In the second half of 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed. It was an event of major historic and global dimensions, yet this strategic transformation of international relations took the entire world totally by suprise - despite the fact that the West saw in the Communist power an ideological foe and a major military threat.
During the 1980s Western intelligence services spent about $40 billion every year, most of it to monitor the Soviet Union and its satellites. Yet all of them, without exception, were taken by surprise when the red empire crumbled. The American CIA, Britain's MI-6, Germany's BND and the French DGSE all failed to comprehend that the Soviet Union was approaching the end of its imperial existence. A handful of honest intelligence professionals who identified the signs of weakness and distress were shunted aside.
The authors of this book interviewed dozens of people who dealt with Soviet affairs in the 1980s, most of them in the United States, some in Europe, the Soviet Union and Israel. The interviewees included high ranking government officials, academics and journalists, but mostly intelligence personnel. All admitted having been caught off guard, but differed over the reasons for their surprise, and who was responsible for it.