President Reagan meeting with Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev with their staffs at Maison de Saussure during the Geneva Summit on November 20, 1985.

President Reagan meeting with Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev with their staffs at Maison de Saussure during the Geneva Summit on November 20, 1985.

Mikhail Gorbachev took power in the Kremlin in March 1985. The emergence of a younger leader in Moscow may well have been the most significant factor leading to the end of the Cold War.

Gorbachev  and his advisers were influenced by “new thinking” – Western European Social Democratic ideas and a general opening to the West. Their new policies of glasnost (transparency) and perestroika (economic restructuring) initiated overdue economic reform and a political opening.

President Reagan now had the negotiable Kremlin leader he needed to do business with and improve U.S. – Soviet relations. Reagan negotiated from  
a position of strength both at the Geneva (November 1985) and Reykjavik (October 1986) Summit meetings.

Gorbachev proposed cutting strategic nuclear weapons by 50 percent in Geneva. In Reykjavik they discussed doing away with all strategic nuclear forces. Both times no breakthrough occurred because Reagan insisted on going forward with SDI and building new strategic defenses. But the ice was broken between the two leaders  – they personally got along well and met for two more summits in Washington (1987) and Moscow (1988). Strategic arms reduction became the top priority in U.S. – Soviet relations.

 President Reagan’s first meeting with Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev at Fleur D’Eau during the Geneva Summit in Switzerland on November 19, 1985.

President Reagan’s first meeting with Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev at Fleur D’Eau during the Geneva Summit in Switzerland on November 19, 1985.

 President Reagan, Vice-President Bush meet with Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev on Governor’s Island, New York 12/7/88.

President Reagan, Vice-President Bush meet with Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev on Governor’s Island, New York 12/7/88.

 President Reagan meeting with Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev at Hofdi House during the Reykjavik Summit in Iceland on October  11, 1986.

President Reagan meeting with Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev at Hofdi House during the Reykjavik Summit in Iceland on October  11, 1986.

PHOTO CREDITS: ALL Courtesy Ronald Reagan Library and Museum.