Aslund--an expert on the Soviet economy and its reforming successors--along with his colleague Jeffrey Sachs, was there from the start, and he gives the reader all the flavor of what it was like to strike up a relationship with former Prime Minister Yegor T. Gaidar and the other bright young Western-oriented economists at the moment of their triumphant assignment as architects of economic reform for a newly independent Russia.
From that insider's perspective, he faults Gaidar and the others for failing to go far enough fast enough or to attend to politics and the building of an adequate political base. They paid, he argues, by running out of time very early. Most of their macroeconomic reform designs were cut short six months after they started.
Most of their mistakes, however, as Aslund judges matters, involve the things they did not do rather than those they did. He has no patience for those who argue that the Gaidar reform was too radical for Russia. In fighting inflation and creating a stable macroeconomic environment there is for him a single universe, and Russian politicians and contrarians, whatever their frustrations and shibboleths, cannot escape that fact. Those who have fought this line are not going to be persuaded by Aslund's book, but they, like the rest of us who are more agnostic, will profit greatly from his detailed, intelligent analysis of the massive economic problems that the Yeltsin regime has faced.