Here, acclaimed Russian historian Robert Service examines precisely how that change came about. Drawing on a vast and largely untapped range of sources, he builds a picture of the two men who spearheaded the breakthrough: Ronald Reagan, president of the United States; and Mikhail Gorbachev, last general secretary of the Soviet Union.
Authoritative, compelling and meticulously researched, this is political history at its best.
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By G Douglas Whistler on 05-03-17
Sound history, well read
This is a very sound political history of Mikhail Gorbachev's efforts to end the military Cold War between the USSR and the USA. It is regrettably low, however, on description or analysis of the societal and cultural causes, evolutions, and results of the cessation of military threat. Service's devotion to the "great man" view of history here reaches fever pitch; much of the book, therefore, is descriptions of how the principal government figures of the USSR and the USA behaved with each other, and how their personalities and (inferred) beliefs about the other side and the proper purpose of their discussions affected proceedings. His detail of events, mindsets, negotiating points, political movements, etc. is good, but how or why they develop is lacking. Similarly, women (four of whom appear in the text: Raisa Maximovna Gorbachev, Nancy Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and a nameless Russian official) are incompletely described, each being understood as a stereotype through a hetrosexual male gaze. The book gets 3/5 essentially because the history is incomplete; it is Service's list of military-political events in the USSR and the USA between 1985 and 1991, hung loosely off a narrative of the naivete (as he see it) of Mikhail Gorbachev, and the sensible (as he sees it) cooperation of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Snr.
The performance is very good, with few mistakes or inconsistencies. Cullum's comfortability with non-English names and Russian-language quotations is to be highly praised.
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