MixedThe Guardian The Brink tells the grim story of the Reagan-era moment when the USSR thought it was about to be attacked and prepared to retaliate. As Soviet paranoia increased, a South Korean airliner, KAL007, that had strayed illegally for more than two hours into Soviet air space was shot down in September, killing all 269 people on board. The Russians mistook it for an American spy plane that had been in the area a short time earlier. Taylor Downing is a historian and film-maker who has interviewed the Soviet pilot who downed the plane and several other US and Soviet military and political figures from the time. Downing explains that the head of US Air Force Intelligence, which was monitoring the Soviet commanders’ and pilots’ messages, quickly realised the Soviets had made a terrible blunder. But among western politicians \'the sense of moral outrage built up like water behind a dam,\' he writes, \'waiting to burst forth when the floodgates were opened\' ... Marc Ambinder covers ground with...jumbled narrative, but his book has interesting details. In his wallet the US president carries the \'biscuit\', a wedge of white laminated plastic, a little thicker than a credit card. It contains several alphanumeric combinations, designed to prove the person ordering nuclear war is actually the president. \'It’s right next to my driver’s licence\', Reagan used to say, a bit sheepishly ... For all the president’s outrage over Soviet activity, at least until Mikhail Gorbachev emerged, Ambinder reports Reagan’s instinctive unwillingness to take part in the regular war games and face the prospect of one day having to press the button for real. His staff wondered if he ever would.