From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia

From Cold War to Hot Peace introduces the reader to the complexities of the Russian society seen from the office of the US ambassador to Moscow. Ambassador McFaul is a professor of political science at Stanford University, being specialized in Slavic languages and Eastern European politics and society.

The book is divided unequally in three functional parts. The first two “Revolution" and "Reset" cover the author’s upbringing and introduces us into the Soviet and later Russian complexities and dynamics of the Russian society under Vladimir Putin. I particularly enjoyed how the author walked us through his personal experience from the times of the USSR to his term as ambassador. McFaul makes a superb presentation of Russia’s first years as a democracy seen from the eyes of an American expat. In his words, the Americans and Russians were more or less on a roller-coaster path, with turns every few years. This is also true for the last American presidents. While George W. Bush and Barack Obama sought for a common ground and for Russia's partnership on global issues, as it was the case after the terrorist attacks of September 11 in the United States, but  froze not after a long time after Russian troops intervened in Georgia in 2008.  Moving to the Obama presidency we see another reset at the beginning of his first term and even some bilateral progress when the two parties agreed on a new START treaty.

In the third part McFaul goes even further on the roller coaster, taking the reader into an insightful journey into the personality of Vladimir Putin. According to him, the reset worked until it stopped. It was clear that Putin's comeback as Russia's strongman would wash away any hopes for democracy in the largest country in the world, as McFaul would candidly admit.

The most important aspect of this book lies in its explanatory capacity and how it succeeds to provide an insightful view of the recent developments in the relationship between the two superpowers. The end of the book leaves the debate open, despite of the epilogue on the relationship between presidents Trump and Putin, one worthy in itself of further exploration. McFaul's background and expertise prior to his appointment allow him to assemble a volume not only for the scholarly reader but also for the general public.

(c) Penguin 2018