Within the last two weeks, the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election has escalated. Maria Butina, a Russian woman who tried to broker a back-channel meeting between Donald J. Trump and Russian president Vladimir V. Putin during the 2016 election, was charged with conspiring to influence a United States election, and 12 Russian officials were indicted. During a news conference in Helsinki, Finland, after a private meeting with Mr. Putin, President Trump said he believed Mr. Putin’s denial of meddling, raising concerns that Mr. Trump was siding with a foreign power over his own intelligence agencies. He backtracked several days later. Here are three books that provide insight into Mr. Putin’s rise to power, Russia’s involvement in the election and the state of our intelligence community.
THE NEW TSAR
The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin
By Steven Lee Myers
572 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. (2015)
For a portrait of the man himself, turn to Myers’ biography, which traces Putin’s childhood and rise to power, as well as his motivations. According to our reviewer, Myers offers “the portrait of a man swinging from crisis to crisis with one goal: projecting strength” For Putin, that’s meant keeping a tight hold on the country: His closest friends run most of the country’s major industries, and Putin controls the news media. He developed a system called “managed democracy,” squashing opposition parties and taking away the people’s right to vote for local or regional governments. Putin once told a group of foreign journalists that Russians are “backward” and “need time” to adapt to democracy. Myers is a reporter for The Times, and our reviewer wrote that “this is a journalist’s book, which harvests old notebooks and clips.”
The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump
By Michael Isikoff and David Corn
338 pp. Twelve. (2018)
According to our review, this is “the most thorough and riveting account” of Russia’s alleged meddling in the United States’ 2016 presidential election. Both Democrats and Republicans are presented unfavorably, such that there are “no heroes in ‘Russian Roulette,’” said our reviewer. The book covers the email hack aimed at the Democratic National Committee, as well as the various scandals, like the Access Hollywood tape, that plagued Mr. Trump’s candidacy. “The Russian hacking, it is now clear, simply exploited the vulgarity already plaguing American political campaigns,” wrote our reviewer, “which churn on spin and strategy (and money) far more than vision or values.”
THE ASSAULT ON INTELLIGENCE
American National Security in an Age of Lies
By Michael V. Hayden
257 pp. Penguin Press. (2018)
In this book, Hayden, a retired Air Force general who has directed both the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, delivers a critique of what he perceives to be threats to the American intelligence community today, beginning with Mr. Trump. Nuclear advancement in North Korea and Russia’s capacity for cyberwarfare are examples of the ways in which the United States has been left vulnerable. Hayden acknowledges that agencies did not adequately respond to early warnings of Russia’s threat to American democracy: “Committed to a path of cyber dominance for ourselves, we seemed to lack the doctrinal vision to fully understand what the Russians were up to with their more full-spectrum information dominance.” According to our reviewer, “Hayden is a breezy and direct writer”; “he reduces complex issues of cyber and information warfare to essentials, and his polemic is leavened with humor and sympathy.”
Orignially published in NYT.