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From Cold War to Hot Peace: The Inside Story of Russia and America

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  969 ratings  ·  126 reviews
From one of America’s leading scholars of Russia who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration, a revelatory, inside account of U.S.-Russia relations from 1989 to the present
In 2008, when Michael McFaul was asked to leave his perch at Stanford and join an unlikely presidential campaign, he had no idea that he would find himself at the beating heart of
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published May 8th 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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drowningmermaid Medvedev was only ever president in-name-only. He barely had any staff. All the power followed Putin over to the "prime minister" role, then back to…moreMedvedev was only ever president in-name-only. He barely had any staff. All the power followed Putin over to the "prime minister" role, then back to the presidency when they switched places again. So to say relations would be "better" is putting the cart before the horse. It's more like -- Relations between Russia and the US (and other nations/power groups in Russia) soured, and therefore Putin took the reigns back, rather than Putin came back and therefore relations soured. (less)

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Jeffrey Keeten
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
”Putin and Putinism were not predetermined. Innate, structural forces did not produce Putin; Yeltsin selected Putin as his successor. The Russian people merely ratified Yeltsin’s choice. Putin did not rise to power through a groundswell of popular support for his leadership style or political program. He did not plot a path to the Kremlin over the course of decades. He had never participated as a candidate in an election until he ran for president in March 2000. He was simply in the right place ...more
I guess one doesn’t get to be ambassador to a nation important to our security concerns by being a shrinking violet. McFaul clearly is not that. Right from the start he admits that he sometimes mixed his academic concerns with activism. He thought the moment for the Russia’s transition to democracy was at hand, and he not only wanted to witness it, he wanted to midwife.

My biggest objection to this over-long memoir of McFaul’s time studying & serving as U.S. government apparatchik
Steven Z.
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul has chosen a crucial moment in our relationship with Moscow to write his part memoir, narrative history, and analysis of what has transpired over the last twenty-five years between the United States and Russia. Today, it appears that relations between the two countries deteriorates each day as Russian President Vladimir Putin pursues his agenda, and President Donald Trump does nothing about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. However ...more
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
You won't need me for a summary of this book. Goodreads provides a sufficient overview of its basic contents. Instead, I'll give my general thoughts.

For someone like myself (whoever that might be), I find this memoir invaluable. Even though I work as office staff in a political science department at a university, my main interest in taking on more reading of political material of late has much more to do with just being an average citizen. Feeling very confused about what the hell has been happ
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a great perspective on U.S. interest/involvement in Russian democracy. Chronicles individual Americans' role in the fall of the Soviet Union/brief flirtation with Russian democracy and the authoritarian rise of Putin. Spotlights the failure of the United States in funding a peace in Russia by supporting its economic reforms after the end of the Cold War. A mistake that has had long term consequences. An evaluation of our Russian foreign policy is very important considering what has happe ...more
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Disclaimer: I am a Stanford University alumnus and have heard Ambassador McFaul speak as a panelist with other Hoover Institution stalwarts like Larry Diamond, Francis Fukuyama and James Mattis on several occasions . McFaul writes fondly about his undergraduate days and teaching career in Palo Alto - a sentiment which admittedly resounds favourably with me. Nevertheless, I will attempt to compose an objective, unbiased review.

It is tempting to question McFaul's qualifications as Amba
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

This is a hard book for me to review. It is well written, albeit it somewhat overly chatty at times (for my tastes), and I confess to skimming quite a bit of the first half where the author discusses his younger back-history and how his life led him to Russia and eventually into Obama's administration and ambassador to Russia. It took quite a while to get to that point, and my main interest in reading this was learning more about Putin and Russia under Putin. By the time the book go
Sonya Heaney
I've been meaning to read this. The latest garbage with Trump and Putin just reminded me to add it here.
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book originally because at the time of its publication, Vladimir Putin had just suggested that Trump send McFaul over to Russia to be interrogated and Trump didn't immediately denounce this outrageous and frightening idea. I thought buying the book would be a good way to express solidarity with McFaul, but I didn't necessarily think I'd read a lot of it. I did read it through, though. It held my interest because McFaul writes from a unique viewpoint, having worked both in Washingto ...more
Oct 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: cccp, russia, history, usa, memoir
Well, he certainly has a lot to say. The book is written in a fairly engaging style and was a pleasant read. I think my main gripe with this book is with the author rather than with the book itself. However, the whole text is so laced with his value judgements and voice that that represents a big problem with the book as well.

I also noticed another review complained about how frequently he talks about "writing a memo" or "sending an email expressing his view" but not about actually working to i
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
McFaul was Ambassador to Russia during the Obama Administration. Mostly with Secretary Hillary Clinton. He left shortly after John Kerry began. McFaul was dedicated to Russian democracy and was chosen for the “reset” era. While trying to jump start Russian democracy by appealing to the Russian people and proposing American values. Putin ended up playing hardball with the tactics and Maginsky, Snowden and Crimea. When Obama backed down after saying that American fire power would be used if Assad ...more
Harry Allagree
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
My motivation for reading this book was the fact that I've seen Michael McFaul as a guest commentator on MSNBC numerous times, & have been impressed by his articulate & wise observations about the Russian influence on Trump & his campaign, etc. McFaul is a superb intellectual, extremely knowledgable, both book-wise & experience-wise, about Russia. He writes well, & his humanness & humor show. As an academic lured into U.S. government service for 5 years in the Obama admin ...more
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
McFaul's remarkable book is a combination of firsthand world history and autobiography. Surely no one is better informed regarding the realities of what have happened in the domain of US-Russian relations from pre-Gorbachev to the current day than Michael McFaul. Not that I'm that much of an expert myself to judge anyone else qualified. It's one of those things where if there were another contender, the general populace would know who that is.

The book is unusual for its first person
Peter S
Aug 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a truly unique perspective into modern US-Russia relations. Michael McFaul is not only one of the leading academics on Russia and the former Soviet Union but also served on the NSC and then as the US-ambassador to Russia. The most apt comparison for McFaul (and one that McFaul tacitly hints at a few times throughout the book) is George Kenan, another man a greatly admire. Hearing about McFaul's experiences with Russia from his times as an underg ...more
Jeff Lacy
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Intelligent and engrossing

Ambassador McFaul’s memoir is intelligent and engrossing. He provides us with his decades of knowledge and experience as an academic in Russian history, politics and affairs, shared his wisdom in the Obama White House, and Obama’s Ambassador to Russia in Moscow. He reads and speaks fluent Russian. His interest and love of Russian began in high school in Montana in 1979. He began studying in Russia in college in the 80’s. His book is well-written and lucid, charting the c
Rachel Brune
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent, in-depth, insightful journey through the past few decades of American-Russian interaction by a man, academic and Russophile, who had a front seat for events from glasnost to Reset and beyond. I highly recommend this blend of memoir, history, and political science narrative to anyone seeking to understand current events and what has led our two countries to our current Hot Peace.

(I also recommend following former ambassador McFaul on social media, where he is always humo
Diana Long
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
25. Or it could be titled “Everything you might want to know about Russia but were afraid to ask”. When the Berlin Wall fell I had high hopes that the Soviet Union as it separated into the individual countries would all become democracies, how little I understand about how difficult that would be. The author was in the midst of it all and why things didn't turn out quite as was hoped. This work is his account of what happened... the rise of Putin, the Oligarchs and so much more. I thought it exp ...more
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A VERY biased opinion by a former community organizer appointed Ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration. It definitely turned me off ... I was looking for more straight facts, not his political viewpoint.
P.S. Winn
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The author knows his stuff. Being an ambassador to Russia and dealing with that countries atrocities is no easy job. The author takes readers behind the scenes in an amazing look at the Russian and American relationship. This book is important to read now that the American President is clueless.
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent reference and background information on the US relationship with Russia. Michael McFaul’s experience and perspective make him a national treasure.
Janet Cooke
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great read, it helped immensely that the author gave readers permission to skip the less bearable parts, that imparted a lot of wisdom and one man's perspective about Russian/USA relations.
This reader did not technically skip sections, I did skim occasionally.
Reading this reminded me of how many learned and well intentioned representatives the US generally has globally.
Thanks are due all of them for performing the feats they do for love of country.
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Quite simply, this is a spectacular book. It's an excellent accounting of modern Russian history, and it's a memoir with very well chosen stories about Ambassador McFaul's interaction with the Putin regime that are both entertaining and revealing. It's exceedingly well written, and you will find yourself learning some very high level history and geopolitics while barely noticing just how far into the weeds you're getting. Ambassador McFaul, very thankfully, does not suffer from the standard affl ...more
From Cold War to Hot Peace looks at the evolution of US and Russian relations from the perspective of former Obama NSC staffer and Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. McFaul has spent most of his life working for closer cooperation with Russia from his early days as an activist on the ground to eventual professorship at Stanford and roles in the Obama administration. Although a political appointee to a post that usually does not get political appointees his background and expertise made him a s ...more
Michael Kareev
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Professor Michael McFaul is the leading specialist on Russia and topics of democracy. In this book, he accurately selects words when talking about both but it is still hard to hide his disillusionment not only with Vladimir Putin (feels that the author never entrusted the Russian president and for a number of good reasons) but also with the Russian mentality and the way of thinking in general.
While prof. McFaul thoroughly understands the reasons why countries engage in espionage, stand by their
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics-and-war
Michael McFaul might be one of the most qualified people in America to teach about Russian-American relations. He has spent his academic career (he's a political science professor at Stanford) studying emerging democracies, with an emphasis on Russia. He has lived around 5 years within Russia, speaks fluent Russian, and served the Obama administration first as counsel on Russian affairs, and then as the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow. This man loves Russian culture and people, and cares deeply about ...more
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is a fascinating read (mainly) about McFaul's experiences as part of the Obama White House and as U.S. Ambassador to Russia. It's richly detailed -- you'll feel like you're there. Recommended.
Joan Kerr
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you follow the Trump reality show, you might remember that at the recent love-in in Helsinki Vladimir Putin suggested that he could be willing to extradite the Russians indicted (unjustly) for interfering in the US election if Trump sent some American bad guys to Russia to answer for their plotting against Russia. Top of the list was Michael McFaul, ambassador to Russia under Obama.

I leave it to others who know what they’re talking about (Condoleezza Rice, Madeleine Albright, Geor
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Hot Peace

This book is part personal memoir, and contemporary history. It covers a period during time that Micheal McFaul was the Ambassador of the United States to the Russian Federation. In addition, he recounts his life studying the rich culture and complicated political history. Written in casual prose the Stanford professor tells of his life absorbed in the causes and the culture of the people of Russia. Nearly a lifetime, since graduating from college McFaul has split his time between the
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Part memoir, part analysis, McFaul recalls his life and career dealing with Russia, both as an admirer and as a diplomat. Before the Soviet Union collapsed, McFaul lived in Russia and work with various NGOs designed to increase democratic principles in the region. The was because McFaul truly believed in the principle that in order to advance the United States’ mission, values, and security, democratizing Russia was essential. He elaborates on this belief with thoughtful analysis of various soci ...more
John  Hill
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a fantastic look into Russia-U.S. relations, especially during the Obama years.

Dr. McFaul is an excellent source of insider information, and despite this being his first non-academic book, he did a fantastic job at making this complicated history and policy approachable to an arm chair historian like myself.

This book is part current events, part policy, and part memoir and it works on all levels. For someone whose knowledge of Russia-U.S. relations is limited to Tom Clancy spy novels
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“To win reelection, Medvedev had to win one vote: Putin’s. To win that vote, Medvedev above all else had to demonstrate his unique abilities to work with Obama to achieve results that were good for Russia. We had just handed the Russian president a defeat at the very moment when Medvedev believed Putin was deciding his fate. It played into the narrative of Medvedev’s critics back home that he was weak and susceptible to being pushed around by the Americans. The momentum for missile-defense” 0 likes
“Minister Lavrov, he said, well, you know, we don’t like it when you have so many NGOs coming to Russia. And I said, well, send Russian NGOs to the United States. [Laughter.] We’ll be happy to have them. And I really mean that. I think the more exchange and the more . . . cross-fertilization the better.” 0 likes
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