Three Days in Moscow: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of the Soviet Empire by Baier Bret & Whitney Catherine

Three Days in Moscow: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of the Soviet Empire by Baier Bret & Whitney Catherine

Author:Baier, Bret & Whitney, Catherine [Baier, Bret]
Language: eng
Format: azw3
ISBN: 9780062748492
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 2018-05-14T16:00:00+00:00

REAGAN WAS NERVOUS. It had been the hardest year of his presidency, weighted down by scandals and staff upheavals. His poll numbers had dipped by more than twenty points, and he was feeling a rare uncertainty about his ability to advance his agenda. It had seemed as though the damnable year would never end. Now, on December 8, he had one more important mission, a third summit with Gorbachev—the one that almost didn’t happen after the stall in Reykjavík. The one, finally, on American soil.

As he waited in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, preparing to go outside and greet Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev when they drove up, Reagan was bundled in a coat and scarf and feeling a little bit on edge. Nancy walked in, also in a coat, and went up to him. She was nervous, too, Fitzwater recalled. “I think she was afraid the American people would love Raisa more than they loved Nancy.” She leaned in for a tight hug. “You’ll be great, Ronnie,” she murmured.

The summit had been difficult to schedule—remember, it had first been proposed at Geneva—and in September 1987 there still had not been an agreement on the date. At one point, the Soviets suggested dates around Thanksgiving, seeming not to appreciate the significance of the holiday or the fact that the Reagans were planning to be at their California ranch. Reagan scrawled an annoyed note in his diary wondering if he’d have to cancel Thanksgiving. A California summit was briefly considered. “She’s already bought the groceries for Thanksgiving,” Powell warned Shultz about Nancy, laughing. “Gorbachev’s going to the ranch whether he wants to or not.” But the meeting was soon cleared for December 8 to 10 in Washington.

Meanwhile Shultz and Shevardnadze had been shuttling back and forth—Shultz to Moscow in April and October, Shevardnadze to DC in September and October—trying to iron out what they wanted to achieve at the summit. Everyone was looking for a decisive moment, which meant signing the INF Treaty and making enough headway on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) so that a treaty could be signed at the next summit. START was a long game, subject to endless failed negotiations, especially once Reagan had proposed SDI, but if signed it would become the crowning achievement of nuclear disarmament.

The Washington summit was different from all the others, not only because a treaty would be signed but because it was taking place in Washington, DC. This was not neutral territory; it was a home-field advantage for Reagan, although no one could have guessed how adoring the public response to the Gorbachevs would be.

In spite of his air of confidence and command, Gorbachev came to Washington during a troubled time in his own administration. As popular as he was in the United States, he was facing intense blowback at home. “We were gradually freeing ourselves of stereotyped thinking and the habit of blaming everything on the ‘imperialist Western states,’ ” he wrote of that period. But the process was understandably controversial.


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