Conradi’s narrative manages to tell a complex story—with a much-needed sense of balanceby JP O'Malley / January 19, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Who Lost Russia? By Peter Conradi (Oneworld, £18.99)
The year 1991 was a turning point for global politics: it saw both the disbanding of the Warsaw Pact, as well as the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The narrative western politicians and intellectuals told at the time was a simple one: communism had failed and western liberal capitalism had won. Consequently, so the story went, Russia would gladly turn its head westwards and in time become a liberal democracy. Central and Eastern European states, meanwhile, would finally get to choose their own destinies.
However, as Peter Conradi’s Who Lost Russia? explains, that simple narrative dramatically changed once Boris Yeltsin left the Kremlin at the turn of the Millennium. Ever since Vladimir Putin’s rise, the west has been trying to work out how to cool its relations with Russia without starting a new Cold War.
United States presidents from Bill Clinton onwards, Conradi argues, have been confused by how to deal with Russia, and Putin’s strange hybrid of paternalism, authoritarianism, conservatism and nationalism. Equally troubling has been hisambition to reclaim Russia’s former satellite states from Soviet times: namely, Ukraine, and then eventually, the Baltic States, and perhaps further afield.