Finding credible books on Russia and Russian history is not easy.
By far the most credible this author has read is Paul Dukes A History of Russia.  Most of the others I’ve tried are simply works of propaganda – full of bile and hatred for the (unknown) other and an insult to any idea of scholarship.
I don’t know if the above applies to this one, “Russia’s Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy” by Anders Asund (I haven’t read it) but there is a clue in the publisher’s preview on Amazon:
This insightful study explores how the economic system Vladimir Putin has developed in Russia works to consolidate control over the country. By appointing his close associates as heads of state enterprises and by giving control of the FSB and the judiciary to his friends from the KGB, he has enriched his business friends from Saint Petersburg with preferential government deals. Thus, Putin has created a super wealthy and loyal plutocracy that owes its existence to authoritarianism.
Much of this wealth has been hidden in offshore havens in the United States and the United Kingdom, where companies with anonymous owners and black money transfers are allowed to thrive. Though beneficial to a select few, this system has left Russia’s economy in untenable stagnation, which Putin has tried to mask through military might.
The problem for this insightful and “penetrating” study is that the above applies without deviation to any Western politician. Of course when it comes to appointments they appoint people they know, their friends. Of course these people enrich themselves. The money of Russian oligarchs nestles nicely alongside the money of Western capitalists and cronies in the offshore havens… The Western system has slight differences – more emphasis is put on rewarding compliant politicians with lucrative ‘directorships’ than in Russia. And possibly (possibly) less emphasis on direct enrichment through government contracts – though the shareholders of Capita (for example) can hardly be unhappy with the UK government.
If the point is that Russia has a higher index of state ownership than in most European countries then that is a political lamentation. State ownership is not synonymous with corruption (or, at least, if that is the argument, at least make it honestly). And on this note – it is worth pointing out that the two major state enterprises Rosneft and Gazprom have both been partially privatised under “Putin”.
“Beneficial to a select few” is of course a problem with capitalism not with Russia. Has the author noticed the homeless on the streets of London – or simply that millions of people in the UK struggle to get by?
As for the Russian economy stagnating – as of now it continues to enjoy modest growth despite the crash in oil prices and Western sanctions designed to destroy its oil revenues, though the World Bank predicts sluggishness over the next few years.  – In as much as this slowdown takes place it is probably due to the fall in oil prices and sanctions; not to the policies of the government; many of which (developing infrastructure, reducing red tape, trying to stimulate the SME sector) are in line with OECD recommendations. As for “Putin” – this is part of the simplistic (indeed aboriginal) identification of a country with an individual. The point about “Putin” is that he represents an ideology or a way of thinking around which a lot of the Russian elite have coalesced. “Putin” per se is a myth.
As for “masking” the “untenable stagnation” with military might – actually the main reason why Russia continues to develop its military is so that it can continue to represent a credible deterrent to would be invaders. Unlike NATO, we can note, Russia has not invaded anywhere – or conducted any illegal bombing missions – (NATO has – in Yugoslavia and Libya) in recent years; its concerns are defensive. Currently NATO is marauding up and down Russia’s borders showing off their huge firepower. This line that “Putin” is developing the military at the expense of society is a propaganda line pushed into Russia by, for example, the CIA backed “media outlet” Radio Free Europe. Most Russians though will understand that as long as NATO openly threatens them they need a strong military.
And all this leads us to the final clue. The author of this “insightful” book is a member of The Atlantic Council. This organisation, which is aligned with NATO, receives funding from many scions of Western capitalism as well as the US State Department.  What they want is for the current direction of the Russian government to change to be more in favour of untrammelled activity by Western finance capital, and military submissiveness. They want, in short, for Russia to stop being an independent country and to integrate itself into the Empire and, if it won’t, they want it to vanish off the map as this State Department video so charmingly shows.
One suspects that the real complaint about Putin and Russian oligarchs is not that the people in Russia are suffering but that the profits are not going to the wealthy elites who pay for the Atlantic Council and thus for Mr Asund’s post.
It may be true that if Russia fully opened itself to Western finance capital and business and abandoned all its own values and traditions and independence then the economy overall would expand somewhat – as people drank more coke, fed their children more ADHD pills, took anti-depressants themselves, as people became obese, as hedonism and consumerism took hold, but then Russia would be a decadent and dysfunctional country like the US or the UK. Probably just what these people want.
- Duke University Press Books. 1997.