Pavel K Baev
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
The book, as the author admits at the very beginning, was supposed to be a warning about Russia’s commitment to and readiness for waging a multi-dimensional and irreducible confrontation with the West. By the submission of the manuscript in March 2022, the warning had become redundant. The invasion into Ukraine fits perfectly into the pattern of Russia’s aggressive behavior that is examined meticulously and supported by about 40 interviews, some with known experts and some with anonyms, like Lars – ‘a serving officer in the counter-intelligence service of a northern European country’ (p. 20). All these voices support the author’s deep conviction that the threat emanating from Russia will continue to affect for the foreseeable future not only its adversaries but also ‘those who would rather stay out of the fight’ (p. 217). This proposition may ring doubtful a year from the start of the war, which signified Russia’s departure from the ‘neither war nor peace’ scheme, first of all because its capacity for doing harm is seriously undercut. Russia’s military machine is damaged beyond repair; its ability to use energy export for blackmailing Europe is eliminated; and even the export of corruption – a very useful instrument of political warfare – is significantly curtailed. What, however, may turn out to be more significant than the sharp decline of power-projection capacity is the impact of the looming defeat on the social structures and attitudes underpinning Russia’s propensity for power politics. Internalization of the defeat, which is far from certain and can be thwarted by Moscow’s shrewd exploitation of peace processes, may free Russia from the bane of autocracy and break the pattern of confrontation, which Giles examines so convincingly.