On the week of the 60th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, the brilliant historian and journalist Max Hastings joins us to discuss his new book Abyss, an exploration of period in which the world came the closest it has ever to nuclear war.
On 14 October 1962 the US and the USSR clashed when the Russian government moved nuclear warheads to the island of Cuba. The US responded to this perceived threat, and in a 13-day stand-off Nikita Khrushchev and President John F Kennedy engaged in a tense war of words and positioning which became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In this graphic and brilliant new account of the Cuban missile crisis Hastings brings together vivid, personal narratives of the people on the ground whilst drawing together the big picture with compelling skill and vision.
In gripping, authoritative pages, Hastings tells the story from the viewpoints of national leaders,
Russian officers, Cuban peasants, American pilots and British disarmers. Putting fresh, international
context on an astonishing military and political showdown, Max Hastings deploys his accustomed
blend of eye-witness interviews, archive documents and diaries, White House tape recordings and
top-down analysis; first to paint word-portraits of the Cold War experiences of Fidel Castro’s Cuba,
Nikita Khrushchev’s Russia and Kennedy’s America; then to describe the nail-biting Thirteen Days in
which Armageddon beckoned.
The invasion of Ukraine gives this narrative a hitherto unimaginable twenty-first century immediacy.
We may be witnessing the onset of a new Cold War between nuclear-armed superpowers. To contend with today’s threat, which Hastings fears will prove enduring, it is critical to understand how, sixty years ago, the world survived its last glimpse into the abyss of mutual annihilation. Only by fearing the worst, he argues, can our leaders hope to secure the survival of the planet.