THE TURN by Don Oberdorfer


The United States and the Soviet Union, 1983-1988
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 Potent tale of the remarkable events leading to the end of the cold war by Washington Post diplomatic correspondent Oberdorfer (Tet!, 1971). Personalities dominate this well-paced insider's account of how the arms race was reined in, beginning with a Ronald Reagan who ``saw no contradiction speaking his mind [e.g., the 1983 ``evil empire'' speech] while seeking to establish a working relationship'' with the Soviets, and who considered SDI compatible with the 1972 treaty that banned ``ABM systems or components which are sea...air...or space based.'' Potholes (the crash of KAL 007, the death of a US liaison officer in East Germany, dissension between Secretary of State Shultz and his entourage of Intelligence hawks) seem about to derail negotiations time and again, but the undertow of history is evident as the dying Andropov reveals the extent of the Russian economic crisis to disciple Gorbachev, who must act on that knowledge. Well-chosen quotes underline the seriousness--and style--of all parties as the impossible begins to occur. In the middle of it all are a memorable Shultz, jousting with Gorbachev, always steadfast (though offering his resignation several times), and the amazing Eduard Shevardnadze, a Gorbachev friend with no diplomatic background. Oberdorfer makes the drive to glasnost a palpable process: at Reykjavik, a Russian who launches into a ``standard recitation of Russian views'' is stopped by the head of the Soviet delegation placing a hand on his arm: ``suddenly, high-ranking [Soviets]...were accessible for hours.'' Distinctive, you-are-there history, with all the players in clear focus as the superpowers move away step by step from the ``60,000 warheads...over 1 million Hiroshimas'' of 1983. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-671-70783-3
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1991