A cogent assessment of Russia from a former CIA officer and creator of the TV show The Americans. Coming of age in the 1970s, Weisberg was taught that the Soviet Union was communist and politically repressive and the US was the opposite. Then the Soviet Union collapsed, and the new Russia embraced Christianity and capitalism but remained repressive—although less so. Relations improved but then deteriorated into what many call a second cold war. Weisberg, a levelheaded analyst, maintains that the rise of an assertive Russia under Putin convinced American leaders that the evil empire had returned.
The author adds that American politicians regularly proclaim that people throughout the world yearn for democracy, although the efforts to spread it have been uniformly disastrous. To Russians, democracy arrived in the 1990s with crime, anarchy, and severe economic hardship. Taking office in 1999, Putin reasserted government authority. The stability and prosperity that followed came with significant restrictions on freedom but also made him very popular. Unlike his Soviet predecessors, Putin kept his ambitions local, but the US didn’t see it that way. Though promising otherwise, the US swept former satellites into NATO, reviving Soviet fears of being surrounded by enemies.
Despite unedifying American policies in Cuba and Latin America, US officials denounced Russian bullying of its neighbours and supported heavy economic sanctions. Readers outraged at Russian cyberattacks may be surprised to learn that America has long been doing the same. Russian historians emphasise that America was largely founded by slave owners. When they claim that America conducted a genocidal slaughter of Native peoples, Americans often respond that Stalin killed millions—not exactly evidence of moral purity on either side. Weisberg clearly knows his stuff, and while his suggestions on how to fix matters may be too sensible to appeal to patriots from either nation, readers will have no doubt that our current approach is not working. The book is a perceptive and valuable insight into a consistently dysfunctional international relationship.
You can also check The Age Of The Strongman