The Reagan - Gorbachev Summits | Jason Saltoun-Ebin googlea0aa0d8ee69b5ad6.html

The Reagan - Gorbachev Summits



The following links are to pdf downloads of the transcripts of each summit as found at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Any handwritten notes are not part of the official record but were my own notes I made while reading the memorandums of conversation. In most cases the memorandums of conversation were prepared by the Department of State. All the documents, except otherwise notes, are found in the Executive Secretariat, NSC System files at the Reagan Library.

Background Documents

March 16, 1983: Memo from Shultz to Reagan: “Next Steps in US-Soviet Relations.” 

Meeting Between Secretary of State George Shultz and Foreign Minister Gromyko, January 18, 1984. 

May 13, 1985: Reagan to Poindexter: 

“I feel very strongly that we should do no more to indicate we are begging for a meeting. We’ve invited them to a meeting in the U.S. (It’s our turn). The ball is in their court. RR” 

Oct. 26, 1985: Memo from McFarlane to Reagan: "MBFR -- Decision and Letter to Prime Minister Thatcher and Chancellor Kohl" with attached Memo from Shultz to Reagan on MBFR recommendations.

(RL: Exec. Sec. NSC: Head of State, UK: PM Thatcher (8590010-8590047) box 36.

"Guidance for INF Negotiating Group on Soviet Proposal" (State 12553)

(RL: Exec. Sec. NSC: Head of State, UK: PM Thatcher (8591145-8690149. Box 36)

"Guidance for NST Del on Soviet Proposal (STATE 12556)

(RL: Exec. Sec. NSC: Head of State, UK: PM Thatcher (8591145-8690149. Box 36)

October 30, 1985: Memo from McFarlane to President Reagan: “Gordiyevsky’s Suggestions.”

In this important memo, White House National Security Adviser McFarlane informs President Reagan of Soviet KGB defector Gordiyevsky’s suggestions for negotiating with Gorbachev. 

Oct. 31, 1985: Cable from Secretary Shultz to all NATO capitals. "Embassies should deliver message in para 3 from President Reagan to Head of State/Government ASAP."

(RL: Exec. Sec. NSC: Head of State, UK: PM Thatcher (8591145-8690149. Box 36)

The Geneva Summit 

(Photo credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

The first meeting between President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev took place in Geneva, Switzerland in November 1985. Reagan and Gorbachev discussed all areas of U.S.-Soviet relations. Overall, the two leaders used the meetings to feel out each others positions. Although no significant agreements were made, the two leaders agreed to meet again. The Geneva Summit is seen today as a success as Reagan and Gorbachev were able to start the process that led to a thawing of Cold War tensions, and the eventual signing of the INF Treaty in 1987.

Click here to download the Geneva Summit transcripts

The Reykjavik Summit


Photo credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

10/12/1986 President Reagan says goodbye to Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev after the last meeting at Hofdi House Reykjavik Iceland

Arms control negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States stalled following the Geneva Summit. General Secretary Gorbachev proposed to President Reagan in September 1986 that the two leaders meet the next month to inject urgency into the stalled arms control negotiations. President Reagan immediately agreed. 

Over two-days of meetings in October 1986 failed to produce any arms control agrements. General Secretary Gorbachev and Reagan, however, seemed on the verge of agreeing to a sweeing arms control agreement that would in principle work towards the compelte elimination of nucelar weapons. President Reagan would say that he could not agree to the deal because General Secertary Gorbachev insisted that any agreement incorporate limits on testing of the Strategic Defense Initiative. General Secretary Gorbachev left believing that no agreement was reached because President Reagan did not come to the meeting prepared to reach any agreement.  

The Reykjavik Summit is now seen as significant turning point in arms control negotiations. Although no agreement was reached at the time, Reagan and Gorbachev in principle agreed on the need to reduce their nuclear arsenals. Gorbachev also recognized that Reagan would not negotiate SDI. Over the next couple of months Gorbachev dropped his insistance that SDI be linked to any arms control agreement, and when Reagan and Gorbachev met again in Washington in December 1987, all they had to do were sign the documents agreeing to eliminate their intermediate range nuclear weapons (The INF Treaty), the most sweeping arms control reductions treaty ever signed by that time. 

Click here to download the Reykjavik Summit Transcripts


(Photo credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

General Secretary Gorbachev came to Washington in December 1987 to sign the INF Treaty documenrts and to persuade President Reagan to agree a further arms control agreement, a START agreement. The START negotiations started from the principle that both sides would eliminate 50% of their offensive ballistic missiles. To accomplish this goal, however, General Secretary Gorbachev insisted that Reagan agree to delay deployment of SDI until both sides had eliminated their offensive weapons. This way, Gorbachev argued, one side would not have an advantage over the other. Reagan, however, insisted that SDI could not be part of any arms control negotiations. After the Washington Summit Reagan encouraged his advisers to continue to seek a START agreement, but that he would not make any agreement limiting SDI. 

Click here to download NSDD 290: Instructions for the Arms Reductions Discussions at the Washington Summit

Click here to download the Washington Summit Transcripts



Photo credit: The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

President Reagan traveled to Moscow in May 1988. General Secertary Gorbachev was hoping to use the Summit as an opportunity for Reagan and Gorbachev to agree to the START Treaty, but soon after Reagan arrived it became very clear that Reagan was not interested in further arms control agreements. Reagan spent most of the Summit, instead, talking about human rights. The Summit is probably best remembered for Reagan's statement to reporters, outside the Kremlin, declaring that he no longer thought of the Soviet Union as an "evil empire.

March 31, 1988: “From Now to the Summit.” Memo from Rowny to Powell

Rowny argues: A) The Soviets are not serious about “an acceptable START Treaty by the summit”; B) “The Soviets will use the Reykjavik ploy again, fostering the impression that START is ‘do-able’ by the summit, thereby putting the heat on us, and on SDI in particular”; C) “We must broaden the debate…The success of the Moscow summit must not hinge on arms control”; and D) “We must focus on the issues, not the calendar. It would be a great disservice to the President and the country to conclude a START Treaty in which we did not have full confidence."

April 14, 1988: Shultz/Shevardnadze meeting, 4:30-6:05pm, Geneva. 

April 21, 1988: Shultz/Shevardnadze meeting, 9:50am - 1pm, Moscow. 

April 21, 1988: Shultz/Shevardnadze meeting, 3:30-5:15pm, Moscow. 

April 21, 1988: Shultz/Shevardnadze Meeting. 7:40-10:30pm, Moscow. 

April 22, 1988: Shultz/Gorbachev meeting. 11am-2:05pm, Moscow. 

April 23, 1988: Shultz/Shevardnadze meeting. 9am-10:15am. Moscow. 

“The Moscow Summit”: Memo from George Shultz to President Reagan

“Your visit to Moscow is the first by an American President in 14 years. It takes place against a background of solid, balanced progress across our broad agenda. We’ll have even more to show for our efforts this summit than we did last December in Washington. There has been progress in the Nuclear and Space Talks… The Soviet’s may be close to significant new human rights moves … The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan now underway represents the achievement of your top objective in our regional dialogue. … The half-dozen bilateral agreements to be signed at teh summit testify to the vigor of revived direct contacts between our two countries.” 

Click here to download the Moscow Summit Transcripts     

For further information on the Moscow Summit please see the National Security Archives, 

“The Moscow Summit: 20 Years Later.” 

Dec. 7, 1988: Meeting on Governor’s Island


Photo credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library: 12/7/1988 President Reagan and Vice-President Bush meet with Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev on Governor's Island New York

Reagan and Gorbachev had a short visit in December 1988 on Governor's Island, right outside Manhattan in New York City. President-elect George H.W. Bush was also present. No substantive issues were discussed, and President-elect Bush interesting chose to observe. The meeting is probably most significant for President-elect Bush's lack of participation. Although Bush had been involved with most of President Reagan's most important foreign policy decisions, he would upon taking office immediately signal that he was freezing negotiations  between the United States and Soviet Union until he had a chance to develop his own approach. Bush, it seems, unlike Reagan was not convinced that the Soviet Union was no longer an "evil empire." It took over three years for Bush and Gorbachev to sign the START Treaty, whcih was reached in 1991. 

Click here to download the Governor's Island Transcripts

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