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On This Day: 35 years since US-USSR Reykjavik Summit for nuclear talks

CM 11/10/2021

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October 11, 2021 marks 35 years since the Reykjavik Summit between then US president Ronald Reagen and Soviet Communist Party head Mikhail Gorbachev, which saw the two leaders try and hash out a deal regarding ballistic missiles.
The two met at the tail-end of the Cold War, and the meeting was part of a series of talks between the US and Soviet Union. Reagen had a number of important topics he had wanted to discuss in Iceland, such as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the plight of Soviet Jews and dissidents. But ultimately, arms control was the main focus of the summit.
This may seem unsurprising considering the history of the Cold War. Since the United States and Soviet Union entered into a power struggle, the two global superpowers became engaged in an arms race, with both nations and their allies forging alliances and advancing their military arsenals. These included advances in ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, and while both nations had considerable stockpiles of both at their disposal, neither side wanted to go to war.
The aversion both superpowers had to the nuclear conflict was evident throughout the Cold War, especially following the nearly disastrous Cuban Missile Crisis in 1963. 
This was further recognized by Reagan and Gorbachev. Back in 1985, when the two held their first summit in Geneva, both leaders recognized the dangers of a nuclear conflict, as it would only result in mutually assured destruction. “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” a joint US-Soviet statement following the Geneva Summit stated.
This is something that both leaders continued to express in 1986. Both had wanted to reduce nuclear weapons, and both also discussed overall cutting ack their ballistic missile capabilities. 
Further, despite the Cold War having lasted nearly four decades at this point, Gorbachev was eager to negotiate. The Soviet Union’s economy was continuing to decline, and Gorbachev needed to save it through significant restructuring. But to do that, he needed to make sure Soviet security was guaranteed. And to do that, he needed to cool down the tensions with the West as much as possible. An arms control agreement for both sides was the best way to do that.
The summit lasted into the next day, but despite both sides seeming willing to negotiate and recognizing the need for a cutback on nuclear capabilities, the talks completely fell through. 
Why is that? 
Ultimately, the reason was that there was one issue Reagen and Gorbachev would not budge on: The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).
Also known as the Star Wars program, the initiative was a project formed under the Reagen administration to defend the US from nuclear attacks through the use of technology in space. 
This initiative was formed due to Reagen’s desire to essentially avoid the mutually assured destruction scenario and render nuclear weapons obsolete. This goal could essentially be accomplished in two ways: Get rid of nuclear weapons, or create a way to protect the US from nuclear attacks. 
The issue was widely criticized, as if the program was successful in stopping nuclear attacks from hitting the US, it could break the stalemate of mutually assured destruction.
At the summit, Gorbachev wanted to ban ballistic missiles. As they were needed for SDI, Reagen had proposed alternatives and compromises, but this ultimately proved to be the sticking point, with Gorbachev referring to it as a “matter of principle.” In his remarks coming back from the summit, the Soviet leader claimed had blamed the US. 
“The American side’s position… clearly indicated that it has not renounced the goal of superiority,” he had said to his foreign policy adviser Anatoly Chernyaev on the flight back to Russia, as stated in documents from the Gorbachev Foundation Archive. “That is why they did not have enough character, responsibility, courage or political decisiveness to step over this threshold. because that would have meant freeing themselves from the dependency on the military-industrial complex.”
The summit was surprisingly close to coming to a deal to eventually ban nuclear weapons, but ultimately both leaders went home empty-handed.
But the summit is not remembered as a failure. Indeed, that is what Gorbachev thought on the flight back to Moscow. 
“Everyone saw that agreement is possible,” he said. “From Reykjavik, we drew the conclusion that the necessity for dialogue has increased even more. That is why I am even more of an optimist after Reykjavik.”
He added: “In no sense would I call Reykjavik a failure. it is a step in a complicated and difficult dialogue, in a search for solutions.”

 President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev at The Signing Ceremony for The Ratification of Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, 6/1/1988. (credit: Wikimedia Commons) President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev at The Signing Ceremony for The Ratification of Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, 6/1/1988. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Rather, it is recognized as a positive step forward and would, a year later, lead to the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), an arms control treaty that significantly cut back on land-based ballistic missiles. This treaty came with verification measures and allowed US and Soviet inspectors to examine each other’s missile facilities. It was a major step forward in ending the Cold War and in averting the possibility of nuclear war.
This treaty would last throughout several administrations in both countries, although US president Donald Trump would ultimately withdraw from the treaty on August 2, 2019, due to a perceived need to counter China and due to allegations of Russian violations. 
Ultimately the legacy of the summit remains to achieve a foundation for successful nuclear and missile negotiations. 


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The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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