Hill, Fiona & Clifford G Gaddy (2015) Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press. 534 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-8157-2617-3

Ion Marandici

Rutgers University

​Despite the publication, over the years, of several English-language biographies of Vladimir Putin, the Russian President remains inscrutable. Given the hyperpersonalized nature of Russia's domestic and foreign policy, studies of Putin's leadership style are essential. In the era of big data euphoria, political scientists should, perhaps, devote more attention to the role of individual leaders in international relations. In the aftermath of Crimea's unanticipated annexation, the new and expanded Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin provides a nuanced answer to the tormenting 'Who is Mr. Putin?' question, haunting the Western public since 2000. Indeed, in accomplishing that difficult task, the volume, a well-researched psychobiography, covers the crucial dimensions of Putin's personality, operative-administrative experience, and political activity. The authors, both researchers at the Brookings Institution, convincingly elucidate the motives behind Putin's major foreign policy actions and his domestic political choices. In one of the chapters, the authors carefully trace the sources of Putin's disjointed image of the United States. 'As president, he has shown no particular interest or curiosity about America beyond its top leaders and their actions [...] the United States is abstract,' observe Hill & Gaddy. Of course, these remarks stand in stark contrast with the current, concrete investigations into Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 American presidential elections. This episode obviously deserves to be treated in the next edition of the book. It is also noteworthy that in March 2017, Fiona Hill joined the National Security Council as senior director for European and Russian Affairs. As a key adviser in the White House, now she has the chance to craft an evidence-based American policy towards Russia.