I loved it. It very much reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Thirteen Days
, which was about the Cuban Missile Crisis (and starred Bruce Greenwood, the future Captain Pike, as President Kennedy). I find these sorts of "international Mexican stand-off" stories, about nations that unintentionally find themselves on the brink of war and can't figure out how to defuse the situation, absolutely fascinating.
I also appreciate the moral ambiguity of it. McCormack has often cited John le Carré as an influence, and it shows. She seems to have a consistent thematic concern with the idea of institutional or national guilt, with the idea of morally compromised institutions and persons acting to protect--or to serve, at least--empires or hegemons that find themselves less powerful than they one were. Usually, she's done this through Cardassia -- but here, the hegemon is the Federation.
To be fair, the Federation's moral compromise in Brinksmanship
is less extreme than we tend to find in real life democracies; however shabbily the Akaar and Bacco treated the Venettans, the fact remains that they chose to turn their backs on the UFP and to allow a hostile power to place technology that could be used as a bioweapon on the UFP border. The Venettans truly did start it, and while we may admire their extreme openness, their utter refusal to accept the common realities of espionage and manipulation in international relations stands out as a form of ethnocentrism to me (especially when they condemn the Federation for espionage and refuse to acknowledge the possibility that the Tzenkethi do the same or worse). They did
take threatening action towards the Federation, and there's no way around that.