Nuclear folly A history of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Serhii Plokhy, 1957-

Book - 2021

"A dramatic re-creation and urgent examination of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Nearly thirty years after the end of the Cold War, today's world leaders are abandoning disarmament treaties, building up their nuclear arsenals, and exchanging threats of nuclear strikes. To survive this new atomic age, we must return to the lessons of the most dangerous moment of the Cold War: the Cuban Missile Crisis. Nuclear Folly offers an international perspective on the crisis, tracing the tortuous decis...ion-making that produced and then resolved it, involving John Kennedy and his advisers, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, and their commanders on the ground. More often than not, the Americans and Soviets misread each other, operated under false information, and came perilously close to nuclear catastrophe. Despite these errors, nuclear war was avoided for one central reason: fear. Serhii Plokhy masterfully illustrates the drama and anxiety of those tense days, and provides a way for us to grapple with the problems posed in our present day"--

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Subjects
Published
New York, NY : W.W. Norton & Company [2021]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xviii, 444 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780393540819
0393540812
Main Author
Serhii Plokhy, 1957- (author)
  • Apprentice
  • Master of the game
  • Triumph of communism
  • Rocket man
  • Going nuclear
  • Operation Anadyr
  • High seas
  • Prisoner of Berlin
  • Tip-off
  • Honeymoon
  • "Wipe them out"
  • Quarantine
  • Moscow night
  • Blinking in the dark
  • Wooden knife
  • The Americans are coming!
  • Turkish quagmire
  • Losing control
  • "Target destroyed!"
  • Secret rendezvous
  • Bermuda Triangle
  • Sunday scare
  • Winners and losers
  • Indignation
  • Mission impossible
  • Back at the barricade
  • Thanksgiving.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* In October 1962, Americans—indeed most of the world—lived through a fortnight of existential terror as the United States and the Soviet Union entered into a standoff that brought the two great powers to the brink of nuclear war. American intelligence had discovered that the Soviets were arming Castro's Cuba with troops and missile technology, including nuclear weapons. Clearly, having Soviet nukes that close to Florida was unacceptable, and President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev began a deadly game of diplomatic and military brinkmanship. While the Cuban missile crisis and its resolution have been well documented in the six decades since the incident, a raft of new information has come to light, including firsthand accounts and unclassified documents, particularly from the Russian side since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Historian Plokhy (Chernobyl, 2018) makes good use of this new information to paint a clearer picture of the behind-the-scenes machinations, the motivations, the politics, and the errors in judgment that almost brought about a nuclear holocaust. Plokhy pulls it all together with sober yet accessible prose that reads like a suspenseful thriller. For anyone interested in the Cold War, this is an indispensable read. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of Ukrainian History and director of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University, Plokhy is a leading expert of the Cold War. Here he focuses on one of its biggest moments, the Cuban Missile Crisis, as he reconstructs the decision-making processes of John Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev, and Fidel Castro and their near-tragic misunderstanding of one another's intentions. Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis was not an exercise in rational diplomacy, but rather a series of blunders by President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, claims Plokhy (history, Harvard Univ.; Forgotten Bastards of the Eastern Front). The book's strength, based on the author's deep research of newly declassified records, shows how the Crisis played out in the Soviet Union and Cuba. Kennedy grossly underestimated the number of communist troops. Conversely, Khrushchev underestimated Kennedy's resolve, believing that the young president could be bullied based on the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco. Cuban Premier Fidel Castro, enraged by Khrushchev for not consulting with him but negotiating directly with Kennedy, pushed for a nuclear attack on the U.S. Plokhy concludes that Khrushchev tried to spin the Missile Crisis as a victory for world communism because Kennedy did not invade Cuba. However, the rest of the world, including the Soviet Union, viewed Kennedy as the victor. Two years later Khrushchev was removed from power by the Soviet Central Committee. VERDICT This important, absorbing work shows that the full story of the Cuban Missile Crisis must be told from its global perspective. See Martin Sherwin's Gambling with Armageddon for another account that places the Crisis in its Cold War context.—Karl Helicher, formerly with Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Harvard history professor Plokhy (Forgotten Bastards) offers a comprehensive study of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis focused on the "misjudgments and misunderstandings" that nearly led to nuclear war. Bolstered by "ideological hubris" and afraid of appearing weak, President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev "marched from one mistake to another," Plokhy asserts, yet both held back from pushing the button because they feared the consequences of nuclear entanglement. (Kennedy's military advisers informed him there would be 600,000 American casualties if a single missile reached a major U.S. city.) Plokhy dives deep into the events leading up to the crisis, documenting Khrushchev's boasts and lies as he used the threat of escalating tensions in Berlin to "distract attention from Cuba." Drawing on firsthand accounts, Plokhy also spotlights the Soviet military personnel who arrived in Cuba to unload and prepare the missiles for deployment, unaware of the high-level diplomatic maneuvers to defuse the conflict, and describes how Khrushchev attempted to assuage Fidel Castro's wrath when the Cuban leader learned the Soviet missiles wouldn't stay on the island. Though the storytelling bogs down in places, history buffs will savor this balanced and richly detailed look at both sides of the crisis. (Apr.) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"A dramatic re-creation and urgent examination of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Nearly thirty years after the end of the Cold War, today's world leaders are abandoning disarmament treaties, building up their nuclear arsenals, and exchanging threats of nuclear strikes. To survive this new atomic age, we must return to the lessons of the most dangerous moment of the Cold War: the Cuban Missile Crisis. Nuclear Folly offers an international perspective on the crisis, tracing the tortuous decision-making that produced and then resolved it, involving John Kennedy and his advisers, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, and their commanders on the ground. More often than not, the Americans and Soviets misread each other, operated under false information, and came perilously close to nuclear catastrophe. Despite these errors, nuclear war was avoided for one central reason: fear. Serhii Plokhy masterfully illustrates the drama and anxiety of those tense days, and provides a way for us to grapple with the problems posed in our present day"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Nearly thirty years after the end of the Cold War, today’s world leaders are abandoning disarmament treaties, building up their nuclear arsenals, and exchanging threats of nuclear strikes. To survive this new atomic age, we must relearn the lessons of the most dangerous moment of the Cold War: the Cuban missile crisis.Nuclear FollyMore often than not, the Americans and Soviets misread each other, operated under false information, and came perilously close to nuclear catastrophe. Despite these errors, nuclear war was ultimately avoided for one central reason: fear, and the realization that any escalation on either the Soviets’ or the Americans’ part would lead to mutual destruction.Drawing on a range of Soviet archival sources, including previously classified KGB documents, as well as White House tapes, Plokhy masterfully illustrates the drama and anxiety of those tense days, and provides a way for us to grapple with the problems posed in our present day.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A harrowing account of the Cuban missile crisis and how the US and USSR came to the brink of nuclear apocalypse.