Matlock, Ronald Reagan's White House adviser and then ambassador to the Soviet Union, contributes significantly to an already considerable memoir literature on the end of the Cold War by providing a great deal of detail on the diplomacy on both sides, particularly the meetings between Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Reagan is the hero of his tale: wiser, more on top of essentials, and ready to improve relations earlier than is commonly thought. Casper Weinberger, William Casey, and other hard-liners are the villains, stubbornly resisting and sometimes even sabotaging efforts to get the ball rolling even before Gorbachev comes to power. Gorbachev himself comes off as vigorous and eager to change the dynamic between the two countries, but less flexible, less innovative conceptually, and less formidable a match for Reagan than in most portrayals. Only in Reagan's last two years do the real breakthroughs occur; Matlock lets the reader see why it took so long.
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