*War and Punishment*

The author is Mikhail Zygar, and the subtitle is Putin, Zelensky, and the Path to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine.  I have to tell you the subtitle put me off and I nearly didn’t buy this one, as too many books in this area repeat the same (by now) old material.  But after some extensive scrutiny in Daunt Books, I decided it was for me.  And I was right.  It is by far the best book on the origins of the war, both historical and conceptual, and for that matter it gives the literary history as well.  Here is one excerpt:

…the Clinton administration’s approach is even blunter: Washington will not discuss anything with Kyiv until Ukraine gives up its Soviet-inherited nuclear arsenal: 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles, able to carry 1,272 nuclear warheads and 2,500 tactical nuclear weapons.  True, Ukraine cannot actually fire them: all the control systems are located in Russia. But Clinton and his diplomats echo the same mantra: any economic aid to Ukraine is contingent on all nuclear weapons being relocated to Russia. Kravchuk tries to resist, demanding compensation and security guarantees, in return.  In the end, Kravchuk gets the promises he wants.

Among many other sections, I enjoyed the discussion of how revolutionary the 1770s were:

But an even more transformative decade is the 1770s, which sees the birth of the global political and geographical structure as we know it today, the start of the Industrial Revolution, and the laying of the foundations of the modern economy.  James Watt invents the steam engine; Adam Smith writes An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations; Captain James Cook reaches the shores of Australia and New Zealand.  Curiously at the same time a new type of political confrontation emerges — the struggle not for one’s homeland or monarch but also abstract values.  It is the 1770s that give rise to both populism and the liberal idea.

Definitely recommended, this will make my best non-fiction of the year list.


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