In This Review

Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia

Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia
By Marshall I. Goldman
265 pp, Oxford University Press, 2008

That Russia is back -- for both good and ill -- has dawned on many, and its surging energy prowess is a key reason why this is so. Skyrocketing oil prices have fattened the state treasury and repaired the ravaged ego of a leadership that has boldly, ruthlessly, and without quarter taken control of the country's vast energy wealth. Goldman does much more than detail the initial theft of the country's big oil-production units by oligarchs-to-be during the chaos of President Boris Yeltsin's reforms and their vengeful reconfiscation by the state under Yeltsin's successor, Vladimir Putin. With admirable simplicity, he traces Russia's full biography as one of the world's major oil suppliers, from the nineteenth century, when it rivaled the United States, through the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, to the remarkable renaissance of the moment. Goldman is at his best when he lays bare the inner politics of the regime's ham-fisted moves to dominate the Russian energy sector, add to it the pipelines of other countries, and dictate price terms to any and all customers. He is a bit less sure-footed when he spells out how he sees the oil weapon being applied to political ends, a common deficiency in much of the literature.