The Russia Conundrum: How the West Fell for Putin’s Power Gambit – And How To Fix It by Mikhail Khodorkovsky with Martin Sixsmith is a book which claims to be an “urgent analysis” of the battle between the West and Russia. Unfortunately the book falls flat on its face on all fronts. While it does feature Khodorkovsky, his life and some of his experiences in the dying days of the Soviet Union, along with some black and white photos, it is definitely mistitled and is little more than fluff.
There is very little within this book about falling for or fixing the modern plot between the West and Russia. To call the book an analysis is a threat against the definition of what analysis is. The Russia Conundrum is more about Khodorkovsky than anything else and even then, is very lightly attempted. Overall, the book is a weak, light survey, and a lengthy complain with an overview of assumptions and some personal experience.
When Khodorkovsky does talk about Putin, it is in very light overtones. There’s little here available for a deep dive. It is superficial. What few unique statements Khodorkovsky does provide would also have to be checked against other sources due to Khodorkovsky’s close connection with the elites and Putin’s clashes with such groups.
Aside from these flaws, the book bounces somewhat regularly and isn’t always chronologically ordered. Neither is it ordered by groups of thought. Rather, the book is organized rather thoughtlessly, perhaps in an effort to shove out the book urgently to capitalize on the hot topic of the year.
Let us not be too deceived, the book is hardly even about Western/Russian relations or Putin’s power gambit in that way. Khodorkovsky takes the long road to arrive at the basic topic of the book. Khodorkovsky doesn’t get into the “How” until after 200 pages and he still misses the mark. According to Khodorkovsky, these problems really only begin existing around 2014/2016 and not at all where it really began with Bush and the supercharged, forgiving Obama years.
The book also compounds on the bashing of Trump, mirroring the corporate media. There are a litany of straw man concoctions, dishonest arguments against Trump and those Trump-led years while nearly forgetting the years prior. Let us suddenly forget Obama’s “Overload” (an error due to Michael McFaul’s mistranslation of “Reset”) or Bush’s line where he looked into the eyes of Putin. To further this point it seemed the other presidents had been hardly mentioned at all. Indeed, Khodorkovsky’s index mentions Bush only once and Obama a mere three times. An analysis which is an honest analysis will certainly mention these presidents more than a few times.
The book further falls apart through lacking proof or citations when they are absolutely necessary. While certain books of this type could be fine without such citations depending on the content, this content is not such a work in its entirety.
The book is a complete waste of time from start to finish and fails its subtitle “How the West Fell for Putin’s Power Gambit – And How To Fix It” in a massive way. The book never offers how the West was fooled in a convincing way nor does it state how the West ought to fix it. After all, how can it analyze Putin and Western relations when it virtually ignores the two presidents that aided him along the way? For overviews on Putin or Modern Russia, there are certainly better and more honest works available.