Book Talk: Nuclear Folly
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Nearly sixty years after the Cuban missile crisis and thirty years after the end of the Cold War, today’s leaders appear capable of repeating the dangerous precedents of the past. In order to better understand and manage the major nuclear challenges of the 21st century, the lessons of the past should be considered. Serhii Plokhii’s new book, Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis, offers an international perspective on the crisis, tracing the tortuous decision-making that produced and then resolved it. In this book talk, he illustrated the drama and anxiety of those tense days, drawing on a range of Soviet archival sources and White House tapes, and explained how to grapple with the problems posed in the present.
Purchase the book from Politics and Prose HERE.
"Khrushchev really didn’t understand what kind of impact [moving missiles to Cuba] would have not just on Kennedy, but on the Americans as a whole. People who knew more about the United States, including the KGB, were warning him, or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, were warning him that it would blow up in his face, that that will be a major reaction coming from the United States when Khrushchev was thinking that, ok, they put their missiles in Turkey, and I swallowed that, and we have our missiles in Europe and Europeans don’t raise much of a fuss about that as well, so the expectation was that the reaction from the U.S. would be subdued."
"[Khrushchev] was someone who was really taking risks. That was his lifestyle, not thinking much about what the consequences might be. There was an interesting episode in his career on the international arena when he flew to the United States on the invitation of President Eisenhower, so he was flying in the biggest, at that time in the world, airplane, Soviet airplane, and he was very proud of that. The problem was that the airplane was not properly tested and the engineers discovered that there were cracks in the engine and those cracks could grow. Khrushchev didn’t say no and didn’t change the plane, instead, half of the Soviet navy was stationed in between the Atlantic along the route the plane was supposed to take in case there is an emergency landing to save the Premier and the head of the Party of the Soviet Union. So that just gives you some sort of an idea what kind of person Khrushchev was."
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