Mikhail Gorbachev's relations with the West have captured the imagination of contemporaries and historians alike, but his vision of Soviet leadership in Asia has received far less attention. The failure of Gorbachev's Asian initiatives has had dramatic consequences, by the late 1980s, the Soviet Union was in full retreat from Asia, and since the Soviet collapse, Russia has been left on the sidelines of the "Pacific century." In this exceptionally wide-ranging and deeply researched audiobook, Sergey Radchenko offers an illuminating account of the end of the Cold War in the East, tracing the death of Soviet ambitions in Asia. Radchenko shows that Gorbachev began with big gestures, of which the most important was his initiative in Vladivostok in July 1986, the opening salvo of the Soviet charm offensive in Asia Pacific. The problem, Radchenko points out, was that no one in Asia bought into Gorbachev's vision. If the Soviets had realized earlier that they needed Asia more than Asia needed them, they might have played a much more important role there. Instead, China was largely misunderstood, early gains in India were squandered, Japan was ignored or condescended to, and the Korean scenario played out in ways most unfavorable to Russia. Radchenko captures all of this in his compelling narrative, shedding important new light on many key players, including Gorbachev, Deng Xiaoping, Margaret Thatcher, Boris Yeltsin, and George H. W. Bush, among others. Based on archival research in Russia, China, Mongolia, India, the United States, Britain, and numerous European countries and on interviews with former policy makers in a dozen countries, Unwanted Visionaries presents a deftly narrated and penetrating portrait of the Soviet failure in the East, with a wealth of valuable insight into Asia today.
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
More dramatic - less textbook style of writing. It's just a little boring, reads literally like a Volume 2 textbook (with lots of references to volume 1, that you probably read in the last class and are just expected to understand). And it's not because it is a detailed history - grab Dorris Kearns Goodwin and you'll see just as detailed a history, but one you can't put down.
What did you like best about this story?
The level of detail and how well researched it was. It's also a specific era in history that gets little coverage.
What aspect of Ken Kliban’s performance would you have changed?
The way he pronounces things like "Gorbachev." This is definitely a -1 entire star. It sounds ridiculous, but listen and you'll see why this tends to drive you crazy.
You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?
Oh TONS! I still recommend you grab it if you love this type of history. It's weird. Its like a song where the lyrics are perfect, the riff is great, and everything just doesn't come together with a magic touch for some reason.
Any additional comments?
Amazing Author, Well researched details, Not bad reading performance. Not sure where it went wrong, but the execution was just not great.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful