RaveThe Guardian (UK)A renowned business journalist who spent years covering Russia for the Financial Times, Belton follows the money. She has an unrivalled command of the labyrinthine history of share schemes, refinancing packages, mergers, shell companies, and offshore accounts that lay bare the stealthy capture of the post-Soviet economy and state institutions by a coterie of former KGB officers, or siloviki. Belton combines this financial history with testimony from a dazzling array of Kremlin insiders, diplomats, intelligence officers, prosecutors, mobsters and oligarchs. The result reads at times like a John le Carré novel ... Putin does not emerge from these pages as an evil, cat-stroking mastermind plotting his moves years in advance. Rather he appears an unscrupulous and resourceful operator, ready to deploy any weapon, break any rule and subvert any system to consolidate his power, wealth and international prestige ... A groundbreaking and meticulously researched anatomy of the Putin regime, Belton’s book shines a light on the pernicious threats Russian money and influence now pose to the west ... Putin’s People lays bare the scale of the challenge if the west is to decontaminate its politics.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)An act of literary archaeology ... Its finely wrought prose ranges from Moscow in the 1930s to Vilnius in the 50s and New York in the 80s, melding the genres of biography, history and memoir. The book is more than just an account of one family’s ordeals: it is an engrossing account of dictatorship, war and genocide, and how the toxic legacy they left behind has etched itself into successive generations of Soviet citizens. Consumed by Halberstadt’s own longing for meaning, it meditates on the power of storytelling to bind our unstable and episodic memories into a coherent narrative – and on the gaps and enigmas that make this impossible. Halberstadt is both interrogator and grandson ... It is not, however, a triumphant tale of self-discovery and self-healing. Again and again, Halberstadt’s relatives refuse to yield to his need for confession, reconciliation and redemption.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)... gripping ... MacLean is an accomplished writer; his immersive prose crackles with wit and wry humour, and captures scenes and personalities with aplomb. As a narrator, he is frank about his own liberal beliefs and unabashedly partisan in his thumping of reactionaries, ethno-nationalists and xenophobes. But if his colourful encounters with Europeans from alt-right Polish executives to German neo-fascists offer a fascinating and grim portrait of our current predicament, how compelling is MacLean’s explanation of how we got here? ... There is a great deal of truth to his account. But illiberalism, ethno-nationalism and authoritarianism are deeply embedded in European culture—they are not confections of recent politics.
PositiveThe GuardianIn this compelling history of the disaster and its aftermath, Serhii Plokhy presents Chernobyl as a terrifying emblem of the terminal decline of the Soviet system. The turbine test that went catastrophically wrong was not, he argues, a freak occurrence but a disaster waiting to happen. It had deep roots in the party’s reckless obsession with production targets and in the pliant nuclear industry’s alarming record of cutting corners to cut costs. Plokhy’s well-paced narrative plunges the reader into the sweaty, nervous tension of the Chernobyl control room on the fateful night when human frailty and design flaws combined to such devastating effect ... Plokhy gives a balanced and sympathetic account of the experiences of the senior scientists, engineers and politicians who extinguished the reactor fire, organised the evacuation of the region and contained the radioactive contamination. Yet the firefighters, reservists, teachers, farmers, doctors and schoolchildren caught up in the disaster have only walk-on roles in his narrative ... Plokhy’s most penetrating chapters deal with the political fallout. Attempts by Moscow to downplay design flaws in the reactor and to make scapegoats of a handful of managers and operators failed to reassure public opinion in a new era of open discussion. Chernobyl, Plokhy writes, \'ended one era and initiated another\'.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThis memoir tells a political story that is also personal: the story of a man who watches as his own lifelong efforts to promote cooperation and integration between America and Russia are undone by Putin himself ... McFaul combines both analytical and personal perspectives to offer a fascinating and timely account of the current crisis in the relationship between Russia and the United States ... Putin is clearly the villain in this story. McFaul concluded that the Russian president was \'paranoid,\' a man of \'fixed and flawed views\' who \'saw us as the enemy,\' and that so long as he ruled Russia, \'strategic partnership was impossible.\' He makes his case with energy and conviction. Yet his relentless focus on Putin’s individual role tends to obscure the broader evolution of attitudes toward the West within the Russian political establishment ... Placing responsibility for the rapid deterioration in United States-Russian relations squarely on the shoulders of the Russian president has its appeal. It holds out the promise that Kremlin policy toward the West might pivot once again when Putin finally retires or is pushed out. Maybe so, but the more pessimistic view is that Putin represents a now-entrenched revanchist nationalism that sees the liberal international order as a mere smokescreen for the advancement of Western political agendas.