"Lucas is right about the return of Russian autocracy, the curtailment of the media, and the fact that the country is run by some scary people." Alexander Zaitchik in the Exile, November 19, 2007
There you have it. No ellipsis, no brackets. It's on page 3 of the review of The New Cold War. I had a suspicion that we were all on the same side on this. That if you read even the Russian press, it's saying the same thing -- it's just buried beneath obligatory pages of smoke and hot air and ad hominem attacks, possibly to throw off Putin's dogs.
Lucas has some astonishing trolls on his blog, not seen since the days of the riots, they've always reminded me of a personal coterie of ne'er-do-wells who might have gone to the same public school as Ed but who perhaps chose the wrong country (Russia) to work in while Lucas ended up making a smart choice (Baltics).
And some are Russian nationalists. To them, nothing sinister is going on. Russia is simply asserting itself just like a certain Florentine philosopher might counsel. They're like, this is our day in the sun, now. Don't rain on our polonium picnic.
I haven't read The New Cold War, and probably won't get around to reading it cover to cover for a review. In another time, I might have studied it and set off for a session of spirited Usenet debate with the trolls, but I'll leave that to others.
Other than being a well-researched work, a catalogue of the charges against Putin, it is yet unclear to me what constructive purpose the book serves. For 13 years, even under Yeltsin, I remember nothing but grim cautions about how the country is a menace. Now Russia is a rich menace. Whether we agree that it's a New Cold War or not is really a semantic issue.
I think that in many ways, the situation is inevitable. Macroeconomically, Russia is just another one of those countries that has been fattened by high oil prices and the West's softness. As for the scary people in charge, they're a product of the tradition of central autocracy and perhaps the people with the lowest political IQ/savvy in the semi-developed world. Could it really be any different? I never thought Yeltsin was any different, either, it was just easier to deal with a king figure crossed with Boffo the Clown who let his country be dismantled by oligarchs while he slept. The fact that it now has a ghoulish sober leader who probably takes radioactive supplements in the morning and has his enemies killed is so much more inconvenenient for the West.