The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for its Renewal
By William J. Burns

Twilight of the Elites: Prosperity, the Periphery, and the Future of France
By Christophe Guilluy
Translated from the French by Malcom DeBevoise

The Final Act: The Helsinki Accords and the Transformation of the Cold War
By Michael Cotey Morgan

Ukraine: A Nation on the Borderland
By Karl Schlogel
Translated by Gerrit Jackson

Killing Orders: Talat Pasha’s Telegrams and the Armenian Genocide
By Taner Akcam

Yemen in Crisis: The Road to War
By Helen Lackner

The Putin System: An Opposing View
By Grigory Yavlinsky


 

 

The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for its Renewal
By William J. Burns

Random House, March 2019
ISBN-10: 0525508864
ISBN-13: 978-0525508861
512 pages

Over the course of more than three decades as an American diplomat, William J. Burns played a central role in the most consequential diplomatic episodes of his time—from the bloodless end of the Cold War to the collapse of post–Cold War relations with Putin’s Russia, from post–9/11 tumult in the Middle East to the secret nuclear talks with Iran.

In The Back Channel, Burns recounts, with novelistic detail and incisive analysis, some of the seminal moments of his career. Drawing on a trove of newly declassified cables and memos, he gives readers a rare inside look at American diplomacy in action. His dispatches from war-torn Chechnya and Qaddafi’s bizarre camp in the Libyan desert and his warnings of the “Perfect Storm” that would be unleashed by the Iraq War will reshape our understanding of history—and inform the policy debates of the future. Burns sketches the contours of effective American leadership in a world that resembles neither the zero-sum Cold War contest of his early years as a diplomat nor the “unipolar moment” of American primacy that followed.

Ultimately, The Back Channel is an eloquent, deeply informed, and timely story of a life spent in service of American interests abroad. It is also a powerful reminder, in a time of great turmoil, of the enduring importance of diplomacy.

REVIEWS:

“Bill Burns is simply one of the finest U.S. diplomats of the last half century. The Back Channel demonstrates his rare and precious combination of strategic insight and policy action. It is full of riveting historical detail but also, more important, shrewd insights into how we can advance our interests and values in a world where U.S. leadership remains the linchpin of international order.”—James A. Baker III

“From one of America’s consummate diplomats, The Back Channel is an incisive and sorely needed case for the revitalization of diplomacy—what Burns wisely describes as our ‘tool of first resort.’”—Henry Kissinger

“Burns not only offers a vivid account of how American diplomacy works, he also puts forward a compelling vision for its future that will surely inspire new generations to follow his incredible example.”—Madeleine K. Albright

“The Back Channel shows how diplomacy works, why it matters, and why its recent demise is so tragic.”—Walter Isaacson, author of Leonardo da Vinci

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

William J. Burns is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2014 after a thirty-three-year diplomatic career. He holds the highest rank in the Foreign Service, career ambassador, and is only the second serving career diplomat in history to become deputy secretary of state. Prior to his tenure as deputy secretary, Ambassador Burns served from 2008 to 2011 as undersecretary for political affairs. He was ambassador to Russia from 2005 to 2008, assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs from 2001 to 2005, and ambassador to Jordan from 1998 to 2001. Ambassador Burns earned a bachelor’s degree in history from La Salle University and master’s and doctoral degrees in international relations from Oxford University, where he studied as a Marshall Scholar.


Twilight of the Elites: Prosperity, the Periphery, and the Future of France
By Christophe Guilluy
Translated from the French by Malcom DeBevoise

Yale University Press, January 2019
ISBN-10: 0300233760
ISBN-13: 978-0300233766
184 pages

A passionate account of how the gulf between France’s metropolitan elites and its working classes are tearing the country apart

Christophe Guilluy, a French geographer, makes the case that France has become an “American society”—one that is both increasingly multicultural and increasingly unequal. The divide between the global economy’s winners and losers in today’s France has replaced the old left‑right split, leaving many on “the periphery.”

As Guilluy shows, there is no unified French economy, and those cut off from the country’s new economic citadels suffer disproportionately on both economic and social fronts. In Guilluy’s analysis, the lip service paid to the idea of an “open society” in France is a smoke screen meant to hide the emergence of a closed society, walled off for the benefit of the upper classes. The ruling classes in France are reaching a dangerous stage, he argues; without the stability of a growing economy, the hope for those excluded from growth is extinguished, undermining the legitimacy of a multicultural nation.

REVIEWS:

“Guilluy, whose work is not universally admired in France, particularly by academic geographers and many on the left, seems to have seen it all coming. So there will be considerable interest in his latest work, published in French as Le Crépuscule de la France d’en haut in 2016 and now, by Yale. In a further development of his now-familiar argument, he tackles head on – and with great virulence – the flip side of La France périphérique, those he considers largely responsible for the country’s profound social, economic and political dislocation: hipsters, who the French call bourgeois-bohèmes or bobos.” – Jon Henley, The Guardian

“An indispensable guide to understanding the fears and frustrations of an increasingly permanent underclass—not just in France, but throughout the world. . . . Disturbing and affecting . . . [Guilluy] has hit on something profound that extends well beyond the borders of France.” – Jonathan A. Knee, New York Times

“This is a book with direct relevance outside France. Observing that metropolisation is “the domestic corollary of globalisation”, Guilluy cites London as “the quintessential … citadel city”. Condemning elites, speaking up for the disregarded, he writes scathing, analytical Marxist class history very effectively…essential reading” – David Sexton, Evening Standard

“Pithy . . . While critiques from the [yellow vest] movement have remained a confused cloud of social media invective, Guilluy has served as its de facto interpreter.” – James McAuley, New York Review of Books

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Christophe Guilluy is a French geographer and the author of several books, including La France périphérique: comment on a sacrifié les classes populaires. He also writes occasionally for The Guardian.


The Final Act: The Helsinki Accords and the Transformation of the Cold War
By Michael Cotey Morgan

Princeton University Press, November 2018
ISBN-10: 069117606X
ISBN-13: 978-0691176062
424 pages
The first in-depth account of the historic diplomatic agreement that served as a blueprint for ending the Cold War.

The Helsinki Final Act was a watershed of the Cold War. Signed by thirty-five European and North American leaders at a summit in Finland in the summer of 1975, the agreement presented a vision for peace based on common principles and cooperation across the Iron Curtain. The Final Act is the first in-depth account of the diplomatic saga that produced this historic agreement. Drawing on research in eight countries and multiple languages, this gripping book explains the Final Act’s emergence from the parallel crises of the Soviet bloc and the West during the 1960s, the strategies of the major players, and the conflicting designs for international order that animated the negotiations.

Helsinki had originally been a Soviet idea. But after nearly three years of grinding negotiations, the Final Act reflected liberal democratic ideals more than communist ones. It rejected the Brezhnev Doctrine, provided for German reunification, endorsed human rights as a core principle of international security, committed countries to greater transparency in economic and military affairs, and promoted the freer movement of people and information across borders. Instead of restoring the legitimacy of the Soviet bloc, Helsinki established principles that undermined it.
The definitive history of the origins and legacy of this important agreement, The Final Act shows how it served as a blueprint for ending the Cold War, and how, when that conflict finally came to a close, the great powers established a new international order based on Helsinki’s enduring principles.

REVIEWS:

“Morgan . . . makes a convincing case that in terms of importance, Helsinki was on a par with Westphalia, Vienna, and Versailles. Highly recommended.”-Choice

“A fine story of intrigue and manipulation worthy of the best writers. . . . An authoritative book that should be widely read.” – Queensland Reviewers Collective

Michael Cotey Morgan’s richly researched book reminds us that, in tense times when chances of improvement seem remote, sowing the seeds for long-term change is often the smartest strategy. The Final Act is a timely and essential book. – Mary Elise Sarotte, author of The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall

This judicious and well-researched book is perhaps as exhaustive on the origins of the Final Act as the diplomatic negotiations that created it. Morgan’s biggest surprise for readers is a story of why and how the Soviet bloc acted as halfhearted architect of a liberal-democratic European order. In a truly historical irony, the book provides a nostalgic contrast to the woes and divisions that this order is experiencing in our own day.” – Vladislav M. Zubok, author of A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michael Cotey Morgan is associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 


Ukraine: A Nation on the Borderland
By Karl Schlogel
Translated by Gerrit Jackson

Reaktion Books, July 2018
Distributed by University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 978-1780239781
ASIN: B07F443LNR
320 pages

The Euromaidan uprising in Kiev, followed by radical regime change, the annexation of the Crimea and the war in Eastern Ukraine, have shattered European security. The Western response to Russian aggression has been uncertain and hesitant in handling the unfamiliar yet large nation of Ukraine, a country with a complicated past, and one whose history is little known in the rest of Europe.

In Ukraine: A Nation on the Borderland, Karl Schlögel presents a picture of a country which lies on Europe’s borderland and in Russia’s shadow. In recent years, Ukraine has been faced, along with Western Europe, with the political conundrum resulting from Russia’s actions and the ongoing Information War. As well as exploring this present-day confrontation, Schlögel provides detailed, fascinating historical portraits of a panoply of Ukraine’s major cities: Lviv, Odessa, Czernowitz, Kiev, Kharkov, Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk and Yalta – cities whose often troubled and war-torn histories are as varied as the nationalities and cultures which have made them what they are today, survivors with very particular identities and aspirations.

REVIEWS:

“Through Schlögel’s encounter with Ukraine the reader will understand the crisis of democratic politics in the West as a whole. It is among the very few texts written in our century which reveal the psychological core and philosophical essence of the challenges thinking citizens now face.” – Timothy Snyder, Yale University author of “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century”

“Schlögel excels at bringing twentieth-century history to life through urban space, to which he is a guide with wit, subtlety, humanity, and restraint. His skills lie in his assiduous research, scouring through phonebooks, minutes, memoirs, and maps, brought to life through a vivid eye for the look and feel of a city’s architecture, streets, and vistas. Here, Schlögel leaves his usual territory—Soviet and post-Soviet Moscow—to take us on a tour of the cities of Ukraine, revealing the diversity, complexity, and importance of a country too often seen through a reductive East/West binary.” – Owen Hatherley, author of “Landscapes of Communism: A History Through Buildings”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Karl Schlögel is a historian, essayist, and professor emeritus at Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder), Germany. His many books include histories of Moscow, Berlin, and Petersburg, and he won the European Charles Veillon essay prize in 1990 and the prize of the Historisches Kolleg Munich in 2016. Gerrit Jackson lives in Berlin. He is the translator of Karl Schlögel’s In Space We Read Time: On the History of Civilization and Geopolitics.


Killing Orders: Talat Pasha’s Telegrams and the Armenian Genocide
By Taner Akcam

Palgrave Macmillan, January 2018
ISBN: 978-3-319-69786-4
ASIN: B0798MFM1B
261 pages

Verifies archival evidence previously dismissed as being ‘fake’ in order to refute the on-going denial of the Armenian Genocide

A unique feature of the Armenian Genocide has been the long-standing efforts of successive Turkish governments to deny its historicity and to hide the documentary evidence surrounding it. This book provides a major clarification of the often blurred lines between facts and truth in regard to these events. The authenticity of the killing orders signed by Ottoman Interior Minister Talat Pasha and the memoirs of the Ottoman bureaucrat Naim Efendi have been two of the most contested topics in this regard. The denialist school has long argued that these documents and memoirs were all forgeries, produced by Armenians to further their claims. Taner Akçam provides the evidence to refute the basis of these claims and demonstrates clearly why the documents can be trusted as authentic, revealing the genocidal intent of the Ottoman-Turkish government towards its Armenian population. As such, this work removes a cornerstone from the denialist edifice, and further establishes the historicity of the Armenian Genocide.

REVIEWS:

“This is an extraordinarily important work for those who understand its significance. Taner Akçam has quite literally blown the Turkish narrative as itself ‘fake news’.” – Mark Levene, University of Southampton, UK

“Taner Akçam’s careful edition of an important Ottoman bureaucrat’s memoirs and related sources is a signal contribution to the contentious debate about state policy and practice towards Armenians during the First World War. It is essential reading for all those interested in Genocide and Human Rights Studies.” – Dirk Moses, University of Sydney, Australia

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Taner Akçam is Professor of History at Clark University, USA. His publications include The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire (2012), which was co-winner of the Middle East Studies Association’s Albert Hourani Book Award and one of ForeignAffairs.com’s ‘Best Books on the Middle East’.

 


Yemen in Crisis: The Road to War
By Helen Lackner

Saqi Press, London, April 2019
Sold by Penguin Random House Publisher Services
ASIN: B07H72KYSB
330 pages

Expert analysis of Yemen’s social and political crisis, with profound implications for the fate of the Arab World. Includes a preface exploring the US’s central role in the crisis.

The democratic promise of the 2011 Arab Spring has unraveled in Yemen, triggering a disastrous crisis of civil war, famine, militarization, and governmental collapse with serious implications for the future of the region. Expert political researcher Helen Lackner argues that the catastrophe does not have to continue, and we can hope for and help build a different future in Yemen.

Fueled by Arab and Western intervention, the civil war has quickly escalated, resulting in thousands killed and millions close to starvation. Suffering from a collapsed economy, the people of Yemen face a desperate choice between the Huthi rebels on the one side and the internationally recognized government propped up by the Saudi-led coalition and Western arms on the other.

In this invaluable analysis, Helen Lackner uncovers the roots of the social and political conflicts that threaten the very survival of the state and its people. Importantly, she argues that we must understand the roots of the current crisis so that we can hope for a different future for Yemen and the Middle East.

REVIEWS:

“As soon as US-made bombs began exploding in Yemen, it became morally incumbent on Americans to understand what is really happening in this proud Arab nation now on the brink of collapse. Helen Lackner’s comprehensive investigation into the history, present, and future of Yemen is the perfect place to begin. Brimming with erudition and rich in analysis, Yemen in Crisis offers invaluable insight to seasoned observers and newcomers to the region alike.”
– Moustafa Bayoumi, author of How Does it Feel to Be a Problem? and This Muslim American Life

“Helen Lackner is arguably the best non-Yemeni expert of Yemen, a country where she first sojourned in the 1970s acquiring since then a unique and multifaceted expertise. This book is the best compact presentation of the background and dynamics of the social and political explosion that turned Yemen into the worst humanitarian crisis of today’s world.”
– Gilbert Achcar, author of The People Want and Morbid Symptoms

“A matchless geo-political profile of the country, its history, its economic structures, and above all, its people…. She knows the country better than the gangs in Foggy Bottom and Whitehall, not to mention Mossad operatives or the other spooks of the ‘international community’ based in Riyadh.”
– Tariq Ali, New Left Review

“This timely book analyzes the deep roots of the crisis that gripped Yemen even before the destructive war against it created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Lackner is superbly equipped to trace the causes for the failure and collapse of the Yemeni state, under the inexorable pressures of neo-liberalism and regional and global rivalries.”
– Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Helen Lackner has spent the past four decades researching Yemen, and has worked in the country for fifteen years. She is a Research Associate at the London Middle East Institute at SOAS, University of London, and is currently the editor of the Journal of the British-Yemeni Society and is a regular contributor to Oxford Analytica’s briefs and openDemocracy. Her works include Why Yemen Matters: A Society in Transition and Yemen and the Gulf States: The Making of a Crisis.


The Putin System: An Opposing View
By Grigory Yavlinsky

Columbia University Press, February 2019
ISBN: 023119030
ASIN: B07CX7N8QW
245 pages

A quarter century after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia once again looms large over world affairs, from Ukraine to Syria to the 2016 U.S. election. Yet how power works in present-day Russia—how Vladimir Putin came to power and maintains his rule—remains opaque and often misunderstood. In The Putin System, Russian economist and opposition leader Grigory Yavlinsky explains his country’s politics from a unique perspective, voicing a Russian liberal critique of the post-Soviet system that is vital for the West to hear.

Combining the firsthand experience of a practicing politician with academic expertise, Yavlinsky gives unparalleled insights into the sources of Putin’s power and what might be next. He argues that Russia’s dysfunction is neither the outcome of one man’s iron-fisted rule nor a deviation from the supposedly natural development of Western-style political institutions. Instead, Russia’s peripheral position in the global economy has fundamentally shaped the regime’s domestic and foreign policy, nourishing authoritarianism while undermining its opponents. The quasi-market reforms of the 1990s, the bureaucracy’s self-perpetuating grip on power, and the Russian elite’s frustration with its secondary status have all combined to enable personalized authoritarian rule and corruption.

Ultimately, Putin is as much a product of the system as its creator. In a time of sensationalism and fear, The Putin System is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand how power is wielded in Russia.

REVIEWS:

The Putin System shows how far from the path to a market-based democracy the country has deviated. It provides one of the most penetrating, if bleak, analyses of the Russian system of recent years. . . . Those seeking to understand today’s Russia have much to gain from the English translation. – Neil Buckley Financial Times

A much-needed insider view from an important political figure and reform economist. – Jack F. Matlock Jr., U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union (1987–1991) and author of Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended

Grigory Yavlinsky’s book is of great importance. He gives us a clear-eyed diagnosis of Putinism, a phenomenon that exacerbates the crisis in democracy and casts a shadow over the world order in the twenty-first century. He also reminds us that Russia has brave, determined reformers who have on their side logic, principles, and lessons from the past and present that will guide their remedies for the future. Strobe Talbott, Brookings Institution

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Grigory Yavlinsky is a Russian economist and politician. A proponent of market-oriented reforms under Gorbachev, Yavlinsky has been a key figure of the opposition in post-Soviet Russia with the independent liberal party Yabloko, for which he was the 2018 presidential candidate. His books include Realeconomik: The Hidden Cause of the Great Recession (and How to Avert the Next One) (2011), Incentives and Institutions: The Transition to a Market Economy in Russia (2000), and 500 Days: Transition to the Market (1991). He teaches at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

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