An award-winning documentarian and historian, Downing tells the nerve-wracking tale of our close call with nuclear war after NATO launched a wargame exercise that the Soviets mistook for a real attack.
The British historian and filmmaker Taylor Downing’s new book...is the most readable version to date of an episode that holds lessons for today ... Downing’s book makes the most compelling case yet that the Soviet reaction to Able Archer was extraordinary ... The eyewitnesses...give striking accounts ... The World at the Brink will not be the last book on this topic. It cannot prove what Soviet leaders in Moscow said and did over those four days in November. But it does deliver the most complete story to date, and it points the way toward further investigation.
This is a complicated, multifaceted story and Downing deftly provides a complete and gripping account. He weaves together information from a wide array of sources and benefits from having access to new documents released in response to Freedom of Information requests. It reads like a thriller, even though the reader knows how it will turn out. The incident is important and deserves to be more widely known ... Ultimately, this book is a clear and compelling reminder of how much words and actions matter in international relations.
Drawing on documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and first-time interviews with national-security experts, Taylor Downing ... speculates that, in the end, Andropov and the other Soviet leaders, conscious of the terrible loss of Soviet life during World War II, 'did not want to push the nuclear button unless they absolutely had to' ... We can say with certainty, thanks to Mr. Downing...that both Soviet and American intelligence got it wrong—the Soviets displaying a scary degree of paranoia and the Americans unable to accept the truth of their paranoia ... In any case...[Mr. Downing should] be congratulated for a splendid job of research about a critical event in the Cold War that other historians have overlooked or underplayed.