Chapter 66, in which the Soviets contemplate how to retreat from the brink
SHINY NEW OBJECT
Yevgeny Kasparanov’s latest audience with the General Secretary comes amid unprecedented tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States. Military giants have flailed at each other for thousands of years, but never with the destructive potential of nuclear weapons. The sheer terror instilled by what appears to be the high probability of all-out nuclear war has brought the civilian world nearly to a halt as the cataclysmic standoff unfolds on the world stage.
“Your diversion is working as intended, Yevgeny Nikolaievitch. The reports confirm that every level of American government is consumed by what our heroic forces are accomplishing in Cuba. And we have no indication of additional assets being committed to stop your German professor. But it won’t last forever. It can’t last forever. In my view, he has less than a week. The Americans have a short attention span, and they will get back to work on other matters soon, even in the face of the threat from Cuba. What news do you have from the island?”
“He is secure in his lab for the final push. As planned, he is now communicating via radio with our modest gunboat. He reports that he is certain he’ll be done on St. Thomas three days from today with immediate insertion and dispersal to follow within 72 hours of when he leaves the island.”
“Three days. That’s when I’ll make the private overture. The timing is right. It’s an enormous gamble, but I am certain that peering over the brink will restore some sanity to a process whose outcome has been merely theoretical to this point.”
“For both nations?”
“What choice does either have? In this case mass murder, a viable tactic or strategy under the correct circumstances, is nothing more than collective suicide which can never be rationalized. Our gamble rests on the assumption that the aspirations and fears of both sides are still subject to a degree of rational decision making.”
“Then there is nothing more for me to do other than wait.”
“That is incorrect, my young friend. If you were thinking of spending some time at home, I am sorry to disappoint you. Your continued presence on the job signals confidence of success in both matters. Staying away would be interpreted as fear of failure. Except to go home for a few hours of sleep and a change of clothes, you should plan on being in your office for the duration.”
Yevgeny stands to leave.
“Then I’d better get to my post. I’ll keep you informed of Schnelling’s progress.”
As Kasparanov is leaving the General Secretary’s office, the intercom on his desk buzzes. He flips a switch and responds.
“The Americans have issued a statement.”
“Bring it to me.”
It will be up to the General Secretary, irrespective of the rhetoric the Americans employ, regardless of the predictable demands they make, to propose a way out of the deadly labyrinth he and his countrymen have created. It will be up to the Americans, irrespective of forces within their own government and those around the world, to interpret and respond to his proposal sanely and rationally. While the prospect of failure is unthinkable, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union fears in his heart that the chances of failure are great.