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Reagan and Gorbachev at Reykjavik, 1986 - Essay Example

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Reagan and Gorbachev In 1986 two of the most powerful men in the world met in Reykjavik, Iceland. This meeting between the American president and the leader of the Soviet Union was amazing considering that the two countries had long been on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain…
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Reagan and Gorbachev at Reykjavik, 1986
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Download file to see previous pages Hearing someone say something, even through an interpreter, hearing their tone, seeing their body language, is much better than any e-mail, phone call or letter. Friendships can be developed and communication levels would have been at their optimum. However, no definite agreement in writing was reached at this meeting. Was it therefore merely a non-event? The Reykjavik summit is chiefly remembered for what almost occurred there, what might have happened. Is it possible for something that didn't happen to be significant historically? If it is to be classed as a non-event does that mean that it is significantly different from an event that actually took place i.e. the signing of an actual bi-lateral agreement. Is the historical significance of a non-event inevitably different in character from the significance of an event that did actually occur? This essay will consider this question. Firstly the American administration considered Reyjavik to be only a preliminary meeting, taking their cue from Gorbachev’s letter perhaps1, a response to an earlier one from President Reagan. In it the Russian asks only for a very brief meeting where mutually agreeable solutions could be discussed based upon a political will on both sides to succeed in bringing the arms race between the two powers to a peaceful conclusion. It wasn’t expected to be that important. However it is clear from transcripts of their conversations that other topics such as human rights were on the table and perhaps these add to the significance? The list of topics to be covered provided by the American Secretary of State 2certainly saw a decision to have arms talks as being a possible outcome, rather than actual talks. So this was part of a process which would eventually lead to disarmament. This means that this was not a non-event , but the beginnings without which the rest of the process could not have continued. It laid foundations upon which both sides could built . Gorbachev was very open. As Document 93 makes clear he was willing to discuss whatever topics Reagan introduced, not just nuclear weapons and possible future disarmament. Also despite the final failure to come to a definite agreement Gorbachev was able to return home and say ‘You see, Reagan is a man we can work with.’ 4 Despite this it seems from Document 6 5that the Soviet reason’s for calling the meeting had been completely misunderstood in Washington. They give a number of possible reasons, but seem to have no way of knowing which is correct. Also, according to Document 7,6 they seem unsure as to how President Reagan should react. The two leaders were able to meet face to face for several days. Their meeting had been originally planned to be a preliminary discussion, as shown by Gorbachev’s letter to the American President in October 1986, but in the end, verbally at least, they agreed bilaterally to greatly reduce their arms, including both nuclear and ballistic weapons. The agreement later floundered however over details. According to Sokov7 the preparations had been poor and negotiations were disorganised . So politically was this a non-event? George Shultz, the then American Secretary of State had brought the two men together. He is quoted by Sokov as having said :- I suppose that what startled people in Reykjavik was not what was said, because both Reagan and Gorbachev had ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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