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The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia Paperback – May 28, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


"Roxburgh paints a...compelling portrait. He is sympathetic to what motivates Putin but critical of what Putin has become during his years in power...engrossing." - Foreign Affairs

"A solid foreign correspondent narrative of Putin’s behavior" – Bill Keller, The New York Times

"The considerable value of this book lies in [Roxburgh’s] painstaking and empathetic effort to understand how Mr. Putin came to power, why many Russians still support him today, and how the West’s approach to Russia has helped to shape his rule... Mr. Roxburgh persuasively argues" – Wall Street Journal
"Roxburgh is a talented journalist and writer...a useful history of the Putin era....with views from Russian politicians, and some of the key players from the world of international politics, it is a book firmly rooted in fact and analysis. This means that Roxburgh’s approach is refreshingly free from some of the usual polemic, and he is to be congratulated for giving credit where credit is due and for underlining Putin’s role in stabilising Russia after the free-fall of the Yeltsin years." – Good Book Guide

"…an old Russian hand. [Roxburgh] takes us behind the curtain of the Kremlin press section….he is at his best in a chapter on fraught Georgian-Russian relations, capturing the culpability on all sides." – Stephen Kotkin, TLS

"[A]lively and absorbing study.... [Roxburgh] is especially well placed to tell the story of how the west’s early enthusiasm for Putin turned sour." – Luke Harding, Guardian 

"[Written] with admirable even-handedness and insight...The Strongman is not only political history; it is informed by the author’s close acquaintance with many of the prime players...Every chapter of this book is worth reading." – Mary Dejevsky, Independent

"Well researched and with many personal observations by an admired and insightful journalist, this will appeal to contemporary Russophiles and Putin watchers." – Library Journal

"Roxburgh’s experience as a public relations advisor to Putin provides the basis for some of the most interesting passages in the book." – David Satter, Literary Review

"...much can be learned about the conduct of Western and Russian international relations from the valuable interviews the author conducted with Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Gerhard Shroder, Mikhail Kasyanov, German Gref as well as David Miliband, George Robinson and Ukraine’s Viktor Yushchenko." – David Lane, London Progressive Journal

"Roxburgh’s book accordingly is a vivid account by a ‘Western’ journalist with excellent senior access of the tumultuous transition of Russia away from Soviet communism to today’s sui generis Russia…Roxburgh offers many vivid, credible anecdotes about Putin and his merciless dealings with top Russians and Western leaders…" – Charles Crawford, EUROPP (European Politics and Politics – LSE Blog)

"We need an insider to give us some insight into what has really been going on since 1999, when Putin went from unknown to acting president. It is fortunate then that we have Angus Roxburgh... fair, nuanced and well written...His account of the complete mutual incomprehension between his employers, Ketchum, and the Russians they worked with is fascinating." – Oliver Bullough, Sunday Telegraph

"[Roxburgh’s book] is powerful...and gives much more attention to the international connect and to Russia’s economy [than Masha Gessen’s book]" – The Age

"As a former adviser to the Kremlin in 2006-09, working for the Brussels based consultancy GPlus, Roxburgh had an excellent vantage point, and here he offers a stellar cast of sources, drawn from those closest to Putin and Western leaders. Their accounts make this is a valuable book." – European Voice

About the Author

Angus Roxburgh is one of Britain’s most distinguished foreign correspondents. An author and renowned journalist, he was the Sunday Times Moscow correspondent in the 1980s until he was expelled from the Soviet Union in a tit-for-tat espionage row. He returned in the 1990s and was the BBC’s Moscow correspondent during the Yeltsin years. Subsequently, he worked as an advisor and speechwriter for Putin’s communications team, a role which gave him unrivalled access to the Kremlin’s inner circle. He is the author of The Second Russian Revolution and Pravda: Inside the Soviet News Machine.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: I. B. Tauris; New Upd edition (May 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780765045
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780765044
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #659,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I must say that that this book was a well researched , balanced and ground breaking study of Putin as a Russian leader. It was very surprising to "digest" the information contained in this book especially as the author is a mainstream western journalist. Whilst there is criticism of Putin, the author instead of needlessly demonizing him like other western analysts and journalists, provides a lot of perspective in Putin's upbringing and KGB training as well as an explanation of Russia's experience in the 1990s to show that Russia was not going to become a democracy overnight. He provides criticism of western policies toward Russia and his style of doing so is shocking , well written, groundbreaking and candid. Thus phrases like "what the west missed in Yeltsin was a leader who was pliant" are a good way of phrasing an accurate view. He also provides interviews with key insiders that provide a lot of insight into events concerning Russia, NATO ,the west and the globe over the last 20 years. We hear from Dmitry Peskov how Khodorkovsky was plotting to take over the Kremlin by buying off the duma and we hear from Sergei Markov about the Kremlin's effort to fix the election in Ukraine in 2004 by stating a view that was absurd and conspiratorial in nature (the west was plotting to put an anti Russian candidate to rule Ukraine).Most importantly of all, we hear from Nicholas Burns , one of the architects of NATO expansion that NATO expansion was targeted at Russia. He basically says that he knew Russia would try to become strong and dominate Europe again and that they had to protect Eastern Europe.For me, this was a shocking revelation and it is astonsihing to see this view making it into a work by a mainstream western journalist.

That being said, the flaw of this book is that Mr.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Britain's veteran Russia specialist, Angus Roxburgh, offers a mature, reasoned, and experienced Western view of Putin and Putinism. It serves as a necessary counterpoint to the incessant demonizing of both emanating from the United States. I seriously doubt if it could have been written or published now in the US. Russia-bashing is an old American tradition, predating even the Bolshevik revolution (see David Fogelsong's "The American Mission and the `Evil Empire': The Crusade for a `Free Russia' Since 1881.") And unfortunately, in the wake of the Crimean annexation, it is the negative that's escalating to ever more shrill (and impotent) heights. Roxburgh bids us to stand back and look at the world not just from Putin's view, but that of Russia itself. The West has obliviously (or, perhaps knowingly) plowed on ahead with a self-interested agenda to simultaneously remold and contain the "New" Russia, as if said adjective was merely a supporting prop.

Roxburgh is good at demonstrating the Western "forked tongue" over NATO expansion eastward, which is ultimately behind most of the post-Soviet angst. But he shies short from connecting the dots. The Latvian president's tear-jerking ode to her country's freedom from Russian domination at the Prague summit of 2002 (p. 97) left many Russian eyes dry, as they recalled the two Latvian SS divisions that served Nazi occupiers in the Third Reich's thrust toward Moscow. The Kremlin cries today of "Ukrainian fascists" who have taken over Kiev hearken to the same bloody memories, still willfully ignored by the West as it seemingly patronizes groups precisely for their anti-Moscow militance.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is both a well written book and an enjoyable read. It doesn't take a stance heavily one way or the other which keeps the book from being to heavy handed. There are many times in which he gives the opinions and view points from people behind the scenes and this is what makes this a really good book. I really enjoyed reading this and felt I knew the Russians and Putin's stand on things better after reading it. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to better understand the Russian approach to foreign policy, Great Book!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this book very informative, giving a long range perspective on Russia and it President. The author is fair to both Putin and the West, and shows errors and miscalculations on both parts, and leaving the reader with the feeling that things could have been so much different ... and better. There was a window of opportunity to truly engage the former Soviet Union and improve relations, but a failure to understand the history of the Russian people and assuming that they would embrace democracy as anyone does in the West proved fatal. Rebuffed and somewhat dismissed, Putin turned to what he knew ... autocratic power ... turning what might have been a budding democracy into a sham democracy that hides a totalitarian regime. It is hard to review without going into details, so I will recommend this book to anyone interested in post-Soviet Russia and its 'strongman' President, Vladimir Putin.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An excellent insight to the Russian administration, to their political and historical thinking, and a clear and detailed picture of Vladimir Vladimirovich. Not as detailed as other biographies but the purpose of the book is to place his politics into a context not to know every inch of him.

If you want to understand, what is actually happening today in Russian politics in the shadows of the Ukrainian crisis, this book is a must read. You will understand, why Putin is not backing out from the crisis, why the Russian people support this controversial quest, why the West doesn't really understand his moves. The author's view is very balanced, most of the hypotheses are on solid ground and also very useful how the motivations of Putin are shown - you can even predict some moves and steps if you read carefully. Not heavy, a fun to read, but worth to do it at least twice (or make a lot of notes) or you can get easily lost in the web of oligarchs, business ties and networks.
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