Long one of Russia's premier political analysts, Shevtsova has grown sharper and more charged as Russia has edged deeper into the Putin era. The country's self-seeking power elite has "used the West in order to save an anti-Western system," and many in Russia and the West who should know better have either wittingly or unwittingly played along. She calls Russia's system "bureaucratic capitalism" spliced to "imitation democracy," created by "personalized power" in the Yeltsin era and taken to its warped extreme in Vladimir Putin's. She applies her sensitive fingertip feel less to the country's deadened political pulse than to the system's interior dynamic, which she fears is unpredictable and imperiled by a regime that generates self-serving ambitions while blocking essential answers. Most of all, however, the book is a poignant appeal to the policymakers and analysts who have, as the Russian expression goes, "looked through their fingers" as Russia has passed from one lost opportunity to another. She identifies with those experts who have been most critical of her country, but when it comes to action, she aligns herself with those who want to engage Russia and give it constructive options, provided strict conditions are attached.
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