For more than 20 years, scholars and pundits have been writing about the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war with one enormous handicap: the missing piece of the puzzle was what was going on in Moscow during a crisis that brought the world to the brink of confrontation and set the stage for the unraveling of détente. Now a Kremlin insider has written the book that shines light on precisely this hitherto mysterious topic--and what a story it is! Almost all the assumptions about Soviet policy made by leading diplomats and scholars--American, Israeli, and Arab--seem to have been wrong. Israelyan's credible portrait of day-by-day Soviet decision-making is grim--powerful men, not very well informed, making decisions without much understanding of their consequences. In this absorbing book, the reader will learn that Brezhnev and his colleagues did not encourage the Arabs to go to war; that they favored an early cease-fire, fearing that the Arabs would quickly be defeated; and that their threat to intervene militarily at the end of the war was not meant to be taken seriously. One wishes other Soviet diplomats of Israelyan's caliber would write honest memoirs of this sort on the other great crises of the Cold War. But for now, his stands alone as a model to be emulated.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.