Review Essay

How Close We Came

In This Review

"One Hell of a Gamble": Khrushchev, Castro, and Kennedy, 1958-1964

"One Hell of a Gamble": Khrushchev, Castro, and Kennedy, 1958-1964
By Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali
W.W. Norton, 1997, 406 pp. $27.50 Purchase

In their excellent new history of the Kennedy-Khrushchev confrontation over Cuba, Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali provide perhaps the most comprehensive narrative of the perilous moment yet to appear in print. It is also an exciting tale, reading at times like good spy fiction. The authors have used materials from every conceivable American and Soviet source, successfully integrating recent scholarship, interviews with key participants, and documents from the full range of Soviet departments and agencies, including KGB, GRU, and Politburo records previously unavailable. The only thing lacking is the Cuban piece of the puzzle, which must await a more open climate in Havana.

But while the book is clearly valuable and a major contribution to the field, it also reflects a somewhat disturbing trend. Fursenko, the chairman of the history department at the Russian Academy of Sciences, had exclusive access to many of the most important documents cited in the

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