The author’s reflections on the nature and uses of power as on the art of negotiation deserve full attention. He makes the point that “big powers don’t bluff”, when referring to the manner in which Finland misread Stalin’s intentions before the Soviet Union’s attack in 1939. One could add that when they do bluff, as Barack Obama did with his “red lines” during the Syrian crisis of 2013, the consequences can be unfortunate if the bluff is called.
Robert Cooper has a lifelong experience of diplomacy in the British Foreign Office and the European Union. His new book is based on wide reading and meticulous attention to detail. It is fluently written in a limpid and comfortable prose. Despite its title, it is not really about ambassadors at all, though it shows in passing how Anatoly Dobrynin, the wily and well-connected Soviet representative in Washington, played just the role an ambassador should in the midst of the Cuban missile crisis.