Putin sees his regime as a triumph - one that has turned a bankrupt state into an energy superpower, built a new middle class out of post-Soviet wreckage, and defeated NATO expansion, while Russian incomes boomed more than 140 per cent. However, in this riveting analysis, Ben Judah argues that Russia's leader is not the strongman he appears. Putin may be victorious as a politician, but he has utterly failed to build a modern state. Once loved for its forcefulness and the spreading of new consumer lifestyle, Putin's regime is now increasingly loathed for its incompetence and corruption. Rather than modernising Russia's institutions, Putin has enthroned a predatory bureaucracy, leaving the regions a patchwork of fragmented and feudalised entities - some ruthlessly technocratic, others almost lawless. 

Written with rare access to the oligarchs and officials who made the Putin era and the new opposition who are trying to destroy it, Fragile Empire is a journey through a frenzied Moscow and beyond. Ben takes the reader on a journey through a scarred nation from the battlefields of the Caucasus and the tank factories of the Urals to the impoverished farmers toiling for Chinese settlers in the cold fields of the Far East. Fragile Empire asks if Putin can still control a new middle class that is dreaming of Europe, will he win over the first post-Soviet generation, and whether his Kremlin can still hold onto a Siberia overshadowed by China. This is a razor-sharp diagnosis of what has gone wrong in post-modern Russia. Foreign Policy named Fragile Empire one of its Top 25 Books to Read in 2013.

Ben has written widely and spoken around the world on the character of Putin's leadership. 

A beautifully written and very lively study of Russia [...] Judah’s reporting stretches from the Kremlin to Siberia and has a clear moral sense, without being preachy.
— Gideon Rachman, Financial Times
Judah’s portrait of Putin is devastating [...] the opposite of dry Kremlinology.
— George Walden, Bloomberg
Judah is an intrepid reporter and classy political scientist. His lively account [...] puts me in mind of Chekhov’s famous 1890 journey to Sakhalin Island.
— Luke Harding, The Guardian