The crisis passed; the world survived. Downing maintains a solid control of his material and sketches out the main players, Reagan, Andropov, Gorbachev, Schultz, Gordievsky etc very well indeed. But when the first missile exchange failed to check the Red Army, they were left with no choice. He knew that America could outspend the Soviet Union and that an arms race would destroy the Soviet Union. This book is about one of the most deadly phases of the cold war, that most, including some intelligence analysts, did not know about. The isolation from the real world of the Soviet leadership left them to paint a darker picture.
Publisher's Summary 1983 was a supremely dangerous year - even more dangerous than 1962, the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Almost 50% of the American population was not alive or too young to remember the Cold War. His books are 'vivid and fast-paced' Financial Times. When new codes were used, and radio silence fell, they feared the game was cover for a real attack. A few weeks later there was a different type of alert when a new Soviet early warning station south of Moscow started picking up signals of missile launches in the United States. In 1983, Taylor Downing draws on previously unpublished interviews, and over a thousand pages of secret documents that have recently been released by Washington to tell the gripping, astonishing story that was almost the end of the world.
Of course, President Reagan responded as he went along but it was always from core principles. The nervous Soviets convinced themselves this was no exercise but the real thing. As a film maker and researcher he finds obscure historical details and presents them in a readable way for expert and novice alike. The temperature was rising, fast. Despite its misnomer of the title -- perhaps 40% of the book is narrowly focused on 1983 -- I enjoyed this a ton. From books to tv drama to pop music, it was everywhere. This book for me was a shocking revelation.
Finally the near miss counter was too high ; both sides were preparing for war and finally it dawned that dialogue was needed. In the United States, President Reagan increased defence spending and launched the 'Star Wars' Strategic Defence Initiative. Now, once again, he saw a foreign enemy rattling its sabre. The author, Taylor Downing, has done some interesting research into some recently-declassified material. Andropov and other Soviet leaders were readying to authorize launch codes. In 1983, Taylor Downing draws on previously unpublished interviews and over a thousand pages of secret documents that have recently been released by Washington to tell the gripping, astonishing story that was almost the end of the world. This year was different from other years in that the usual codes were changed, there were periods of radio silence, and participation from heads of states.
Andropov repeated a fabricated story. It was only an exercise, of course: everybody knew that. I was disapointed of the details arround the event. There have been several books written about the subject, but all in the '80s, and all long out of print. And when, two weeks after the evil empire speech, Reagan floated his pet project of a space-based missile defence system Star Wars , he was horrified.
In 1983 cinema audiences flocked to see the latest James Bond movie in which Roger Moore defeats a Soviet general who attempts to launch a nuclear first strike against the West. Well written and flows so well. What astonishing luck we had. If Petrov had not kept his cool, the world could have ended then and there. We never knew of any fact that the Soviet Union leadership were being to paranoia by Western government provocations.
The irony is that Reagan privately hated nuclear weapons, dreamt of disarmament and was a much more astute and pragmatic man than his opponents realised. Little did they know that while they munched on their popcorn, the Soviets were indeed preparing to launch a real nuclear attack on the West. Everybody, that is, except the Soviet signals experts who had been following the exercise and now spotted that Nato had adopted a new code at the critical moment. Important book showing the dangerous combination of misunderstandings, miscommunication, and mutual distrust among nuclearly-armed nations and how that combination almost led to the destruction of the Earth as we know it in 1983. The nervous Soviets convinced themselves this was no exercise but the real thing. The temperature was rising fast.
Abel Archer, an East German spy, convinced his masters that an authentic attack on the Soviet Union was being prepared. In his presidential campaign, Reagan had promised to raise defence spending and roll back communism, and he seemed to revel in his image as a trigger-happy cowboy. This is an extraordinary and largely unknown Cold War story of spies and double agents, of missiles being readied, of intelligence failures, misunderstandings and the panic of world leaders. Well written and flows so well. When a Soviet plane shot down a Korean civilian jet, he described it as 'a crime against humanity'.
The minutes ticked by, the tension almost intolerable. I have to say that reading 1983 didn't really provide me with anything that hasn't already been told on the History Channel. We all know what happened next. The temperature was rising fast. For Cold War junkies, it's everything you already know gathered together in one place. The story telling was overly long and went into such needless detail that the main story was lost.