Departures Podcast featuring Owen Matthews, author of ‘Overreach: The Inside Story of Putin and Russia’s War Against Ukraine’

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As we approach the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a number of journalists and authors have published highly detailed chronicles from the battlefield, stories of resilience and heroism of the Ukrainian resistance, and geopolitical analyses across the spectrum. But few of these books view the war through Russian eyes, understanding the thinking that motivated the decision to declare war, and how everything thus far has so clearly defied their expectations.

This week we’re pleased to feature the veteran foreign correspondent Owen Matthews, whose new book, “Overreach: The Inside Story of Putin and Russia’s War Against Ukraine” investigates the historical roots of the conflict from Moscow’s perspective, detailing the fog of extreme paranoia around Vladimir Putin and how perceptions of the Western threat and convictions of Ukrainian weakness led the country into disaster.

“What is objectively bad for Russia is not necessarily bad for the siloviki – the men of power around Putin,” says Matthews in his conversation with Robert Amsterdam. “Why is that? Because they got the Russia they wanted, they want a Russia that is cut off from the West, with an elite that does not have divided loyalties that does not earn its money in the West or spend its money in the West. (…) They really are convinced that this is a defensive war against Western aggression.”

Less than Putin being driven by imperial ambitions to rebuild a new Soviet Union, Matthews sees more evidence of his ethno-nationalist orientation, that he genuinely believes that he is “saving” the Russian speaking world from Western aggression – and from there, a cascading series of miscalculations begin to take shape. A fascinating book on the world’s most pressing geopolitical crisis, Owen Matthews writes with clarity and a personal presence that brings deeper understanding to this most important conflict.