The latest issue of Macleans magazine features a full-page review of The New Cold War by premier columnist Paul Wells. (Oddly, it appears to only have run in the print edition, I can't find it online.)
Paul's impression is, uh, mixed. He compliments my "formidable reporting" in the book, then sharply takes me to task for the "moral failure" of not saying "America good, Russia bad" often enough.
I hardly think that I let the Kremlin off easily - the book opens by once more raising the question of whether the FSB carried out the 1999 apartment block blasts that killed more than 300 people, and goes on to chronicle the country's rapid descent towards dictatorship under Vladimir Putin.
"By using mass murder to convince Russians that they needed to put their trust in the secret agents that they had so long despised, the old KGB had effectively carried out a coup in the Kremlin." I write that on page 3. Roughly half the rest of the book is spent despairing at what Russia has become and where it's headed.
Paul's complaint is that even though I establish that Putin and Putinism are dangerous, I don't go the extra step and on cheer freedom-loving America as it helps topple governments that the State Department doesn't like. And I don't.
A large part of the book is dedicated to exposing how America uses supposedly non-partisan "democracy promotion" groups to advance its interests. American-funded NGOs played essential roles in bringing down Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia, Eduard Shevardnadze in Georgia and Leonid Kuchma in Ukraine.
My argument is not that this is entirely a bad thing - only that the revolutions in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine need to be understood (along with the more recent streetfights in Minsk and Moscow) for what they were: the first battles in a renewed struggle for influence between America and a resurgent Russia. And both sides are more concerned with who controls the lucrative oil and gas fields of ex-Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus than the will of the people.
Paul rightly points out that the current occupants of the Kremlin are prone to thuggery and have even been known to start wars based on false premises when it suits their grander political aims. What he oddly neglects to consider is that the George. W. Bush's White House is guilty of the same charges, and is no more deserving of our trust and admiration than the current Russian government.
Paul's a great writer and I appreciate his interest in the topic.
But his complaint is an odd one: I as a journalist stand accused of failing to take sides.
In this business, that's usually a compliment.