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The Last Superpower Summits

 | 
Svetlana Savranskaya
, 
Thomas Blanton

Chapter 3. The Washington summit, 1987

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The Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Washington in December 1987 produced the substantive high point of all their meetings—the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty eliminating a whole class of nuclear weapons. The ceremony took place at the exact time determined by Nancy Reagan’s astrologer, and the senior diplomatic correspondent Don Oberdorfer described the signing as “a spectacular public performance broadcast live around the world.”1 Yet the declassified documents behind the summit reveal that the super-powers left on the table even more substance than INF, which would require a lot of catching up later under the Bush administration. Truly transformative offers including reductions of strategic weapons, conventional forces, even chemical and biological weapons, were available from the Soviet side, but the U.S. just was not prepared—in the wake of the Iran-contra scandal and entering Reagan’s last year in office—to accept what Gorbachev was offering.2

As early a...

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