Edward Lucas is the foremost British expert on contemporary Russia. His book is an outstanding piece of research and a testimony to its author’s thorough knowledge and understanding of Russia in general, and its last seventeen years in particular. I doubt if any Russian academic would have been able to write such a work, since both a healthy distance from its subject and a penetrating sideways look are needed. It is difficult to disagree with most of Lucas’s insights.
He offers us lengthy chapters on, amongst other subjects, Vladimir Putin and the system he has gradually built up, his foreign policy, his form of ‘democracy’ and ‘elections’, and his typical KGB mentality. But the area in which Lucas is a real specialist, and almost overwhelms us with his expertise, is the Russian gas industry and Russian policy on the use of gas as a strategic weapon.
The biographical data on Putin are essentially correct. As soon as he reached the top echelon of power, by way of his career in the KGB (I am deliberately using these traditional initials to cover also its successor organisations, as they do not differ from the Soviet KGB in any