Who Is Vladimir Putin?
Philip Short’s “Putin” is an impressive biography but one that necessarily lacks the final chapters of the story.
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PUTIN , by Philip Short
In the days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Moscow suddenly felt different. My wife and I, serving there as correspondents, were overwhelmed by expressions of sympathy and solidarity. Russians we had never met faxed condolence letters. A teary-eyed stranger stopped me on the street brandishing a picture of herself at the World Trade Center from a trip years earlier. The outside of the American Embassy was carpeted with flowers, icons, crosses, candles and a note that said, “We were together at the Elbe, we will be together again.”
A young master of the Kremlin named Vladimir Putin seemed to take that to heart, pledging steadfast support for the United States. For a heady moment, it seemed as if the planet’s two dominant nuclear powers would rekindle the World War II alliance that led Russian and American troops to meet at Germany’s Elbe River in 1945. But now as then, it would not last. The sense of good will soon evaporated, and the illusion that Putin was a Western-oriented modernizer was shattered. Two decades later, Russia and America are facing off in a twilight struggle in Ukraine arguably as dangerous as the Cold War that followed the defeat of the Nazis.
Was that Putin’s fault or ours? Did we misjudge him or did we mislead him? Was it inevitable that Putin would come to see himself as a latter-day Peter the Great seeking to re-establish the czarist empire or could we have done more to anchor a post-Soviet Russia in the community of nations? Never have those questions been more profoundly relevant. Now weighing into the debate is the British journalist Philip Short, with his expansive new biography, “Putin,” which sees the rift between East and West largely through the eyes of its protagonist.
Short’s account is both perfectly and unfortunately timed, arriving just when we most need to understand Putin, yet missing the chapter that may yet define his place in history. The invasion of Ukraine does not take place until Page 656 of a 672-page text, having erupted just as Short was completing eight years of research and composition. Such is the peril of writing biographies of figures who are still alive and not finished writing their own stories.
But if the story is unavoidably incomplete, Short’s version nonetheless offers a compelling, impressive and methodically researched account of Putin’s life so far. He plumbs an array of sources, including his own interviews, to reconstruct the tale of a street brawler from a bleak communal apartment in postwar Leningrad who embarks on a mediocre career as a midlevel K.G.B. officer in East Germany only to make a stunning leap to power in Moscow following the chaos of 1990s post-Soviet Russia.
Short, a former journalist with the BBC, The Economist and The Times of London, adds to the library of insightful books about the Russian autocrat, including “The New Tsar,” by Steven Lee Myers; “Mr. Putin,” by Fiona Hill and Clifford G. Gaddy; “The Man Without a Face,” by Masha Gessen; and “Putin’s World,” by Angela Stent. But unlike those Russia specialists, he comes to his subject as a chronicler of some of history’s biggest villains, having written biographies of Pol Pot and Mao Zedong.
As critics observed about those volumes, Short’s determination to present a fully realized portrait of Putin may strike some as excessively sympathetic. “The purpose of this book is neither to demonize Putin — he is more than capable of doing that himself — nor to absolve him of his crimes,” Short writes, “but to explore his personality, to understand what motivates him and how he has become the leader that he is.”
In fact, he does absolve Putin of several crimes. Short opens with an extended examination of the never-solved apartment bombings of 1999 that were blamed on Chechen terrorists but suspected of being a government conspiracy to cement Putin’s path to power. Short exonerates Putin. He may be right; no one has ever definitively proved the case. But it is a curious way to start a book about an autocrat who is currently bombing plenty of other apartments in Ukraine. He likewise absolves Putin of notorious political attacks against the likes of Sergei Skripal, Anna Politkovskaya and Boris Nemtsov, while allowing that he probably was responsible for the gruesome poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London.
Yet Short’s book is no hagiography. He extensively covers the dark moments of Putin’s career — the leveling of Grozny during the second Chechen war, the reckless handling of the Moscow theater siege, the cynical exploitation of the terrorist attack on a school in Beslan to consolidate power, the crackdown on dissent at home, including the poisoning and imprisonment of Alexei A. Navalny. The Putin of Short’s book is not someone you would invite to dinner; he is crude and cold, arrogant and heartless. He is unmoved when his wife is in a serious car accident or when his dog is run over. His wife, a believer in astrology, once said he must have been born under the sign of the vampire. She is now, not surprisingly, his ex-wife.
There are small errors — Short writes, for example, that Start II was “still unratified by the U.S. Congress” in 2010 when in fact the treaty was ratified in 1996 — but these invariably slip into any work of this size and scope. More debatable may be some of his conclusions in which he adopts the Russian view. He equates Putin’s forcible annexation of Crimea to Western support for Kosovo’s independence, dismissing differences between the two as “nuances.” Indeed, Kosovo is one of “the West’s three cardinal sins” in Putin’s eyes “that had destroyed both sides’ hopes of building a better, more peaceful world after the collapse of the Soviet Union” (along with withdrawing from the Antiballistic Missile treaty and expanding NATO). Every Russian outrage is likened to some Western perfidy. Yes, the Russians interfered in the 2016 election but “the United States had done the same.” The deterioration in relations had a certain “inevitability” that was “largely the result of a series of Western, essentially American, decisions.”
Short advances the Russian argument that America betrayed a “promise” by Secretary of State James A. Baker III in 1990 that NATO jurisdiction would not move “one inch to the east.” In fact, there was no promise. Baker floated the idea during negotiations over reunification of Germany but later walked it back, and no such commitment was included in the resulting treaty that did extend NATO to East Germany with Moscow’s assent. By contrast, Short makes no mention of an actual promise Russia made in a 1994 agreement guaranteeing Ukraine’s sovereignty and forswearing the use of force against it, an accord Putin has obviously broken.
Indeed, Short accepts Putin’s explanation for his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. “The State Department,” he writes, “insisted that the war had nothing to do with NATO enlargement and everything to do with Putin’s refusal to accept Ukraine’s existence as an independent state, which may have been good spin but was poor history.” Unless you read Putin’s own 5,000-word poor history published last year refusing to accept Ukraine’s existence as an independent state or remember that the invasion took place many, many years after the main NATO expansion and at a time when NATO membership for Ukraine was not seriously on the table.
It may be that all this was inevitable. It may be that the moments of Russian-American friendship were all exceptions to a generational struggle destined to be waged for decades to come. Putin seems to think so. Short recounts Putin’s memory of his meeting with Vice President Joe Biden in 2011.
“Don’t be under any illusion,” he told the future president. “We only look like you. … Russians and Americans resemble each other physically. But inside we have very different values.” Certainly, Biden would agree with that today.
PUTIN , by Philip Short | Illustrated | 864 pp. | Henry Holt & Company | $40
Peter Baker is the chief White House correspondent and has covered the last five presidents for The Times and The Washington Post. He is the author of seven books, most recently “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” with Susan Glasser, to be published in September. More about Peter Baker
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Putin: His Life and Times review – the collapse that shaped the man who would be tsar
Philip Short’s meticulous new biography forces us to look at Vladimir Putin’s most appalling acts from a Russian perspective
I n his speech on the night of the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, which Philip Short describes as “pulsating with anger and resentment” at 30 years of Russian humiliation, Putin seethed: “They deceived us… they duped us like a con artist… the whole so-called western bloc, formed by the United States in its own image is… an empire of lies.” For those who dismiss the speech and the invasion that followed as the words and actions of a man gone mad, dying or out of contact with reality due to Covid isolation, this new biography should be compulsory reading.
As Short observes, however authoritarian and corrupt modern Russia may be, “national leaders invariably reflect the society from which they come, no matter how unpalatable that thought may be to the citizens”. While his people may have been as surprised as the rest of the world at the timing, the invasion hardly came out of the blue and many Russians, not all blinded by propaganda, support it. For as the foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, commented a couple of weeks later: “This is not actually, or at least primarily… about Ukraine. It reflects the battle over what the world order will look like. Will it be a world in which the west will lead everyone with impunity and without question?”
Refreshingly, Short, in this meticulous biography of a man portrayed elsewhere as a 21st-century monster, refuses to moralise, opting instead to lay out how Putin’s recent actions can be seen as the consequence of the 30 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The former BBC correspondent is at his best when pushing us to see the world from a Russian perspective. The importance of this is neatly illustrated in the publisher’s own claims for the book: “What forces and experiences shaped him [Putin]? What led him to challenge the American-led world order that has kept the peace since the end of the cold war?” Short relentlessly traces the journey Putin has taken in rejecting that “peace”, the Pax Americana, the unipolar world in which, according to Russia expert Strobe Talbott, then US deputy secretary of state, “the US was acting as though it had the right to impose its view on the world”. From Moscow, Putin watched the US openly intervene in elections whenever it chose, encourage the break-up of the sovereign state of Serbia using bombs, invade Iraq on a tissue of falsehoods and then overthrow Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi without any UN resolution. As Putin commented in one of his acid asides that pepper Short’s account, when it came to concocting fables “those of us in the KGB were children compared to American politicians”. No wonder Xi Jinping of China and much of the world demur at the west’s claim to have done nothing to provoke the nightmare that has descended on Ukraine.
For all his recent whitewashing of Stalinism and Soviet history, in the early 1990s Putin understood the 1917 revolution had taken the country to an economic and political dead end. In his words, “the only thing they had to keep the country within common borders was barbed wire. And as soon as this barbed wire was removed, the country fell apart.” Yet running through all Putin’s thinking was a clear belief that the break-up of the Union in 1991 was a catastrophe for Russia; what was lost was not the Soviet dream but a country that physically stretched from Poland to the Pacific and historically back to Peter the Great and before. Putin mourned: “It was precisely those people in December 1917 who laid a time bomb under this edifice… which was called Russia… they endowed these territories with governments and parliaments. And now we have what we have.” Except we do not. For Putin and many of his fellow Russians have never understood how a country they believe saved the world from fascism at staggering personal cost just 50 years before dissolved in a matter of weeks.
Strikingly, the occasions Short records when outsiders have witnessed Putin’s inscrutable mask fracture nearly all relate to these “lost” lands, countries whose independent existence was to him an impossible outrage. There is the rant about Estonia to the British ambassador or former French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s magnificent record of Putin’s “violent diatribe” over Georgia and its leader, who should be “hung by his balls”. That only ended when Sarkozy retorted: “So your dream is to end up like Bush, detested by two-thirds of the planet?” Putin burst out laughing. “You scored a point there.” Finally, most importantly, over Ukraine, which, whisper it quietly, in its present shape truly was a creation of Stalin and Khrushchev. The tragedy may be that it has taken Putin’s actions, the atrocities committed by the Russian army and tens of thousands of deaths, to finally prove Ukraine’s existence to the man himself.
Critics point to Putin’s work for the KGB as revealing the core of the man, as so often investing its members with inhuman powers of control, deception, amorality and evil. Short, instead, places the real shaping of the man both before and after his KGB years. Born in the harsh courtyards of postwar Leningrad, he emerged a cautious operator, shy and unreadable, but with a startling streak of brutality. Working for the city’s famously liberal mayor through the whirlwind of chaos and violence that swept his city and Russia in the early 1990s, he forged lasting bonds with everyone from the new business elite to leading mafia bosses and senior players in the Kremlin. He labelled himself a bureaucrat, not a politician. Avoiding conspicuous consumption and not known for swimming in the oceans of corruption around him, he was at the same time not above buying himself a dissertation towards a Candidate of Sciences degree, whose subject was “Strategic Planning for the Rehabilitation of the Mineral Resources Base in the Leningrad Oblast”. Its true author, according to Short, would later receive “several hundred million dollars’ worth of shares”. Loyalty is a trademark and his friends have done very, very well over the years, as the puritan has spectacularly lost his inhibitions. His subsequent rise was public yet shadowy, a sequence of well-chosen battles engaged when he knew he could win.
Ironies haunt the book: “Those who believe that [military force] is the most efficient instrument of foreign policy in the modern world will fail again and again… One cannot behave in the world like a Roman emperor,” he said after one US military adventure. Equally haunting are the lost opportunities to avoid rubbing a proud nation’s nose in their defeat at every turn: expanding Nato to Russia’s very borders, breaking at the very least the spirit of clear promises; or not taking seriously Putin’s coherent attempt to create a joint front against radical Islam after 9/11, when he defied his own military’s cold war warriors to help Bush. Torture in Chechnya, it seems, can never be the same as torture in Guantánamo or Abu Ghraib to the victors. “We won, they didn’t,” trumped Bush senior in 1991; Clinton said “Yeltsin could eat his spinach”, while Obama more recently dismissed Russia as simply a “regional” power.
Short is too astute to indulge in easy post-event speculation about different outcomes. Instead, he charts the inexorable march away from the genuine more liberal aspirations of Putin’s early days to the harsh autocratic isolated tsar of recent years, from a Russia culturally and mentally in Putin’s words “an inalienable part of Europe” to the present rupture, which will surely separate it for at least a generation. Who remembers that Putin asked the BBC’s Bridget Kendall to moderate the first of his annual phone-ins to speak to the nation and the world? Now, he talks of the end of the “so-called liberal idea” while promoting traditional Russian spiritual values, the collective over the individual, rejecting the west in tones redolent of Soviet propaganda. But will a younger generation who have grown up feeding on internet social media, able to travel freely and getting information how and when they like, really admire an authoritarian regime that is rotten to its core? That was the challenge laid down by the anti-corruption campaigner, Alexei Navalny, and he had to be locked away . Can the ageing tsar, whose acolytes still seem keen to educate their offspring in Britain and the US when not out sailing on ever-larger yachts, really believe himself a persuasive model for those ancient values?
There is a blank evenness to Short’s prose, a steady accumulation of information built through intelligence and concentration on detail with emotions coiled tight, which makes this book a perfect mirror to its subject. He calls Putin a liar, regularly, but again and again he pulls back from laying direct responsibility on him for some of the more egregious acts. “Hard to judge” or “Nothing concrete suggests” and other such qualifiers litter his accounts of critical moments. Sometimes, they usefully temper the more extreme personal charges against Putin. Overall, however, they let him escape true responsibility, not for individual crimes, but for failing to transform Russia, instead reaching back to an arthritic mythical past, not forward to a different future.
The result is a step-by-step journey, whose penultimate chapter is a little surprisingly called “The Endgame”, hobbled by being published as the climax approaches, not after the event. Short, let alone history, has not had time to judge the success or failure of the latest horrifying act in Putin’s astonishing drive to make Russia great again.
Film-maker Angus Macqueen has helped create a platform of award-winning documentaries, Russia On Film
Putin: His Life and Times by Philip Short is published by Bodley Head (£30). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com . Delivery charges may apply
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clock This article was published more than 1 year ago
A biography that gives Vladimir Putin the benefit of the doubt
How did Vladimir Putin go from calculating pragmatist to reckless empire-builder? And why did he embark on an unprovoked war that will leave Russia weaker, poorer, more isolated and deglobalized? As the Russia-Ukraine war of attrition grinds on, Putin seems to have achieved the opposite of what he intended. The West so far remains united and willing to bear the costs of robust economic and energy sanctions. Its weapons deliveries enable Ukraine to push back against Russian territorial gains. Ukrainians — including Russian-speaking ones — have consolidated a national identity that defines itself in opposition to Russia. Finland and Sweden have jettisoned decades of neutrality to join NATO . And NATO, after the Afghanistan debacle, is stronger than it has been for some time and has discovered a new mission, which is really its old one: containment of Russia.
In his long, sprawling book, British journalist Philip Short covers Putin’s life and depicts the environment in which he grew up, worked as a KGB case officer, served as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg and eventually became president of Russia. Short spent eight years writing “ Putin ,” which is exhaustively researched. The book contains some new material based on extensive interviews, but much of this discussion will be familiar to people who have read previous books about Putin by, among others, Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy , Masha Gessen , Steven Lee Myers , Peter Baker and Susan Glasser , Karen Dawisha , Catherine Belton and Mark Galeotti. Short’s goal, he writes, is neither to demonize nor to absolve Putin, but to understand what motivates him. And in his telling, the United States bears much of the blame for what Russia and Putin have become.
Putin operates in the opaque world of the Russian security services. The sources of his corruption, his responsibility for the many murders or poisonings of opponents, and the exact story of how he came to power continue to provoke heated debate in a world where disinformation thrives. Short recounts Putin’s hardscrabble childhood in postwar Leningrad, his indifferent academic record, and the German and martial arts teachers who saved him from an unpromising future. Notably, he downplays the influence of the KGB on his evolution as a person and as a leader. “Putin was already Putin before he joined the KGB,” Short writes. But Putin himself has explained how important his time in the intelligence agency was. Indeed, he attempted to join when he was a teenager and was told to come back after his studies. The combination of martial arts mastery and his experience as a KGB case officer in East Germany enabled him to become a skilled manipulator of people.
This portrait of Putin is more sympathetic than others. Short clearly respects Putin and what he has accomplished, and gives him the benefit of the doubt on many questions where we may never know the answer. Short blames the United States and, to a lesser degree Europe, for what has happened in Russia and for the breakdown in relations. He discusses Putin’s crimes but says the West has demonized Putin and Russia for too long. He also claims that Russia’s domestic policy has been heavily influenced by ties with the West, implying that the West is somehow guilty by association — but he never spells out how the West has affected those policies. In reality, the West has had very limited influence over Russian domestic politics since the Soviet collapse.
Whereas Short admits that Putin bears direct responsibility for the fatal poisoning of ex-KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko in Britain and for the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny , he denies that Putin was involved in the murder of opposition figure Boris Nemtsov or in the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England. The U.S. and British governments have both said the Skripal poisonings were the work of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. However, it is undeniable that Putin has created an environment in which the GRU thinks it is empowered to undertake high-profile assassinations. Short also denies that Putin was involved in the September 1999 apartment bombings that consolidated his rule just after he became prime minister, a subject of continuing debate.
Throughout the nearly 700 pages of text, Short asserts what Putin was thinking without saying what his sources are. For instance, he declares that Putin felt he had put himself out to support the United States after the 9/11 attacks and had received nothing in return. What Putin wanted was U.S. recognition of Russia’s right to a sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space, which the United States was not prepared to concede. Nonetheless, by defeating the Taliban in the fall of 2001, the United States did Moscow a great service by eliminating a threat to Russia in its own backyard, and the United States offered Russia a number of economic and other opportunities for cooperation. At the time Putin appeared to welcome these quid pro quos.
Short also questions whether Putin is as rich or corrupt as many contend he is. He attributes Western charges of corruption to a failure to understand how the Russian system works. “Whereas in the West, illicit exchanges of favors are seen as reprehensible, in Russia, as a patrimonial state, they are an intrinsic part of the system without which it could not function,” Short writes. He clearly has not been persuaded by the Panama Papers or the Paradise Papers , which indicate that the scale of multibillion-dollar corruption goes way beyond the conventional workings of patrimonial networks. The Panama Papers, for instance, revealed that Putin’s close childhood friend Sergei Roldugin had a $2 billion account in Panama, which would make him the richest cellist in the world. The Paradise Papers documented large sums of money held by Russian oligarchs with connections to Putin. Short, contrary to the conclusions of the investigative journalists who uncovered the material, claims there is no evidence that Putin has money concealed in offshore accounts.
Short is among those who blame the West for the deterioration of relations with Russia. He accuses the United States and its allies of provoking Putin to take aggressive military actions in Georgia, Ukraine and elsewhere. The original sin, for him, lies in NATO enlargement, which he depicts as a cynical U.S. move to control its European allies: “The Eastern European tail was wagging the American dog.” He reiterates the unproven claim that in 1990 U.S. Secretary of State James Baker promised the president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, that NATO would not expand if Gorbachev agreed to German unification, and Short joins the chorus of those blaming the war in Ukraine on NATO. He describes the post-Soviet territories as Moscow’s “turf.” Apparently, like Putin, he believes that these countries are not fully sovereign. And Ukraine’s potential membership in NATO was seen as a threat because Putin would not have been able to subjugate it, as he seeks to do now.
“Whataboutsim” and moral equivalence between the United States and Russia suffuse this book. When Russia or Putin is accused of something, Short points to U.S. sins and failings. For instance, he asserts that during the 2013-2014 Maidan revolution in Ukraine, neither the United States nor Russia had any real concern for Ukraine’s interests and that it is hypocritical to claim otherwise. The United States wanted only to expand its influence into areas along Russia’s borders. This is, of course, how the Kremlin interprets what the United States does. But it is not an accurate depiction of how the U.S. government viewed the situation during those months, nor of its subsequent support for Ukraine. Short’s pointing the finger at the United States hardly excuses Putin’s aggression toward his neighbors, nor his increasingly draconian crackdown on his own population.
Short correctly identifies two of Putin’s major mistakes when he invaded Ukraine. First was his failure to understand that Ukrainians and Russians are distinct Slavic nations, both with a strong sense of national identity, and that people defending their homeland have an advantage over those seeking to conquer it. His second mistake was to overestimate the capabilities of the Russian military, which was unable to take Kyiv in the first days of the war. Perhaps because he concluded this book before the full scope of Russian atrocities was known, he implies that Russia is acting differently in Ukraine than it did in Chechnya or Syria, where it destroyed Grozny and Aleppo. So far Russia has leveled Mariupol , Severodonetsk and parts of other cities, turning them to rubble , and has indiscriminately targeted civilians.
In launching this war, Putin has closed the window on the West that his venerated predecessor Peter the Great opened and has declared that Russia has pivoted to the East. Putin would not have launched this war without confidence that China would back Russia. Short claims that it would not be any more acceptable for Putin to be China’s junior partner than it would to be the United States’ junior partner. But that is precisely the choice Putin has made.
Short concludes with a surprising claim: “Just as Putin is convinced that one day, despite the war, Moscow and Kyiv will overcome their differences, he believes that America and Russia will eventually settle into a less contentious relationship.” As long as Putin is in the Kremlin, that is extraordinarily hard to imagine.
Angela Stent is a senior nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of “ Putin’s World: Russia Against the West and With the Rest .”
By Philip Short
Henry Holt. 854 pp. $40
- Published: 15 August 2023
- ISBN: 9781784700935
- Imprint: Vintage
- Format: Paperback
- RRP: $29.99
The explosive and extraordinary new biography of Russia’s leader
The monumental biography of the most influential leader on the world stage in the last twenty years.
Vladimir Putin is a pariah to the West.
He has the power to reduce the West to nuclear ashes. He invades his neighbours, meddles in western elections and orders assassinations. Yet many Russians continue to support him. Under Putin's leadership, Russia has once again become a force to be reckoned with.
Philip Short's magisterial biography explores in unprecedented depth the personality of Russia's leader and demolishes many of our preconceptions about Putin's Russia.
To explain is not to justify. Putin's regime is dark. But on closer examination, much of what we think we know about him turns out to rest on half-truths. This book is as close as we will come to understanding Russia's ruler.
About the author
Philip Short has written authoritative biographies including Mao: A Life and Pol Pot: History of a Nightmare, following a long career as a foreign correspondent for the BBC in Moscow, Washington and other world capitals.
He spent eight years researching and writing this book, working mainly from sources within Russia, but also in Britain, France, the United States and a dozen other countries.
Also by Philip Short
Praise for Putin
(Praise for Philip Short on Pot Pot ): 'A superb, chilling, yet human portrait of a monster' Simon Sebag Montefiore
(Praise for Philip Short on Pot Pot ): 'Extraordinary and brilliant' The Scotsman
(Praise for Philip Short on Mao ): 'A beautifully written, grippingly readable biography... A formidable piece of research' John Simpson, Sunday Telegraph
(Praise for Philip Short on Mitterand ): 'A stunningly detailed investigation of a monumental political character' The Independent
(Praise for Philip Short on Mitterand ): 'Deeply researched and marvellously readable' Sunday Times
(Praise for Philip Short on Mao ): 'It is everything one could hope for: magisterial, beautifully written... and rich in material' Guardian
Anyone wanting to learn more about Putin's personality, ideas, power and the threat he has come to pose to world peace should read this outstanding biography Ian Kershaw
Magisterial ... based on access to a Who's Who of senior politicians, diplomats and intelligence sources. Guardian
As a chronicle of Putin's public doings, the book is near faultless ... [with] some sharply worded insights The Times
A perfect mirror to its subject... This new biography should be compulsory reading Observer
[Offers] a number of fascinating insights into Putin [among] the massive array of facts on offer Daily Telegraph
A masterly portrait of one of the most calculating and impenetrable individuals on the world stage Irish Independent
Short brings to this project extensive research and fluid prose. This book is comprehensive in the best sense, a detailed and meticulous chronicle of Putin's life Literary Review
Stupendous ... The definitive biography of the man, and I do not expect it to be eclipsed as such in my lifetime, or ever John Evans, US Ambassador and Consul-General in St Petersburg, 1994-7
A monument of information and sober common sense. Of all the books I have read about Putin, this is the most comprehensive and sensible Rodric Braithwaite, UK Ambassador in Moscow, 1988-1992
Exceptional ... unlikely to be matched as a study of the man ... It is readable, judicious, critical but balanced and focused on Putin the person rather than on the Putin regime The Irish Times
Philip Short's timely new biography ... provides a c omprehensive, extensively researched account of Putin's life, in the process debunking some of the more tenacious clichés about the Russian leader New Statesman
Elegantly written and pacy UK Today News, The Best New Political Books August 2022
I got so absorbed in Philip Short's biography of Putin that I overshot my [train] stop Adrian Chiles, The Guardian
[A] revealing and compellingly granular biography Times Literary Supplement
An exhaustive profile Daily Telegraph, *Books of the Year*
Comprehensive Money Week
[A] meticulously researched biography Daily Mail
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Sept. 30, 2022 9:48 am ET
By Philip Short (2022)
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