The collapse of the Soviet Union freed both U.S. and U.S.S.R. policymakers to reveal how they really felt. In a series of extraordinary conferences in the 1990s, Soviet generals, intelligence officials, and diplomats came to the United States and Europe—a “limited" Soviet invasion, one joked—to narrate the history of arms control as they had experienced it. Those conferences, which have been documented in transcripts hosted by the nonprofit National Security Archives, shed light on a critical period of U.S.-Soviet strife, one that has important parallels to today’s conflict with Iran. I’ve read through those transcripts and spoken to living participants to get perspective on what the men involved—they were virtually all men—understood at the time.

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