Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes delivers a riveting account of the nuclear arms race and the Cold War.
In the Reagan-Gorbachev era, the United States and the Soviet Union came within minutes of nuclear war, until Gorbachev boldly launched a campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons, setting the stage for the 1986 Reykjavik summit and the incredible events that followed. In this thrilling, authoritative narrative, Richard Rhodes draws on personal interviews with both Soviet and U.S. participants and a wealth of new documentation to unravel the compelling, shocking story behind this monumental time in human history—its beginnings, its nearly chilling consequences, and its effects on global politics today.
This is the third volume in a history of nuclear weaponry that began with the award-winningThe Making of the Atomic Bomb , but despite its subtitle, this installment might also be described as a chronicle of the unmaking of the arms race. Paralleling the careers of Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan, Rhodes builds up to a detailed account of the 1986 Reykjavik summit, at which the two leaders-both eager to achieve peace-nearly came to an agreement on eliminating their nuclear arsenals, before the accord, he says, was sabotaged by then-assistant secretary of defense Richard Perle. The insistence of Perle and other advisers that the U.S. required a strong deterrent against the Soviet Union is held up for particular contempt. "There has never been a realistic military justification for accumulating large, expensive stockpiles of nuclear arms," Rhodes argues. Far from keeping America strong, decades of nuclear arms production have seriously eroded the nation's domestic infrastructure and diminished its citizens' quality of life, he believes. The clarity of the historical record reinforces Rhodes's fiercely held political convictions, ensuring widespread attention as he returns to this critically and commercially successful subject.