Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold War

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What Obama could learn from Reagan on taming Russia

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Decisions That Shook the World Ronald Reagan and the Cold War

Visibility Others can see my Clipboard. He was, after all, the Leader of the Free World. Besides, he had been stunningly successful, having revived both the American economy and the American spirit.

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Everything he touched seemed to have turned to gold. Adelman paints a vivid picture of these two spotlight-ready world leaders coming to Iceland with comparatively minimal staff or preparation, each trusting to his natural charisma to move things forward. Although of two different generations and different job-standings; Adelman insightfully points out that Gorbachev was still new to his job, whereas Reagan had been in office for half a decade and was at the height of his popularity , the two men were similar in temperament — each preferred conversation to negotiation, each looked for clean summaries over straggling details, and each loved nothing more than to distress their armed guards by diving into waiting crowds to shake hands and pat shoulders.

By its very nature, Reykjavik highlighted these similarities, but our chronicler points out differences as well:. The session also revealed how, and how much, the men differed. Gorbachev acted like a capitalist CEO trying to analyze and solve the issues at hand. Reagan resembled a Russian artist, flitting here and there, following his imagination about.

Nonetheless, he did a lot well without a lot of deliberation. A man that intelligent and clear-sighted had to have seen that. He had to have known that Reagan was basically right and that the path the Soviet Union had taken was basically wrong.


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Reagan and Gorbachev had a lengthy meeting alone but for their translators, and there followed many meetings with their respective State Department advisors brought in. Gorbachev enthusiastically embraced the idea of nuclear arms reduction, joining Reagan and his people in targeting intermediate nuclear missiles and hardly hesitating to open talks to contemplate the elimination of nuclear weapons altogether. He naturally assumed that stalling this one still largely theoretical weapon system was a small price to pay for the wide range of wholesale compromises he was willing to make on so many other long-thorny issues.

He assumed wrong, however; he reckoned without the obsessions of his Hotspur.


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Adelman goes on narrate the official White House summit Reagan and Gorbachev had the following year, at which some arms reduction schedules were at last hammered out. From this treaty, and especially from the precedent it set on verification, sprang other significant agreements concluded under subsequent presidents, including Barack Obama.

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There are key differences, and he insists on them:. At first you might think that agenda boils down to simple gloating, done by one of the victors at the distant expense of the losers. Later that afternoon, with the Moscow winter sky already dark, the red hammer and sickle flag was lowered from the pole at the top of the Kremlin. A white, blue, and red flag of the Russian Federation was raised in its place.

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