This is Tom Clancy's last novel, though it is co-written with Mark Greaney, so there may be others in what is known as the Ryanverse.
The story opens thirty years in the past with a meeting between two Russians/Soviets, and plans for sustaining power after the collapse of communism. It then moves to the present, and a resurgent Russia that is trying to exert power in the region of Estonia and the Ukraine. The opening gambit is an invasion of Estonia. The invasion seems to have been inspired by German invasion of Poland, and uses a similar pretext for the invasion. NATO forces respond, and force a pullback.
In the 1930's Germany agitated for a corridor in Poland in order to protect, so they claimed, the ethnic Germans living in Danzig.¹ This seems to have inspired next move on Russia's part, protection of the ethnic Russians living in the Ukraine. Now I don't know enough to say anything sensible about Russian ethnic identities, so, unlike almost all pundits and politicians, I'll keep quiet about. Needless to say there is a good deal of rivalry, and bitterness. In any case, this is what serves as the pretext for much of the action in the novel.
¹ Today Danzig is better known as Gdansk, the birthplace of the Solidarity movement.
The strongman running Russia in the novel appears to be based on Vladimir Putin, which is why I put the picture of Putin at the top of the page. Putin is a puzzling character to many conservatives. We don't like many of his policies as regards the West, and those of us who have a somewhat libertarian view don't care much for his anti-gay measures, but we like the fact that he asserts a masculine identity while our own leader seems to mince about like Lamar Latrell or Franklin Pangborn,² and is incapable of projecting force in a meaningful way.³
² See this article for information about Franklin Pangborn. Do I mean to say that Fearless Leader is gay? No, just that he does not convey masculinity. The best he can manage is childish pettiness combined with nasty hectoring.
³ The recent discussion of Fearless's views on his strategy in Afghanistan, which come from Robert Gates' book on his time in Fearless's administration, seem to confirm my opinion that he is unable to project force. He is, and remains, a Chicago trained thug.
Update: February 19, 2014— Some people might mis-interpret what I said about Putin. He's a strongman, and a bit of thug. I doubt if he is, or indeed ever was, a true-believing Communist, but I think that he wants to see a restoration of former territories to Russia. These territories include the Ukraine, which, I understand, had been a part of Russia since the 18ᵗʰ or early 19ᵗʰ centuries.⁴ Current events indicate that Putin is stirring up things in the Ukraine, and we may expect a response ranging from weak to squishy to none from Obama.End update.
⁴ The Crimean Khanate was annexed in 1783 according to Wikipedia.
Update: March 3, 2014—I predicted a weak to squishy response from Obama. The great and beneﬁcent one announced that we would cut back troops to pre World War Ⅱ levels, and Putin is making moves in the Crimea. I thought that cutting the missile shield in Poland and elsewhere would lead to Russian adventurism. I was right. I also predicted that cuts in military spending would be disastrous and hinder us in confronting Russian adventurism. I was right again. There is no credible deterrent to Russian power in the region, and Obama and Kerry will fritter away precious time at the UN Security Council where Russia has the capacity and the will to block every resolution.
The novel moves between events in Jack Ryan's past when he was a CIA analyst, and the present. It culminates in a revelation about Ryan's role in events, and their effect in the present.
The usual cast of characters from The Campus, as well those that have been present since the first of the Ryan books are present.
One of the authors, possibly Greaney, has the annoying habit of everytime that he refers to Jack Ryan in one of the flashback sections, calling him ”CIA analyst Jack Ryan.“ Surely, that's only necessary once in the story. Apparently someone was pressing the macro button a bit too often.
The story is relatively fast moving, and it's fairly entertaining.
Next up, John Ringo's Under a Graveyard Sky.