ISBN: 978-1-78738-851-2

Pavel K Baev


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As Russia’s war on Ukraine comes closer to the two-year mark, the shock of its over-predicted and still unexpected unleashing by the delusional regime is giving way to the dull pain of living in a protracted disaster. The book written by an Oxford lecturer, who has no direct exposure to the sirens of missile strikes but follows the news flow keenly and meticulously, attempts to bring back the raw feelings of the first year of the presently deadlocked war. This lengthy retracking of the ebb and flow of battles for Kherson and Bakhmut is helpful in erasing the emerging perception of the continuing human tragedy as routine; yet a deeper analysis is now necessary for understanding the transformation of the fluid manoeuvres into the stalemate of trench warfare. Ramani recites ad infinitum official statements and media stories, and his 123 pages of endnotes (the Index adds another 49 pages) contain evidence of this urge to support the barely distinguishable argument. Even in the Conclusion, instead of an attempt to distil the analysis, a reader would proceed from ‘Prigozhin rallied against the failure of elites’ (p. 402) to ‘Satanovsky waxed lyrically’ (p. 408). The proposition that the decision to launch the aggression was driven by Putin’s desire to counter the threat of revolutions makes good sense, but there were certainly more drivers behind that monumental blunder. The long war has profoundly deformed Russian polity; while the society retreats into the realm of denials and learned indifference, the regime keeps mutating into a repressive dictatorship. Revisiting the year one of this transfiguration is useful, but more disciplined thinking and condensed assessments are needed for foreseeing the endgame.