In This Review

Putin: Russia's Choice
Putin: Russia's Choice
By Richard Sakwa
320 pp, Routledge, 2004

Yet another political biography of Vladimir Putin, which raises the question, Why so many of him and not of the country? In fact, Sakwa comes close to writing the latter. After asking, "Who is Putin?" (answer: a functional contradiction, both a liberal and an authoritarian, in search of an equilibrium that will lead to progress and order), he lays out Putin's agenda: reform, but through the "politics of normality." From there he goes on to explore how Putin and his entourage consolidated power and then how they reworked the state-society relationship, altered the political system, rebalanced ties between the center and regions, set about "reforming the nation," advanced capitalism, and adjusted Russia's place in the world. Sakwa is sympathetic to Putin, trusts his motivations, and sees him as suited to Russia's current needs, but he is not sure that the balancing act can be maintained-or that it will lead to something durable, progressive, and genuinely democratic.