The Cold War had seemed like a permanent fixture in global politics, and until its denouement, no Western or Soviet politician foresaw that the stand-off between the two superpowers - after decades of struggle over every aspect of security, politics, economics and ideas - would end in their lifetimes. Even after March 1985 when Mikhail Gorbachëv became the leader of the Soviet Union it was not preordained that global nuclear Armageddon could or would be averted peaceably.
But just four years later, the Berlin Wall was dismantled and perestroika spread throughout the former Soviet bloc. It was a sea change in world history, which resulted in the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Drawing on pioneering archival research, Robert Service's gripping new investigation of the final years of the Cold War pinpoints the astonishing relationships among President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachëv, Secretary of State George Shultz and the USSR's last Foreign Affairs Minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, who found a way to cooperate during times of extraordinary change around the world. The story is of American pressure and Soviet long-term decline and over-stretch. The End of the Cold War shows how that small, skillful group of statesmen were determined to end the Cold War on their watch. In the process, they irreversibly transformed the global geopolitical landscape.
Authoritative, compelling and meticulously researched, this is political history at its best.
What makes Service's book special is its scholarship. His terrier-like persistence in digging into previously unexcavated archives in Russia, across America and around the internet gives his view of this slice of our recent past a firm documentary foundation ... A magisterial account of a turning point in modern history, whose intellectual rigour and robustness make it unlikely to be bettered. (Sherard Cowper-Coles Spectator)
Our leading historian of the Soviet Union ... magisterial. (Observer)
Detailed and clear ... his main strength is his forensic challenge to the clichés and myths on which western triumphalism about the Cold War is based ... Service is an authoritative voice offering a more nuanced view. (Victor Sebestyen Sunday Times)
A masterful chronicle about personalities and ideas ... The Cold War ended with the demise of the USSR in December 1991. The great biographer of Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky here offers a superb account of how and why this unexpected denouement came about. (Vladimir Tismaneanu Times Higher Education Supplement)
Well-written and thought-provoking. (Christopher Andrew Literary Review)
An abundance of superbly organized material. (Mary Dejevsky Independent)
Absorbingly written, displaying an admirable command of the sources, this book is destined to become a classic of Cold War historical literature. (International Affairs)
This volume is both important and fascinatingly readable. It is a big book but not an exhausting one, a good read with no wasted space. (BBC History Magazine)
Service is known for his meaty biographies of Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky, so it is unsurprising that in this intricate history he brings magnificently to life the "big four" who did most to end the Cold War. (Sunday Telegraph)