One Hell of a Gamble: Khrushchev, Kennedy, and Castro, 1958-1964by Aleksandr Fursenko, Timothy Naftali
Pub. Date: 08/28/1998
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
No other book offers this inside look at the strategies of the Soviet leadership. John F. Kennedy did not live to write his memoirs;
Based on classified Soviet archives, including the files of Nikita Khrushchev and the KGB, "One Hell of a Gamble" offers a riveting play-by-play history of the Cuban missile crisis from American and Soviet perspectives simultaneously.
No other book offers this inside look at the strategies of the Soviet leadership. John F. Kennedy did not live to write his memoirs; Fidel Castro will not reveal what he knows; and the records of the Soviet Union have long been sealed from public view: Of the most frightening episode of the Cold War--the Cuban Missile Crisis--we have had an incomplete picture. When did Castro embrace the Soviet Union? What proposals were put before the Kremlin through Kennedy's back-channel diplomacy? How close did we come to nuclear war? These questions have now been answered for the first time. This important and controversial book draws the missing half of the story from secret Soviet archives revealed exclusively by the authors, including the files of Nikita Khrushchev and his leadership circle. Contained in these remarkable documents are the details of over forty secret meetings between Robert Kennedy and his Soviet contact, records of Castro's first solicitation of Soviet favor, and the plans, suspicions, and strategies of Khrushchev. This unique research opportunity has allowed the authors to tell the complete, fascinating, and terrifying story of the most dangerous days of the last half-century.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Table of ContentsAcknowledgments
PART I: THE EMBRACE
1. "Where Does Castro Stand regarding Russia?"
2. Our Man in Havana
3. La Coubre
4. "Cuba Si, Yankee No!"
PART II: THE CLASH
5. Bay of Pigs
6. The Education of a President
7. Condor and Mongoose
8. Trouble in the Tropics
9. The Nuclear Decision
11. "Now We Can Swat Your Ass"
12. Ex Comm
13. Missile Crisis
14. Climax of the Cold War
15. Mikoyan's Mission
PART III: THE AFTERMATH
16. To the American University Speech
17. Dallas and Moscow
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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In 1958, Fidel Castro and his band of guerillas successfully overthrew the despised Batista regime in Cuba. At the time, Castro was a question mark for US policymakers. He actually was invited to visit the US and gave a speech at Harvard. However, his domestic socialist reforms caused consternation in Washington, while the communist affiliations of his leading supporters (e.g. his brother, Raul, and Che Guevara) created outright alarm. The authors infer that in 1958 Castro could have gone either way, i.e. communist or non-communist. However, Washington's thinly veiled distrust and eventual outright hostility against him supposedly pushed him into seeking Soviet support. The book then continues, following Castro's ascension to power, his increasing fear of US-backed invasion, and his greater and greater demands for increased Soviet protection. Surpisingly, the Soviets initially had as little interest in Castro's Cuba as Washington. However, the Cold War was on, and Kruschev was eager to project Soviet influence at the expense of Mao's communist China. And what better way to assert Soviet prestige than by establishing a Soviet communist beachhead just off America's shores. As the US stepped up its belated and ineffectual covert operations aimed at destabilizing and eventually toppling the Castro regime, Castro sought ever more Soviet economic, and especially military, assistance. One of the Soviet's first major successes was in implementing the block surveillance program. Arms shipments became greater, more frequent, and more obvious. However, Soviet-Castro relations became endangered by one of Castro's rebellious communist lieutenants, and the Soviets were stymied by their deficiency in ICBMs. Thus, Kruschev made the fateful and audacious decision to deploy Soviet medium and intermediate range nuclear missiles and bombers in Cuba. Much of the rest of the story is well-known. American U2 reconnaisance flights over Cuba reveal the construction of Soviet missile and bomber bases. Kennedy goes on national TV to alert the US public to the crisis and gain support for potential military action. Behind the scenes, a deal is desperately sought to end the crisis. Ultimately, Kruschev publicly agrees to remove nukes from Cuba, while Kennedy privately agrees to reciprocate in removing American missiles from Turkey. The book reveals a great deal about how strongly individual personalities affect history and national leadership. It also demonstrates how completely inept and unrealistic the CIA's operations were in Cuba. There were a few times during Castro's rise to power that the US had a chance of courting him however, their own ignorance of Cuba's internal politics assured they would never capitalize on it. From my standpoint, the entire crisis could have been easily avoided by resolute leadership in the White House - either make Castro an ally, oust him when he was still weak, or guarantee that Cuba will not be military threatened by the US. The fault lies with both Eisenhower and Kennedy for their weak and vacillating policies towards Castro.
For a long time I had been seeking an informed, readable history of the Cuban missile crisis, and preferably one that took advantage of the availability of documents from Soviet archives. This is it! Reads like a novel, well researched and then some, incredibly well-written, fleshes out all the characters, the background, even the technical matters. History does not come better than this.
I had to write a paper on the cold war relating to the cold war and Fidel's role in it. This book does an outstanding job in providing researchers, historians, as well as all readers to enjoy an exciting historiographical perspective on the Cold War. The authors provide the reader with an excellent documentation and elaboration on the primary sources used that provide the reader with the information that may or may not change the point of view in which he or she looks at the entire cold war. It is not just the cold war that is exciting in the book, but it is also the characters--Kennedy, Castro, and Khrushchev--whose actions have been encitingly elaborated here. With the speeches of Kennedy, and various other documents, this book adds more and more to its charm and presents an excellent source for everyone who loves history.