The End of the Cold War is somewhat dense and lacks the compulsive readability of Tony Judt’s Postwar, which analyzes the Cold War through the lens of Eastern Europe. Yet Service’s book is a fine achievement: a commanding single-volume history of its subject that will serve as a vital reference for many years to come.
The reliance on these archives and Service’s dense writing style sometimes give the book a musty feel. It is considerably less readable than books about the end of the Cold War written by journalists who were based in the Soviet Union at that time...Yet Service does succeed in giving the reader a comprehensive account of the meetings and debates in the years leading up to the Soviet collapse.
Notwithstanding the impressive weight of Mr. Service’s evidence, some readers may feel that the key interpretive question—whether Ronald Reagan’s simple idea overcame Mikhail Gorbachev’s complex master design, or was the straw that broke the chimera’s back, or whether the U.S.S.R. destroyed itself from within—remains unanswered.