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The Last Superpower Summits

 | 
Svetlana Savranskaya
, 
Thomas Blanton

Chapter 2. The Reykjavik summit, 1986

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The Reagan-Gorbachev meeting at Reykjavik, Iceland, in October 1986 may well rank as “the most bizarre summit in the history of the Cold War.”1 The superpowers did not even intend the event to be a “summit.” The two leaders had almost immediately agreed at Geneva in November 1985 to host each other for two reciprocal summits in the next two years, one in Washington and one in Moscow. But in late 1985 and throughout 1986, U.S.-Soviet relations suffered from waterfalls of controversies, injury by a thousand cuts, Cold War gambits, trades of accused spies, rhetorical blunderbusses by those on both sides who rejected new thinking, and no small amount of miffed feelings and corresponding tough words on the part of both leaders, although the nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl power plant near Kiev in April 1986 refocused Gorbachev’s abolitionist convictions.2 Finally, Gorbachev would propose in September a working meeting, “maybe just for one day,” so the two leaders could personally inter...

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