We Need To Talk About Putin


A Times Best Current Affairs and Politics Book of 2019

Money? Ego? Power? His KGB background? I grapple with what makes Russia’s master tick and the myths around him in my book with Ebury Publishing, an imprint of Penguin Random House. With the February 2019 launch of We Need To Talk About Putin, this page will be a place to consolidate news, reviews, launch events and information about foreign editions.


I don’t know how many times I read the text. I, the copy editor, and the two other readers who looked over it failed to pick up that, on p. 24, I mix up Macedonia and Montenegro. My apologies to both countries, and we’ll make sure this is fixed in reprints and the translations.

Official Pages

Penguin Random House UK


In The Times, it is the ‘Book of the Week.’ Edward Lucas calls it “pithy,” sketching “a bleak, but convincing picture of the man in the Kremlin and the political system that he dominates” and “Galeotti writes convincingly about the fin-de-siècle atmosphere hanging over the Kremlin.”

Says Vin Arthey in The Scotsman“The Western media present an image of Vladimir Putin that makes him seem like a Bond villain, an evil genius who is playing with the fate of the world. In this dynamic, authoritative and often witty book, Mark Galeotti deftly defuses this myth.” He adds that it’s a “real page-turner.”

The Times has named it as one of the Best Books of 2019.

Alex Nice, for Chatham Housecalls it “a punchy corrective to the simplistic caricatures so often deployed to describe Putin and the system he presides over.”

In The GuardianDaniel Beer says “Mark Galeotti, in We Need to Talk About Putin, has distilled a great deal of research and thought into a slim and engaging volume that reads like a primer for anyone poised to enter a negotiation with the Russian president.”

“With an impressive academic record, [Galeotti] does not shrink from original, non-conformist views” says Raymond van den Boogaard in the Dutch Review of Books.

“Mark Galeotti’s highly recommended We Need to Talk About Putin (Penguin / Ebury, 2019) is a wonderfully compressed book that punctures our lazy preconceptions about Russia. Robust, reasonable and addictive, it should be read by anyone who wonders whether there’s more to Vladimir Putin than our politicians seem to think” according to Cambridge’s Dr Mark Smith on his excellent blog, Beyond the Kremlin.

In The American InterestKarina Orlova calls it “as sharp and precise as any top secret briefing on Russia’s authoritarian President might be,” considering it “an excellent corrective to the kind of lazy analyses that have recently inflated Russia’s petty tyrant into some kind of Machiavellian genius.”

Maria Lipman, in Foreign Affairssays that “unlike most such accounts, Galeotti’s manages to completely overturn the conventional wisdom. The result is easily the shrewdest and most insightful analysis yet of Putin’s policymaking.”

“In his handy new book, We Have To Talk About Putin, the British historian and Russian specialist Mark Galeotti says we must put an end to the creation of myths around Russian President Putin and his government.” Jurgen Tiekstra, in Friesh Dagblad [Dutch]

According to Matthias Kohán in Mandiner, “the author of this wry and sarcastic work gives a comprehensive, but well-structured picture of the past and present of Putinism, the Western image of the Russian leadership, and the strangeness of political life around the Kremlin – and explores the very questions of Russia. Putin, how are you leaving and what will happen afterwards?”, concluding that Mark Galeotti, who has been analysing Russian politics for thirty years, is more than worth reading.” [Hungarian]

In the Times Literary SupplementOwen Mathews calls it “punchy and highly readable” and that it “rings profoundly true”.

“The publication is insightful, readable and bold in its challenge of various misconceptions,” says Jonáš Syrovátka in Mezinárodní vztahty, adding that it offers “a captivating and accessible, but still nuanced and complex, insight into the ways in which Russian politics operate.”

“The author does not let himself be taken hostage by the stereotypes, prejudices and clichés with which the Russians and Russia are perceived. And we have a real Putin, with all his willingness to play hard, to keep in check a people who never knew what democracy is and who still do not dislike being a great imperial power,” according to Cristina Manole in Observator Cultural (of the Romanian edition).

Launch Events

HowTo Academy, London, 18 February 2019

Pushkin House, London, 23 October 2019

Interviews and Articles

Interviewed in The Observer on “on why the west misreads Putin, Trump’s election, the Skripals and why he loathes Game of Thrones,” I also note that we make the mistake of treating Putin too seriously, giving him a geopolitical weight he doesn’t deserve; indeed, we should sometimes laugh more than recoil in horror. This of course provides the headline “Mark Galeotti: ‘We should laugh at Russia more'” that Russian and Ukrainian sources pick up on, with various degree of wilful misunderstanding of my point…

Interviewed in Wiener Zeitungon Russian meddling, the mythology of Putin, and why Russian politics are actually more complex and varied, even in some limited ways more democratic than most people seem to assume.

Interviewed in The New Internationalistin which I suggest that “Historians will look back at Putin as a transitional figure and his regime likewise.”

Interviewed in the War College podcast, to “dispel myths and set the record straightish” on Putin.

Long interview on BBC Scotland, Good Morning Scotland, on all things Putin.


Audio review on Deutschlandfunk, August 2019 [in German]

Foreign Translations

Czech: Paseka

Dutch: Prometheus

Romanian: Humanitas

Slovak: IKAR

Spanish: Capitán Swing

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