“A highly relevant and much-needed historical study . . . One of the best books on the period to have been written.” —The Economist
To the amazement of the public, pundits, and even the policymakers themselves, the ideological and political conflict that endangered the world for half a century came to an end in 1990. How did that happen? What had caused the cold war in the first place, and why did it last as long as it did? To answer these questions, Melvyn P. Leffler homes in on four crucial episodes when American and Soviet leaders considered modulating, avoiding, or ending hostilities and asks why they failed. He then illuminates how Reagan, Bush, and, above all, Gorbachev finally extricated themselves from the policies and mind-sets that had imprisoned their predecessors, and were able to reconfigure Soviet-American relations after decades of confrontation.
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“[A] sweeping work . . . Leffler is one of America’s most distinguished cold war historians, and this enlightening, readable study is the product of years of research and reflection.” —Jonathan Rosenberg, The Christian Science Monitor
“A masterful account of the Cold War by a distinguished historian in full stride . . . This important book will enlighten and sophisticate the debate on the Cold War, even if it will not end the discussion.” —G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs
"With a keen eye for telling detail, a concern for the choices of individual leaders, and careful judgments, Leffler generates a narrative that carries the reader along as it develops important new ideas. This landmark study transcends many of our standard arguments about the Cold War to focus on what it was really about. Driving much of the maneuvering for security and advantage was the struggle over which political system could meet people’s needs and produce a better society." —Robert Jervis, Columbia University"This is a lively and very wise book on the Cold War from its beginning to its end. Concentrating on five critical intervals in the history of Soviet-American rivalry, Melvyn P. Leffler, one of the West’s leading authorities on U.S. foreign policy, mines a wealth of new sources for this fresh and stimulating analysis of Cold War crises. The portraits of Cold War leaders, both Soviet and American, are convincingly and elegantly drawn. As illustrated by Leffler, their travails and successes demonstrate how important leadership is in maintaining peace in an unstable world." —Norman M. Naimark, Stanford University
Melvyn P. Leffler, Stettinius Professor of American History at the University of Virginia, is the author The Specter of Communism (H&W, 1994) and A Preponderance of Power. He lives in Charlottesville.
Melvyn P. Leffler
American Historical Association George Louis Beer Prize