The story is extraordinary, and Plokhy is an accomplished narrator ... Plokhy, like most American historians of the crisis, does not discuss an issue that loomed large in the minds of America’s allies: whether Soviet missiles in Cuba, further from Washington than were US missiles in Turkey from Moscow, constituted a just cause for a showdown ... This account is probably as authoritative a version of the Soviet side as we are likely to get.
There have been scores of books, some of them very good, about the Cuban missile crisis and several documentary movies of varying quality. But Nuclear Folly is arguably the most authoritative and cleverly written work on the subject yet produced ... Nuclear Folly is excellent on the main actors in the drama ... For the past half century many hawkish cold war historians have argued that the Cuban crisis was not so serious as neither side wanted war and that in any case it seemed to justify the 'MAD' — mutually assured destruction — theory that kept humanity going. Plokhy, who is also the author of a brilliant history of Chernobyl, vehemently disagrees. In 1962, he writes, there were two powers who didn’t want war but very nearly had one before they looked for a way to avoid it. Now there are several powers who might see a way of winning a war — or prefer losing a war than losing face.
Besides enjoying a galloping great read steeped in historiographical rigor and distilling nearly 60 years’ worth of memoirs, official and unofficial analysis, and declassified documents, readers of a certain age opening Serhii Plokhy’s exacting and propulsive Nuclear Folly may experience a weird tangle of recollection interspersing flashes of national unity rooted in existential dread and nostalgia for literate presidents ... [Plokhy] renders an oft-told tale in freshly revelatory, nail-biting terms as he recounts the 1962 exercise in international brinksmanship over emplacement by the USSR of tactical nuclear weapons around Cuba that laid a great swathe of the United States vulnerable to attack by missile and aircraft ... a balanced, nuanced, and insightful consideration of one of recent history’s scariest passages.
Serhii Plokhy has written a new account of the incident that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war ... he brings a deep understanding of Soviet political reality to the oft-told story of those 13 dicey days in October 1962, a narrative still defined much more by Camelot than the Kremlin in the popular imagination. The result is a magisterial work based on a bevy of U.S. and Soviet archival sources, including previously classified KGB documents. The perspective Plokhy provides exposes the perverse incentives that fueled dangerous nuclear power plays during the Cold War and, he suggests, beyond. Understanding how the most famous near miss of the Cold War was peacefully resolved can, he believes, bring us some reassurance—and perhaps offer crucial life-saving insights ... Plokhy is more interested in the 'ideological hubris and overriding political agendas' that the missile crisis laid bare, along with demonstrations of 'poor judgment often due to the lack of good intelligence, and cultural misunderstandings.'
... superb ... Mr. Plokhy’s endnotes frequently cite Russian and Ukrainian sources: declassified KGB documents, memoirs of retired Soviet apparatchiks, studies by Russian scholars, much of it new to English readers. The range of such references conveys the scope of the author’s research and explains how he could add so much to the documentary record of a subject covered so voluminously. Nuclear Folly is an immense scholarly achievement, engrossing and terrifying, surely one of the most important books ever written about the Cuban Missile Crisis and 20th-century international relations ... The central conclusion here—that the U.S. and U.S.S.R., hobbled by poor information, made decisions in the dark—is amply illustrated, if not new. Other arguments appear less persuasive.
... gripping ... populated with a large cast of well-drawn characters — including some, like JFK’s vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson, who haven’t featured this prominently in most earlier versions ... If rock layer isn’t to be buried by a much thicker one signaling the moment when the human race killed itself, Nuclear Folly reminds us that the time for study — and for action — is now.
Plokhy...provides fresh and horrifying details ... If there is one flaw in this deeply researched book, it is that Plokhy does not emphasize how reckless Kennedy was not only in ordering the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion but also in continuing poorly concealed efforts to overthrow or kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro ... Finishing this sobering account, I could not help but think of the dangers that exist today from nuclear standoffs involving Pakistan, India, China, North Korea and the United States.
The book’s strength, based on the author’s deep research of newly declassified records, shows how the Crisis played out in the Soviet Union and Cuba ... This important, absorbing work shows that the full story of the Cuban Missile Crisis must be told from its global perspective.
While the Cuban missile crisis and its resolution have been well documented in the six decades since the incident, a raft of new information has come to light, including firsthand accounts and unclassified documents, particularly from the Russian side since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Historian Plokhy makes good use of this new information to paint a clearer picture of the behind-the-scenes machinations, the motivations, the politics, and the errors in judgment that almost brought about a nuclear holocaust. Plokhy pulls it all together with sober yet accessible prose that reads like a suspenseful thriller. For anyone interested in the Cold War, this is an indispensable read.
A fresh examination of the historical milestone ... Despite a plethora of speeches, diplomatic notes, and editorials, Plokhy keeps the pages turning, and he includes far more Soviet material than earlier scholars. Surprisingly, Kremlin archives contain notes and transcripts of Khrushchev’s secret discussions that parallel Kennedy’s, and there is also no shortage of memoirs ... Far from the first account but superbly researched and uncomfortably timely.
... comprehensive ... Plokhy dives deep into the events leading up to the crisis ... Though the storytelling bogs down in places, history buffs will savor this balanced and richly detailed look at both sides of the crisis.