Robert Ford, the Canadian ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1980, was a particularly astute observer of the Soviet scene, aided in part by his complete fluency in Russian, his sensitivity to the culture as a translator of Soviet poems and a poet himself, and the irrepressible probing of his Brazilian wife, Thereza. Ruud builds what is essentially a combined political biography of Ford and study of Leonid Brezhnev's Soviet Union around Ford's reporting and personal notes, interviews with Ford after his retirement, and his wife's unpublished memoir. So often do readers limit themselves to the memoirs and biographies of the key U.S. players that they overlook figures such as Ford -- however powerful their insights, however more accurate their analyses of Soviet impulses than those of U.S. observers, and however important their stories of the way Soviet leaders strove to maneuver U.S. allies. Ruud's account makes clear just how great the resulting loss is.
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