Kalb, a veteran television journalist, does here what he does best, placing the details of the crisis over Ukraine in a broader political and historical context, allowing his book to flow like a well-crafted documentary. The story and its telling are at once accessible and biting. And although he covers a great deal of history, the historical details are not merely decoration but vital to his analysis. He feels no tenderness toward Russian President Vladimir Putin, nor does he condone what Putin and his country have done in Ukraine. But mindful of the deep and complex history of Russia’s relationship with Ukraine and the stakes Russia has in the outcome of the current impasse, he underscores in blunt and unsentimental terms how Russia, for all its failings and vulnerabilities, still holds the upper hand. Any deal struck to end the crisis should be between Russia and Ukraine alone and will have to hew more closely to Russia’s terms than to those of Ukraine or its well-wishers in western Europe and the United States.
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