Vladimir Putin is the devil incarnate of the present media frenzy supporting all things USA! USA! USA! Having just read a trio of books concerning Putin it is obvious that the lenses through which Putin is viewed has blinders on the side and rose colored tints as a lenses coating. The blinders are those things the authors just do not want to see; the rosy tints are a combination of all things from the U.S. coming up roses, and all things Russian still being post-Soviet red.
All three books have the same common elements, not so much as to what is said, but as to what is not said. What is not said comprises three major topics: economics, militarization, and democracy. And all of what is not said concerns the U.S. and not Russia. The what-is-not-said relies on the mainstream /political media assumptions about the general goodness and lack of evil intentions of the U.S. Russia cannot be discussed without reference to and comparisons to U.S. intentions and actions vis a vis Russia, but also vis a vis the world at large.
Russia's economy, as seen by all three, is weak and relies solely on petrochemicals for its sustenance. There is little accounting of its lack of national debt, about its increasing purchases of gold (see also China), and the positive actions that the sanctions have had forcing Russia to repatriate and upgrade both its manufacturing and agricultural production. There is - perhaps due to the currency of the events - no mention of Nord Stream 1 and the now in process Nord Stream 2 that circumvents EU Regulations (and the Ukraine) and that the EU has now indicated is not within its jurisdiction.
Relationships with China are generally presented as a problem, while China continues to buy huge amounts of gold, and has agreed to use the Yuan as common exchange currency with hints of a soon to be gold-backed exchange. All the books were written recently enough to account for the sale of Russian gas and oil to China, but none of them mention the current Chinese developments for creating the "One Belt, One Road" system throughout Eurasia, of which Russia plays a significant role as part of the corridor, and as a supplier of materials, technology, and military assistance.
The largest contradiction is the descriptions used of the Ruble being dependent on oil and gas, a "Petro-Ruble" without any comparison to the U.S. Petro-Dollar. Along with this goes bragging rights about how strong the U.S. economy is.
But understand this: the U.S. economy is strong only because of its petrodollar which has the two advantages of being the global reserve currency and, due to this, being able to be printed without end. Behind the petrodollar is the military, which is used along with sanctions to eliminate any potential attempts to circumvent the use of the US$. Just ask Iraq, Libya, and Iran about that aspect - and now the "pivot to Asia" and the aggressive actions against Russia demonstrate where the big interest lies - US$ hegemony globally.
For if the US$ loses its petrodollar/reserve status (as supported by Saudi Arabia) its economy collapses. It produces very little, buys a whole lot, and is in debt over its eyeballs. All its actions, however much couched in terms of freedom and democracy, are targeted towards the maintenance of the current US$ status.
So what is it? Is Russia threatening NATO? Are they being the aggressors? The broken promises of the Gorbachev/Yeltsin era included the encroachment of NATO towards Russian borders and more recently the installation of missile defenses, supposedly against Iran (yeah sure, Iran is going to attack Poland?). After WW II the U.S. occupied - and for all intents and purposes still does - Germany and Japan, creating an axis of containment against both Russia and China - Eurasia - the world island - in general. This is now supported with hundreds of military bases of various components spread through the Greater Middle East and the Asian periphery.
All three authors indicate that NATO's moves are at worst a benign factor, to help the adjoining states with their security and not intended to threaten Russia at all. Only one of the works recognizes the threat NATO poses to Russia, but then awkwardly relates it to the Russian misperception of U.S. intentions. George Kennan is cited twice, first in 1948 on the creation of NATO:
"Why did they [the proponents of a military alliance] wish to divert attention from a thoroughly justified and promising program of economic recovery by emphasizing a danger which did not actually exist but which might indeed be brought into existence by too much discussion of the military balance and by the ostentatious stimulation of a military rivalry?"
And later on in 1997 on the expansion of NATO: