Geneva Summit (1985)

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For other uses of "Geneva Summit ", see Geneva Summit.
SDI was high on Gorbachev's agenda at the Geneva Summit

The Geneva Summit of 1985 was a Cold War-era meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. It was held on November 19 and 20, 1985, between U.S. president Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. The two leaders met for the first time to hold talks on international diplomatic relations and the arms race.

Run-up to the summit[edit]

Both the Soviet Union and the United States were seeking to cut the number of nuclear weapons, with the Soviets seeking to halve the number of nuclear-equipped bombers and missiles, and the U.S. desiring to ensure that neither side gained a first-strike advantage, and to protect rights to have defensive systems.[1] Diplomats struggled to come up with planned results in advance, with Soviets rejecting the vast majority of the items that U.S. negotiators proposed.[2] With the meeting planned months in advance, the two superpowers used the opportunity to posture and to stake their positions in the court of public opinion. Reagan's security advisor Robert McFarlane announced that they were having "real trouble establishing a dialogue" with the Soviets, and announced a first test for the Strategic Defense Initiative missile defense. The Soviets announced a unilateral moratorium on underground nuclear tests and invited the Americans to join them, a request that was rebuffed.[3]

The meeting[edit]

Reagan and Gorbachev at the Geneva Summit in 1985

On November 19, 1985, U.S. president Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev met for the first time, in Geneva, to hold talks on international diplomatic relations and the arms race. The meeting was held at Maison de Saussure, a chateau owned by His Highness the Aga Khan.[4] Gorbachev later said "We viewed the Geneva meeting realistically, without grand expectations, yet we hoped to lay the foundations for a serious dialogue in the future."[5] Similar to former president Eisenhower in 1955, Reagan believed that a personal relationship among leaders was the necessary first step to breaking down the barriers of tension that existed between the two countries. Reagan's goal was to convince Gorbachev that America desired peace above all else.[6] Reagan described his hopes for the summit as a "mission for peace". The first thing Reagan said to Gorbachev was "The United States and the Soviet Union are the two greatest countries on Earth, the superpowers. They are the only ones who can start World War 3, but also the only two countries that could bring peace to the world". He then continued to emphasize their personal similarities, being born in similar "rural hamlets in the middle of their retrospective countries" and the great responsibilities they held.[7]

Their first meeting would exceed their time limit by over a half an hour. A Reagan assistant asked Secretary of State George Shultz whether he should interrupt the meeting to keep things punctual. Shultz responded, "If you think so, then you shouldn't have this job." [8] The first day, Mikhail Gorbachev argued that the United States did not trust them and that its ruling class was trying to keep the people uneasy. Ronald Reagan countered that the Soviets had been acting aggressively and suggested the Soviets were overly paranoid about the United States (The Soviets had refused to allow American planes use Soviet airfields in post-World War II Germany). They broke for lunch and Reagan promised Gorbachev he'd have a chance to rebut. They talked outside for about two hours on the Strategic Defense Initiative, but both stood firm. Gorbachev accepted Reagan's invitation to the United States in a year, and Reagan was invited to do the same in 1987. On the second day, Reagan went after human rights, saying that he did not want to tell Gorbachev how to run his country, but that he should ease up on emigration restrictions. Gorbachev claimed that the Soviets were comparable to the United States and quoted some feminist extremists. The next session started with arguments about the arms race, then went into SDI. Gorbachev was "belligerent" and Reagan "stood firm", though they did agree to a joint statement.[9]

Impact[edit]

The two leaders held similar meetings over the next few years to further discuss the topics. Gorbachev then held summits with George H.W. Bush after the latter became president.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Proposals bode well for Geneva Summit". The Milwaukee Sentinel. 1985-11-02. 
  2. ^ "Geneva summit could turn into bare-knuckles confrontation", Raymond Coffey, The Evening Independent, August 28, 1985
  3. ^ http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=9GxQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=9FkDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6517,2885187&dq=geneva+summit&hl=en
  4. ^ PBS - The Presidents: Reagan, PBS On-line, (retrieved 10 July 2011)
  5. ^ Matlock, Reagan and Gorbachev, p.149.
  6. ^ Anderson and Anderson, Reagan: A Life in Letters, p. 288.
  7. ^ "Geneva Summit - President Reagan to Hold Pre-summit Speech", ABC News (retrieved 24 January 2007)
  8. ^ "A conversation with George Shultz". Charlie Rose. Retrieved 2011-11-19. 
  9. ^ The Reagan Diaries, 11/19/85-11/20/85, p. 369-371

References[edit]

External links[edit]