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Gorbachev, Mikhail
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New York

(Summary by Holly Decker, Harriman Institute, Columbia University)

               The summit that took place in Geneva was the first meeting between the leaders of the two superpowers in over six years.  In his memoirs, Gorbachev discusses the events leading up to the summit and the summit itself.

               The memoirs provide an interesting insight into the steps that the Soviet leadership had to go through in preparation for the summit meeting. The talking points that Gorbachev brought with him to Geneva were the result of discussions in the Politburo.

               In preparation for writing his memoir, Gorbachev states that he reread the notes of the Summit. While recognizing the frankness of the discussions he and Reagan had, he expressed surprise at how ideologically motivated they both were. In his analysis, he identifies the major points of contention between himself and Reagan as being third world interventionism, human rights and SDI.

               Arms control and SDI were of primary importance during the summit meeting and the delegates spent the majority of their time discussing these subjects. Gorbachev describes how he could not understand why Reagan remained fixated on the concept of SDI, viewing it as simultaneous unfeasible and a dangerous escalation of the arms race into space.

               Gorbachev’s memoirs provide a description of the tete-a-tete in which Reagan broached the subject of human rights. He viewed the points espoused by Reagan as  a reiteration of the U.S.’s traditional stance. One line in his memoir provides a critical insight into Gorbachev’s thought process, “I myself spent time trying to fend off accusations of human rights abuses, even though I was not always convinced that these were not justified.”

               Gorbachev provides an analysis of his counterpart’s leadership skills. He states that Reagan disliked working through the tedious details of negotiation, preferring to relegate them to Shultz.

               Overall, Gorbachev viewed the Summit as a success and attributed this to the fact that neither side wanted to leave without “tangible results.”