Putinism: Russia and its Future with the West by Walter Laqueur

Summary

“There is no question that tensions between Russia and America are on the rise. The forced annexation of Crimea, the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17, and the Russian government’s treatment of homosexuals have created diplomatic standoffs and led to a volley of economic sanctions. In America, much of the blame for Russia’s recent hostility has fallen on steely-eyed President Vladimir Putin and many have begun to wonder if they we are witnessing the rebirth of Cold War-style dictatorship.

Not so fast, argues veteran historian Walter Laqueur.
For two decades, Laqueur has been ahead of the curve, predicting events in post-Soviet Russia with uncanny accuracy. In Putinism, he deftly demonstrates how three long-standing pillars of Russian ideology-a strong belief in the Orthodox Church, a sense of Eurasian “manifest destiny,” and a fear of foreign enemies-continue to exert a powerful influence on the Russian populous. In fact, today’s Russians have more in common with their counterparts from 1904 than 1954 and Putin is much more a servant of his people than we might think.
Topical and provocative, Putinism contains much more than historical analysis. Looking to the future, Laqueur explains how America’s tendency to see Russia as a Cold War relic is dangerous and premature. Russia can and will challenge the West and it is in our best interest to figure out exactly who we are facing-and what they want-before it is too late.”

I have a policy to generally not rate non-fiction titles. It’s especially hard to “rate” a political or historical non-fiction unless you happen to be a Ph.D in the topic at hand, which I am not. So instead, I give you a few points that stood out to me, and what I learned. Self-education is the reason I love non.

  1. About Russian politics- It’s complicated. And yet it’s not. After the fall of the Soviet Union and communism (state control and ownership of the economy) leaders understood they needed a freer (I use that word lightly) market to ramp up a very poor economy. Therefore ownership of huge portions of the economy transferred not to a free market but to a handful of people known now as Oligarchs. These oligarchs became very, very rich and now have a huge influence over political leaders. They are viewed poorly by the masses while Putin has overwhelming support and approval.
  2. Not everyone wants to be free. At least not “free” as I understand it as a Westerner. Some countries, Russia specifically here, prefer a strongman. That is just the truth. We hear so much about the so called opposition, but even those opposed to Putin and his form of dictatorship-light, are themselves on the extreme fringes. Extreme on the left and right, which the author points out, there is little difference in. Political parties are only a hundred years old in Russia. They lived under Tsars for hundreds of years until the revolution which gave them Bolshevism. The country has never been free as we understand it and political parties are not as strong as one may think in the country.
  3. The economy makes or breaks countries. Perhaps the single greatest reason for Russia’s economic comeback after the fall of the Soviet Union is oil and gas. The industry provided a needed boon to the economy, created a new middle class, and allowed Putin to become as popular as he is today within the country. The future internal and geopolitical outlook cannot be predicted because so much depends on what happens with the economy.
  4. Population matters. The decline of countries population matters. In what directions socially and politically a country takes, the majority view comes out on top. This is true for world stability as well. Do yourself a favor a take a few minutes to look this up.
  5. Russians want to be a super power and regain the glory of the past. We can expect more land grabs. There is a long held and deeply rooted thought that everyone outside of Russia, is out to get Russia. Today’s loudest thinkers and intelligentsia share voices from the past that also held this belief. Great authors, philosophers and leaders who also believe in a mysticism (which is not easily explained)  are quoted and read by the masses and leaders alike.
  6. Religion plays a very important role in the new doctrine.

I hope my elementary overview gives you a bit of insight. As stated previously, it’s complicated. I do think it is of the greatest importance for us to understand and be aware of what others think and hold true. Know what voices are the loudest in other countries and in what direction we are headed, not just in our own country but across the world. I advocate for reading non-fiction and this is why.

Jessica

2 thoughts on “Putinism: Russia and its Future with the West by Walter Laqueur”

  1. This is so great! I need to read this book. You already know how near and dear to my heart this topic is, and it’s always so wonderful to see other people get interested. Most modern International Relations specialists spend so much time focusing on the Middle East and Asia (China and Japan), but I think it would be disastrous to totally discount Russia.

    1. There’s a lot said about Russia’s relationship with China! A good book and would be a quick read for you! Bookoutlet!

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