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Review Essay

The Wily Country

Understanding Putin’s Russia

In This Review

Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition, and Compromise in Putin’s Russia
Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition, and Compromise in Putin’s Russia
By Joshua Yaffa
Tim Duggan Books, 2020, 368 pp. Purchase

Not since the McCarthy era has Russia been so present in the American psyche and so close to the fevered core of American politics. But being present is not the same as being known. Russia’s recent ubiquity in U.S. politics has coincided with a precipitous decline in contact between the two countries: among diplomats (a result of U.S. efforts to isolate Russia for its misdeeds in Ukraine and elsewhere), among heads of state and political elites, among scholars, and among ordinary citizens. U.S. academic work on Russia has been steadily diminishing since the end of the Cold War. Very few Americans now learn the Russian language or study Russian history, and a great deal of U.S. journalism on Russia suffers from hyperbole, paranoia, and clichés. 

In this milieu, the journalist Joshua Yaffa has distinguished himself with his rigor, his acumen, and his nuanced voice.

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