“Observations on the Signing of the Treaty on Medium-Range Nuclear Weapons”, 8 December 1987 Nikolai Sokov looks back at the Reykjavik summit between Reagan and Gorbachev in 1986 and assesses its impact on future Russian US arms control efforts. At the same time, the Reykjavik Summit addressed the very practical issues of the ongoing arms control negotiations, paving the way for the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) and 1991 Strategic Offensive Arms Reductions (START I) treaties, as well as restrictions on nuclear testing. These negotiations lasted for many years and Gorbachev became impatient: according to his close collaborators, he saw progress in nuclear disarmament as a key factor in creating favorable external conditions for economic and political reforms in the Soviet Union. The first Reagan-Gorbachev summit, held in Geneva in 1985, helped establish a personal rapprochement between the two presidents, but could not make a breakthrough in arms control negotiations. Under these conditions, Gorbachev decided to propose a “working meeting” in the Icelandic capital devoted primarily to arms control. The concept of the “working assembly” aimed to achieve two objectives. On the one hand, it allowed the two presidents to avoid the pressure and formal events of a global summit, especially since it had to take place outside of regular places such as national capitals, Geneva, Vienna or other major cities. On the other hand, none of the parties was ready to hold a meeting in Washington or Moscow – it was understood that such a summit would be linked to the signing of a major arms control treaty, but none was in sight. Reykjavik was supposed to be an “intermediate meeting” that should have given a boost to the negotiations. Political leaders apparently did not fully understand this difference in position, which was perfectly clear to their military advisers. It seems, however, that even if Reagan and Gorbachev had miraculously been able to reach a compromise on missile defense, this other difference (total elimination of strategic weapons and elimination of only two out of three legs from the strategic triad) would have doomed the summit to failure anyway.
During the Reykjavik Summit, the parties were able to resolve a fairly large number of practical issues, most often in the form of working groups composed of diplomats and high-ranking military representatives, which met in parallel with the political leaders` negotiations. On January 28, the U.S. Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff, killing all seven astronauts on board. 25. February: After years of popular rioting, a series of protests in the Philippines leads to the removal of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. February 25: At a Congress of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev unveils the key words of his reformist policy: glasnost and perestroika. March 13 – Two American warships, USS Yorktown and USS Caron, invade the Black Sea and sail in waters claimed by the Soviet Union. This action, which aimed to call into question Soviet maritime law, provoked a diplomatic incident. April 26 : The Soviet nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, Ukraine, explodes, kills 56 people and gangrenes a large area. The Chernobyl disaster has long-lasting physical, social and economic consequences.
July 5: The opening ceremony of the first Goodwill Games will take place in Moscow. Launched by the American channel Ted Turner, the Goodwill Games were supposed to cure the relentlessness caused by the Olympic boycotts of 1980 and 1984. October 11 – Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev meet for the second time at a summit in Reykjavik, Iceland. . . .