President Jack Ryan Sr. faces off against a Russian strongman determined to bring back the glory days of Russia and the renewal of the Cold War. Jack Ryan Sr. is the best-known Tom Clancy creation and now as President he faces his biggest challenge: a Russian government headed by an ambitious and treacherous leader.
The book begins with a Russian attempt to invade nearby Estonia, and the invasion is halted by a NATO attack group headed by American troops. But that setback barely slows down the enigmatic Russian President Valeri Volodin. He arranges the assassination of two Russian critics of his government, one just before he visits the White House. He moves a mysterious figure named Roman Talanov into the role as the head of Russian intelligence and as he does, the U.S. government struggles to figure out what his long-term plan might be.
Ryan's former CIA coworker John Clark is now working for the Hendley Group, secretive organization set up by the President to work off the books and intervene when necessary to protect the interest of the U.S. Clark had gotten a call from the CIA station chief in Kiev, asking about a secretive Russian mobster with connections to the KGB who had recently shown up in the city. Clark suspects something is up and that this is part of whatever plan President Volodin is working on. He decides to investigate and reassembles his old CIA team. Except for one person, Jack Ryan Jr.
Junior has given up spying for private investment, more specifically trying to track down assets stolen by the Russian government. But it isn't long before his investigative path crosses with Clark's and he ends up joining the team in Kiev. They work their way through a maze of conflicting stories and tangle several times with Russian mobsters who may or may not have ties to the Russian government,
They finally capture a source who tells them that President Volodin was Roman Talanov's case officer back in the 1980s. As the old Russian Federation collapsed, Volodin realized that the Russian mob would eventually take power in Russia and he had a plan to control everything. He had Talanov thrown into a gulag in order for the man to worm his way into organized crime. Then as Volodin worked his way up the political ladder, Talanov used his mob connections to get rid of Volodin's rivals.
At the same time Russian troops have invaded the Ukraine, making their way towards Kiev. As the troops approach, Clark and a U.S. Special Forces team captures one of the leaders of the Russian mob and informs him of Talanov's double life. His role in Russian organized crime is over and will likely be killed. His usefulness for Volodin will be over. President Ryan phones Volodin, informs him of the situation and promises to keep what he knows about Talanov secret if Volodin stops the invasion of the Ukraine. Volodin reluctantly agrees, ending the war and bringing the book to a close.
Best part of story, including ending:
The storyline is incredibly relevant, given the current threats of a Russian invasion in the Ukraine.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was the one in which President Ryan and his wife have dinner with his old Russian spy counterpart. It's nice to see Jack Ryan not as a President, but just another former spy.
Opinion about the main character:
One of the best things about any Jack Ryan book is that the story is always very black and white. Unlike real life, there aren't any moral ambiguities or questions about which course is the correct one to take. Jack Ryan makes his move and sticks with it no matter what the cost.