Alcoholic book editor from a bargain-basement publishing house in Great Britain, "Barley" Scott Blair (Sean Connery), would rather be drinking in Lisbon than attending a book dealers' show in Russia. To his surprise his boozy holiday ends early when CIA agent (Mac McDonald) pays him a visit. It seems that through a book show intermediary the CIA has received a package from Russian book editor Katya (Michelle Pfeiffer) that contains remarkably detailed notebooks written by a cynical Russian physicist named "Dante" (Klaus-Maria Brandauer). The notebooks illustrate the jocularity of Russia's nuclear threat: Russian rockets "suck instead of blow...and can't hit Nevada on a clear day," in the harsh words of CIA Agent Russell Sheridan (Roy Scheider). Unsure of Dante’s motives in sending the notebooks to Blair and questionable about the end of the nuclear arms race the British Secret Service decides to send Blair to new Russia to meet Katya. His objectives: to assess new Russia's involvements in the old Cold War and to verify the authenticity of the notebooks.