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The Last Superpower Summits

 | 
Svetlana Savranskaya
, 
Thomas Blanton

Chapter 7. The Washington and Camp David summit, 1990

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The Washington summit at the end of May and early June 1990 showcased the American president, George H.W. Bush, at his most statesmanlike, and the Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, on the downward slope of what would be, for him and for hopes of reform in the Soviet Union, a “truly tragic” year.1

Gorbachev for the first time appeared at a superpower summit as supplicant rather than equal, implicitly seeking American economic help (his aides would do so explicitly), and practically begging Bush to proceed with the long-stalled “most favored nation” trade agreement. This would require the American leader to overrule his top advisers and his domestic opposition, which took exception to Soviet strong-arm tactics against the dissident Baltic republics. Yet Bush would do so, at the last minute of the summit, and Soviet coercion of Lithuania would ease; but Bush would get little credit for his statesmanship, and Gorbachev would see little aid—the benefits of the trade agreement would tak...

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