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From Moscow, the world looks different. It is through understanding how Russia sees the world—and its place in it—that the West can best meet...

From Moscow, the world looks different. It is through understanding how Russia sees the world—and its place in it—that the West can best meet the new Russian challenge to the existing world order. Moscow Rules: What Drives Russia to Confront the West (Chatham House, 2019), by Chatham House Senior Russian expert, Keir Giles provides the sophisticated and curious reader a primer to help explain Putin’s Russia.

As per Giles, Russia and the West are like neighbors who never seem able to understand each other. A major reason, this book argues, is that Western leaders tend to think that Russia should act as a “rational” Western nation—even though Russian leaders, Tsars, Commissars and Presidents alike for centuries have thought and acted based on their country’s much different history and traditions. Russia, through Western eyes, is unpredictable and irrational, when in fact its leaders from the Tsars to Putin almost always act in their own very predictable and rational ways. For Western leaders to try to engage with Russia without attempting to understand how Russians look at the world is a recipe for repeated disappointment and frequent crises.

Keir Giles describes how Russian leaders have used consistent doctrinal and strategic approaches to the rest of the world. These approaches may seem deeply alien in the Western world, but understanding them is essential for successful engagement with contemporary Russia. Giles argues that understanding how Moscow’s leaders think and act—not just Vladimir Putin but his predecessors and eventual successors—will help their counterparts in the West develop a less crisis-prone and more productive relationship with Russia.


Charles Coutinho has a doctorate in history from New York University. Where he studied with Tony Judt, Stewart Stehlin and McGeorge Bundy. His Ph. D. dissertation was on Anglo-American relations in the run-up to the Suez Crisis of 1956. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written recently for the Journal of Intelligence History and Chatham House’s International Affairs. It you have a recent title to suggest for a podcast, please send an e-mail to Charlescoutinho@aol.com.