Book in the news: a lively account of a turbulent relationship

Cover of From Cold War to Hot PeaceFrom Cold War to Hot Peace: The Inside Story of Russia and America
by Michael McFaul
Allen Lane, £25
Buy at Amazon

The latest book from academic Michael McFaul, who served as US ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration, “doubles as a personal memoir and an overview of US-Russian relations over the past four decades”, says Lloyd Green in The Guardian. McFaul aims to shed light on the “most geopolitically competitive relationship of the last 75 years”. The result is a “lively” read that offers “an up-close account of how Washington tried to find common ground with a Kremlin crippled by suspicion”, says Roger Boyes in The Times. Its weakness is that it ends up ”revealing more about Western naivety in the struggle to deal with a thuggish autocrat than in analysing Putin’s motives”.

“McFaul does an impressive job of self-criticism, owning up to US mistakes both big and small,” says Mary Sarotte in the Financial Times. He accepts that “the US, after the end of the Cold War, undermined those who were open to co-operation with the West by losing interest in Russian sensitivities”. But he concludes that responsibility for the present situation lies with Putin and his return to the presidency in 2012. For this reason, “McFaul sees hope for improvement… only in the distant future, once Putin leaves office”. For now, the outlook is “bleak and frightening”.