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.
It is a must-read for students of the Cold War and for anyone who thinks nuclear brinkmanship is a productive way to conduct foreign policy. The book is a chronicle of a time when the United States and the Soviet Union came close to destroying civilization in a confrontation of thermonuclear insanity ... This is not a book for readers with a casual interest in the Cold War. Downing squeezes a wealth of details into a short period of time and provides background into once-powerful men who have passed into history, many without so much as a mention in today’s world ... It reminds us that those who hold our lives in their hands are not as wise as we wish they were.