I'm just finishing up a book called Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin's Russia and the End of Revolution. It's so amazing I could not wait until I was completely finished to write a review for my adoring audience. I've been personally fascinated by the enigmatic Prime Minister of Russia ever since his mysterious rise from relative anonymity to the Presidency after the Yeltsin era in 2001. When Time Magazine awarded Vladimir Putin the 2007 Person-of-the-Year award, my fascination reached its height.
The former KGB agent, who in his younger days would never have been called particularly ambitious has always displayed a stubborn and unbending nature suited perfectly to taking on the leadership of a country as thoroughly confusing to its vascillating friends as it is to its ambiguous enemies.
Kremlin Rising written by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser is a brilliant expose of Vladimir Putin and the Russia he has shaped. It paints a picture of a leader stretched between teh old Soviet world he has grown up in and has framed his own worldviews and the new and democratic Russia he professes to desire for his people. It tells a story of a people who are tentatively enjoying their freedom and wealth and a people not quite ready to fully cut off their Soviet past and become "completely Westernized." But most of all this book is really a wonderful contribution to the "Russian question."
As former Cold War antagonists, the Russians have never experienced a firm and settled relationship with the United States. Despite the show of friendliness during the Bush administration, the intentions of Russia and its leader, continue to be misunderstood by the western world. Some countries continue to see Vladimir Putin as merely an ex KGB agent and therefore a threat to democracy and freedom. Some, more optomistically minded see only Putin the progressive (in Russian terms) reformer.
Baker and Glasser seem to consider Putin's Russia as too unstable to be able to last and his reign too volatile, but in my estimation I think he is terribly underestimated. Under Putin's leadership Russia has experienced the most growth they've known since Peter the Great. Public opinion polls are too highly in Putin's favor to be merely explained away by fear of the state.
Recently there has been talk of the current president, Dmitri Medvedev, extending the presidential term from four to six years. This extension will only apply to future presidents. There is no reason to believe that Vladimir Putin will not return to the office in 2012. In his own words the Prime Minister says, "In the Kremlin, I have a different position. Nobody controls me here. I control everybody myself."