Above:  President Bush greets Czech President Vaclav Havel outside the White House, Washington, DC, February 20, 1990. The former dissident Havel was elected President of Czechoslovakia on December 29, 1989, only a month after the collapse of the communist party regime. A month later he visits the United States to thank the American people for their support during the “velvet revolution.”

Above: President Bush greets Czech President Vaclav Havel outside the White House, Washington, DC, February 20, 1990. The former dissident Havel was elected President of Czechoslovakia on December 29, 1989, only a month after the collapse of the communist party regime. A month later he visits the United States to thank the American people for their support during the “velvet revolution.”

From joint news conference after the Malta Summit, December 3, 1989:

Gorbachev:

"The world is leaving one epoch and entering another. We are at the beginning of a long road to a lasting, peaceful era. The threat of force, mistrust, psychological and ideological struggle should all be things of the past."

"I assured the President of the United States that I will never start a hot war against the USA"

Bush: "We can realize a lasting peace and transform the East-West relationship to one of enduring co-operation. That is the future that Chairman Gorbachev and I began right here in Malta"

President George H.W. Bush, who entered the White House in January 1989, continued the rapid warming of relations with Gorbachev’s Soviet Union begun under President Reagan. Bush and his very able Secretary of State James Baker both were shrewd realists and diplomatists.  

They encouraged Gorbachev’s reforms in the Soviet Union and the civic movements in the Soviet satellites leading to the “velvet revolutions”  in the fall of 1989. The fall of the Berlin Wall and Chancellor Kohl’s strong push towards German reunification surprised them as well but they came around quickly to encourage it.

The Bush/Baker team overcame British and French resistance to German reunification. They also negotiated  with Gorbachev to allow unified Germany’s accession to NATO and thus initiated NATO’s eastern expansion, later continued by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

The “2 + 4 talks” produced the treaty between West and East Germany and the four occupation powers of September 12, 1990, which served as part of the legal framework for the four powers’ withdrawal.

German reunification came on October 3, 1990. Washington observed the amazing collapse of the Soviet Union and the secession  of many new post-Soviet republics. Bush and Gorbachev also continued the arms reduction agenda that Reagan had pursued.

 President Bush and Chancellor Helmut Kohl aboard the riverboat Stolzenfels as they cruise the Rhine River, West Germany on May 31, 1989. President Bush’s excellent personal relationship with Chancellor Kohl was the prerequisite for Kohl’s daring moves for German reunification in late 1989 and 1990. Bush encouraged Kohl’s political ambitions and thus became the “godfather” of German reunification.

President Bush and Chancellor Helmut Kohl aboard the riverboat Stolzenfels as they cruise the Rhine River, West Germany on May 31, 1989. President Bush’s excellent personal relationship with Chancellor Kohl was the prerequisite for Kohl’s daring moves for German reunification in late 1989 and 1990. Bush encouraged Kohl’s political ambitions and thus became the “godfather” of German reunification.

 President Bush and Chairman Gorbachev at the Malta Summit (December 2–3, 1989) dinner with their staffs. This summit has been called the most important summit conference since Potsdam in 1945.  It came only weeks after the fall of the iron curtain and the Berlin Wall. It gave both leaders a chance to discuss these dramatic changes and map out future policies.

President Bush and Chairman Gorbachev at the Malta Summit (December 2–3, 1989) dinner with their staffs. This summit has been called the most important summit conference since Potsdam in 1945.  It came only weeks after the fall of the iron curtain and the Berlin Wall. It gave both leaders a chance to discuss these dramatic changes and map out future policies.

 President Bush and Soviet President Gorbachev sign the Strategic Arms Reduation Treaty (START), in the Kremlin on July 31, 1991. This  is the culmination of a remarkable series of nuclear and convention arms reduction treaties starting with the INF-Treaty of 1987.

President Bush and Soviet President Gorbachev sign the Strategic Arms Reduation Treaty (START), in the Kremlin on July 31, 1991. This  is the culmination of a remarkable series of nuclear and convention arms reduction treaties starting with the INF-Treaty of 1987.