Galeotti’s book makes no claim to be comprehensive. It skimps on some details (such as the role of the Orthodox Church) and gets others wrong (Russia’s coup attempt in 2016 was in Montenegro, not Macedonia). He biffs the alarmists, but they have quite often been right. Who foresaw the attempted murders in Salisbury, the war in Ukraine, or Russia’s successful military adventure in Syria?
Although the book was written before the latest deep dip in the Russian leader’s poll ratings, Galeotti writes convincingly about the fin-de-siècle atmosphere hanging over the Kremlin. There are parallels to the Brezhnev era, he writes, with a leader who began as an effective administrator, but ended up as a cartoon-like dotard surrounded by yes-men.
Mark Galeotti, in We Need to Talk About Putin, has distilled a great deal of research and thought into a slim and engaging volume that reads like a primer for anyone poised to enter a negotiation with the Russian president. What makes Putin tick? It’s not money, Galeotti says. Apparently, Putin doesn’t even know where his own money is stashed or how much he has...Putin is, however, a “gut-level patriot who believes that Russia should be considered a great power … because it’s Russia”. Convinced that he has “raised Russia up from its knees”, he sees relations with the west as a zero-sum game in which the country’s own interests can only be advanced by obstructing and subverting western agendas.