscow as the "operative" brought in from the outside by liberal reformers in the Kremlin to help control Russia's oligarchs, and his time at the helm of a resurgent Russian state. The authors examine the nature of the political system Putin has built, explaining it as a logical result of these six identities. Vladimir Putin has his own idealized view of himself as CEO of "Russia, Inc." But rather than leading a transparent public corporation, he runs a closed boardroom, not answerable to its stakeholders. Now that his corporation seems to be in crisis, with political protests marking Mr. Putin's return to the presidency in 2012, will the CEO be held accountable for its failings?


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Who is Vladimir Putin? Observers have described him as a "man from nowhere"-someone without a face, substance, or soul. Russia experts Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy argue that Putin is in fact a man of many and complex identities. Drawing on a range of sources, including their own personal encounters, they describe six that are most essential: the Statist, the History Man, Who is Vladimir Putin? Observers have described him as a "man from nowhere"-someone without a face, substance, or soul. Russia experts Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy argue that Putin is in fact a man of many and complex identities. Drawing on a range of sources, including their own personal encounters, they describe six that are most essential: the Statist, the History Man, the Survivalist, the Outsider, the Free Marketeer, and the Case Officer. Understanding Putin's multiple dimensions is crucial for policy-makers trying to decide how best to deal with Russia. Hill and Gaddy trace the identities back to formative experiences in Putin's past, including his early life in Soviet Leningrad, his KGB training and responsibilities, his years as deputy mayor in the crime and corruption-ridden city of St. Petersburg, his first role in Moscow as the "operative" brought in from the outside by liberal reformers in the Kremlin to help control Russia's oligarchs, and his time at the helm of a resurgent Russian state. The authors examine the nature of the political system Putin has built, explaining it as a logical result of these six identities. Vladimir Putin has his own idealized view of himself as CEO of "Russia, Inc." But rather than leading a transparent public corporation, he runs a closed boardroom, not answerable to its stakeholders. Now that his corporation seems to be in crisis, with political protests marking Mr. Putin's return to the presidency in 2012, will the CEO be held accountable for its failings?

30 review for Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    Description: From the KGB to the Kremlin: a multidimensional portrait of the man at war with the West. Where do Vladimir Putin's ideas come from? How does he look at the outside world? What does he want, and how far is he willing to go? The great lesson of the outbreak of World War I in 1914 was the danger of misreading the statements, actions, and intentions of the adversary. Today, Vladimir Putin has become the greatest challenge to European security and the global world order in decades. Russi Description: From the KGB to the Kremlin: a multidimensional portrait of the man at war with the West. Where do Vladimir Putin's ideas come from? How does he look at the outside world? What does he want, and how far is he willing to go? The great lesson of the outbreak of World War I in 1914 was the danger of misreading the statements, actions, and intentions of the adversary. Today, Vladimir Putin has become the greatest challenge to European security and the global world order in decades. Russia's 8,000 nuclear weapons underscore the huge risks of not understanding who Putin is. Featuring five new chapters, this new edition dispels potentially dangerous misconceptions about Putin and offers a clear-eyed look at his objectives. It presents Putin as a reflection of deeply ingrained Russian ways of thinking as well as his unique personal background and experience. Part One: The Operative Emerges 1: Who is Mr. Putin?: On March 18 2014, still bathed in the afterglow of the Winter Olympics that he had hosted in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russian president Vladimir Putin stepped up to the podium in the Kremlin to address the nation. it is written in 2014 so all the current woes are not included.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cold War Conversations Podcast

    An absorbing read that seeks to understand Putin despite the dearth of information available out there on him. Newly updated (to Nov 2014) Hill and Gaddy have put together a detailed book detailing how Putin’s ideology is formed directly from his life experiences. Whilst not unusual an interpretation in itself, Putin’s life was not a privileged upbringing of the likes of the many of the Western political elite. His was from the school of hard knocks on the mean streets of Soviet Leningrad and in An absorbing read that seeks to understand Putin despite the dearth of information available out there on him. Newly updated (to Nov 2014) Hill and Gaddy have put together a detailed book detailing how Putin’s ideology is formed directly from his life experiences. Whilst not unusual an interpretation in itself, Putin’s life was not a privileged upbringing of the likes of the many of the Western political elite. His was from the school of hard knocks on the mean streets of Soviet Leningrad and in Dresden during the terminal decline of East Germany as a mid-level KGB officer. They argue that it is these experiences, the tragic history of Russia, his parents struggle to survive the Leningrad siege, and the implosion of East Germany that drive many of his policies today. The authors’ take on the Ukraine crisis is an interesting one. Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 exposed a number of weaknesses in the Russian military resulting in downsizing and the evolution of a new approach of non-linear war which saw its first use in the 2014 Crimean crisis. Hill and Gaddy also say that Putin’s view is that the West was already engaging in non-linear war by expanding EU and NATO membership to the borders of Russia as well as infiltration by western funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs) threatening in Putin's view Russian's very existence. There’s much more in this book besides, creating an absorbing read that seeks to understand Putin despite the dearth of information available out there on him.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    A certain kind of liar, when lying, will double down on enunciation, moving his or her mouth with extra vigor and precision for emphasis. Russian President Vladimir Putin lies regularly and frequently, usually adopting a particularly aggressive (or defensive) physical stance, whether standing or sitting, to brace for the whopper he is about to emphatically impart. I feel I speak for all Westerners who understand Putin in Russian when I say he is mystifyingly banal. To me, at least, it is an abso A certain kind of liar, when lying, will double down on enunciation, moving his or her mouth with extra vigor and precision for emphasis. Russian President Vladimir Putin lies regularly and frequently, usually adopting a particularly aggressive (or defensive) physical stance, whether standing or sitting, to brace for the whopper he is about to emphatically impart. I feel I speak for all Westerners who understand Putin in Russian when I say he is mystifyingly banal. To me, at least, it is an absolute wonder he is widely regarded with awe anywhere, even inside Russia. Neither of the two current must-read English-language Putin bios dispels the mystery of Putin's banality. Masha Gessen’s The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin opts for the colorful approach, as if—by consciously attempting to give personality to someone who discernibly has none—the author has ended up painting a sinister portrait of a two-dimensional character whose path to (and consolidation of) power is his most remarkable quality, because it's an alarming trail of unsolved murders. The other bio, by Brookings Institution scholars Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy, centers its subject in a larger picture, tracing the system building around him as he progresses. The book is as much a history and sociology of Russia as a biography of a Russian. Again, neither work makes Putin three-dimensional. But neither should. This would be impossible: Putin is a two-dimensional personality. He is both 'thug’ (Gessen) and ‘operative’ (Hill and Gaddy), but even when combining those two qualities, we're left with a kind of non-entity in the person of Vladimir Putin. This paragraph (p. 271) adroitly summarizes the Putin phenomenon: The tsar came in a political and spiritual package with the Russian Orthodox Church. His position was “unlimited by any but divine law.” This essentially unassailable position of the tsar created a “unipolar political context.” The tsar enjoyed a unity of command, which enabled the autocracy to overcome systemic and popular resistance to modernizing reforms. Representative institutions in tsarist Russia developed from the top down to facilitate the transmission of orders from the tsar and his inner circle down to the level of the narod. These institutions were intended to be a “staff meeting, not a parliament.” This is entirely in keeping with Pyotr Stolypin’s idea that the role of the first Russian Duma was to work directly with the tsar’s government to help implement reforms. Stolypin did not believe that the Duma should provide alternative input or impose any kind of check on his activities. Representative institutions were also one way of showing respect to those far beneath the system. By giving a hearing to different voices, they helped to foster a sense of unity and consensus between the tsar and his people. The first sentence of the next paragraph reads: ‘As a student of Russian history, Putin has internalized and adapted these basic Russian political patterns to modern times.’ Indeed, Putin, an avid reader of history books, doesn't believe in making strategic plans in a temporal vacuum or bubble, cut off from the past. He should be given credit for reading any books at all, since most politicians—if their level of sophistication is anything to go by—don't. Putin draws on the past in forging the future, and the above paragraph is what he's drawn on as the Russian ideal. This means he hasn't made Russia into anything most Westerners would recognize as ‘democratic,’ and while Western societies and governments are fraught with problems, the Russian solution—via the firm hand of Tsar Vlad—doesn't appear to be any sort of attractive alternative at all. Putin isn't some aberration or anomaly. He isn't substantively imitating Western-style (and certainly not American-style) democracy. He feels he fully understands Russia’s ‘soul’ and doesn’t need a lecture on it. If anyone's ever wondered why the elected State Duma (the lower house of Russia’s national parliament) never opposes or obstructs the country’s chief executive (as the legislative branches in Western countries’ governments often do), it isn't only because Putin wants the same status that the tsar of Russia had in days gone by. It's also because in Russia, this is ‘normal,’ even by the standards of 21st-century social mores. Russia isn't Western, and the seventeen or so years of Putin’s undisputed leadership more or less prove the point. Putin's subjects (broadly) accept him as legitimate and even benevolent. Putin himself often exhibits an attitude that the rest of the world should both accept and admire the ‘strongman,’ and that the term shouldn't carry negative connotations. It should be taken literally: 'strong man.' It sounds very manly, especially in Russian. If Russia's parliament were a parliament in the sense most Westerners understand the term, the 'strong man' wouldn't look as 'strong.' The Russian parliament is, rather, a ‘division of labor' in the executive branch. But the fact that just about anyone from the West who visits Russia today agrees that it is not the sort of place they'd want to live likely means humanity has a long way to go to bridge the gap in understanding and affection between Russia and the West. That isn't to say Putin doesn’t have his own, 'new' ideology or ideal of how the 21st-century Russian state should be organized. He does. Unfortunately, as this book details, it isn't terribly inspiring or impressive. It's also, ironically, partly of Western origin. The authors identify it in a Western MBA textbook that Putin read many years ago, and the thesis of which he later applied to his regime. After the chaos, corruption and decay of the 1990s in Russia, Putin’s model of 'Russia, Inc.,' with himself as Tsar-CEO, is arguably an improvement, even if it suffers from key defects which are at least partly a result of the leader’s fundamental misinterpretation of the book’s thesis. In implementing his model, Putin has proven himself resolute, acting quickly, rarely exhibiting pangs of doubt. Russians as a whole applaud Putin for the fact that, once he decides to do something, he moves forward swiftly, a trait partially attributable to his training in the Soviet security services. He knows how to co-opt people and sets his methods in motion immediately upon identifying a target. Blackmail is a big part of it, and Russia is—depressingly—a place where people are far more susceptible to blackmail than in Western societies. But he's still a 'decisive' leader, and that's the important thing for most Russians. Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin doesn't engage in hyperbole or get emotional in its value judgments about its subject the way Masha Gessen’s book does (to great effect). It simply chronicles Putin's success in scholarly detail, and the picture one is left with is - in a different way - no less grim than that created by The Man Without a Face. The book augments the historically enigmatic quality of Russia by laying out in detail the 'what' and the 'how' of Putin's state, leaving the reader to draw his or her own conclusions about the 'why.' Nevertheless, a reader who stays with this one to the end will have just as big a picture of the man. It's grim, but it feels very real. Some might find it a ‘slog' if they're not already interested in Russia, as it's very dense with information, and while it would be unfair to call it ‘turgid,’ it does suffer from the occasional shortcomings of prose even if generally well edited. Anyone who digests this impressive achievement in its entirety will feel like an expert on Putin and his era afterwards. I found it very satisfying to complete. Personally, I have to say that neither of the two Putin bios has dispelled a strange suspicion I've entertained over the past few years. If anything, they heighten it. That is, namely, that Putin is so lacking in personality—so ‘android-like’—precisely because he is, like many of his Soviet forbears and compatriots, actually a brainwashed or ‘programmed’ agent or operative himself. If he were in any way an ‘interesting personality,’ he might generate very serious obsession in me as opposed to merely irritated preoccupation, but he has no human depth or warmth. His ordinary Russian features and bland persona confound my understanding as to how millions of people could find him impressive, yet supposedly the vast majority of Russians both at home and abroad think he’s wonderful. At least with Donald Trump, even those who find him off-putting have to admit there's some ‘show’ to the man. He offends and insults, but he also does a ‘song and dance.’ Putin is a ‘dead fish’ by contrast. He is a cunning and determined dullard. Since Putin was posted to Dresden, Germany, in 1985 and did not return to Leningrad until the Soviet Union was collapsing in 1990, perhaps he is a brainwashed or programmed agent of the now-defunct Stasi, the East German secret police. Just as Lenin was sent back to Petrograd in 1917 by Imperial Germany to knock Russia out of WWI by seizing control of the Allied government there, maybe Putin was sent back to to the USSR by the Germans along with other brainwashed Russian agents, and only one (Putin) was able to rise to the top ranks of the squalid, corrupt post-Soviet Russian government and establish ‘Russia, Inc.’ to make doing business in Russia easier for German companies. That isn't to say that Putin is Lenin: the Russian president of today is no revolutionary ideologue. But Putin has established a stable authoritarian government, and Russo-German commerce certainly boomed after Putin took charge in 2000. Cui bono? Herewith, a passage from a section of the book entitled ‘Putin’s German Patriarchs’ (p. 280): In interacting with Germany and the rest of the world outside the russkiy mir, Putin has adopted the same approach he uses to run Russia, Inc. He deals with the smallest number of people possible. Just as he relies and formal and informal ombudsmen to channel information to various interest groups inside Russia and to manage connections with international business, Putin uses a network of intermediaries as his connections with the West. They are usually at a very high level. In the case of Germany… Putin has famously befriended Angela Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, chancellor of Germany from 1998 to 2005, Putin and Schröder bonded over a common hardscrabble background, some similar professional experiences, and a shared interest in creating an economic partnership between Russia and Germany, based on Russia’s and Gazprom’s huge natural gas reserves and Germany’s status as Europe’s largest gas consumer. Yes, it’s far-fetched, and no, you can't brainwash someone to take over a government. Besides, Berlin had a falling-out with Moscow in the mid-2000s over Russia’s shortcomings in democracy, the rule of law and corporate governance. But the fluent German-speaking Putin does seem uninterested in any foreign country other than Germany, which has always received the overwhelming lion’s share of his attention in foreign affairs, and this did initially seem to pay off for German business, just as Lenin initially worked to take Russia out of WWI. Ultimately, of course, Lenin proved to have been a bad idea for Berlin and many other Western governments, and now Putin has complicated matters for Germany too by unilaterally redrawing European borders (something not done since WWII). Everything Putin does these days with regard to Germany seems like a test and a probe for weakness, and at the moment he's testing and probing Angela Merkel, provoking her and being a constant nuisance. His preoccupation with Germany is of course understandable beyond the programmed Stasi android theory, since Germany and Russia have a kind of ‘special relationship’ in trade and economics that long predates Putin. It's just that it always seems to come a cropper eventually. Former US President George W. Bush related the story not long ago of how, in Moscow, Putin had shown him his dog and boasted: 'Bigger, stronger and faster than Barney.' Barney was, of course, the Bushes' beloved Scottish terrier. Putin had previously seen Barney on a visit to America and quipped: 'You call that a dog?' The incident emblemizes the divide between Putin and decent human beings. In response to a comment like 'bigger, stronger and faster,' the obvious retort should be: 'So what?' Barney was very likely in every way a more lovable and interesting creature than whatever beast Putin trotted out to impress. Sadly, 'lovable and interesting' are unlikely to be qualities Putin would ever recognize, whether in animals or people. In short, Putin is what many Americans would recognize as an 'asshole,' a personality type devoid of sentimentality and generally dismissive of anyone who exhibits sentimentality. Putin is objectively unlikable, which is something I'd felt since long before reading this book. Since nothing in Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin disabused me of my prejudices, I was pleased to read it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sleepydrummer

    Part of my reason for reading “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” is Dr. Hill’s expertise on the subject of Russia and Vladimir Putin. The other reason is I find him mystifying. Unlike any other world leader I’ve observed, he is unabashedly direct. Vladimir Putin once stated, “I’m not your friend, I’m not your bride or your groom… I am the President of the Russian Federation.” — I’ll add he’s armed with 8,000 nuclear weapons! Without intervention from the West, he currently occupies the Georgi Part of my reason for reading “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” is Dr. Hill’s expertise on the subject of Russia and Vladimir Putin. The other reason is I find him mystifying. Unlike any other world leader I’ve observed, he is unabashedly direct. Vladimir Putin once stated, “I’m not your friend, I’m not your bride or your groom… I am the President of the Russian Federation.” — I’ll add he’s armed with 8,000 nuclear weapons! Without intervention from the West, he currently occupies the Georgian territories and annexed the Crimean Peninsula. Dr. Hill’s perspective and personal first-hand (she is fluent in Russian) observations of him are fascinating. Two years in a row at the Valdai Group dinners, Dr. Hill was seated directly beside Putin. I’ll concede the book is academically rigorous but well worth the effort. Here are a few of my 'what else didn’t I know?' points of interest: • Putin is the leader who keeps the system going, the plans on track, and adamantly focused on a robust economy. • He leads a team of close trusted allies. • He’s a nationalist, no explanation nor apology. • The Russian economy for him is second only to Russian defense. Putin focuses heavily on enticing foreign pharmaceutical production and European automobile manufacturing firms to relocate within Russia. Through his special economic zones these firms are protected from the exorbitant kickbacks and bribes that are part of the bureaucracy of doing business in Russia. • He never flinches, he’s trained not to. • Despite his seemingly embrace of Xi Jinping and China’s greater cooperation with Russia, Putin is fully aware that China is a major threat to the economic future of Russia. • He is adamantly against the U.S. fracking shale gas. “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” aims to properly place the current president of Russia in historical context. Informing us on lesser known US-Russia challenges. A heavy read but also an opportunity to illuminate the darker geopolitical landscape.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kerry

    The idea behind Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin is enticing. Many recent books have endeavored to tap into the world’s interest in Russia’s leader, with varying results. An attempt at a psychological study might seem to stand apart, particularly when it so juicily breaks up Putin’s personality into six categories, each which could hold a piece to the puzzle of this mysterious yet globally prominent individual. It goes without saying that the shifty-eyed kid with the greasy lock of blond hair The idea behind Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin is enticing. Many recent books have endeavored to tap into the world’s interest in Russia’s leader, with varying results. An attempt at a psychological study might seem to stand apart, particularly when it so juicily breaks up Putin’s personality into six categories, each which could hold a piece to the puzzle of this mysterious yet globally prominent individual. It goes without saying that the shifty-eyed kid with the greasy lock of blond hair staring out of a black-and-white grade school photo transformed into the bare-chested, rough-tongued KGB-influenced President of Russia not only due to luck or an accident of history; this meme-inspiring, arguable totalitarian that the West loves to revile knew what he was about from an early age. Unfortunately, this book creates a flat-looking image of Putin, through the guise of showing him as a complex, multi-faceted leader. According to the authors, Putin’s psyche can be broken down into six compartments, the perspectives through which Putin views the world. These are the statist, the “history man,” the survivalist, the outsider, the free marketer, and the case officer. A compelling premise, no? But instead of really getting into Putin’s head through these six lenses, the authors skim the surface of their knowledge of him, fixating on a limited number of episodes in his life even when Putin has offered up dozens of examples for study. Though they insist that they “concentrate on events that shaped him,” their focus is nevertheless narrow and unsatisfying. One such episode is that of the St. Petersburg food scandal of the 1990s. The authors come back to this event repeatedly. Scant food supplies in St. Petersburg risked a protest situation. Putin was delegated to barter resources in exchange for food from foreign countries. But only a fraction of the food reached Russia’s second city. The authors come back to the food scandal so often that the reader is tired of hearing about it. While the authors indicate that some periods in Putin’s life are fuzzy, the facts regarding which cannot be verified, this cannot be an excuse for their determined focus on a limited number of situations. The book does a couple of things well. For example, someone who wants an inside peek into the linguistic underpinnings of ideas and policies will benefit from the authors’ explanations of Russian terminology and the choice of one word over another in speeches and official documents. The authors explain such terms as vlast’, or government authority, vs. gosudarstvo, or the state, as a way of illustrating political players’ intentions and motivations. Though sources about Russian politics and history often refer to the following particularities of Russian language, the authors of Mr. Putin create greater clarity by giving them context: The Duma committee’s use of the term Russkaya ideya had a very specific resonance in the debate about a national idea. It underscored the ethnic Russian elements of the concept, not its more neutral attributes, which would have come under the rubric of a Rossiyskaya ideya. Russkiy is the adjective associated with ethnic Russianness, while rossiyskiy is derived from Rossiya, or Russia, the name of the state. For students of Russian language, those interested in Russian politics, or word nerds in general, the book provides a wealth of opportunity to get down and dirty with the Russian political vocabulary. While some aspects of Putin’s several roles/personalities feel insufficiently argued, those who look to Russian history for answers to the current Russian state of affairs will appreciate the authors’ nod to Russia’s tsarist past with respect to Putin’s image of himself. The authors argue that Putin has resurrected the idea of a constitutional monarchy, with himself as president in place of the tsar or emperor. Putin looked to Peter the Great for inspiration into building a great government bureaucracy, calling its officials chinovniki in reference to Pyotr Velikiy’s Table of Ranks, and he has turned to “White Russian” emigres for support of his ideas; White Russians were anticommunists and often in support of the monarchy, with nobility and other individuals loyal to the tsar making up their greatest number. Furthermore, as the authors argue, his “tough boss” persona ties in with the historical idea of the “Good Tsar,” who sees the concerns of the narod, or the people, as important no matter their size—through this image, Putin pretends that he, above all others and despite interference from self-serving parties, is able to get to the heart of “the people’s” problems to fix them, imitating the tsarist father figure who guides, protects, and helps his “children” or subjects. Combine these careful choices about language, constituency, and images with Putin’s alignment with the Orthodox Church and the concept that the tsar was closest of all people to God, and we can clearly draw the line from the Russian monarchs to today’s Putin presidency. Clearly, and as the book indicates, there is more to Putin than Putin himself: Russian culture and history have also shaped Putin’s presidency, and he uses these important elements to his advantage. Whether they are more intentionally strategic or subtly instinctive, or a combination of calculated intuition, it matters little. Putin’s understanding and manipulation of the Russian psyche has facilitated his rise to the top. Perhaps his six personas have enabled him to more successfully control his personal and Russia’s political situation, but breaking down his character into separate parts may be an oversimplification. Regardless of whether Mr. Putin is a successful psychological biography, it nevertheless contributes to the body of work on Russia’s most influential person and how he has molded the country’s course during his tenure. Mr. Putin is at least a considered, thoughtful, and focused book about Russia’s president, in contrast to the many poorly written books that exist about twenty-first century Russia and its most influential political figures. It may also appeal to those who seek to have a broader understanding of why Russia has taken the direction it has by revealing behind-the-scenes factors that may not be immediately clear to someone who is newly arrived to the topic.

  6. 4 out of 5

    M

    great book overall and does try to be exceedingly fair, but there were some annoying sections (do you really need 40 pages to talk about a thesis that he probably didn't even write???) and a little too much unfounded psychoanalysis

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jack Hrkach

    I've just finished this book, co-authored by Fiona Hill as well as Mr Gaddy (Goodreads should have included her name!) I picked it up because I wanted fo find out more about Ms Hill, who gave testimony in private to the House Intelligence Committee re Trump's Impeachment. I found what she had to say (from the transcripts) smart and powerful. Glad I did. This is a dense, academic account (Ms Hill has a Masters in Russian and a PhD in history from Harvard) of the several guises of Mr P, of which " I've just finished this book, co-authored by Fiona Hill as well as Mr Gaddy (Goodreads should have included her name!) I picked it up because I wanted fo find out more about Ms Hill, who gave testimony in private to the House Intelligence Committee re Trump's Impeachment. I found what she had to say (from the transcripts) smart and powerful. Glad I did. This is a dense, academic account (Ms Hill has a Masters in Russian and a PhD in history from Harvard) of the several guises of Mr P, of which "Operative" is possibly the most important. The word is used to describe his work in the KGB and its successor group, and it incorporates, the authors argue, lessons he learned in his intelligence training and activity to hone his other (dis)guises. It doesn't pretend to be a complete biography, but is a keen analysis of his rise to power and his successful attempts to hold on to it for 14 years. The book was published in 2015 and ends with his manipulation in a "21st century war" of Ukraine. If you're interested in Russian history, Putin and his political actions, or even if the Ukraine debacle that is at the center of the impeachment hearings going on literally today, I highly recommend it - and if you read my review in mid to late November 2019 - I'd put down whatever else you're reading at the moment and read it IN the moment so to speak.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    Hill and Gaddy provide a unique analysis of Vladimir Putin through his six major "identities". Overall it is a fair book, not the usual Putin-bashing that is so typical here. If you are interested in Russia and/or President Putin, you will probably enjoy it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Finished: 26.11.2019 Genre: non-fiction Rating: B+ Conclusion: Why is Putin the world's new strong guy ...and why should you know more about him? Read this impressive book for beginners Putin 101. My Thoughts Finished: 26.11.2019 Genre: non-fiction Rating: B+ Conclusion: Why is Putin the world's new strong guy ...and why should you know more about him? Read this impressive book for beginners Putin 101. My Thoughts

  10. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    Important read, but repetitive. The West doesn't understand Putin - this book fills in the blanks. However, the authors do repeat themselves. The book could have used a better editor.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This book is important if for no other reason that Trump is Putin’s poodle. I noticed Fiona Hill when I her saw testify in the impeachment. This is an excellent book but a grind. It must have been based on her Harvard PhD. The book is instructive, interesting and exceptionally informative. If Putin, or Russian history is your cup of tea, this book makes an excellent summation. As to the nexus to Trump, the alpha male could be the connection.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Barron

    Joe Biden once said this is the best book out there for understanding Vladimir Putin. He's right. Give it a read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Good insights but repetitive

  14. 5 out of 5

    Susan Waller

    The writing is not particularly engaging - it reads like a political briefing. But the information is very interesting, and extremely important for US citizens to understand. The book is organized not along chronological lines, but by aspects of Putin's personality, helping the reader to understand how those personality traits developed, and how they affect Putin's leadership and policies. Putin first saw the US as a negative destabilizing influence in the region because of our unilateral engage The writing is not particularly engaging - it reads like a political briefing. But the information is very interesting, and extremely important for US citizens to understand. The book is organized not along chronological lines, but by aspects of Putin's personality, helping the reader to understand how those personality traits developed, and how they affect Putin's leadership and policies. Putin first saw the US as a negative destabilizing influence in the region because of our unilateral engagements in the area; but he felt he could engage with the US. Then after the debacles of the Iraq war, he saw US leadership as incompetent as well as destabilizing, and no longer saw any point in trying to work with us. He then felt that our actions were a direct and deliberate threat to Russia. All his actions since then spring from his responsibility to protect Russia from this perceived threat. My biggest take-away is that Vladimir Putin has no point of reference from which to understand our, (or any Western) point of view. He cannot trust us, or take us at our word, because he simply cannot understand us. So he is forever on the defensive against us. The danger is that he is able and willing to mobilize any and all weapons against his perceived enemies, including military and non-military weapons. This book was written in 2013, before the 2016 election, but her analysis turned out to be correct. Notes: Last page: Putin's operational aims will continue to be to find the weaknesses in Western defenses, to goad and intimidate Western leaders and publics, and to make sure everyone knows he will make good on his threats. The onus will now be on the West to shore up its own home defenses, reduce the economic and political vulnerabilities, and create its own contingency plans if it wants to counter Vladimir Putin's new 21st century warfare. pg 123 Putin's PR handlers have determined that the public loves to see him admonishing figures they do not like in the same language that they would use if they had the opportunity. pg 137 As an outsider to the prevailing system, he was able to slough off the burden of ideology and assess what worked and did not work. Vladimir Putin's most successful economic policies have thus been based on what one might call intelligent pragmatism. pg 267 In their isolation Russians did not develop European style feudal systems or networks of prosperous independent cities. Instead, intermittent trading posts along river networks become small town, their size and activities constrained by the meager agricultural surplus of the vast hinterland. When a group of Viking raiders, the Rus, who gave their name to the territory, sailed down the rivers sometime in the tenth century, they took over the towns by giving the inhabitants "offers of 'protection' they could not refuse." pg 280 Vladimir Putin has no firsthand experience of Western society. To assume he does, and that he should think like us or even understand how we think, is an example of 'simulation theory.' Zachary Shore: A Sense of the Enemy pf 313 At first, Putin gave the US the benefit of the doubt. He did not seek to provide Washington and made considerable personal efforts to win over Pres George W. Bush in 2001. Putin soon concluded however, the US global behavior was destabilizing and had a negative impact on Russia's neighborhood. In Putin's view, unilateral actions by the US, its willful refusal to consult seriously with others, and its disregard of long-established UN procedures, caused risks to Russia. Putin pulled back from his personal relations with the president. Given the nature of American politics, with congress and so many other political actors involved in the decision making process, the executive branch's ability to 'deliver' was constrained. ...In stark contract with the unipolar political system in Russia, there were considerable checks and balances on the authority of the US leader. ...there did not seem to be much point for Putin to deal in a substantive way with the man at the top. pg 343 Putin saw the West trying to use "political, economic, informational, humanitarian, and other nonmilitary measures" against Russia. pg 378 In Putin's mind...he had gotten what he wanted. Russia could no longer be ignored. Its objections would have to be taken seriously. He had had annexed Crimea. He had sparked a way in Ukraine. ... Moscow's threats could not be dismissed.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Hill and Gaddy offer a compelling interpretation of Putin - his biases, perceptions, and his objectives for the Russian state - all through the lens of Putin's actions, writings, and speeches. They argue that Putin, who is widely perceived in the West as being primarily a tactical actor, is actually a skilled strategist, and one who is very adept at making his strategic direction successful through well-thought out planning, perseverance, and (when necessary) dirty tricks. The authors cite evide Hill and Gaddy offer a compelling interpretation of Putin - his biases, perceptions, and his objectives for the Russian state - all through the lens of Putin's actions, writings, and speeches. They argue that Putin, who is widely perceived in the West as being primarily a tactical actor, is actually a skilled strategist, and one who is very adept at making his strategic direction successful through well-thought out planning, perseverance, and (when necessary) dirty tricks. The authors cite evidence to suggest Putin has never been comfortable with the West; he hasn't spoken or read English well in his formative years. They also argue that to understand the actions of this man and the Russian regime it is necessary to look to the West through the lens of Putin, something that the authors contend has not consistently been done, hence, confusion in the West about many Russian actions. If you accept the fundamental premise of Hill and Gaddy, it becomes clear how the West, particularly the United States, has fumbled our interactions with the Russian state during the Putin administration.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Amal

    I had to read this book for one of my classes, and I am so thankful that our professor assigned this book for as. As an Arab I truly wanted to understand Putin's personality, that I find mystifying, in order to at least understand his foreign policies if I am not going to be able to predict them. Especially to understand his policies in Syria. The book is interesting and we had great discussions on it. It provides many fascinating information and perspectives of Putin. The book is a must for any I had to read this book for one of my classes, and I am so thankful that our professor assigned this book for as. As an Arab I truly wanted to understand Putin's personality, that I find mystifying, in order to at least understand his foreign policies if I am not going to be able to predict them. Especially to understand his policies in Syria. The book is interesting and we had great discussions on it. It provides many fascinating information and perspectives of Putin. The book is a must for anyone that wants to know more about Putin's personality. At the same time I read another book titled "First Person" a biography of Putin. I felt like I came to an end that Putin might be a sociopath. I do not remember where I read this whether in this book or in the other book, but the fact that Putin is so stubborn and goal oriented can be seen when he went to the police man and asked to be a spy! and when the man told him to go and study Law and then come back, he actually did it and he became a spy after all. So interesting, to see that he is so committed!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Everyone who can should read this book. It's not an easy read, but wow did I learn a lot. I frankly didn't know too much about Post-Soviet Russia, so this was an incredible insight into that world and what factors led to Putin's rise to power and his hold on it. The biggest takeaways of this were not to underestimate Putin, but know that his understanding of how the West works is fairly limited so while he's a master strategist, he also don't fully understand how the West works. One of the most Everyone who can should read this book. It's not an easy read, but wow did I learn a lot. I frankly didn't know too much about Post-Soviet Russia, so this was an incredible insight into that world and what factors led to Putin's rise to power and his hold on it. The biggest takeaways of this were not to underestimate Putin, but know that his understanding of how the West works is fairly limited so while he's a master strategist, he also don't fully understand how the West works. One of the most frightening things was seeing how the current administration is using Putin's playbook (and this book came out before that was happening). It's also fascinating to see how some of the areas identified in the book turned out to be crucial in the events of the past few years. Seeing the strategies that Putin uses to maintain power made so much of the current political situation make so much sense.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michael Hutchison

    An analytical history and current assessment of Putin. Lots of good information in this book. No surprise that knowing as much about Putin from birth to today and all the things that have happened to him, affected him, molded him into the person he is today would be important to an analyst looking to predict his actions and advise people in power to effectively deal with Putin. The book reads much like Fiona talks. If you watched her during the impeachment hearings, you know what I mean. This is An analytical history and current assessment of Putin. Lots of good information in this book. No surprise that knowing as much about Putin from birth to today and all the things that have happened to him, affected him, molded him into the person he is today would be important to an analyst looking to predict his actions and advise people in power to effectively deal with Putin. The book reads much like Fiona talks. If you watched her during the impeachment hearings, you know what I mean. This is the third book on Putin I've read in the past two years. I got more information about the man, the leader in this book than the other two. It also angers me because of the recent events that have lost this country the knowledge and expertise from our diplomatic corp. all because of dirty politics. The book is well worth the read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    This multi-dimensional review and analysis of Putin's history presents a clear picture of why Putin dances around DumptyTrumpty with glee. While Putin's academics are as dubious as that other guy's, he has survived and thrived in the cut throat world of Soviet/Russian politics. That other guy just bought and cheated his way in. I was briefly in the USSR in the spring of 1989. Political events that we saw on tv while there, posted on the walls in the towns, and demonstrated in the Sverlovsk airpo This multi-dimensional review and analysis of Putin's history presents a clear picture of why Putin dances around DumptyTrumpty with glee. While Putin's academics are as dubious as that other guy's, he has survived and thrived in the cut throat world of Soviet/Russian politics. That other guy just bought and cheated his way in. I was briefly in the USSR in the spring of 1989. Political events that we saw on tv while there, posted on the walls in the towns, and demonstrated in the Sverlovsk airport after being stranded there by snow, presaged events to happen over the next few years. Putin has done a masterful job of riding those waves of change, while not quite grasping the import of current changes in Russia. His current running of his two top agents in DC may help keep him in office.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gene Grant

    Perspectives of Putin This book provided fascinating perspectives of Putin based on his personal history and the larger history of Russian foreign relations. Many of my assumptions about Putin and his Russia were wrong. Events and actions that were mysterious to me now make sense. The relationship between Putin and political movements and leaders in other countries is much more clear. In many respects, Putin is surprisingly conservative, prudent and effective in promoting the welfare of Russians, Perspectives of Putin This book provided fascinating perspectives of Putin based on his personal history and the larger history of Russian foreign relations. Many of my assumptions about Putin and his Russia were wrong. Events and actions that were mysterious to me now make sense. The relationship between Putin and political movements and leaders in other countries is much more clear. In many respects, Putin is surprisingly conservative, prudent and effective in promoting the welfare of Russians, but in other quite important respects deleterious. Unfortunately the implications for the future of world welfare and peace are gloomy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Grace Hoffmann

    I was so impressed by Fiona Hill when she testified before Congress, so I slogged through her book to learn more about Putin. Not sure if there is a newer edition, but this one ends in 2014, so after invasion of Crimea, but before election interference. I was almost glad I was reading it before everything became colored by the Trump situation. This book is not a sensationalist account of Putin -- it's quite neutral in its assessments. It's certainly not for everyone, but I feel I understand a bi I was so impressed by Fiona Hill when she testified before Congress, so I slogged through her book to learn more about Putin. Not sure if there is a newer edition, but this one ends in 2014, so after invasion of Crimea, but before election interference. I was almost glad I was reading it before everything became colored by the Trump situation. This book is not a sensationalist account of Putin -- it's quite neutral in its assessments. It's certainly not for everyone, but I feel I understand a bit more about Putin and Russia. I'd still like to know what they have on Trump, and I'm sure it's something.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brad Satoris

    Putin is not an anomaly Excellent work of scholarship but like many Russian experts I think the framework is that Putin is singular. Irrespective of who is in power in Russia I would expect the same result. A lot more emphasis on NATO expansion is warranted - any Russian leader would react the same way. NATO expansion was a strategic miscalculation in my opinion. Imagine the Warsaw Pact expanding into Mexico or Canada if history had turned out differently. How would any American president respond Putin is not an anomaly Excellent work of scholarship but like many Russian experts I think the framework is that Putin is singular. Irrespective of who is in power in Russia I would expect the same result. A lot more emphasis on NATO expansion is warranted - any Russian leader would react the same way. NATO expansion was a strategic miscalculation in my opinion. Imagine the Warsaw Pact expanding into Mexico or Canada if history had turned out differently. How would any American president respond?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    The best way to understand how Vladimir Putin operates as CEO of Russia Inc. is to share a story from the pages of MR. PUTIN. In 1995 the chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel endured and survived a brutal dog attack. This attack was scaring and the chancellor was forever fearful of all dogs. Knowing this story and her fear, Putin borrowed a page from the KGB playbook and allowed his black labrador to be part of the negotiations. This is a lengthy and thorough look at the rise of Vladimir Putin a The best way to understand how Vladimir Putin operates as CEO of Russia Inc. is to share a story from the pages of MR. PUTIN. In 1995 the chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel endured and survived a brutal dog attack. This attack was scaring and the chancellor was forever fearful of all dogs. Knowing this story and her fear, Putin borrowed a page from the KGB playbook and allowed his black labrador to be part of the negotiations. This is a lengthy and thorough look at the rise of Vladimir Putin a formidable opposition to the West.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kremlin

    Well organized, well thought out, and outstanding intimate details. The research invested was phenomenal, I'm impressed. I loved how the chapters were organized into Putin's persona's. Everything flowed logically and builded upon each other. Overall, phenomenal read, and I hope to secure a personal copy for myself, instead of borrowing the library copy, because man oh man, do I have a lot of notes I want to take.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brenda

    Fascinating. Insightful. Concepts and thesis of book easy to grasp. I hope Dr Hill and Brookings Institute provide updates and continued analysis of Putin's actions. The version I read included actions to 2014. Considering all the US election interference by Putin's Russia, Inc. as well as Trump, Inc., withholding of funding to Ukraine, these updates would provide further analysis of the danger Russia poses to world order. Indeed, further analysis of Russian influence into BRIC countries would m Fascinating. Insightful. Concepts and thesis of book easy to grasp. I hope Dr Hill and Brookings Institute provide updates and continued analysis of Putin's actions. The version I read included actions to 2014. Considering all the US election interference by Putin's Russia, Inc. as well as Trump, Inc., withholding of funding to Ukraine, these updates would provide further analysis of the danger Russia poses to world order. Indeed, further analysis of Russian influence into BRIC countries would make compelling reading.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Lacy

    Illuminating, expository and direct, and boring This is a very illuminating book. Expository and direct, but boring, sleep inducing as I experienced. I thought I’d never finish it. I’m glad I did. Good information with healthy analysis up to 2014, which is its weakness. Not entertaining but clearly written, I’ll give it that. Great perspective on Putin.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    Definitely worth plowing through Excellent historical analysis of Putin’s Russia. 4 stars because it rambles and repeats information at times. Still very worth reading as we face continued cyber warfare from Russia.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Yates Buckley

    Interesting material and ideas but poorly written and disorganised. It took a lof of effort to wade through despite being interesting material.

  29. 4 out of 5

    TS Allen

    Smart and useful.

  30. 4 out of 5

    P.S. Winn

    Anyone who thinks Russia wants to be America's friend needs to read this book. An amazing look at the man behind Russia told by a strong woman who is intelligent and truthful.

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