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Charting the transformation of Vladimir Putin from a passionate fan of the West and a liberal reformer into a hurt and introverted outcast, All the Kremlin’s Men is a historical detective story, full of intrigue and conspiracy. This is the story of the political battles that have taken place in the court of Vladimir Putin since his rise to power, and a chronicle of friends Charting the transformation of Vladimir Putin from a passionate fan of the West and a liberal reformer into a hurt and introverted outcast, All the Kremlin’s Men is a historical detective story, full of intrigue and conspiracy. This is the story of the political battles that have taken place in the court of Vladimir Putin since his rise to power, and a chronicle of friendship and hatred between the Russian leader and his foreign partners and opponents. Russia's most prominent independent journalist Mikhail Zygar has had unprecedented access to people who are either currently or were formerly allied with Putin, but have only now agreed to reveal their impressions of the powerful president and his circle of power. Zygar's in-depth interviews include Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, former finance minister Alexei Kudrin, former Kremlin chief of staff Alexander Voloshin, former mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov, former presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, former mresidents of Ukraine and Georgia Viktor Yushchenko and Mikhail Saakashvili, and many other key Russian and Western politicians and diplomats. For many people from Putin’s closest circle, it was the first time they could tell their stories. Each chapter has a main character, who gives an insight into the origins of Vladimir Putin’s transformation. Cumulatively, All the Kremlin’s Men explains to the English-speaking audience what has happened to Russia, what the role of the West is in its destiny, and how this destiny could play out going forward. It is a delicious portrait of the strangeness of modern Russia, a country swirling with intrigue and paranoia, peppered with fateful missteps and confusion, and the brooding, volatile, magnificently unpredictable figure of Vladimir Putin.


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Charting the transformation of Vladimir Putin from a passionate fan of the West and a liberal reformer into a hurt and introverted outcast, All the Kremlin’s Men is a historical detective story, full of intrigue and conspiracy. This is the story of the political battles that have taken place in the court of Vladimir Putin since his rise to power, and a chronicle of friends Charting the transformation of Vladimir Putin from a passionate fan of the West and a liberal reformer into a hurt and introverted outcast, All the Kremlin’s Men is a historical detective story, full of intrigue and conspiracy. This is the story of the political battles that have taken place in the court of Vladimir Putin since his rise to power, and a chronicle of friendship and hatred between the Russian leader and his foreign partners and opponents. Russia's most prominent independent journalist Mikhail Zygar has had unprecedented access to people who are either currently or were formerly allied with Putin, but have only now agreed to reveal their impressions of the powerful president and his circle of power. Zygar's in-depth interviews include Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, former finance minister Alexei Kudrin, former Kremlin chief of staff Alexander Voloshin, former mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov, former presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, former mresidents of Ukraine and Georgia Viktor Yushchenko and Mikhail Saakashvili, and many other key Russian and Western politicians and diplomats. For many people from Putin’s closest circle, it was the first time they could tell their stories. Each chapter has a main character, who gives an insight into the origins of Vladimir Putin’s transformation. Cumulatively, All the Kremlin’s Men explains to the English-speaking audience what has happened to Russia, what the role of the West is in its destiny, and how this destiny could play out going forward. It is a delicious portrait of the strangeness of modern Russia, a country swirling with intrigue and paranoia, peppered with fateful missteps and confusion, and the brooding, volatile, magnificently unpredictable figure of Vladimir Putin.

30 review for All the Kremlin's Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin

  1. 4 out of 5

    Max

    Zygar reports on Putin as Russia’s leader detailing his relationships with the men around him. We see how Putin is seemingly accidentally thrust into the presidency and how he takes charge with his own entourage. We witness the changes in Putin as he consolidates power to become the Putin we recognize today. The book is very detailed introducing this reader to many new people: Oligarchs, politicians, administrators, dissidents, and Putin’s old friends. We see how Putin influences them and how in Zygar reports on Putin as Russia’s leader detailing his relationships with the men around him. We see how Putin is seemingly accidentally thrust into the presidency and how he takes charge with his own entourage. We witness the changes in Putin as he consolidates power to become the Putin we recognize today. The book is very detailed introducing this reader to many new people: Oligarchs, politicians, administrators, dissidents, and Putin’s old friends. We see how Putin influences them and how in turn they influence Putin to shape him. We also get revealing insights into Putin’s interactions with foreign leaders. Zygar is the founder of Russia’s only independent TV station which presents alternative views to those of the Kremlin. He is a journalist and this book is based on extensive interviews of people with personal knowledge of Putin, thus we get many anecdotes. This is a great read for those interested enough to sort through all the details. What follows are notes of items that captured my interest. As the end of Boris Yeltsin’s second term approached, he suddenly resigned on December 31, 1999 and appointed Vladimir Putin as his successor. Putin immediately granted Yeltsin immunity from any crimes he may have committed. Yeltsin’s close relations were known as the Family. They maintained outsized influence along with oligarchs and politicians close to them. The Family had selected Putin, the director of the FSB, believing he would help them retain their influence. He did for a few years. Putin had his clique, the siloviki, composed of military and security officials who would turn the Prosecutor General’s Office into a Putin weapon, and another loyal group known as the “Petersburgers”. Putin, a former intelligence officer, maintained close ties with former KGB and current FSB officials and he brought along many associates from his days as Deputy Mayor of St. Petersburg. He won the election for president in 2000 with political and financial help from the Family and powerful friends including oligarchs. They and the public favored Putin because he was anti-communist, pro-business and espoused democracy. Putin found his new job and its perks to his liking. It would take several years for him to cement power, destroying opposition parties and taking down troublesome oligarchs and replacing them with those who understood who was in charge. Putin set out to woo the West. He formed a close relationship with Tony Blair and his first meeting with George W. Bush showed just how cagey Putin is. Putin used his career honed skills sizing Bush up knowing that Bush had sworn off alcohol and turned religious. Putin told Bush a story saying he had owned a dacha that was destroyed in a fire but thankfully no one was injured. And by some miracle the only object to survive was a crucifix his mother had given to him. Because of that he said he believed in miracles. Putin was convincing. Bush was taken with the story saying later, “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul.” Bush now believed Russia under Putin would become just like Western European countries. Putin became incensed over the U. S. invasion of Iraq and it permanently changed his attitude towards the U. S. Russia was much closer to and had a much better understanding of Saddam Hussein and his circle than the U. S. But the U. S. did not consult with Russia before deciding to invade Iraq. Putin was already irritated by the constant lecturing from the U. S. on how Russia should behave. Putin was also upset with Blair who went along with Bush. He would write off his friendship with Blair when Britain gave political asylum to two of his Russian enemies. Blair claimed he couldn’t intervene with the courts, which made no sense to Putin. Putin publicly revealed his dark side in 2001 when he cracked down on a popular TV station that opposed his policies. He had his Prosecutor General file charges against the media mogul owner who was imprisoned. Putin removed others involved with the station and put his own team in place. Putin made sure everyone understood how he would govern in 2003 charging and then in 2005 imprisoning one of the richest men in Russia, the owner of Yukos Oil, oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was opposing Putin policies. With this show of strength the balance of power changed. The Family was through. After the 2004 election, the Petersburgers were ready to take control. Putin’s silviki was busily collecting compromising data on the rich and powerful. The oligarchs had come into being in the mid-nineties as state owned properties were privatized. It was part of an election strategy and self-enrichment by Yeltsin and the Family to win the 1996 election. Powerful people loyal to the Family became billionaires. Putin began replacing the remaining Family oligarchs and ministers with his own. As one of Putin’s aides told the prime minister who “suddenly resigned”, “Thank you for showing us how to run the country. Now we can do it for ourselves.” Putin made an obscure choice for his new prime minister, one who would pose no threat and be loyal and readily agreed to impossible goals. As an insider noted “No one gets fired for poor performance – They get fired for disloyalty.” Putin fervently believed that Ukraine belonged to Russia and took every opportunity to ensure it did not stray to the West. When in the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election, despite Putin’s personal involvement and massive support, his candidate Viktor Yanukovych lost, Putin was furious. He blamed the West for its interference. The U. S. and other countries had sent observers who made their opinions known. Pro West Ukrainians took to the streets in the Orange Revolution. So called “Color” revolutions also took place in other former Soviet republics, most notably Georgia. Putin and his aides became paranoid seeing the hand of the U. S. everywhere. Bush sat beside Putin in Moscow at the 60th anniversary of Victory Day parade and as always was respectful to Putin. But then Bush skipped the gala dinner and went to Georgia where he lauded the “Rose” revolution speaking to 150,000 American Flag waving Georgians. Putin was surer than ever he could never trust the Americans. In 2005 Putin decided to center his foreign policy on business, specifically as a gas supplier to Europe. Under the guise of energy security he tried to strike deals to build Russian gas pipelines to Western Europe. At first the European leaders were enthusiastic. But again Ukraine was the fly in the ointment. Ukraine, already buying Russian gas, was negotiating a new deal with Putin. Putin structured a shady scheme through a secretive middle company with Russian mafia connections. Ukraine balked at the sky high price. Putin showed his cards suddenly sharply cutting the amount of gas Russia was supplying until Ukraine accepted Putin’s compromise. At the same time he cut service to other customers in East European countries and to Austria. Needless to say West European leaders quickly saw the Russian pipelines as a trap. After Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans in 2005, Bush’s approval declined sharply as he badly mishandled the situation. Putin now saw Bush as weak, a lame duck. He decided to go on the offensive and challenge U. S. dominance in the world. In a blistering speech at the 2007 Munich Security Conference he accused the U. S. of destabilizing the world with its missile programs and foreign interventions. When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Putin in Moscow in 2006, he humiliated her by making her wait hours in a hotel lobby while he sat drinking with friends in a bar. She was then invited to the bar where Putin’s group sat with drinks and snacks. Rice asked Putin to talk separately. She started in about the situation in Georgia which quickly turned into a screaming match. Interestingly, in 2008 at a NATO meeting Rice and Angela Merkel got into a heated argument over admitting Georgia and Ukraine, yelling at each other in Russian which they both spoke fluently. Putin went to the meeting the last day and flew into a rage at Bush for trying to admit Ukraine and Georgia to NATO. Putin followed up by sending troops into Georgia showing the U. S. just who was in control. Putin decided not to change the 1993 Russian constitution which limited the president to two successive terms. He selected Dmitri Medvedev to succeed him in 2008. Putin had other loyal associates he could have picked, but he liked Medvedev’s lack of ambition. Putin became prime minister forming what was known as the “tandem”. Medvedev instituted some modest liberal reforms, but usually knew where to draw the line. Putin let him know when he crossed it. Medvedev also changed the constitution to extend subsequent presidential terms from four to six years. As the 2012 election approached, Medvedev allowed some small demonstrations by genuine opposition. Putin had always set up fake opposition parties to manipulate the electorate. Putin saw Medvedev as weak but it didn’t matter, Putin planned to run for President in 2012 and have Medvedev as prime minister, switching their positions, but all the power always remained with Putin. Putin controlled the media, senior government ministers, the security services and the oligarchs. He and his siliviki might loosen the reigns from time to time to allow opponents to reveal themselves, but he always kept control. After the election Putin quickly cleaned house replacing Medvedev’s ministers and rescinding his reforms. He also cracked down harshly on the demonstrators arresting many and sending leaders to prison. In 2013 Ukraine was considering signing an association agreement with the EU, strongly supported by many Ukrainians. Putin made clear to the Ukrainian president, Putin’s man Yanukovych, that Ukraine’s future was with Russia. Putin offered attractive loans to Ukraine to stay close to Russia, which Yanukovych took, surprising and angering many of his supporters and pro-Western Ukrainians. Protesters headed for the government sector of Kiev where security forces killed 25. The U. S. imposed sanctions and other European countries spoke out against the violence. As the days went on, the protests gained strength eventually toppling Yanukovych who escaped to Russia. Seeing Ukraine in disarray, Putin made the decision in 2014 to return Crimea to Russia. Crimea had been part of Russia before 1954, when Khrushchev got it transferred to Ukraine. This put a large population of Russians into Ukraine helping tie it to Russia. With Crimea’s significant Russian population getting local support was easy. Using local activists along with help from Russian troops from a nearby base, the takeover was quick. A Crimean government was formed which then applied for accession to the Russian Federation which was shortly ratified by Russia. Putin had always considered Crimea to be part of Russia. In Eastern Ukraine his strategy was different. It too held many Russians and the same combination of forces successfully battled the Ukrainian army. But Putin did not want to annex Eastern Ukraine. He wanted to hold its future over Ukraine as leverage. He wanted all of Ukraine in Russia’s orbit. In response, the U. S. and European allies issued sanctions against Russian officials and oligarchs. Putin now was completely bitter about the U. S. and the West. He believed that he and Russia had never been and would never be treated as equals. Putin also hardened even further on dissidents and officials or businessmen he felt had “liberal” ideas. This attitude carried over to Vladimir Yevtushenkov who owned a Russian oil company and wanted to list it on the London stock exchange. For this, Putin had him arrested. This shook the business community, for unlike Khodorkovsky, Yevtushenkov scrupulously avoided politics. The business community already suffering from sanctions due to the war in Ukraine and takeover of Crimea was even more upset by this arrest. After Khodorkovsky’s arrest they knew to stay out of politics, but now they weren’t sure what would get them in trouble. Putin associates that attempted to defend Yevtushenkov or point out the economic downside of arresting him lost their influence with Putin. Putin’s attitude towards the West was reinforced at the G20 summit in November 2014 in Australia. Putin was treated like a pariah. Nobody engaged with him. He was positioned at the end of the line in the photoshoot and assigned a table to eat essentially alone. He left early the next day. Not only did Putin not intend to be humiliated again, his isolationist attitude was adopted by government officials and businessmen. Getting ahead in Russia depends on one’s relationship with Putin and his attitudes are quickly emulated. A good example of Putin’s point of view is the U. S. reaction to his support for Syria’s Assad. The U. S. criticizes Putin for violating human rights and supporting a ruthless dictator, but to Putin Assad is no worse than the leadership of Saudi Arabia. The U. S. allies with Saudi Arabia which summarily hangs and beheads people. The U. S. even supports it with weapons in its cruel war with Yemen. So Putin sees the U. S. and its Western European allies as sanctimonious hypocrites. There are many more examples in the book, not the least of which is the Iraq war. Zygar’s book was published in 2016, so we don’t get any insight on Putin’s relationship with Trump. But after reading this it is easy to see why Putin would get along well with Trump. Zygar sees Putin as caught up in all his manipulations, as one who is manipulated as much as he manipulates others. Unfortunately this review leaves out much of the internal politics Zygar outlines that would lend support to this view. Still from my reading, Putin looked like he was usually the one pulling the strings, albeit often reactionary and often relying on advice from associates who had ulterior motives. Just like the tsars, Putin identified himself as Russia, so the way he saw himself treated was the way Russia was being treated and vice versa. But I am convinced when Zygar says that when Putin is gone little will change.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Miebara Jato

    For more than two decades, Putin has been the strongman of Russian politics. He'd spent more years than any other person, except Joseph Stalin, as president of Russia. And if the ongoing constitutional reforms on the extension of term limits are completed, Putin might remain in power till 2036, surpassing even Stalin. Putin, like Stalin, is complicated. In a sense, the explanation of Stalin's behaviour can help understand Putin's transformation. Stephen Kotkin's two volumes of a projected three-v For more than two decades, Putin has been the strongman of Russian politics. He'd spent more years than any other person, except Joseph Stalin, as president of Russia. And if the ongoing constitutional reforms on the extension of term limits are completed, Putin might remain in power till 2036, surpassing even Stalin. Putin, like Stalin, is complicated. In a sense, the explanation of Stalin's behaviour can help understand Putin's transformation. Stephen Kotkin's two volumes of a projected three-volumes authoritative biography of Joseph Stalin investigated the stimulus for Stalin's dictatorship. There are two schools of thought: The first assumption is that Stalin's cruelty can be explained by his bad childhood and difficult upbringing. To put it more succinctly, his personality. The second explanation is that the system makes Stalin a despot. Stalinism was, in this way, as much enabled from below as imposed from above. Kotkin, of course, comfortably aligns with the latter school of thought. Well, it's unfair to compare Putin to Stalin. For starters, Putin obviously has not built a gulag nor killed millions. But the point is, Putin is a creation of the system. Putin is what his entourage moulded him to become. "In the very beginning, Putin did not believe that Russia is surrounded by enemies on all sides. He did not have plans to close down independent TV channels. But in trying to divine the intentions of their leader, his associates effectively materialized their own wishes. Today’s image of Putin as a formidable Russian tsar was constructed by his entourage, Western partners, and journalists, often without his say." Zygar takes the reader through the transformation of Putin from an admirer of the West and liberal reformer to a power-grabbing dictator. In every chapter is a protagonist whose story is then tied to the larger narrative and scheming of Putin's administration.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sofia

    Fun and games with Mr Putin Many times, whilst reading this, I imagined myself seeing a chess game were pawns get elevated even kinged at times and use and get used in turn and then they are ushered gently or not so gently off the board. Questions that meander through my mind: Does Putin want to leave? Can he leave? Will he be allowed to leave? How will it all end? Zygar gives a portrait of Putin or better the 'Myth of Putin', how that all began, how it grew and what it is now and what held it up and w Fun and games with Mr Putin Many times, whilst reading this, I imagined myself seeing a chess game were pawns get elevated even kinged at times and use and get used in turn and then they are ushered gently or not so gently off the board. Questions that meander through my mind: Does Putin want to leave? Can he leave? Will he be allowed to leave? How will it all end? Zygar gives a portrait of Putin or better the 'Myth of Putin', how that all began, how it grew and what it is now and what held it up and what holds it up now. "This book demonstrates that Putin, as we imagine him, does not actually exit." "Each of us invented our own Putin." and in doing so if the inventor has some kind of power over what he helped the invention to be. read with Irina

  4. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar chronicles the rise of Vladimir Putin from his inception into the political realm, to the backroom scheming he partakes to keep him there, to the modern day Putin we see today. Despite some time jumping which can at times be a little disorientating, the book is easy enough to follow and contains some decent insight into the Russian perspective of major events impacting on the soviet state. Each chapter focuses on a key player (and sometime agitator) in Putin's co Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar chronicles the rise of Vladimir Putin from his inception into the political realm, to the backroom scheming he partakes to keep him there, to the modern day Putin we see today. Despite some time jumping which can at times be a little disorientating, the book is easy enough to follow and contains some decent insight into the Russian perspective of major events impacting on the soviet state. Each chapter focuses on a key player (and sometime agitator) in Putin's court which gives the book a fresh feel each chapter. There's no degree of repetitiveness or a sense of drab writing as the book flows freely chapter to chapter. It was interesting to read about the conflicts, the relationships, and the rise to power of one of the more prominent individuals in the worldwide political circle. My rating: 4/5 stars. A heavy read loaded with political insight, best digested in bite size chunks.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Zygar reminded me that Putin is an actual human. Sometimes I forget. L’état c’est lui. Plus a soupçon of siloviki. Zygar convinced me that Putin tried to make nice with the West (in his way) and felt rejected and that Putin believes he is doing his best for Russia. A while back he may have even considered stepping down for the life of a private oligarch. Now Russia is his mission and identity. Putin is reputed to think of himself as an expert on everything. He’s neurotic, suspicious and values l Zygar reminded me that Putin is an actual human. Sometimes I forget. L’état c’est lui. Plus a soupçon of siloviki. Zygar convinced me that Putin tried to make nice with the West (in his way) and felt rejected and that Putin believes he is doing his best for Russia. A while back he may have even considered stepping down for the life of a private oligarch. Now Russia is his mission and identity. Putin is reputed to think of himself as an expert on everything. He’s neurotic, suspicious and values loyalty above all. He can’t show weakness or he will be crushed by those around him. He likes to hold back his reactions in order “to weaken the link between cause and effect.” The West is hypocritical, untrustworthy and out to get Russia (Putin). He analyses the West through a Russian (Putin’s) perspective. He doesn’t quite get how our executives are hampered by courts and legislatures. He feels looked down upon by the West (true). Foreign policy is personal. IRL, he communicates indirectly to maintain plausible deniability. He upholds a system of “checks and balances” among his staff so no one can amass too much power. He has created an echo chamber around himself but he can be subtly manipulated by those who understand his way of thinking. He doesn’t receive contradiction. “It seems that the Russian leadership was duped by its own propaganda.” Volodin: “Russia is Putin. Russia exists only if there is Putin. There is no Russia without Putin.” God knows what will follow his demise. Interestingly, Zygar doesn’t offer a clear explanation of the reason/s for Putin’s disappearance years ago. He doesn’t exactly make Putin look good but he doesn’t present us with a monster either. Maybe that’s why the book was released in Russia. Ukraine has been an obsession of Putin's long before the annexation of Crimea. He and his subordinates (including the ever amusing and chilling Kadyrov) have used the media to communicate with each other. Putin was shocked by Nemtsov’s murder. To paraphrase Chubais, honest privatization would have required a strong state. “In a sense Assad was the Vladimir Putin of the Middle East: a man who accidentally became ruler of his country as the result of unforeseen circumstances, and who would have probably chosen a different fate had the choice presented itself. He did not plan to become anti-Western.” “Assad proved that blind stubborn resistance can be an effective way to hold power whatever the cost. A lack of strategy can in fact be strategy.” As Somoza was our (USA) bastard, Assad is Putin’s.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anton

    A wonderful book which in a concise and accessible form describes the political process in Russia during the last 15 years. Perfect to anyone who decides to do an audit of Putin's Era Russia political history. I cannot, however, agree with the finale. Yes, the king is known to play a suite, but it doesn't mean that the king exonerated from it as from clay to sculpt any shape. "Putin has no intention of closing independent television stations," says Zygar. Excuse me, it was one of his first steps A wonderful book which in a concise and accessible form describes the political process in Russia during the last 15 years. Perfect to anyone who decides to do an audit of Putin's Era Russia political history. I cannot, however, agree with the finale. Yes, the king is known to play a suite, but it doesn't mean that the king exonerated from it as from clay to sculpt any shape. "Putin has no intention of closing independent television stations," says Zygar. Excuse me, it was one of his first steps as the president! You can argue as much as whether the independent NTV channel was, but it broadcasted alternative view at least. The role of personality in history has not been canceled and view Putin as a hostage of circumstances or "collective subconscious" of Russians seems incorrect. *** Замечательная книга, которая в краткой и доступной форме описывает политические процессы в России последних 15 лет. Отлично подойдет тому, кто решит сделать ревизию политической истории России путинской эры. Не могу, однако, согласиться с финалом. Да, короля, как известно, играет свита, но это не значит, что король освобожден от ответственности и из него как из пластилина можно лепить любую форму. "Путин не собирался закрывать независимые телеканалы" пишет Зыгарь. Позвольте, это был один из первых шагов Путина в качестве президента! Можно сколь угодно спорить было ли НТВ независимым каналом, но оно по крайней мере транслировала альтернативную точку зрения. Роль личности в истории никто не отменял и представлять Путина заложником обстоятельств и "коллективным подсознательным" представляется неверным.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Vitaly Repin

    Exceptionally good journalism. I was following Russsian politics since 1990 but even I was able to find interesting and useful insights in this book. "Must read" if you are interested in the Russian politics and Putin's phenomena. One of the best attempts to answer the question - "Who is mr. Putin?"

  8. 5 out of 5

    Aditya Pareek

    This book gave me something, it was seeing Putin as human, just as human as Obama, Dublya Bush or Trump, impressionable, artificial ,coached and far less refined than what banners like RT or Russia Insider or whatnot would portray him as. There is no Tzar, there is just a man who's a stopgap. There is no leader on the other side either. People harp on about how the new cold war is about hard power and arms races. Nobody talks about how its outrage and ridicule shading dysfunction that may lead to This book gave me something, it was seeing Putin as human, just as human as Obama, Dublya Bush or Trump, impressionable, artificial ,coached and far less refined than what banners like RT or Russia Insider or whatnot would portray him as. There is no Tzar, there is just a man who's a stopgap. There is no leader on the other side either. People harp on about how the new cold war is about hard power and arms races. Nobody talks about how its outrage and ridicule shading dysfunction that may lead to an implosion and ultimate ruin on one side and Pretence and Posturing of false/hollow strength on the other. In such a game we are all losers. Hedonism of an imperial high perhaps thats the only gratification I can hope for in this game, for there is no higher purpose.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    A little hard to follow due to the complex geopolitics and sprawling cast of characters with Russian names - sometimes it was like trying to listen to a Russian radio broadcast of a chess match - but Putin and Russia are way, way more important for Americans to learn about in 2017 than we may have thought 10-15 years earlier, and you'll come away with better insight into the games the Kremlin likes to play.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I would give this book 4.5 stars if I could. I thought it was interesting and thorough. I felt the chapter about Ramzan Kadyrov was a bit unruly, but overall this was an enjoyable read. I felt some of the descriptions of this book were a tad bit off, as Mikhail Zygar doesn’t paint Vladimir Putin as a totally inept airhead who is nothing more than a figurehead for those who secretly control him; nor does it paint him as the all powerful puppet master who solely controls everything, as Putin has b I would give this book 4.5 stars if I could. I thought it was interesting and thorough. I felt the chapter about Ramzan Kadyrov was a bit unruly, but overall this was an enjoyable read. I felt some of the descriptions of this book were a tad bit off, as Mikhail Zygar doesn’t paint Vladimir Putin as a totally inept airhead who is nothing more than a figurehead for those who secretly control him; nor does it paint him as the all powerful puppet master who solely controls everything, as Putin has been portrayed by some. I found that Zygar aimed at seeking the reality of the situation and felt he did a good job of doing so.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Paul Frandano

    A breathtaking insiders' account of the rise of Putin, the shifting configurations of his court, and - to the extent that author Zygar can divine - what goes on inside Putin's head. Based largely on interviews with members of Putin's inner circle, Zygar"s analytic history contains a revelation on virtually every page. The dramatis personae is bewilderingly Tolstoyan - the book has a useful 12 pp of thumbnails of some 150 significant Russian political personalities, 19 of whom receive chapter-len A breathtaking insiders' account of the rise of Putin, the shifting configurations of his court, and - to the extent that author Zygar can divine - what goes on inside Putin's head. Based largely on interviews with members of Putin's inner circle, Zygar"s analytic history contains a revelation on virtually every page. The dramatis personae is bewilderingly Tolstoyan - the book has a useful 12 pp of thumbnails of some 150 significant Russian political personalities, 19 of whom receive chapter-length centrality - but Zygar is a wonderful storyteller and, we must assume, an expert interviewer who weaves a complex, multilayered narrative. I wish he had been able to include a few organization and affinty/influence charts and a photo gallery that put faces to names, but the internet's there to help. This is a balanced, sensemaking document that goes a considerable way toward explaining the ways in which Putin has accumulated and uses power and to what ends he has used it. And in light of our own Russiagate and related concerns - which are well beyond Zygar's time frame - the book helps us make some sense of possible Russian motives, tactics, and anticipated results.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Olga

    A nice factual attemt to reverse engineer Mr. President and his dynamic circle of 'friends'. I would add one more star if sitautions and events were better analysed, this book jumps straight into clonlusions rather fast.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Foster

    Captivating and generally well thought out. An insight into the machinations of those around Putin with the subtext that Putin did not create 'Putin' (he initially did not want power and merely fell into his role), rather those around him did. Poignant and all-together tragic, I found Zygar's account a balanced account of the Putin era... he is a pariah in the Western world partially because we made him that way. I can't help but think how this could have ended (and continued) differently. Zygar Captivating and generally well thought out. An insight into the machinations of those around Putin with the subtext that Putin did not create 'Putin' (he initially did not want power and merely fell into his role), rather those around him did. Poignant and all-together tragic, I found Zygar's account a balanced account of the Putin era... he is a pariah in the Western world partially because we made him that way. I can't help but think how this could have ended (and continued) differently. Zygar debunks the Western-led fallacy that Putin is an all-encompassing 'Tsar of Russia' with a grand plan for Russia's global dominance (no, he is just responding to crises as they happen; an improvisation with no end game), as well as the (current) Russian-led conspiracy that the West has always been out to get Russia from the start; the main gist I got from his account is that diplomacy between the two spheres is one that from the beginning has been based on miscommunication. Zygar's account is at times dizzying, partially because of the constant name-dropping (bookmark the 'character list' in the beginning - you'll need it) and also due to its format. There were certain times in this account I was wondering why Zygar was telling me the information he was telling me - he does occasionally meander round the actual point he's trying to make. Overall however, a comprehensive and informative insight into how the post-millennial Russia turned into the Russia we hear about today.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kremlin

    Wow. I don't know how Zygar did it, but this book is literally the complete history of Russian politics in the 21st century. Outstanding work, truly. I cannot say enough positive things about this book. the word style, the flow of events, everything, it was perfect. Seeing Putin in a whole new light, and understanding the power structure surrounding him, was eye-opening. Everyone should read this book, its absolutely flawless. I wish I owned a personal copy, sadly mine was from the library. This Wow. I don't know how Zygar did it, but this book is literally the complete history of Russian politics in the 21st century. Outstanding work, truly. I cannot say enough positive things about this book. the word style, the flow of events, everything, it was perfect. Seeing Putin in a whole new light, and understanding the power structure surrounding him, was eye-opening. Everyone should read this book, its absolutely flawless. I wish I owned a personal copy, sadly mine was from the library. This book is so informative I'm honestly surprised Russia hasn't considered banning it. It literally links everything, shows the inner workings, everything in the shadows comes to light. Absolutely fascinating. Well done, Zygar, well done!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michal Mironov

    Zygar wrote an exceptional book: the reading experience feels like a dynamic thriller, but it’s stuffed with facts like an encyclopedia. The characters are as if they were cut out of the Shakespearean drama where Putin is the main tragic hero who, under pressure of events, slowly turns into a paranoid dictator. The profiles of his accomplices are similarly fascinating. There is a highly intelligent spin doctor Vladislav Surkov – a truly demonic persona resembling the worst incarnation of Machiav Zygar wrote an exceptional book: the reading experience feels like a dynamic thriller, but it’s stuffed with facts like an encyclopedia. The characters are as if they were cut out of the Shakespearean drama where Putin is the main tragic hero who, under pressure of events, slowly turns into a paranoid dictator. The profiles of his accomplices are similarly fascinating. There is a highly intelligent spin doctor Vladislav Surkov – a truly demonic persona resembling the worst incarnation of Machiavelli. Another time it’s the Chechen leader Kadyrov – a bizarre psychopath capable of committing any crime. There is only one thing they all have in common: they are deformed by power. If someone is puzzled by the question „what the hell is going on in today's Russia?“, I would recommend to start with this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Lacy

    Mikhail Zygar is a courageous and popular Russian journalist. In All the Kremlin’s Men, he gives an account of the inexplicable rise to power of Vladimir Putin and his transforming Russia to a totalitarian government in his beloved USSR image. Zygar’s narrative is based on interviews, newspaper articles, popular and trade magazines, and internal government documents. He details — to the extent he can, I would submit under Russia’s free press constraints—events in conventional, politic, and measu Mikhail Zygar is a courageous and popular Russian journalist. In All the Kremlin’s Men, he gives an account of the inexplicable rise to power of Vladimir Putin and his transforming Russia to a totalitarian government in his beloved USSR image. Zygar’s narrative is based on interviews, newspaper articles, popular and trade magazines, and internal government documents. He details — to the extent he can, I would submit under Russia’s free press constraints—events in conventional, politic, and measured terms. Yet the book has much to value due to Zygar’s viewpoint and journalistic experience. But this book should not be assessed as the singular resource for research or edification on Putin’s regime. Zygar writes clearly of events direct and disconcerting. In addition I would recommend Masha Gessen’s The Man Without a Face, Rachel Maddow’s, Blowout, Masha Gessen’s, The Future is History, Steven Lee Myers, The New Tsar, and Putin’s Kleptocracy, by Karen Dawisha.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Henri

    Such an eye-opener book! Knowing Putin only from the media distorts my perception. It seems like he is always the number one ruler in Russia, portrayed to be conflicting with US all the time. But, there is always a reason for everything. This book gives a complete history of the Kremlin from the inside out. Recommended for everyone! (so that you would not take the media as it is)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Olga Boiaryntseva

    extremely interesting but extremely disgusting as well

  19. 5 out of 5

    Elizaveta Shagina

    A must-read, very exciting, like a good detective. But also not very journalistic, more a novel about Russia than an investigation.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tomáš Zemko

    A must read, together with Peter Pomerantsev's book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    When Putin inevitably ceases to be Russia’s president, Russia analysts will be reading All the Kremlin’s Men to predict who will receive the reins and who will fight for them. One thing that becomes clear in this book is that the democratic liberal opposition (e.g. Alexei Navalny) has virtually no chance of “making it” when Putin leaves power. It is Putin’s inner circle, rather, who are going to be deploying their assets and allies against each other, racking up power or fighting to reclaim it. I When Putin inevitably ceases to be Russia’s president, Russia analysts will be reading All the Kremlin’s Men to predict who will receive the reins and who will fight for them. One thing that becomes clear in this book is that the democratic liberal opposition (e.g. Alexei Navalny) has virtually no chance of “making it” when Putin leaves power. It is Putin’s inner circle, rather, who are going to be deploying their assets and allies against each other, racking up power or fighting to reclaim it. In this chronicle of Putin’s sixteen (as of publication) years of rule, Mikhail Zygar illustrates how Putin’s closest friends control industries, execute orders, and occasionally dare to dream of more power. If Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin is about Putin as the CEO of Russia, All the Kremlin’s Men is about how the inner circle carries out the CEO’s missives and backstabs each other along the way. Over the years, a pretty unchanging cast of characters has been jockeying for influence. The more loyal to Putin someone is (without being too loyal), the more power they get. Conversely, the more personal ambition they show, the more suspiciously Putin regards them. Igor Sechin, Sergei Shoigu, Vyacheslav Volodin — these are the most likely candidates to inherit power. Those who once had favor but are now shunned, like Dmitri Medvedev, Alexei Kudrin, and Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, have far more resources and allies to take on Putin’s loyalists than any democratic oppositioner. Zygar says that that what outsiders see as “Putin” is really a conglomerate Putin, the collective result of impulsive and calculated decisions made by Putin and his inner circle. I think Zygar overstates his case somewhat. The conglomerate Putin idea may hold in domestic policy, but Zygar makes it clear that Putin personally oversees foreign policy moves like the Crimean annexation and the Syrian war. After all, if there’s one thing that scares him to his core, it’s the idea of a color revolution. Putin sees color revolution as a personal affront: he sincerely believes he is the only one who can lead Russia. He didn’t start out anti-West (he wanted to join NATO early in his presidency), but once the West in his view started sponsoring color revolutions, they became his enemy. All the machinations of his inner circle can’t convince Putin to stop fearing revolution.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rāhul

    Between 2000 and 2016, Vladimir Putin and Russia went from being, respectively, a modernizer craving western approval and a has-been empire falling apart, to the most decisive geopolitical players in the middle east and eastern Europe, driven incessantly to undermine American uni-polarity worldwide. This book is an exploration of Putin and his courtiers, attempting to explain the compulsions, ideology and inner workings of the Kremlin, and how it has changed over Putin's decade and a half at the Between 2000 and 2016, Vladimir Putin and Russia went from being, respectively, a modernizer craving western approval and a has-been empire falling apart, to the most decisive geopolitical players in the middle east and eastern Europe, driven incessantly to undermine American uni-polarity worldwide. This book is an exploration of Putin and his courtiers, attempting to explain the compulsions, ideology and inner workings of the Kremlin, and how it has changed over Putin's decade and a half at the helm. In the waning years of the Yeltsin administration, the Russian economy was in free-fall and NATO was steadily expanding towards Russia's borders. As a former KGB man, but still an outsider to the Kremlin, Putin's initial years focused on consolidation. The second Chechen war and linked terrorist attacks helped Putin drive a nationalist security agenda. Raised in St. Petersburg politics, Putin's instincts were to integrate Russia into the west, but not as a Poland or a Baltic state that enjoys the NATO security umbrella while being subservient strategically to the US-led order, but as an equal pole of the west with interests of its own. Despite his friendship with Bush and Blair and multiple attempts to link Russia's terrorism problem with that of the west post-9/11, such an accommodation did not come to pass. History does have consequences, and the Soviet Union did lose the cold war. For the US, Russia couldn't expect parity, and had to come to terms with its miltary/strategic loss, technological backwardness and declining future prospects indicated by emigration and shrinking birth rates. In addition, despite the US hypocrisy that Putin would later point out with glee regarding allies like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, NATO did have a deeply held core principle of shared values gathered around liberal democracy that Putin's Russia couldn't live up to. Bit by bit, this chasm between the west and Russia, arising both out of power politics and societal values, dawned ever wider, culminating in Putin's 2007 speech in Munich castigating the west and indicating that Russia would stop seeking honorary membership of the west and use its raw power to take back as much of the prestige and influence of the Soviet Union, as it could. In subsequent years, he stressed Russia's independent world view, shaped by Eurasian-ism, the vast underpopulated riches of Siberia, and the history of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. With Obama's election and the interlude of Dmitry Medvyedev's presidency, there was perhaps an opportunity to "reset" the relations but it was soon clear that Medvyedev's role was only to keep the seat warm for Putin to return, and Obama's rather naive idealism collided with the realpolitik of the world in multiple losses to US foreign policy that only drove Russia and the USA apart. When the west used a UN a no-fly zone to force Gaddafi's removal from office,authoritarian regimes from those of Putin to the Ayatollah to Kim Jong-Un saw a possible script for their own later demise, and raced for military advantage, be that Russian action in Syria & Ukraine, Iran's in all of the middle-east and North Korea's determination to arm itself with a nuclear deterrent. With hindsight, it is unclear what the west could have done to integrate post-soviet Russia with the western alliance. Many tried, but ran up against essential differences between the way Russia is organized and run, and the values the west holds dear (most of the time). Vladimir Putin is often portrayed in the west as a dictator with absolute control over Russia and the fount of all its "thuggery". This book puts Putin's rise in perspective, and shows how he is shaped and informed by the compulsions of Russian national interests, the Kremlin's survival interests, and the interests of the oligarchs and regional satraps in this sprawling country. With declining (now stabilizing, but still not showing signs of expanding) human resources, continued Islamist threats from the Caucusus, Siberian and arctic resources becoming ever more significant with climate change, and a relative decline vis-a-vis other world powers, Russia's interests in the 21st century are likely to make it more oligopolic and reliant on resource-trade and crude power politics unless the whole Russian empire itself collapses. This book achieves an interesting feat of maintaining chronology while tying each chapter to a Kremlin courtier most decisive in influencing Putin's thinking & actions during that time. In perhaps a reflection of Russian society, it is interesting that not a single one of these Kremlin influencers is female. The book ends with the beginning of Russia's decisive action in favor of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, which would later undemine US policy in the region and succeed in crushing the Syrian opposition. Russia would go on to have an even more unlikely role in undermining the US administration internally, helping topple the Washington elite and elect a protest candidate, Trump, whose foreign policy favors a retreat of US forward deployment in Eurasia and strike a detente with Russia. President Trump would be hamstrung by the Washington establishment from doing all that, but it is a remarkable turn of events when a written-off Russia can resist US efforts at regime change in Russia, and in-turn help elect a US president fundamentally opposed to the post-war American consensus of serving as the global policeman. Putin has been crude, and he might well have overstretched and could unravel soon, but he has demonstrated that the US can clearly not write-off Russia just yet. Those with the long view realize that the major economic and military powers of the world in the 21st century will be China and the USA. Russia neighbors China and will increasingly find itself sucked into a pax Sinica as a resource supplier destined to permanent technological lag and strategic dependence. The US can still maintain hegemony in the Americas but its policing role in Asia will be increasingly undermined and reversed by an assertive China. In the longer-term, Russia's optimal role could be as a swing power balancing between US-linked western Europe and Chinese-dominated eastern Asia. However, the bitter enmity in the US-Russia relationship today leaves it a much weaker relationship than that between Russia and China. With all the water that has flown under the bridge, perhaps it will take a new generation of leaders to strike a new US-Russia modus vivendi that suits both parties' interests. Books like this will help much more in that endeavor than one-sided propaganda that washes over the media in both countries.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Marshall

    I did enjoy the author's encapsulation of the Putin years. He does cover some familiar ground here, The Invention of Russia by Arkady Ostrovsky and Nothing is True, but Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev. Whereas in the two former books we got the perspective of the media, print and TV respectively, here we see the politicians that media manipulation, both at home and abroad, is meant to serve. I cannot help thinking that all three books provide different approaches to the same phenomeno I did enjoy the author's encapsulation of the Putin years. He does cover some familiar ground here, The Invention of Russia by Arkady Ostrovsky and Nothing is True, but Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev. Whereas in the two former books we got the perspective of the media, print and TV respectively, here we see the politicians that media manipulation, both at home and abroad, is meant to serve. I cannot help thinking that all three books provide different approaches to the same phenomenon, that of Putin and his evolving views of Russia in the 21st century. It doesn't matter what system of government Russia says it has, its natural one is autocracy and the supreme autocrat, the Russian state, and other societal all have their interests combined into one set of shared hierarchical goals. With the establishment of the supreme autocrat, there is a court and this book chronicles the Putin court. The profiles of Putin's courtiers are interesting and their construction seems to rely on gossip as well as news reports. While I think there may be a tendency to try and needlessly pigeonhole several of them, this probably as good as it gets until the archives are opened and all secrets are revealed. Still I can't help thinking that this book is best read in conjunction with Inventing Russia and Nothing is Real, Everything is Possible.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Zelony

    Demonstrates the same pace and source knowledge as Sale of the Century. The analysis seems balanced and supports the idea that the system creates it leader. The conclusion is therefore pretty depressing that Russia is destined to lock horns with western powers for a long time after Putin has shuffled off this mortal coil

  25. 4 out of 5

    Momovsky

    One of the greatest book I've read about modern russian history. It's fulfilled with hidden facts right from Kremlin. Book has been written by famous journalist so the terrible story of Putin the First becomes just another light novel. And that's awesome.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Fuller

    Well reported history of the evolution of the cleptocracy.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jay Waghray

    So Putin plays hockey 🏒

  28. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Vladimir Putin is an interesting character. He's been at the seat of power in a powerful country for a fairly long time (20 years), so long that Russian children have been born and come of age without knowing any other president. He is simultaneously respected, feared, hated, and admired by leaders across the globe. His image is of a person who always remains one step ahead of his foes, someone who can beat you at chess in under 20 moves while standing shirtless on top of a bear he had just stra Vladimir Putin is an interesting character. He's been at the seat of power in a powerful country for a fairly long time (20 years), so long that Russian children have been born and come of age without knowing any other president. He is simultaneously respected, feared, hated, and admired by leaders across the globe. His image is of a person who always remains one step ahead of his foes, someone who can beat you at chess in under 20 moves while standing shirtless on top of a bear he had just strangled to death, aviator sunglasses and military boots on. At the same time he was not any kind of political player prior to 1997, his only experience being a career in the KGB/FSB and a position as an aide to Anatoly Sobchak, liberal mayor of Petersburg. Upon acceding to the presidency, he was not perceived as threatening by the oligarchs who had recently bought all the formerly state-owned companies in Russia in the "loans for shares" scheme and now surrounded him. Berezovsky thought he could make deals with him. Khodorkovsky believed he could defeat him. Most others in the early 2000s were simply waiting to see the winds change and then move in for the kill. It's 2018 now and the vast majority of those oligarchs are long vanquished, either dead, in jail, or otherwise neutralized. The West (America, Britain, et al) thought they could play ball with him and he certainly wanted just that in the beginning. Tony Blair was his friend, George Bush famously "saw his soul." Economics and mutual respect was all that mattered according to Putin himself in the early aughts. Russia is a great country that has been shamed and deserves to be returned to its rightful place at the top of the food chain of nations, he believed, and as long as the Americans work together with us on certain issues and don't stand in our way on others and we all make money, why fight? It's 2018 now and Russia has been kicked out of the G8 - now G7, dozens of Russian politicians and businessmen have been hit with sanctions by the US and EU, and the country is turning into a leader among other international misfits such as Turkey and Venezuela. Former Soviet vassal states and their leaders have tried, mostly in vain, to break the Russian yoke in the ensuing 27 years since the collapse of the USSR. Most of those leaders have had to deal with a Putin-led Russia. Different tactics have produced similar results. Mikheil Saakashvili (Georgia) tried to intimidate Putin with his brash attitude. Viktor Yanukovich (Ukraine) interestingly attempted to bumble his way into the arms of Europe through trade agreements. Both of them no longer reside in the countries in which they served as president. Somehow it's all connected to Putin. Mikhail Zygar is a news junkie, the founder of Russia's main opposition television channel, TV Rain. His book on Putin and his court of 21st century boyars is very well-researched, told from the point of view of a journalist who had covered all of the events first-hand in shorter pieces. If you are a "Russia watcher" and have been paying attention since 1998, this book serves as a nice recap of the story of Putin and those who have surrounded him. If you have a casual knowledge of Russian politics, this book will give you a much deeper understanding of how the system "works" over there. For the uninitiated who might be wondering why so much emphasis is given specifically to Putin by international media, a quote from Vyacheslav Volodin, Putin's former top aide, will help: "Putin is Russia. Russia is Putin. Without Putin, Russia would not exist."

  29. 5 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    (Audiobook) This work, an account that spans the leadership career of Vladimir Putin, attempts to cast aside the various myths and false perceptions about arguably the most powerful man in the world. Written by a Russian journalist, this work does not only focus on Putin, but also the various figures that come and go throughout his time in power. It is a chronological work, going from Putin's surprising rise to Prime Minister under Yeltsin to his position as unquestioned leader of the Russian na (Audiobook) This work, an account that spans the leadership career of Vladimir Putin, attempts to cast aside the various myths and false perceptions about arguably the most powerful man in the world. Written by a Russian journalist, this work does not only focus on Putin, but also the various figures that come and go throughout his time in power. It is a chronological work, going from Putin's surprising rise to Prime Minister under Yeltsin to his position as unquestioned leader of the Russian nation. His outlook on power and the West evolved over time, where he started as a man looking for acceptance from the West as an ally of strength to viewing the West as the greatest evil facing Russia. The work covers the successes and failures, including the Georgian and Ukrainian conflicts as well as Russia's re-emergence in the Middle East, all the while, Putin evolves into the power-hungry figure he is today. This work does not cover the release of the Panama Papers, nor Russia's involvement in the 2016 US elections, but given how Zygar describes Putin and his inner circle, it would be hard not to think that Putin would take an active role in making such a move against the West. Sometimes, the various Russian names and personas can be hard for a non-Russian to follow, but overall, you will leave this work with a better understanding of not only Putin, but also his evolving inner circle of friends. The reader is okay, but he falls into the standard trap of reading quotes in a bad Russian accent. Still, for any who are interested in learning about a key adversary facing America, this is worth the time.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    'The new US president (George W. Bush) also believed that he had to engage with Putin for the sake of good future relations. Bush initially thought that Russia could become a typical European country like Germany ------ not a superpower like the United States or China, but a normal prosperous nation.' I gasped when I read this, is the above American president aware of the concept; 'know your enemy.' How can you under estimate the power of a country like Russia that goes back centuries and has it' 'The new US president (George W. Bush) also believed that he had to engage with Putin for the sake of good future relations. Bush initially thought that Russia could become a typical European country like Germany ------ not a superpower like the United States or China, but a normal prosperous nation.' I gasped when I read this, is the above American president aware of the concept; 'know your enemy.' How can you under estimate the power of a country like Russia that goes back centuries and has it's own unique ideology and modus operandi. This book gives an overview of the politics since the rise of Vladimir Putin from head of the KGB to Russian President and the layers of power and agendas in the Kremlin. The politics play like an intricate game of chess set in a maze of courtiers. Really this book doesn't leave on a comforting note. Russian economy is stressed, some in the Kremlin believe a 3rd World War could be a solution and the strain of difference still transpires with the West. As Putin states: '"Do not harbor any illusions", he once told US vice president Joe Biden, according to a civil servant who was part of the negotiations. " We are not like you. We only look like you. But we're very different. Russians and Americans resemble each other only physically. But inside we have very different values."

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