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This is the first comprehensive and up-to-date biography of Vladimir Putin – the man whose decision to go to war in Ukraine has opened a new period in European history (Steven Lee Myers’ The New Tsar stops in 2014).
To grasp what may lie in store in the months and years ahead, it’s necessary to understand what led up to this moment and what lies behind the Russian offensive.
There are many books about Putin, but almost all are about his regime rather than the man himself.
This book is the first to trace in detail the whole of his career and to examine in depth his character traits and personality in order to try to answer the existential question: what makes Putin act as he does?
It is the result of eight years of research and almost 200 interviews in a dozen different countries, ranging from western statesmen who dealt with Putin as President to former colleagues who worked with him at the start of his career in St Petersburg; archival research in France, Germany, Russia and the United States; the study of tens of millions of words of source material in Russian, Estonian, Finnish and all the major European languages.
It asks: How did we get to here?
Twenty years ago, after 9/11, Russia and America were allies in George W. Bush’s War against Terror. Putin declared that Russia’s place was with the West, NATO was not an enemy and if Ukraine became a NATO member, it wouldn’t be a problem.
Philip Short traces the story of the slow, inexorable decline from those promising beginnings to a catastrophic conflict which most Europeans – and most Russians – were convinced would never happen.
It also asks why many Russians continue to support him. Despite western sanctions, the majority have been living better than at any time in the past.
By fair means or foul, under Putin’s leadership, Russia has once again become a force to be reckoned with.
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