Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall...

The full title of this wonderfully informative and sympathetically written jewel is Prisoners of Geography: Ten maps that tell you everything you need to know about global politics. Tim Marshall¬†has a list of credentials the length of his driveway: his blog, for instance, Foreign Matters, won the Orwell Prize in 2010. I like Tim Marshall because he writes like a genuine teacher; he wants you to get it and so used simple language and clear reasoning. In fewer than thirty pages he explains why Vladimir Putin appears to many Europeans to be aggressive, war-like, a sabre-rattler, a Cold Warrior as it were and why such an impression might be said to be simplistic. It’s mostly about geography with a generous smattering of history. Marshall reminds us that geopolitics haven’t gone away, even in this, our 21st century. Russia, he won’t let us forget, is “vastest.” However, it’s mostly snow. The Western end is where all the action is it seems. Some of the story I already knew. The end of the Second World War saw Russia occupy most of what Germany had taken during the war but soon enough NATO put paid to any especially grandiose designs The Bear had on Europe. Even its answering military fraternity, The Warsaw Pact, broke apart and most of it members joined NATO. ¬†Putin laments the subsequent break-up of the USSR and blames Gorbachev for weakening Russia. Russia has genuine national security concerns in Ukraine because of the behaviour of NATO and the EU. But while no power would ever consider invading Russia unless it deemed it utterly necessary due to all that size and snow, there are several ways to skin a bear. The EU, for instance, is actively trying to decrease its reliance on Russian gas...