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14 November 2018

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The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan

The great thing about history is how,when it is done well, it can tear down your wellestablished notions of what happened and how.

In this extremely readable account of White House politics, back-channel communications and foreign policy negotiations, Mann upends conventional wisdom about the end of the Cold War. Through meticulously researched stories, interviews and documentary evidence, he reconstructs the period in Ronald Reagan’s second term when events and personalities came together to make change happen.

Included is the fascinating story of an unlikely emissary who influenced Reagan’s thinking on Russia long before the “experts” in the CIA and State “got it.” But the leading actor in the drama is of course Reagan, and Mann shows that it was not some pie-in-the-sky strategic initiative that brought the Cold War to an end. Instead, it was a combination of Gorbachev’s willingness to walk away from that War (to save his economy), combined with Reagan’s gut instinct that he should ignore the criticism of those on the right who said Gorbachev was just like all those who had gone before. The rest, as they say, is history.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: Mar/Apr 2009