In This Review

The End of the Cold War: 1985–1991
The End of the Cold War: 1985–1991
By Robert Service
, 2015, 688 pp

Service takes the vast literature on the Cold War’s end, adds newly available archival sources, and pulls it all together into a single massive history of how “Washington and Moscow achieved their improbable peace.” Instead of taking a side in the simplistic debate over whether Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev’s revolution in Soviet foreign policy or U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s initial hard line deserves more credit for the outcome, Service chooses a subtler middle ground, crediting both sides. He commends the skill and flexibility of Gorbachev, Reagan, and two other men: U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, both of whom Service places at the center of his story. The narrative weaves between the diplomatic action on multiple fronts and the political maneuvering in the United States and the Soviet Union. To cover as many elements as Service does requires very tight writing, even in a big book such as this one: as a result, he settles for sentences rather than paragraphs to cover the necessary ground.