The real story the October 1986 Reykjavik Summit

On Wednesday’s Glenn Beck Program, Glenn laid out the little known history of the October 1986 Reykjavik Summit. With U.S./Soviet relations at an all-time low, the Summit represented a true meeting of good and evil. President Ronald Reagan was prepared for the global stage. The young Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was not.

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Below is a transcript of this segment of The Glenn Beck Program

We are being schooled by a master.  Vladimir Putin is taking our president to school, and what do we do?  The answers really are simple, and they can all be found in history.

I’m going to take you back to 1985 when relations between the Soviet Union and the U.S. were at all-time lows.  Anybody who grew up, and you were coming of age in the 80s, you remember, you might not remember the duck-and-cover drills in the classroom, but you knew of them.  You knew the location of the bomb shelters, and the threat of nuclear war was still very real.  I remember growing up having nightmares about them.

Just two years earlier, President Reagan had dubbed the Soviet Union the Evil Empire, and getting them to agree to anything at all was going to be extremely difficult.  He was calling them evil, and that set the world on fire.  The arms race was on, but it wasn’t anywhere near finished, and we didn’t know who was going to win.  This was the climate of tension proceeding the Geneva Summit where the leaders of the two premier global superpowers, the ones that had all the power, that could destroy the entire planet, would meet for the very first time, and it was good versus evil.

Whatever happened would set the tone for the talks to come.  Historic moment and one Reagan was ready for, and apparently, the Soviets were not, because at the time, Gorbachev was the new guy.  He was the young kid.  He was the guy that was getting all of the whole world to say, “Look, he’s new, he’s cutting edge,” and Reagan was the old man.

Well, when they arrived at Reykjavík…I talked to a guy who actually was there.  He watched it happen, and it wasn’t planned.  Reagan had planned it in his own head.  He had already arrived, and he was well rested and ready to go.  And he was waiting for Gorbachev, a man 20 years younger.  And he saw the Soviet ZiL pull up, and they started to put a jacket on the president.  They said Mister President, it’s very cold, put the jacket on.  He said no, and it was freezing temperatures.  Reagan knew what he was doing

The rest of them stood around and looked and had no idea why he didn’t want to wear a jacket.  Reagan wanted to look like the young man, so he went down the stairs, he greeted the ZiL, opened the door, greeted him, hugged him, and here was the photo op, not the one the Soviets were looking for.  The older man now looked like the young man, helping the elderly Soviet premier up the stairs.  That is the opposite of Putin’s over-the-top shirtless pictures with tigers and bears and whales and everything else he’s doing.  And that’s why Putin is doing those things, he learned his lesson.  But our president never did.

Reagan was the tough guy in this duo.  He was the one with the street cred.  He was the cowboy who said what he meant and meant what he said.  He was risking it all.  Reagan wasn’t dubbed “the Great Communicator” for nothing.  He knew these summits with Gorbachev would be crucial to steering the international debate, especially in the Soviet Union, and here it was live on Soviet TV, Reagan looking like the superior man and the younger man all the way.

It was the first step in reshaping the view of Reagan in the eyes of the Soviet public, and that would set the tone for this meeting and all to come.  And it wasn’t dumb luck.  It wasn’t happenstance.  Reagan spent a lifetime preparing for that moment.  Win or lose, his legacy would be forever intertwined with this epic fight against communism and the Evil Empire.

We recently spoke to Ken Adelman, he was Reagan’s Director of Arms Control and Disarmament, about a later crucial encounter between Reagan and Gorbachev.

Ken: In 1980, I was waiting the Detroit to get the nomination of the Republican Party.  Someone asked Reagan in the plane, “Ron, why are you doing this?  Why are you running for president?”  And Reagan said, “I want to end the Cold War.”

In October 1986, President Ronald Reagan took a crucial step toward that goal.  He was to meet Mikhail Gorbachev, Secretary General of the Soviet Union, halfway between Washington and Moscow in a place called Reykjavík, Iceland.

Ken: I was in the administration.  I was his arms control director, and I was at his side during Reykjavík.  Reagan had the backing of conservatives in Congress, but the liberals were complaining that he was too ambitious for arms control, that he was too tough with the Russians. 

Every time he made this ideological attack against communism, it did two things:  It infuriated the liberals, and number two, it infuriated the communists.  And it showed that basically their ideology was expired, their ideology was uninspiring, and their ideology was oppressive.  President Reagan expected this to be a very low-key kind of meeting.  He expected it to be more of preparation for a summit than a real summit.

But Gorbachev wasn’t wasting any time.  He was there to talk arms control.

Ken: One surprise was that Gorbachev wanted to negotiate right there.  Another surprise was that both Reagan and Gorbachev wanted to reduce dramatically if not eliminate nuclear weapons.  Over those 10-1/2 hours, Gorbachev complained 11 times, maybe 12 times, “I’m making all the concessions,” said Gorbachev, “you’re giving me nothing.”

We went back to the ambassador’s house after the Sunday breakup of the summit, and he was in the living room.  And those of us who were on the team could see he was not to be disturbed.  He couldn’t sit down.  He couldn’t even talk to us.  He was just too mad.  He was just steaming in the corner, pacing back and forth and back and forth.  And he called it the angriest day of his presidency.

Despite the Reykjavík summit’s initial unraveling, Reagan wasn’t giving up.  After all, he became president to end the Cold War, and that is exactly what he intended to do.

Ken: Reagan was indifferent to the fight beneath him.  He came up with the idea of saying let’s tear down this wall, and on the morning that he gave that speech, which was June 12, 1987, in the car on the way to Brandenburg Gate to give that speech, the deputy chief of staff for the White House was still talking to him, trying to talk him out of using that phrase and using Gorbachev’s name in that phrase.  And Reagan kind of looked out the window, and he says, “Well, I know,” he says, “but it’s the right thing to do.”  That one meeting at Reykjavík in October of 1986 led to the end of the Cold War.

Anybody reading the book Reagan at Reykjavík will see that Reagan had it all mapped out pretty clearly.  Not everybody in the administration did, but he did.

  • Anonymous

    It’s to late for Obama to negotiate. He’s already promised to be “flexible”.

  • Moozmom

    There is an interview done by The World Over host, Raymond Arroyo, a few years ago. President Reagan and the Pope worked together to bring down communism. They did it secretly and only one person in America knew-The World Over guest that evening who coordinated the phone calls between the Pope and the President. They planned how to fund communism’s dissenters and how to stop communism. It was a long-term commitment on both their parts and we didn’t know it until after Reagan died and shortly before the interviewee died.

  • http://www.themadjewess.com/ The Mad Jewess

    Good God, enough already with Putin.
    Joe Bidens son now has a position with a gas company. USA/EU started the whole mess there.
    Wake up already.

  • http://www.themadjewess.com/ The Mad Jewess

    Flexible with what?
    What?
    Putin hates Obama.

  • Anonymous

    There’s a lot more to that meeting than anybody knows. Why did Gorby want to stop the arms race so urgently? Gorby knew that Russia could NOT afford to keep up the arms race, especially with USA. His country was going bankrupt! Maybe Reagan was also aware of this situation. But, to make Reagan such a hero as the last “deserving” president is reaching a little far. Didn’t he also say that he would never trade arms for hostages? Hmmm, how convenietly he forgot so much during the Iran Contra affair.

  • Anonymous

    Keep dreaming……tell us how communism died. Communism is taking over America today and never died. Since Stalin days, communism is at work infiltrating the world. And what system is working in Russia today if not communism? You want the truth, find reliable sources in Russia and talk to them instead of listning to Raymond Arroyo.

  • Nautispeedswimmer1

    I am starting to wonder about Glenn’s sanity. Our President? Who’s President? He surely is not talking about the Muslim in the White House is he? Also, Putin is not lone. Putin has some of the best military leaders on the planet today advising him, so, No, Putin is not a God Glenn. Ya, I go back to what I said earlier about Glenn. He is going to move out of the country because someone is puttin the screws to him. Hummmm, I wonder what they are holding over his head. No say

  • Guardian

    .BO has already given away the store.

  • Anonymous

    People have to ask themselves which is more dangerous, a person who hates the US and sits in the commander in chief’s chair or a leader of a foreign country who also opposes our constitutional form of government. Both are bad but the former is far more threatening.

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  • John Richard Clinton Maenpaa

    The KGB spook who heads the mafia-dominated Kleptocracy that is modern Russia adores you people… Seriously…

  • Cool Ranch, Texas

    Although we rely upon the geniuses among us to create the gadgets, gizmos, and gasoline we depend upon, genius becomes bottled up and useless when centralized restrictions limit liberty.

  • zemla

    Personally I contend that the “cold war” never really ended and it seems you might agree

  • Deckard426

    Reagan only talked to Gorbachev after Mommy consulted with Eleanor Roosevelt’s ghost and got the approval for it.

  • Nicki Preece

    Reagan did not come up with the line “tear down this wall” as Adelman suggests. The line was written by Peter Robinson, one of his speech writers, who came up with the idea after visting Berlin and speaking with a local woman there who said almost the same thing. Reagan did, however, battle his staff for days leading up to the speech to keep that line in. You can read all about it in Robinson’s book, “How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life” or on Wikipedia, if you don’t have the time to read the book.