How Reagan and Bush overcame skepticism to collaborate with Gorbachev

By Peter Baker For his first four years in office, President Ronald Reagan had a tough time forging any kind of relationship with his counterparts in the Soviet Union. “They kept dying on me,” he later explained. It fell to his vice president, George H.W. Bush, to attend the funerals. “You die, I fly” became Bush’s wry motto. So when the latest in a string of Soviet leaders died in 1985, Reagan once again sent Bush to represent him at the service — and to take the temperature of the young new successor, Mikhail Gorbachev. Margaret Thatcher, the hard-line British prime minister, had declared that Gorbachev was a “man we can do business with.” But Reagan and Bush were not so sure. After meeting Gorbachev at the funeral in Moscow, Bush sent a cable back to Reagan with his impressions. In his view, Gorbachev was just a slicker version of the same old Communist apparatchik, a party functionary with “a disarming smile, warm eyes and an engaging way of making an unpleasant point,” but someone to be wary of. Gorbachev was charming and presented himself as a reformer, but neither Reagan nor Bush was convinced he was for real. On that, they would both be proved wrong. First Reagan and then Bush came to view Gorbachev as an authentic agent of change and a trustworthy interlocutor who could at last help end the 4-decade-old, nuclear-armed Cold War. No U.S. presidents to that time had ever had a closer, more collaborative relationship with a leader in Moscow than Reagan and Bush would have with Gorbachev, not even Franklin D. Roosevelt’s alliance of convenience with Josef Stalin during World War II. In this era when President Vladimir Putin has once again put Russia at odds with the United States and the two sides are waging a proxy war in Ukraine, the solidarity that developed between Reagan and Bush on one hand and Gorbachev on the other is all the more remarkable to remember. It is a testament to how much has been lost in the two decades since Putin took power and effectively dismantled Gorbachev’s legacy. Still, it took a while to get there. Still suspicious of the “evil empire,” as he had termed the Soviet Union, Reagan famously went to Berlin in 1987 and challenged Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” But a series of meetings in Switzerland, Iceland, Washington and Moscow led to a genuine friendship, and the two negotiated a landmark arms control treaty and at one point came close to brokering a deal to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether. In his final year in office, Reagan praised Gorbachev for the thaw in Soviet-U.S. relations. “Mr. Gorbachev,” he told reporters at a news conference in Moscow, “deserves most of the credit, as the leader of this country.” In running for president in 1988, Bush initially thought Reagan had gone too far and trusted too much. After taking office, Bush put the relationship on hold for months, what came to be known as “the pause,” much to Gorbachev’s consternation. But Bush, too, came to befriend the Soviet leader and, with the help of his secretary of state, James A. Baker III, navigated the collapse of the Soviet empire and end of the Cold War as a partner of Gorbachev rather than an adversary. After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Bush and Gorbachev negotiated the reunification of Germany as well as their own arms control treaty. In the “new world order” Bush envisioned, he and Gorbachev teamed up to counter Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and to seek a Middle East peace deal. “History will remember Mikhail Gorbachev as a giant who steered his great nation towards democracy,” Baker said in a statement Tuesday. Despite Bush’s initial doubts about Gorbachev, Baker said, “I found him to be an honest broker and could count on his word despite domestic pressure in Moscow.” No U.S. president would have said that about Gorbachev’s predecessors and meant it. And none will ever say it about the man who now holds Gorbachev’s office in the Kremlin. This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

How Reagan and Bush overcame skepticism to collaborate with Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev will be ‘sorely missed,’ says former Canadian PM Brian Mulroney

Mulroney says while U.S. president Ronald Reagan gets a lot of credit for ending the Cold War without a shot, Gorbachev was an indispensable leader on the other side.

Mikhail Gorbachev will be ‘sorely missed,’ says former Canadian PM Brian Mulroney


Photo Flick Nr. 75: Day of TAG

The 75th Photo Flick has a nice, fitting end to this summer season. It’s the day of TAG, and while “Tag” is German for “Day,” in America, it simply means “Tourists Are Gone!” After a long, tiring summer, beset by hot weather, drought, cancelled vacations due to high gas prices and inflation, and a war that still keeps going with no end (nor victor) in sight, it’s time to sit down on the beach, like this one here, in a Strandkorb, and drink a favorite cocktail. The best is when there are no people around, who harass others wanting this peace and quiet, a commodity that has become more absent by the day. It’s a time to take stock at how we got here, why we got here, what we can do to change this, and what is yet to come.


One thing is certain as I sit here writing this: the era of individualism and “Me Only” is over and done. We have a planet that is falling apart through climate change and a war that is spiraling out of control. The global economy is on the cusp of the first Great Depression since 1929, and we must not forget the rise of extremism on both ends- right as well as left. And what have we to show: ignorance, bragging rights and garnering attention at any cost, some of which becomes unwanted in the end. Many just simply don’t care about the future and just simply live for the moment.

But what about the next generations that have to clean up our mess? What about them? While I look back at this summer and all the accomplishments, I look ahead to the future and see not only despair and disaster at each and every corner, but hope that we can all come together to put an end to this nonsense. After all, the next generations have as much right to spend time on the beach as we do, the older generations. They have as much right to be successful as we do at present. But there is a gap that we need to fill. We must understand each other and our cultures and find ways to work together. Hans Küng, a Swiss theologist, believed that societies do share the same core values and commonalities and that this Global Ethics is the only tool for solving the global issues we are still having today and will continue to have in the future.

We have a right to sovereignity and have an identity. That point must be taken and the likes of China and Russia must accept, when it comes to Ukraine and Taiwan. Ukraine existed before Russia and just recently celebrated its 31 years of independence. Taiwan has never been part of China and has been a democratic state since 1949. The idea of an empire and global dominance is a thing of the past, a relict that died with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. We should respect the rights of others and their ways- a first but most important step in the right direction. Afterwards, we should find common ground and look at the issues that are facing global society- and fast as time is running out. In the past five years, I have gone along this slogan: “Save as Much and as Many as You Can.” We cannot do everything like Superman, but we can focus on what matters and mitigate the disasters while helping others keep their livelihoods. And after facing the worst drought in 500 years in Europe, the worst drought in two millenia in California and everything that goes along with that, it’s no secret that we need to focus our resources here and not strive for power and dominance, for that has become a thing of the past.

And so, writing this while looking at the beach, the tourists are gone but they will be back next summer. All is quiet and nature can take over with waves, sea gulls and the smell of salt lingering in the air. It’s time to think about what is ahead, answering this important question: What can we do to help our next generation? I would love to see the next generation have an environment that is liveable and peaceful, full of flora and fauna, and full of people who really care about it.

For those who are elsewhere, I hope you are taking notes about this too, answering the same questions I have here in this article.