In This Review

We Need to Talk About Putin: How the West Gets Him Wrong
We Need to Talk About Putin: How the West Gets Him Wrong
By Mark Galeotti
160 pp, Ebury Press, 2019
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Galeotti is an established authority on Russia’s criminal underworld and on the country’s formidable security service and other uniformed agencies. His new book, however, follows a trend among studies of Russia by seeking to explain what President Vladimir Putin really stands for. But unlike most such accounts, Galeotti’s manages to completely overturn the conventional wisdom. The result is easily the shrewdest and most insightful analysis yet of Putin’s policymaking. Putin is not a “cool genius,” Galeotti writes; rather, he is an opportunist without a master plan. His system is an “adhocracy,” in which lackeys do not receive direct instructions but instead rely on hints and guesses to determine what will please the boss. Putin is not a champion of conservatism; indeed, he holds no particular philosophy. There is one thing, however, Putin feels strongly about on a gut level: he is a patriot, committed to making outsiders treat Russia as a great power. Putin is not a kleptocrat, says Galeotti: wealth may be important to him, but the thing that drives him is power, not money. Some of Galeotti’s insights may not be new to close observers of Russia. But nonexperts will appreciate his brevity and his reader-friendly style.