chapter  1
Through 11 September
Pages 29

Mikhail Gorbachev assumed power in the Kremlin in March 1985. Soon he emerged as a prime mover in what one may identify as the third and last of the great turning points of the Cold War. The first had been the peace agreements in Korea then Indo-China in 1953-4. They came hard upon the death of Stalin, though also the acquisition by each Superpower of thermonuclear warheads, the more advanced form of atomic firepower that derives not from the fission of heavy nuclei but from the fusion of hydrogen ones. Then, in 1962, the resolution of the Cuba missile crisis betokened the conclusive acknowledgement by both Washington and Moscow that a global nuclear exchange would be the ultimate in gratuitous folly.