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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > October 2017 > Books in brief

Books in brief

Armageddon and Paranoia: The Nuclear Confrontation

by Rodric Braithwaite (Profile, £25)

Germany’s invasion of the USSR left a psychological wound that shaped Soviet attitudes to the Cold War. Rodric Braithwaite, the former UK ambassador in Moscow, shows how the resulting paranoia drove them to acquire the Bomb and nuclear parity with the Americans “at whatever cost.”

The Americans were also stricken with paranoia. The Soviet Union did not leak information, so the west was left to imagine their enemy—and they imagined the worst. “Understanding was often confused with sympathy,” writes Braithwaite, and so President John F Kennedy hardly dared try to see the Cuban Missile Crisis through the eyes of his opposite number, Nikita Khrushchev.

Braithwaite’s book seesaws between the two superpowers, their scientists, soldiers and strategies, revealing the treacherous paradox which underpins nuclear deterrence: “you intend to terrify your enemy into behaving properly; but you risk frightening him into doing something silly.” This precarious state required rational thinking, and the veteran Braithwaite, who was at the Foreign Office during the Cuban crisis and in Moscow for the fall of the USSR, laments its lack. He is a wise observer of how close we came to Armageddon. Reason was marred by “poisonous ideological fervour, mutual demonisation.” The lessons are obvious for the current leaders of America and North Korea. Julie McDowall

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In Prospect’s October issue: Andrew Adonis, Steve Richards, Gaby Hinsliff, Rachel Sylvester and Jennifer Williams look at the idea that leadership is the only thing that matters when it comes to elections. Adonis leads the cover package arguing exactly that point and outlining his ratings of the leaders who have competed every election in the UK and the United States since 1944—Richards offers a rebuttal. Hinsliff, Sylvester and Williams profile three potential leaders in waiting—Amber Rudd, Jo Swinson and Angela Rayner. Elsewhere in the issue we map out the potential road the UK might travel down to stay in the European Union and explore the relationship between UN Secretary General António Guterres and Donald Trump as the two prepare to meet at the UN. Also in this issue: Philip Collins on the similarities between Britain’s Brexiteers and the Gaullists of yesteryear, John Bercow explains how parliament could function better and our “View from” comes from Nairobi, where the recent election result has been annulled.