It seems David wasn't alone in disagreeing with Max Frankel's review of Iron Curtain. Several academics sent in letters to the New York Times strongly dissenting from Frankel's stance on Iron Curtain's historical depth. One example:
I found Max Frankel’s criticisms of Anne Applebaum’s “Iron Curtain” (Nov. 25) mystifying. He claims we know more than enough about the Soviet Union and its takeover of Eastern Europe, and thus don’t need more “exhausting detail.” Would he extend this argument to other major historical events like World War II? Moreover, there is nothing comparable to Applebaum’s book and its meticulous reconstruction of a chapter of history largely unknown even to the educated public. I invite him to count the number of college courses on the former Soviet Union or Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe.
Frankel also faults Applebaum for not having written about matters tangential or irrelevant to the topic of this book — how Soviet colonization “might have been forestalled,” for example — and for not speculating about “what methods of intervention for freedom” should be applied now in Cuba, North Korea, Syria or China. He further scolds her for not engaging the claims of historians who believe that Stalin’s “aggressive responses” were “provoked” by Western hostility, while acknowledging that “Applebaum’s evidence provides a telling rebuttal to those ‘revisionist’ theories.”
“Most conspicuously missing,” Frankel writes, “is any sustained examination of Soviet motives for the rape of Eastern Europe.” But Applebaum provides this in the introduction and in Chapters 2 and 3, which analyze the totalitarian character of the Soviet system under Stalin, driven by ideology and a hunger for power as well as geopolitical considerations.