Vladimir Putin is ‘no more of an aberration’ in Russia than Boris Johnson or Donald Trump, new biography claims

Vladimir Putin is "no more of an aberration" in Russia than Donald Trump or Boris Johnson are regarded in their own countries, a comprehensive new biography of the Russian leader has claimed.

Philip Short has written a comprehensive biography of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Philip Short has written a comprehensive biography of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin: His Life and Times, by renowned journalist Philip Short, which is to be published at the end of this month, gives an insight into the early life of the president, where he grew up in a modest household which was not concerned with politics and focused heavily on his “sambo” martial art.

The book reveals Putin’s early affiliation with the West – which was at odds with other senior members of his party at the time, who were still sceptical of the new world order. It looks at post-Communism and charts Russia’s relationship with the West – and NATO – since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

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Mr Putin has cited his desire for assurances that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO as a reason for his invasion. He has also made recent threats over plans for expansion of NATO membership to include countries such as Sweden and Finland.

Mr Short, who spent eight years researching and writing the book, including carrying out almost 200 interviews in a dozen countries, explores the personality of Mr Putin and looks at what forces and experiences shaped his decisions since he took on the role of president in 2000.

He also considers what Russia would look like once Mr Putin leaves the post – but warns there will not be major change.

He writes: "There is no reason to think that when Putin leaves the scene, the West’s problems will be over. Whoever succeeds him – whether an individual or a collective leadership – is unlikely to put Russia on a fundamentally different course, either at home or abroad.”

The book quotes an interview published in a St Petersburg newspaper shortly after the fall of communism, where Mr Putin stated the International Monetary Fund conditions for helping Russia were carried out in a “balanced and targeted way” and that the West's philosophy is to “create in Russia the nucleus of a future effective market economy, to get things moving from a standing start, to help our enterprises to understand the philosophy of market relations. And that is all correct”.

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He added: "We need foreign resources, Western experience, new ecological technology. We don't need to be afraid of attracting large scale Western capital.”

The comments are a stark contrast to recent opinions expressed by the president, who has warned that major companies’ recent withdrawal from Russia would be to their detriment – not Russia’s.

The book also raises questions about the affordability of the lavish lifestyle of Putin's family in the mid-1990s when he was head of the legal department at the General Affairs Office, and then of the Kremlin's Control Directorate. It details holidays taken by the family, including a trip to the Cote d’Azure, a few days in Finland, a skiing holiday in Davos, and family trips to Hamburg, Vienna and Mauritius.

Putin: His Life and Times, by Philip Short, is published on 30 June by Bodley Head.

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