On Thursday 19 February, Richard Sakwa’s Frontline Ukraine was reviewed by Jonathan Steele for the Guardian, and hailed as ‘the best analysis yet in book form of events on the ground in eastern Ukraine as well as in Kiev, Washington, Brussels and Moscow.’
The unfolding crisis in Ukraine has brought the world to the brink of a new Cold War. As Russia and Ukraine tussle for Crimea and the eastern regions, relations between Putin and the West have reached an all-time low. Richard Sakwa’s Frontline Ukraine unpicks the story of Russo-Ukrainian relations and traces the path to the recent disturbances through five ‘revolutions’.
Steele praises Sakwa’s ability to make ‘repeated criticisms of Russian tactics and strategy’, while avoiding ‘lazy Putin-bashing’ by locating ‘the origins of the Ukrainian conflict in a quarter-century of mistakes since the cold war ended.’
Focussing on the long-simmering crises that have boiled over to produce the violence that is engulfing eastern Ukraine is, for Steele, Fronline Ukraine‘s strength:
‘The most disturbing novelty of the Ukrainian crisis is the way Putin and other Russian leaders are routinely demonised. At the height of the cold war when the dispute between Moscow and the west was far more dangerous, backed as it was by the danger of nuclear catastrophe, Brezhnev and Andropov were never treated to such public insults by western commentators and politicians.
For Steele though, breaking these taboos and looking beyond Putin as far as the problems go in Ukraine comes with a potential cost of being deemed – wrongly – apologist:
Equally alarming, though not new, is the one-sided nature of western political, media and thinktank coverage. The spectre of senator Joseph McCarthy stalks the stage, marginalising those who offer a balanced analysis of why we have got to where we are and what compromises could save us. I hope Sakwa’s book does not itself become a victim, condemned as insufficiently anti-Russian to be reviewed.’
Read Jonathan Steele’s review in full on the Guardian‘s website.
Read an extract from Frontline Ukraine on Russia’s motives and ambitions are in annexing Crimea here.