Fiona Hillis a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies program at the Brookings Institution. Trained as a historian at St. Andrews University and Harvard University, she has published extensively on a wide range of issues related to Russian and Soviet history, Russia's economic and political transition, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and energy and security issues.
Clifford G. Gaddyis a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy and Governance Studies programs at the Brookings Institution and a visiting professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University. His previous books include Russia's Virtual Economy(Brookings, 2002) and The Price of the Past: Russia's Struggle with the Legacy of a Militarized Economy(Brookings, 1996).
The great lesson of the outbreak of World War I in 1914 was the danger of misreading the statements, actions, and intentions of the adversary. Today, Vladimir Putin has become the greatest challenge to European security and the global world order in decades. Russia's 8,000 nuclear weapons underscore the huge risks of not understanding who Putin is. Featuring five new chapters, this new edition dispels potentially dangerous misconceptions about Putin and offers a clear-eyed look at his objectives. It presents Putin as a reflection of deeply ingrained Russian ways of thinking as well as his unique personal background and experience.
Praise for the first edition
If you want to begin to understand Russia today, read this book. —Sir John Scarlett, former chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)
For anyone wishing to understand Russia's evolution since the breakup of the Soviet Union and its trajectory since then, the book you hold in your hand is an essential guide.—John McLaughlin, former deputy director of U.S. Central Intelligence
Of the many biographies of Vladimir Putin that have appeared in recent years, this one is the most useful. —Foreign Affairs
This is not just another Putin biography. It is a psychological portrait. —The Financial Times
Q: Do you have time to read books? If so, which ones would you recommend? "My goodness, let's see. There's Mr. Putin, by Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy. Insightful." —Vice President Joseph Biden in Joe Biden: The Rolling Stone Interview.
The most popular proposals for Russian economic reform today — diversification, innovation, modernization — are misguided. They are based on a faulty diagnosis of the country’s ills, because they ignore a simple reality: Russia’s capital, both physical and human, is systematically overvalued, owing to a failure to account for the handicap imposed by geography and location. Part of the handicap is an unavoidable consequence of Russia’s size and cold climate. But another part is self-inflicted. Soviet policies placed far too much economic activity in cold, remote locations. Specific institutions in today’s Russia, notably its federalist structure, help preserve the Soviet spatial legacy. As a result, capital remains handicapped.
Investments made to compensate for the handicaps of cold and distance should properly be treated as costs. Instead, they are considered net additions to capital. When returns to what appear to be large quantities of physical and human capital fail to satisfy expectations, the blame naturally goes to poor institutions, corruption, backward technology, and so on. Policy proceeds along the wrong path, with costly programs that can end up doing more damage than good. The authors insist that the goal should be to seek to remove the handicaps rather than to spend to compensate for them. They discuss how Russia could develop a modernization program that would let the nation finally focus on its economic advantages, not its handicaps.