THE CRISIS YEARS by Michael R. Beschloss


Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960-1963
Email this review


 Especially apropos in the wake of the recent Gulf war--a superb diplomatic history that unfolds the near-fatal miscalculations made by the cool New Frontiersman and the mercurial Soviet in the most dangerous years of the cold war. As JFK took office, both he and Khrushchev hoped to lift American-Soviet diplomacy from its low after the U-2 affair. But the contentious Vienna summit, held only a few months after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, exacerbated their personality differences- -Kennedy misunderstanding the depth of the Communist's ideological fervor, and Khrushchev dismissing the American as a callow youth who could be intimidated. Soon, they were lurching from one crisis to another--Laos, Vietnam, the Congo, and Berlin- -until the Cuban Missile Crisis shocked them into concluding the Limited Test Ban Treaty. Beschloss (Kennedy and Roosevelt, 1980; Mayday, 1986; Eisenhower: A Centennial Life in Pictures, 1990) makes excellent use of newly declassified government documents, post-glasnost admissions by Soviet officials, and interviews with their American counterparts to reveal how the two leaders missed each other's signals because of preoccupation with domestic critics: Kennedy with right-wingers hinting he was no Eisenhower, Khrushchev with Chinese Communists and Kremlin hard-liners. Moreover, Beschloss plausibly explains previously inexplicable events (e.g., that JFK's exposure of Soviet nuclear inferiority pushed Khrushchev into redressing the balance of power by installing missiles in Cuba), while offering tantalizing speculations on other mysteries (e.g., the assassination attempts against Fidel Castro). History as it ought to be written--exhaustively researched, revelatory, graceful, and, despite our knowledge of the outcome, even thrilling. (Thirty-two pages of b&w photographs.)

Pub Date: June 7th, 1991
ISBN: 0-06-016454-9
Page count: 864pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1991


NonfictionPRESIDENTIAL COURAGE by Michael R. Beschloss
by Michael R. Beschloss
NonfictionTHE CONQUERORS by Michael R. Beschloss
by Michael R. Beschloss
NonfictionAT THE HIGHEST LEVELS by Michael R. Beschloss
by Michael R. Beschloss