Vladimir Putin is driven, outspoken and controversial. He is also a very mysterious man. While his motives may never be totally clear, Russia expert and author Richard Lourie (Sakharov: A Biography) provides some intriguing insight into what makes Putin tick in his new book, Putin: His Downfall and Russia’s Coming Crash, which raises the thought-provoking theory that Putin’s notorious and alarming behavior is actually setting himself—and Russia—up for an inevitable fall.
Delving into Putin’s backstory and how he came to his current position as president of Russia, Lourie explores Putin’s difficult childhood in Leningrad and the significance of his family connection to that era’s ruler, Joseph Stalin—Putin’s grandfather was his cook. Joining the KGB in 1975, Putin worked for counterintelligence, catching the eye of his colleagues in foreign intelligence, which led to “foreign postings, action on the front line and access to goods,” which helped fuel Putin’s desire for authority. Although many aspects of Putin’s role in the KGB remain murky, Lourie’s comprehensive research provides enlightening details of Putin’s time with the KGB, as well as an informative timeline of the fall of communism in the Soviet Union in the 1980s and ’90s, chronicling his rise to power.
While Lourie admits that Putin did restore stability and a degree of self-respect to Russia, he also references Putin’s insecurity, pointing to his 2016 decision to create a National Guard as a “sign of a person feeling vulnerable, not one brimming with confidence.” He also covers other moves and missteps, including Putin’s seizure of the media, Arctic exploitations, suppression of dissent and invasions. However, Lourie theorizes that it will actually be his “failure to diversify the economy away from its dependence on gas and oil” that will seal both his own fate and that of Russia.
A timely history lesson, Putin is a must-read for anyone interested in Russia and in understanding how current events can provide a glimpse into the future.