Reykjavík Summit

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The former French consulate, called Höfði, was the site of the Reykjavík Summit in 1986

The Reykjavík Summit was a summit meeting between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, held in Höfði in Reykjavík, the capital city of Iceland, on 11–12 October 1986.[1] The talks collapsed at the last minute, but the progress that had been achieved eventually resulted in the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union.


Reagan and Gorbachev in Höfði

In 1986, Gorbachev had proposed banning all ballistic missiles, but Reagan wanted to continue research on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which involved the militarization of outer space. Yet Soviet suspicion of SDI continued, and U.S.-Soviet relations — already strained by the failure of the Geneva Summit the previous year[citation needed] — were further strained by the Daniloff-Zakharov espionage affair.

At Reykjavík, Reagan sought to include discussion of human rights, emigration of Soviet Jews and dissidents, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Gorbachev sought to limit the talks solely to arms control. The Soviets acceded to the "double-zero" proposal for eliminating INF weapons from Europe, as initially proposed by President Reagan in November 1981 (INF denoting "Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces" as distinct from ICBMs, or intercontinental ballistic missiles).[2] The Soviets also proposed to eliminate 50% of all strategic arms, including ICBMs, and agreed not to include British or French weapons in the count. All this was proposed in exchange for an American pledge not to implement strategic defences for the next ten years, in accordance with SALT I.

The Americans countered with a proposal to eliminate all ballistic missiles within ten years, but required the right to deploy strategic defences against remaining threats afterwards. Gorbachev then suggested eliminating all nuclear weapons within a decade. Gorbachev, however, citing a desire to strengthen the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty), added the condition that any SDI research be confined to laboratories for the ten-year period in question. Reagan argued that his proposed SDI research was allowed by any reasonable interpretation of the ABM treaty, and that he could not forget the pledge he made to Americans to investigate whether SDI was viable. He also promised to share SDI technology, a promise which Gorbachev said he doubted would be fulfilled, as the Americans would not even share oil-drilling technology.

Some, including Reagan staffer Jack F. Matlock, Jr., attribute Reagan’s refusal to compromise on SDI testing to a mistaken belief that the proposed restrictions would be detrimental to the program, whereas in reality, Matlock contends, they would have had little effect on research that was still in its very early stages.[3]

The talks finally stalled, Reagan asking if Gorbachev would “turn down a historic opportunity because of a single word,” referring to his insistence on laboratory testing. Gorbachev asserted that it was a matter of principle, and the summit concluded.


Despite getting unexpectedly close to the potential elimination of all nuclear weapons, the meeting adjourned with no agreement; however, both sides discovered the extent of the concessions the other side was willing to make.[2] Human rights became a subject of productive discussion for the first time. An agreement by Gorbachev to on-site inspections, a continuing American demand which had not been achieved in the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 or the ABM and SALT I pacts of 1972, constituted a significant step forward.

Despite its apparent failure, participants and observers have referred to the summit as an enormous breakthrough which eventually facilitated the INF Treaty (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty), signed at the Washington Summit on 8 December 1987.


There were no joint documents issued as a result of the meeting. The follow-up speeches of Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan were officially distributed within the United Nations and are available online at the UN's Official Document System in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish:

  • The press conference given by M. S. Gorbachev in Reykjavík on 12 October 1986 (General Assembly symbol: A/41/709, Security Council symbol: S/18401);
  • The speech delivered by Ronald Reagan to the American people on 13 October 1986 (General Assembly symbol: A/41/807, Security Council symbol: S/18451);
  • The speech given by M. S. Gorbachev on Soviet television on 14 October 1986 (General Assembly symbol: A/41/714, Security Council symbol: S/18403);
  • The speech given by M. S. Gorbachev on Soviet television on 22 October 1986 (General Assembly symbol: A/41/759, Security Council symbol: S/18422).

Variations in document versions[edit]

There were two versions of the TASS official report of the press conference given by Gorbachev in Reykjavik in the evening (starting around 10:30pm Moscow time) on October 12, 1986. The initial version, issued in the morning of October 13, was closer to the original but initially contained a number of mistakes. For example, the Morgunblaðið newspaper was named (in Russian) as Lurganbladet. Another mistake was made by Gorbachev himself and corrected later by the agency:

Initial version (unofficial translation) Corrected version (as distributed in the United Nations)
But at the same time we told the Americans that we too were concerned. 70% of America's strategic forces are situated in submarines, it means 656 multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles. But at the same time we told the Americans that we too were concerned. A large part of America's strategic forces is deployed in submarines, nearly 700 missiles with almost 6,000 multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles.

A number of Soviet central newspapers (such as Izvestia's "rural" issue and Literaturnaya Gazeta) with early adoption[clarification needed] to print published just this version on October 14, in some cases being in time to made[clarification needed] one or both of the above corrections. (Literaturnaya Gazeta issues officially on Wednesdays and set the issue date as October 15 but in fact it was distributed the day before.)

However, in the evening of October 13 the other version of the report was sent to the newspapers. Gorbachev's speech was more thoroughly edited, and a lot of harsh words were smoothed away, such as:

Initial version (unofficial translation) Corrected version (as distributed in the United Nations)
But who could resort to that? A madman? But madmen, as a rule, are contained in places where they are supposed to be, on cure. Anyway, I don't see them at leading positions, especially at helms of states. But who could agree to that?

Most of the Soviet central newspapers (including Izvestia's issue for Moscow and Pravda) published this version on October 14, and later only this version was officially reissued.


  • two various issues of Izvestia ("rural" and "Moscow") dated by the same day published two different versions of the report, and
  • some subscribers received two different versions of the report in different newspapers.

The document distributed in the United Nations is "in-between" the two versions but closer to the first one.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Reykjavik Summit". The Regan Vision. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  2. ^ a b James Mann, The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War (New York: Penguin Group, 2009), 45.
  3. ^ Jack F. Matlock Jr., Reagan and Gorbachev: how the Cold War ended (New York: Random House, 2004).


  • John Lewis Gaddis. The United States and the end of the cold war : implications, reconsiderations, provocations (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 128-129.
  • Norman A. Graebner, Richard Dean Burns, and Joseph M. Siracusa. Reagan, Bush, Gorbachev : revisiting the end of the Cold War (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Security International, 2008), 93-95.
  • Jack F. Matlock Jr., Reagan and Gorbachev: how the Cold War ended (New York: Random House, 2004).
  • Martin McCauley, Russia, America, and the cold war, 1949-1991 (New York: Longman, 1998), 69.
  • Ronald E. Powaski. The Cold War: the United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 254–255.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 64°08′47″N 21°54′24″W / 64.14639°N 21.90667°W / 64.14639; -21.90667