In this small, spare book, Simons is the first to address one of the key failings of U.S. Russia policy, although in his gentle nudging he cares less about delivering criticism of the past than he does about offering guidelines for the future. To understand Russia and the rest of the post-Soviet space, he argues, the pieces have to be put together and treated as a composite. That is, all of the post-Soviet states must be understood in the context of the stumblings, contradictory paths, and disappointment of Western hopes that they have in common. When it comes to U.S. policy, patience and taking the long view is what Simons urges: accepting civil society's dim near-term prospects and the consequent need to engage those who command the state, while working to gradually transform those leaders. Simons is not despairing. "Today," he writes, "nearly two decades after the Soviet Union dissolved, Russia's state-nationalism-without-content makes the rest of the world the arbiter of Russian national identity."
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