In addition, grass roots movements which gained momentum after the signing of the Helsinki Accords in 1975 are not examined. These movements played a major role in eroding Soviet power in the 1980s. Despite these shortcomings, Zubok's work does not fall into the trap of most works on the Cold War. He does not center his work on the superpower conflict. He looks at Moscow's relationship with several states and the impact of the global Cold War. He also spends many chapters on the domestic impact of the Cold War and successfully explores the role of personalities in the struggle. Overall, A Failed Empire is a compelling work which reminds us that the Cold War looked different to those on the Soviet side.
One prominent feature of the nuclear arms race, especially following the massed deployment of nuclear ICBMs due to the flawed assumption that the manned bomber was fatally vulnerable to surface to air missiles, was the concept of deterrence via assured destruction, later, mutually assured destruction or "MAD." The idea was that the Western bloc would not attack the Eastern bloc or vice versa, because both sides had more than enough nuclear weapons to reduce each other out of existence and to make the entire planet uninhabitable. Therefore, launching an attack on either party would be suicidal and so neither would attempt it. With increasing numbers and accuracy of delivery systems, particularly in the closing stages of the Cold War, the possibility of a first strike doctrine weakened the deterrence theory. A first strike would aim to degrade the enemy's nuclear forces to such an extent that the retaliatory response would involve "acceptable" losses.