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The Last Superpower Summits

 | 
Svetlana Savranskaya
, 
Thomas Blanton

Chapter 6. The Malta summit, 1989

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One of the few high-level American officials to survive the transition from Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush (other than Bush himself), the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Jack F. Matlock, Jr., also participated in both presidents’ summits with Mikhail Gorbachev. So Matlock’s judgment of the Malta summit carries the distinctive weight of first-hand comparative experience. He subsequently wrote, “Next to the Reagan-Gorbachev meeting at Reykjavik, [Malta] probably achieved more substantively than any other U.S.-Soviet summit meeting, even though no major agreements were signed.”1

Regarding Reykjavik’s impact, Matlock clearly meant the effect on Gorbachev of Reagan’s insistence on nuclear abolition, and the resulting reduction in the Soviet sense of threat and encouragement of an arms race in reverse, as evidenced soon after Reykjavik in the 1987 agreement to eliminate intermediate range nuclear missiles (INF). As for Malta, Matlock’s assessment is actually a severe criticism of the Bush ad...

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