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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ground breaking , balanced , tragicomic and of possible historic importance
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...
Published on May 7, 2012 by H. Williams

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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars worth reading but be careful about drawing conclusions
This book generally covers the recent history of Russia from the end of the Soviet era and focuses primarily on the time in office of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev. It provides a lot of information but is written from an outsider's (western) viewpoint. It is difficult to know what Putin is really like unless you are like George W. Bush and can see into their souls...
Published on February 22, 2013 by John Martin


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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ground breaking , balanced , tragicomic and of possible historic importance, May 7, 2012
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This review is from: The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia (Hardcover)
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. Roxburgh does not challenge the double standards of his western colleagues regarding their views on Russia.He even goes concurs with some of their myths. For example, he passes off Chechen terrorism as the result of centuries of Russian oppression. There is some truth to this view but why is such a sentiment expressed only in relation to Russia. AS the citizen of the greatest imperial power in the world , Mr Roxburgh must be familiar with the fact that the same thing could be said about the British experience with the Mau Mau and the Irish. I have personally spoken to a lot of Irish people who whilst being very devout have a burning hatred of the British and sympathize with the IRA. It must also be said that AL-qaeda uses the suffering of Muslims under tyrannical , pro-American regimes and under Israel to justify its use of terrorism. That being said, I find it ironic that Mr. Roxburgh says that Beslan was payback for the suffering that the chechens experienced at the hands of the Russians.
Mr Roxburgh also describes the bias against Putin and Russia indirectly but he does not come out and condemn it.Thus , he explains that Putin could not understand that a lot of the Western reaction towards him was due to his corrupt,undemocratic behavior at home , omitting that many of the west's allies throughout the world (Egypt under Mubarak, Saudi Arabia today, Yemen, Chile under Pinochet and Spain under Franco ). Angus really means to say that there is a strong Russophobic element in the west, otherwise how else can you explain the fact that many of the countries courted in the former USSR: Kazakhstan, Georgia and Ukraine also have problems with democracy, corruption and oligarchy , as he demonstrates in his book. I can't understand what is his reservation about using the word Russophobia. Similarly, Angus does not share the view of his western colleagues that Khodorkovsky is some kind of Russian Mandela. He notes that Khodorkovsky had a crooked start in gaining control of Yukos , that he sponsored a campaign of bribery of duma deputies, that he is not a saint, he notes the Kremlin's fear that he was trying to take power and his use of the word "politically ambitious" suggests that he agrees with them.Why he does not criticize his colleagues for their stupidity in lionizing this crook has left me pulling out my hair, especially as this is influencing Russian cooperation with regard to Libya and Syria (the Kremlin is not going to cooperate with regime change when it sees it as a pattern of behavior, especially since it looks at the Yukos affair as regime change) ! Again, whether he does this out of cowardice in not wanting to offend his colleagues or out of wisdom as a way to get his views across is a mystery to me.
In reading this book , I also have to say that it is a perfect illustration of how the neocons in the Bush administration "screwed up" over the last decade.If you look at all the episodes that lead to the breakdown between relations between Russia and the West (NATO expansion, Missile defence, the Iraq war,the Georgian war, asylum to Chechen separatists such as Ilyas AKhmadov who was an aide to Chechen terrorist Shamil Basayev), it is not hard to find the influence of people like Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Nicholas Burns and Richard Perle. It is indeed a tragedy and comedy of the first order, that a genuine chance to secure a lasting partnership between the two biggest nuclear powers was thrown away by these people (remember that Putin was very pro- American in his early years). Such an alliance could have guaranteed the security of the western world against threats such as a rising China, radical islam and Iran.It would be truly unfortunate if the west is defeated by any of these threats and if such a tragedy befalls us, this book may explain one of the reasons why.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A regime the West can't change, March 31, 2014
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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.

Roxburgh is also, I feel, being disingenuous when he wonders why post-communist Russia has not "turned itself into a thriving manufacturing country like China or many other developing economies" (p. 283). He seems unaware that Russia is not a developing country, but an old developed economy whose industries were of the same rust-belt generation as the mills, mines, and factories of Youngstown or Pittsburgh. The thrust of "economic reform" was thus to dump old industrial investment for new finance-driven capitalism, exactly as in the old-money West - with the added inducement that Russia's modernization was further hamstrung by bans on new-technology sales to Moscow. This policy is far from dead, as the quashing of Russia's bid to acquire GM asset Opal attested: to keep Russia from acquiring the very technology required to make it competitive.

I disagree with Roxburgh's take that Russian reform has always "come from above." The Tzar's granting of a Duma in 1906, and initiating land reforms, was inspired solely to quell the revolutionary movement of the streets and villages. Similarly, the Russian revolution re-erupting in February, 1917, was a perfect parallel to Egypt's Arab Spring as a groundswell of street activism, bringing down two governments within a year. But it's true that Putin has rolled back the glasnost era, when Russian liberty seemed to have arrived into its own at last. Two points here: Yeltsin was not the "democrat" the West made him out to be, as Roxburgh accurately recalls, but an authoritarian predecessor for all that it now objects to in Putin. Secondly, Yeltsin's entourage was composed not only of Democratic Russia liberals, but entrenched apparatchiks who hated Gorbachev, who abandoned the old CP because it was no longer theirs - like Yeltsin himself. Mouthing democratic phrases was a small price to pay for access to Western loot. The rise of Putin in 2000 demonstrated the final eclipse of the liberal DemRossiya wing of Yeltsin's movement. It has been a downhill slide since, but with equal responsibility from a self-serving West.

Putin's role, as he sees it, is to reconstruct the Russian, not the Soviet empire. His vision is the old mantra of "Great Russia, One and Indivisible." Western fuming over the return of the USSR shows an ignorance as mutual as the Russian belief that 9/11 was a Zionist-CIA plot. He highly resembles another "strongman", the former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic. Yet the West will not be able to bomb Putin to the negotiating table. It will have no other option but diplomacy and recognizing Russian interests. Russia - like GM - is simply "too big to fail."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy Fun Read with lots of insider info, June 7, 2014
By 
The Kid "The Kid" (Northwest, Arkansas) - See all my reviews
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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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting Book, October 26, 2013
By 
R. Land (Columbia, SC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Strongman (Kindle Edition)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Russia and Putin, August 10, 2014
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This review is from: The Strongman (Kindle Edition)
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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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book Detailing Putin, January 22, 2013
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This review is from: The Strongman (Kindle Edition)
The author shows a true understanding of Russian politics and government; especially of that concerning Putin. He offers his beliefs on why US-Russian relations have failed. A must read for those interested in Russian affairs.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vladimir Putin, May 6, 2014
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I enjoyed this book very much it gives a lot of insight to the man President Putin. I enjoy learning to better understand this man and what makes him tick and why he does the things that don't make sense to most Americans. He has a vision for Russia and he will most diffidently leave his imprint upon Russia and the world for that matter. He is a very strong leader and he feels that he is the key person to move Russia in the right direction that includes economics, political, and internationally. It's a very good read. Give it a try I'll bet you will enjoy it and also learn something about the man Mr Putin.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History repeats itself., May 30, 2014
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This review is from: The Strongman (Kindle Edition)
The book gives a crystal clear insight in Putin's persona. Much of what we now see happening in the Crimea, the Ukraine and elsewhere is rooted in events that took place several years ago when the book was written. It is fascinating to read how Putin's moves could be foreseen long before we got into today's crises.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Struggle against American hegemony in East Europe ('siloviki' vs. 'neo-cons')., December 3, 2014
While I was reading, news announced end of South Stream pipeline project, refusal of Mistral ship delivery, more NATO presence in Eastern Europe, more economic sanctions and endless fighting/fiscal Ukrainian crisis...saga continues.

What we get from Angus Roxburgh, is great re-examination of all undertakings (including military aggressions) that have been initiated by Putin and his government, since the beginning of XXI century. Also the value of this publication is in showing how Washington operated and operates against Russia today, either directly or behind the scenes, affecting relations between Russia and its neighbors.
People who follow American interventions around the globe, know exactly Bush's speeches and Obama's lectures. We know little about Putin's, and here is an opportunity to learn.
From the pages it is clear: Putin actions were not always the best, sometimes even dumb and harsh. However considering how hard USA long sticky hands tried (and still try using EU vassals) to export 'western' idealism, corporate style system and military presence, it is not surprizing that 'sleazy world of Russian corporate business' has been developed and reinforced in response.
Russia is not a perfect place, but neither the States, both countries being full of corruption, though the structure of it is different.
In general, "Strongman" reads well, but some parts are less interesting, not convincing or coherent (for example Putin and Medvedev expensive watches- allusion to them supporting corruption, or Pussy Riot trial). Good side of the coin is, I sense, that author understands Russia more than it seems from his writing. Recommended.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars worth reading but be careful about drawing conclusions, February 22, 2013
By 
John Martin (Las Vegas Nevada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia (Hardcover)
This book generally covers the recent history of Russia from the end of the Soviet era and focuses primarily on the time in office of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev. It provides a lot of information but is written from an outsider's (western) viewpoint. It is difficult to know what Putin is really like unless you are like George W. Bush and can see into their souls! Putin is contrasted to Medvedev and describe as more hard-line than the latter who is presented as more democratic. But who knows for sure? Medvedev is younger and more technology oriented and does not have the KGB mentality. What is most worrisome is that Russia under Putin has regressed away from a more open, democratic society toward an authoritarian state that is rift with corruption. Recently I spent three months in Moscow and it was clear to me that the mentality of Russians is different now from what it was when I was there in 1988-92 and the end of the Gorbachev years and beginning of the new Russia. Perhaps we have no right to expect Russia to be dramatically different from the time of the Tsars. Judging what is happening in the Kremlin is a fools game. No one can really know. Read the book and get some insights but do not expect to really understand Russia.
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The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia
The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia by Angus Roxburgh (Hardcover - February 28, 2012)
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