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Of the many biographies of Vladimir Putin that have appeared in recent years, this one is the most useful, particularly to foreign-policy makers, many of whom must work with a crude or muddled understanding of what makes the Russian leader tick.
The assumption behind the International Monetary Fund's recent bailout of Russia is that the country is gradually reforming its economy according to market principles. But Russia's economy is much smaller than official figures suggest. Workers, the government, and industry all accept the myth that the manufacturing sector produces value, when in fact what it makes is worth less than the labor and resources it consumes. The result is a mountain of wage and pension arrears and government debt that will continue to provoke crises. The day of reckoning will be much worse if the West does not pull the plug soon.