web site hit counter Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Availability: Ready to download

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. Serhii Plokhy’s Nuclear Folly offers an international p 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. Serhii Plokhy’s Nuclear Folly offers an international perspective on the crisis, tracing the tortuous decision-making that produced and then resolved it, which involved John Kennedy and his advisers, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, and their commanders on the ground. In breathtaking detail, Plokhy vividly recounts the young JFK being played by the canny Khrushchev; the hotheaded Castro willing to defy the USSR and threatening to align himself with China; the Soviet troops on the ground clearing jungle foliage in the tropical heat, and desperately trying to conceal nuclear installations on Cuba, which were nonetheless easily spotted by U-2 spy planes; and the hair-raising near misses at sea that nearly caused a Soviet nuclear-armed submarine to fire its weapons. 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 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.


Compare

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. Serhii Plokhy’s Nuclear Folly offers an international p 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. Serhii Plokhy’s Nuclear Folly offers an international perspective on the crisis, tracing the tortuous decision-making that produced and then resolved it, which involved John Kennedy and his advisers, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, and their commanders on the ground. In breathtaking detail, Plokhy vividly recounts the young JFK being played by the canny Khrushchev; the hotheaded Castro willing to defy the USSR and threatening to align himself with China; the Soviet troops on the ground clearing jungle foliage in the tropical heat, and desperately trying to conceal nuclear installations on Cuba, which were nonetheless easily spotted by U-2 spy planes; and the hair-raising near misses at sea that nearly caused a Soviet nuclear-armed submarine to fire its weapons. 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 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.

30 review for Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis

  1. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Author Serhii Plokhy won the Baillie Gifford Prize (my favourite book award) with, “Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy,” so I had high hopes of this. Thankfully, this new history of the Cuban Missile Crisis lived up to all my expectations. Perhaps the most important thing about this book is that it gives far more than the usual viewpoint – very often from the American point of view; probably as the authors of previous work had most access to information from that country. Plokhy tries to give a more Author Serhii Plokhy won the Baillie Gifford Prize (my favourite book award) with, “Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy,” so I had high hopes of this. Thankfully, this new history of the Cuban Missile Crisis lived up to all my expectations. Perhaps the most important thing about this book is that it gives far more than the usual viewpoint – very often from the American point of view; probably as the authors of previous work had most access to information from that country. Plokhy tries to give a more balanced view, with a greater proportion of the work given over to the Russian point of view and also to the Cuban. Not only is there much about Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, as well as John F. Kennedy, but also from those in close proximity to the three leaders, as well as many involved at the time, in various different ways. It is clear that both Kennedy and Khrushchev feared nuclear war. Both men recalled the use of nuclear in weapons in WWII all too well. Now the men were in danger of beginning an uncontrolled nuclear arms race and descending into nuclear war. This book begins with the Bay of Pigs and the Berlin Wall, before showing how Khrushchev committed the Soviet Union to helping Cuba. What is also clear is how Khrushchev initially viewed Kennedy as young, inexperienced, and weak. Cuba, meanwhile, wanted assurances from Russia that, if the US attacked them, they would go to war. Instead, they were offered missiles. As the crisis unfolds, Plokhy takes the reader into meetings, unfolding the decision-making processes, as the world stood on the brink of calamity. A fascinating history of the time, with a genuine message for the politicians of today. I received a copy of this book from the publishers, via NetGalley, for review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Westlake

    If you haven't read Plokhy's book on Chernobyl, start there. It's a great work and it's what brought me to this book. However, this book is closely behind it. The Cuban Missile Crisis gets a reputation as political jockeying in order to avoid nuclear war, but the book makes it much more than that. It is a book about power politics, exploring the motivations of the Soviet Union and putting it squarely in context of the larger Cold War, specifically with the developments in central Europe. The grea If you haven't read Plokhy's book on Chernobyl, start there. It's a great work and it's what brought me to this book. However, this book is closely behind it. The Cuban Missile Crisis gets a reputation as political jockeying in order to avoid nuclear war, but the book makes it much more than that. It is a book about power politics, exploring the motivations of the Soviet Union and putting it squarely in context of the larger Cold War, specifically with the developments in central Europe. The greatest benefit this book brings is a narrative that combines both US and USSR points of view. So many books focus on only the American view, that it removes all of the drama and discussion that went on in Russia. (Granted, those sources are probably only becoming now available). However, this provides a really full, detailed account of the before, during, and after, of the events. It's much more objective than a lot of other works. Let's be honest: don't judge the Cuban Missile Crisis on Thirteen Days; it's a good read, but its bias should be clear. Plokhy's bias as a historian of European history serves him well here. There is not much American foreign policy history that only requires the American viewpoint, and he does a nice job trying to simultaneously look at both sides and how they reacted. A word on readability, as well: Plokhy is a great writer. This not dry analytical writing, it reads as narration to a gripping documentary. It will keep your attention until you hit the endnotes (and if you're very interested, maybe even past that point)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Serhii Plokhy is a political history professor at Harvard University specializing in diplomatic history; he also serves as Director of Harvard’s Ukrainian Research Institute. His credentials and credibility are a solid foundation for his Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis (2021). On top of this, he is a clear writer who knows the record and keeps your attention. Early on, Plokhy’s announces that the book's perspective on political history is unusual. Rather than focusing on the Serhii Plokhy is a political history professor at Harvard University specializing in diplomatic history; he also serves as Director of Harvard’s Ukrainian Research Institute. His credentials and credibility are a solid foundation for his Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis (2021). On top of this, he is a clear writer who knows the record and keeps your attention. Early on, Plokhy’s announces that the book's perspective on political history is unusual. Rather than focusing on the things done right—the normal emphasis of books by the politicians involved in the affair (he cites Robert Kennedy specifically)—he focuses on what was done wrong and what prevented those errors from becoming cataclysmic. This makes eminent sense to me: how else can you learn from an event without acknowledging what was done wrong? And learning from the diplomatic foibles of an event involving nuclear weapons should be a high priority. But the vast bulk of his book is a moment-by-moment account of the development and progress of the crisis. This is excellent stuff and exceedingly well constructed. But there are no diplomatic lessons to be drawn from the event other than: (1) the world was lucky that both Kennedy and Khrushchev were virulently opposed to nuclear war; and (2) the Cuban missile crisis was a clusterf**k involving several parties: John Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro, and—behind the scenes—Mao Zedong representing China, which was in a contest with Russia over power in Cuba; (3)Castro was a nut. Only in the epilogue are lessons drawn, and these seem to be easily summarized—the world is backtracking on the nuclear question: long-standing agreements on proliferation are lapsing, nuclear proliferation among smaller nations is increasing, and in nuclear standoffs we don't have the advantage of just a few large nations with a lot to lose calling the shots. Today Castro might control a nuclear arsenal. The Beginning The early 1960s were a time of almost simultaneous change in national leaderships: Castro in Cuba (1959) and Kennedy in the U. S. (1960), with the veteran Krushchev in the USSR: Khrushchev had been a Lieutenant General during WWII and had spent decades running Russian government agencies. He had survived Stalin’s reign and he was shrewd enough to replace Georgy Malenkov as First Secretary of the Communist Party in 1953, and to become Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union in 1958. Khrushchev was both intelligent and shrewd, a known risk-taker who believed that he could manage the risks by thinking his way through any problems. During his tenure at the top he navigated the Suez Crisis of 1957, launched Sputnik, handled the 1957 Syrian Crisis, and turned the 1960 U-2 incident into a win for Russia. The end of his string of successes was still in front of him. Lower down the experience scale was Fidel Castro, whose became Cuba’s Prime Minister after his 1956 ousting of Fulgencio Batista, became First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Cuba in 1965, and in 1976 became the President of the Council of State of Cuba, a position he maintained even after he became First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Cuba in 1965. Regardless of the title, Castro was fully in charge of Cuba after 1956. Last, and perhaps least, was John Kennedy, elected a Massachusetts Senator in 1946 and U.S. President in 1961. His fifteen years as senator were unremarkable and he'd had no real leadership experience when he became President and was immediately sucked into the CIA's plot to invade Cuba in the April 1961 Bay of Pigs debacle. The failure of that ill-planned and under-resourced invasion led Khrushchev to conclude that Kennedy was unqualified and encouraged him to press hard on the U.S. An early action was the construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 just as the Cuban crisis was beginning. Khrushchev also floated the idea of a formal treaty with East Germany that would protect it from western incursions and, perhaps, close Berlin to western air, land and rail traffic. Khrushchev's interest in Cuba was multi-faceted. He saw Cuba as the bulwark of socialism in the western hemisphere as well as a launching pad for socialist advances in the U. S. back yard. It was a thorn in the side of the U. S. and, after the Bay of Pigs, the Cubans and Khrushchev expected a real invasion of Cuba by U. S. military forces. Khrushchev wanted to protect Cuba from the U. S. clutches. At the same time, he was provoked by the U. S. placement of medium range nuclear weapons in Turkey in 1959. Oddly, Kennedy could not see the parallel between our sites in Turkey and Soviet missile sites in Cuba. The USSR had no such advantage—it had only short- and medium-range nuclear missiles, and the ones at hand used liquid fuel that took hours to fill a missile's tank. The U.S. was far out of rane and Paris seemed to be the extent of a USSR missile threat. Yes, there was a real missile gap, as the U.S. press and conservative politicians claimed. But it was the Soviets who lagged far behind in numbers, range, fueling time, and quality of nuclear missiles. The Middle Khrushchev had an epiphany: what's good for the goose is good for the gander! If the U. S. can put missiles in Turkey, within range of Moscow, the USSR can put them in in Cuba, within range of Washington. This would stalemate the U. S. in both Europe and the Caribbean, preserve Cuba for the coming socialist revolution in the western hemisphere, forestall meaningful U. S. nuclear threats in Asia and Europe, and add to the USSR’s power in the Berlin impasse. So began Operation Anadyr, the Soviet plan to install sixty missiles and 40 launching pads on Cuban soil, along with several thousand troops to manage, maintain, and protect the missile sites; ultimately Soviet personnel on Cuba would reach 40,000. But it would be very risky and secrecy was essential. Khrushchev was assured that the 67 foot-long missiles and their launchers would be adequately screened by Cuba's palm trees, that their delivery to Cuba by ship could be effectively masked as commercial cargo, and that the influx to Cuba of Soviet personnel would go unnoticed. Of course, none of these were true: Palm trees were short, U. S. air surveillance would reveal the men and machines, and eyes on the ground would confirm the Soviet presence. Reconnaissance flights soon revealed ships arriving in Cuba and construction of missile facilities. Congress gave Kennedy a free hand to do anything to counter the threat. Kennedy called for a response from the Joint Chiefs about action to be taken. Khrushchev threatened war and, if necessary the use of the USSR’s vast undersupply of nuclear weapons. At the same time—following his “carrot and stick” practice, Khrushchev dangled a nuclear test-ban treaty in front of the President. On August 29, 1961 a U-2 overflight of Cuba revealed the presence of surface-to-air (SAM) missiles on Cuban soil. These were the vanguard of the nuclear missiles soon to arrive by sea. The information galvanized Kennedy, who, still unaware of what was on its way to Cuba in ships, reported to the public that the SAMS were offensive weapons. Bad weather and Dean Rusk’s resistance stalled U-2 overflights for five weeks, giving the USSR the perfect window to mount ballistic missiles—if they would just arrive. The first medium-range ballistic missiles arrived in Cuba on September 9. Intermediate-range missiles that could reach Washinton were expected in November. In mid-October a U-2 flight over Cuba revealed that these missiles had been mounted. This was a major shock to Kennedy and demanded a response. Kennedy met with his advisors. His brother, Robert, was a strong supporter of a surgical strike on the missile sites, but his other advisors were split down the middle. Their primary concern was that if the missiles were armed and ready, and if some missiles survived the strike, the Cuban response could be catastrophic even if not disabling. So the final decision was a wait-and-see period with a blockade of all maritime trade with Cuba to stop the new missile deliveries. Khrushchev was in a panic. He was not even near wanting a nuclear exchange, especially with the USSR's clear disadvantage even with missiles already in Cuba. He was a risk-taker and a blusterer, but he was also a canny thinker. This was not adding up to a victory for the USSR. His attention turned to negotiation—he had Berlin and the missiles in Turkey to work with, and ultimately he turned the ships bound for Cuba around short of the U. S. quarantine zone. The first emergency of the crisis was over, but tensions remained. [Note: I was on a naval troop ship at Guantanamo Bay when the Soviet ships turned around. I and many of my fellow Marines naively thought that it was the end of the crisis; it was just the beginning of the end.] The End The solution to the impasse was the Jupiter missiles in Turkey. They had prompted the crisis and the U. S. was not committed to them—they were placed in Turkey by the Eisenhower administration and the Pentagon saw them as technologically obsolete and politically unnecessary. Kennedy fixed upon a face-saving way out of the crisis: an agreement with Khrushchev that if the Soviets removed the Cuban nuclear missiles, subject to UN ground and naval inspection, the U. S. would withdraw its missiles from Turkey. The exchange of missiles also appealed to Khrushchev, who had placed missiles in Cuba as a counter to the Turkish missiles. But an agreement would not be immediate, and events on the ground were threatening to overtake careful negotiation. The Soviet military was riddled with confusion about the conditions under which it could use either conventional or nuclear weapons without special permission from Moscow. The result was a reasonable fear on the part of both the Soviets and the U. S. that low-level commanders would take steps that spilled over into nuclear war. In late October frequent low-level reconnaissance flights were drawing fire from the SAM missiles and antiaircraft batterie. And on October 27 a U-2 was downed by an unauthorized SAM. This placed increased pressure on Kennedy to approve an air strike on the Soviet missiles in Cuba, followed by a general invasion. But that downing also softened Khrushchev’s bluster: no longer was he dangling Berlin in front of Kennedy. No longer was he talking about establishing a Soviet naval base on Cuba. No longer was he advocating sending submarines with nuclear-tipped torpedoes to the Caribbean, though they were already on their way. A fly in the ointment of amity was Fidel Castro. Upon learning of a potential U. S.-Soviet missile swap he vociferously objected. This would compromise Cuba's honor, the condition of ground inspections by international authorities like the UN violated Cuba's sovereignty, and he saw the USSR as throwing the Cuban people under the bus. He expected that one condition of the agreement—that the U. S. would not invade Cuba—was a false flag. Castro continued to urge a Soviet attack on the U. S. To calm Castro, Khrushchev sent Anastas Mikoyan to talk to Castro. Mikoyan was the consummate negotiator, calm under all conditions, who had the best chance of communicating with Castro. Mikoyan went to Cuba even though his wife was on the verge of death from cancer—she died while he was there. In their discussion Castro said If our position puts peace throughout the world at risk, then we would think it more correct to consider the Soviet side free from its obligations, and we will resist. Come what may. We have the right to defend our dignity ourselves In his report Mikoyan says that this was like dropping an exploding bomb in the room, but he urged Khrushchev not draw any final conclusions from the statement. Mkoyan calmed Castro and received his reluctant acceptance to the agreement's terms. Eventually Castro accepted even the ground inspections. Plohky doesn't tell us what inducements were offered but we know that after the Missile Crisis Cuba received significant benefits from the USSR in the form of sugar purchases, provision of oil and other commodities, and infrastructure construction. These ended with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union that sent Cuba into a prolonged economic malaise. In the agreement to withdraw nuclear weapons from Cuba, Kennedy had specified "ballistic missiles." This was convenient to the USSR because there were also non-ballistic offensive weapons: the Soviets had sent IL-28 short-range light bomber capable of carrying nuclear payloads, as well as nuclear-tipped Luna tactical missiles. These were not on the list to be removed from Cuba because of an oversight (the U. S. knew about the light bombers) and ignorance (it did not know about the Lunas). On November 18 Castro without Soviet approval—ordered his anti-aircraft SAM batteries to resume shooting at low-level overflights by the U. S. The tension peaked again: the U. S. would not follow the Soviet-American agreement if its reconnaissance abilities ended. It had not yet ended the naval blockade and would not do so until the overflight threat ended. Castro conceded—he would not threaten overflying aircraft if the U. S. ended its naval blockade. The Americans still did not know about the nuclear-armed Luna missiles, nor did they know that while the light bombers had been removed their nuclear payloads remained in Cuba. Once again Castro, presumably still expecting an American invasion, fouled his nest by telling the U. S. that he still had tactical nuclear weapons and nuclear payloads. The Americans dutifully added them to the removal list. To forestall additional tension, Khrushchev ordered them removed from Cuba. The clear political winners in this event were America and President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy would be assassinated two years later by, some suspect, the Castro government operating through the Mafia and a lone crazy named Oswald. Krushchev would be retired in 1964 and would die in 1971. Castro hung onto power until conceding leadership to his brother Raul in 2008 and dying in 2016. Cuba remains isolated and in economic difficulty.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Kennedy

    I watched the Ken Burns "Hemingway" documentary last weekend, and even He of the Fabulously Lengthy Film Maker Guild dispensed with the Cuban missile crisis in about one minute flat! I needed more. I have to admit that I knew almost nothing about the Cuban missile crisis (or the Bay of Pigs, for that matter). Mr. Plokhy's book certainly filled me in completely. And, for me, the first-hand sources on the Soviet side were a real plus. Most often, you hear from only the home team. The author almost I watched the Ken Burns "Hemingway" documentary last weekend, and even He of the Fabulously Lengthy Film Maker Guild dispensed with the Cuban missile crisis in about one minute flat! I needed more. I have to admit that I knew almost nothing about the Cuban missile crisis (or the Bay of Pigs, for that matter). Mr. Plokhy's book certainly filled me in completely. And, for me, the first-hand sources on the Soviet side were a real plus. Most often, you hear from only the home team. The author almost seems to have more source material for the Soviet and Cuban sides of the conflict rather than the American side. I appreciated that, in the same way that long ago I appreciated the film, Das Boot, for widening the lens with which we generally view world events involving the United States. The big takeaway for me is that neither Khrushchev nor Kennedy wanted nuclear war, realizing that it would mean total annihilation. In the popular imagination, the Soviets are usually painted as warmongers. As well, in the introduction and epilogue, the author makes the frightening statement that today we are as close to nuclear war as we've been since this 1962 political standoff. In 2019, he points out, both the Russians and Americans withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty negotiated at the end of the Cold War in 1987. "Today we are back to a period resembling the one that preceded the Cuban missile crisis, when there is no generally recognized 'balance of terror,' to use Churchill's phrase of the 1950s, and various countries are competing in a race to improve and extend their nuclear arsenals," he writes. "This is one of the most dangerous moments in the history of nuclear arms." Whether you know nothing about the Cuban missile crisis or you're a seasoned student of it, you'll appreciate Serhii Plokhy's book. In his approach, you get both a wide bird's-eye view and a granular close-up of the individuals involved as decision-makers, order followers and pawns.

  5. 4 out of 5

    mylogicisfuzzy

    While the body of literature about the Cuban missile crisis may be ‘enormous’ as award-winning author and historian Serhii Plokhy acknowledges at the start of Nuclear Folly, there remain gaps in both ‘the coverage of the crisis and understanding it as an international, rather than solely American affair’. He does an excellent job in filling these gaps not least in the use of Soviet sources including recently declassified KGB files, memoirs and testimonies from leaders and rank and file soldiers While the body of literature about the Cuban missile crisis may be ‘enormous’ as award-winning author and historian Serhii Plokhy acknowledges at the start of Nuclear Folly, there remain gaps in both ‘the coverage of the crisis and understanding it as an international, rather than solely American affair’. He does an excellent job in filling these gaps not least in the use of Soviet sources including recently declassified KGB files, memoirs and testimonies from leaders and rank and file soldiers alike. His central argument is that both sides, aside from their ideological differences and political agendas made many mistakes. They misread each other’s intentions and objectives, lacked good intelligence and had many cultural misunderstandings. Despite all of this, they also had one important thing in common, both Kennedy and Khrushchev feared nuclear war and considered it unwinnable. Fast forward 60 years and it seems that certain world leaders have forgotten or just simply don’t care how easily and quickly the world came close to nuclear war as nuclear treaties are allowed to expire and nuclear arms race starts anew, nuclear folly indeed. Plokhy is particularly good on Khrushchev’s motives, an aggressive opportunist who then had to scramble to save face and sell the withdrawal of missiles as a Soviet victory. Another highlight is the insight into what Soviet commanders and soldiers thought and felt about being sent to Cuba. And, typically, the implementation of Soviet military aid to Cuba proved extremely difficult – the transport, the installation of missiles. Orders came top down without anyone really understanding Cuban geography and climate. Another typically socialist observation is the silence of Khrushchev’s successor, Leonid Brezhnev during the numerous Presidium meetings, he never offers an opinion or a disagreement. On the other side, what I found somewhat shocking but really, it shouldn’t have even been surprising, is the American exceptionalism – in policies towards Cuba but also shown by Kennedy personally. He simply couldn’t understand why Khrushchev would put missiles on Cuba, completely failing to see the parallel between missiles in Turkey having posed a threat to Soviet Union for years and the new threat the US faced from missiles on Cuba. A must read for anyone with interest in twentieth century history, highly recommended. My thanks to Allen Lane, Penguin and Netgalley for the opportunity.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    In October 1962, an international crisis between two of the world’s superpowers, the USA and the USSR, reached its peak—a crisis that could have easily developed into a full-blown nuclear war. Troubled by the superior nuclear arsenal of the American government, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev opted to take advantage of the fledgling communist revolution growing in America’s neighbour, Cuba. While lacking the long-range missiles the Americans had developed, the Soviets did have short and medium-r In October 1962, an international crisis between two of the world’s superpowers, the USA and the USSR, reached its peak—a crisis that could have easily developed into a full-blown nuclear war. Troubled by the superior nuclear arsenal of the American government, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev opted to take advantage of the fledgling communist revolution growing in America’s neighbour, Cuba. While lacking the long-range missiles the Americans had developed, the Soviets did have short and medium-range nuclear weapons, and their tactical placement under Fidel Castro in Cuba prompted great concern in America’s young president, John F. Kennedy. In Nuclear Folly, Serhii Plokhy expertly gathers testimonies from this month of negotiation, missteps, and suspense, and weaves together the story of the Cuban missile crisis. The primary sources he refers to include recently declassified KGB files, so the reader experiences a rich account of all three leaders involved, Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro. Previous studies of the crisis have often focused solely on the American viewpoint; Nuclear Folly, with its wide scope, feels authentic and balanced. Plokhy shows how Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro’s military decision-making, miscommunications, and general mistrust for each other almost led to a major nuclear war. It’s remarkable just how many instances there were in which one wrong move could have resulted in disastrous consequences. One thing I loved about Plokhy’s Baillie Gifford Prize-winning Chernobyl was its readability and Nuclear Folly proved equally as accessible. This book is expertly researched, and Plokhy manages to reproduce the suspense and unease of a crisis where we already know the outcome. We know that negotiations were successful and nuclear war was avoided, but Plokhy still manages to capture the tension of the period. Many thanks to Allen Lane and NetGalley for the advance copy.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ronnie

    I first read about this new book in a review in the Boston Sunday Globe. I have a bias with this book's topic.I was in the 5th grade at St Cecilia's School. Everytime that we saw a big plan flying over we had air-raid drills. hiding crouched inward sitting in the hallways or trying to sit under the desks with the nuns shushing us to listen.....The Cuban Missile Crisis has always lived within me. I have read multiple books on it. JFK RFK Krushchev. Fidel and his brother Raoul....Che .....The most I first read about this new book in a review in the Boston Sunday Globe. I have a bias with this book's topic.I was in the 5th grade at St Cecilia's School. Everytime that we saw a big plan flying over we had air-raid drills. hiding crouched inward sitting in the hallways or trying to sit under the desks with the nuns shushing us to listen.....The Cuban Missile Crisis has always lived within me. I have read multiple books on it. JFK RFK Krushchev. Fidel and his brother Raoul....Che .....The most startling of all stories begins right away when McNamara and Schlesinger were stunned with news that Russia already had nuclear tipped warheads in Cuba. So any invasion by US forces would of met with instant horrendous exterminating conflagration.This is a stunner of a book. Very uptodate. No holds barred. Even JFK is showed to have too much on his mind to engage in a romantic liaison with Mimi while Jackie was out of the house. I don't mean to sound cavalier but too often in the Cuban Missile Crisis JFK's infidelities are either hidden or just glazed over. In this book nothing is held back. There are delicious intellectual tidbits throughout the book. For example...the Soviets misplayed their had badly. Somehow they forgot that Castro and his gang were nationalistic in scope and view not just communistic. That's why the China influence tainted with Mao Zedong is so big but never addressed by the Soviets. I was fortunate to get this book via Leominster Public Library.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michael Samerdyke

    This was terrific. Even if you think you know about the Cuban Missile Crisis, you should read this one, because you will find out something you didn't know before. The fraught relationship between the Soviets and the Cubans really comes into focus here. Also new is the experience of the Soviet troops who were deployed with the missiles. Perhaps the most myth-busting thing for American readers is the role of Robert Kennedy. He was key as a behind-the-scenes go-between, but in the early stages of th This was terrific. Even if you think you know about the Cuban Missile Crisis, you should read this one, because you will find out something you didn't know before. The fraught relationship between the Soviets and the Cubans really comes into focus here. Also new is the experience of the Soviet troops who were deployed with the missiles. Perhaps the most myth-busting thing for American readers is the role of Robert Kennedy. He was key as a behind-the-scenes go-between, but in the early stages of the crisis, he was very hawkish. No "Now I know how Tojo felt when planning Pearl Harbor" note came from his pen. Also, Plokhy makes it clear how close war came when airplanes confronted airplanes over the Arctic Circle or ships confronted submarines in the Atlantic. These are encounters that most international relations classes simply don't mention. I came away very impressed by this book and enjoyed it more than I expected to.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rob Sedgwick

    An excellent account of the crisis, told from both sides, with the Cuban angle also thrown in for good measure. Both sides make mistakes, but only the two leader's reluctance to go nuclear pulled the world from the brink. Neither leader was to remain in power long, but we can be thankful to them for avoiding disaster, and there are lessons to be remembered for the current nuclear age. An excellent account of the crisis, told from both sides, with the Cuban angle also thrown in for good measure. Both sides make mistakes, but only the two leader's reluctance to go nuclear pulled the world from the brink. Neither leader was to remain in power long, but we can be thankful to them for avoiding disaster, and there are lessons to be remembered for the current nuclear age.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Good Blow by Blow Account of Cuban Missile Crisis This is a fast paced, blow by blow account of the Cuban Missile Crisis with respect for all participants. It contains some new information also.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Morten Nesvik

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alex/Eva

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kristian

  14. 4 out of 5

    John Dimoia

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mr. Book

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jim Ballengee

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stacy White

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alberto Nickerson

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emery Chase

  22. 5 out of 5

    roger f harrison

  23. 5 out of 5

    Scott Barber

  24. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bob3785

  26. 5 out of 5

    Benedikt

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jim Kuhlman

  28. 4 out of 5

    Peter Rolfes

  29. 4 out of 5

    James

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dr. Alan Albarran

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.