The-life-and-lies-vladimir-putin-graphic-novel-lead
The-life-and-lies-vladimir-putin-graphic-novel-lead
Brian “Box” Brown illustrations

Excerpt

How Putin Came to Fear ‘Color Revolutions’

A new graphic novel reexamines the Russian leader’s biography—with lessons for the present.

By , the James Family chair and vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Western analysts and policymakers have fixated on the question of what is going on inside Russian President Vladimir Putin’s head. The answer feels ever more urgent—and elusive—amid Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Before Putin’s war in Ukraine began, Russia expert Andrew S. Weiss—currently based at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace—had already begun working with an illustrator, Brian “Box” Brown, on a graphic novel called Accidental Czar: The Life and Lies of Vladimir Putin. Weiss has dedicated his career to studying Russia, with stints in the White House as well as the U.S. State and Defense departments, but analyzing Putin in the form of a graphic novel was a “big leap into the unknown,” he said.

The idea wasn’t so far-fetched: “To be sure, there’s no leader on the world stage with a more cartoonish image. Before the war in Ukraine began, Western pop culture was saturated with images of Putin strutting around with his shirt off,” Weiss said. “But the sheer brutality of Russia’s actions has changed all that.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Western analysts and policymakers have fixated on the question of what is going on inside Russian President Vladimir Putin’s head. The answer feels ever more urgent—and elusive—amid Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Before Putin’s war in Ukraine began, Russia expert Andrew S. Weiss—currently based at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace—had already begun working with an illustrator, Brian “Box” Brown, on a graphic novel called Accidental Czar: The Life and Lies of Vladimir Putin. Weiss has dedicated his career to studying Russia, with stints in the White House as well as the U.S. State and Defense departments, but analyzing Putin in the form of a graphic novel was a “big leap into the unknown,” he said.

The idea wasn’t so far-fetched: “To be sure, there’s no leader on the world stage with a more cartoonish image. Before the war in Ukraine began, Western pop culture was saturated with images of Putin strutting around with his shirt off,” Weiss said. “But the sheer brutality of Russia’s actions has changed all that.”

The excerpt selected below seeks to explain the events that shaped how Putin views grassroots political protests: as a major threat to the survival of his regime and himself. “In Putin’s eyes, the toppling of unpopular governments around the world since the early 2000s, including in Ukraine, has often been the handiwork of the United States government,” Weiss said. That perspective may help Western policymakers seeking insight into what Putin is thinking now.

“Part of the answer surely lies in Putin’s conviction that the abiding goal of Western policy toward Russia is regime change,” Weiss said. “Unfortunately for us, the dangers that Putin has unleashed are no laughing matter. And they are all the more reason to sharpen our understanding of who Putin actually is and how the world has reached this dangerous juncture.” —FP Staff

This excerpt has been condensed from the original. The pages above are a selected sample.

Books are independently selected by FP editors. We earn an affiliate commission on anything purchased through links to Amazon.com on this page.

Andrew S. Weiss is the James Family chair and vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he oversees research on Russia and Eurasia. He previously served in various policy roles at the U.S. National Security Council as well as the U.S. State and Defense departments. Twitter: @andrewsweiss

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