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"One Hell of a Gamble": Khrushchev, Castro, and Kennedy, 1958-1964 Hardcover – June, 1997
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Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali have taken advantage of recent unrestricted access to Soviet records and performed painstaking detective work to fill the gaps in the historical record. Some of the tension of the narrative is lost, because we know the outcome; even so, they give penetrating insights as they reconstruct the drama step by step. We learn that the Kremlin did seriously consider launching a nuclear attack on the U.S.: the appropriate orders were discussed and Khrushchev spent the night of October 22 in his office so he could be on hand to cable his authorization. Some of the most interesting facts to emerge, however, are those concerning John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert. JFK had always previously been portrayed as something of a parochial gung-ho type, but this, it emerges, was merely a public persona designed to appease the Pentagon hawks. At the same time JFK was talking about a Cuban invasion, he and his brother were engaging in a more secret policy of appeasement through the Soviet ambassador. Fortunately for all of us, diplomacy won the day. In recent years, JFK has been somewhat discredited as a leader for his unpleasant sexual carryings-on and corruption. It may just be that this view is as incomplete as his portrayal as the saintly "King of Camelot". If so, One Hell of a Gamble could be the first stage in his partial rehabilitation. --John Crace, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Library Journal
-?Edward Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
The authors masterfully handle Soviet archives, and American sources, but the authors somewhat clumsily rifle through Cuban historiography. The opening chapters, however, do correctly portray Castro's budding relationship with the Soviet Union, and his diminishing alliance with the United States. And the failed Bay of Pigs operation coupled with Kennedy's campaign promise to "not be soft" on Cuba, did indeed solidify Castro's motivation to ally with the Soviets. In contrast, one of the chief frailties of the work lies with the somewhat unclear portrayal of Castro's image and relationship with key confidants. Granted, the authors lacked access to Cuban archives, but the absence of corroboration leaves room for question. For instance, the authors portray Castro as having a "privileged background" in his early years and offer little evidence to substantiate this claim.Read more ›
I did not know that Raul Castro was the committed communist who advocated closer ties with the USSR. That Fidel was anti-US was always clear, but it was most interesting to read about how the connection between Cuba and the USSR developed and its limitations because of Fidel's undisciplined and independent nature.
The back-channel diplomacy was also very interesting to read about and why we didn't learn about the Jupiter missile removal from Turkey until much later was another story I wanted to understand. For me, the most useful things I learned were the lurching and stumbling nature of the way the USSR and the US played off of and against each other. Not only were both sides trying to balance the other side, each side was also trying to be provocative as well.
The book also notes that the Soviets saw the Kennedy assassination as the work of a far right wing conspiracy led by H.L. Hunt, although they had no real evidence but the word of journalist Paul Ward. They refused to believe that the President's security services could have allowed a lone madman to shoot the President (as was actually the case).
The book ends with a brief discussion of coup that removed Khrushchev and put Brezhnev in power.
The book is written very well and has a rich supply of notes and documentation backing up the story the authors report. I think it is a fascination and important book from the most dangerous period in the Cold War.
As at the top, most performed well, bringing a focus to their tasks previously not thought possible while wondering what motivated Krushchev to take such a gamble. The book serves to answer some of the questions.
Interestingly enough the authors reveal that "Castro's July 26 movement was a coalition of professionals and Cubans of all political persuasions who were tired of decades of authoritarianism and official corruption," only to be replaced by a totalitarianism modeled on Soviet Russia.
From a Canadian perspective, it makes the policy towards Castro understandable, given that the man's meglomaniac quest for unquestioned adoration and economic handouts drove him to him to accept nuclear-armed missiles to achieve those goals. The madness of it and Kruschev's compliance startling reveals the weakness in political leaders to perceive the ultimate consequences of their actions.
This book reveals it on both sides of the equation. Highly recommended
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The authors have given us a thorough account of what happened. Applause for their extensive research efforts. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Michael Atkins, PhD
Bought several books at one time so haven't had a chance to listen/read this one yet.Published 11 months ago by email@example.com
A good account of this particular moment in Cold War history.Published 13 months ago by Charles Lewis
very interesting reading if you ever wanted to know how close the USA and the USSR were when it comes to World War III or the nuclear destruction of the United States also.Published 14 months ago by GR
I think this is one of the scariest times in world history but I wish this book had more answers to this story. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Mr. Bubles
I've read a number of excellent books about the Cuban Missile Crisis and this ranks with the best. The depth of the research adds a lot to our understanding of one of the seminal... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Dale Speetzen