A veteran U.S. diplomat, who is now one of the last living participants in the U.S.-Soviet summit meeting at Reykjavik in October 1986, traces the genesis, nature, and aftermath of that summit. He recounts changes in U.S.-Soviet relations during the first several years of the Reagan administration, including important events such as the 1983 Pentecostalist negotiations, the shootdown of a South Korean passenger airliner by Soviet air defense forces, and the meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva in November 1985. Even though scholars in retrospect have looked on the Reykjavik summit as a turning point, it began as a failure. Two leaders, who became exhausted as the proceedings wore on, engaged in a momentous exchange on nuclear elimination but then doubled down on incompatible positions regarding strategic ballistic missile defense (BMD). Reagan sought a “personal favor,” as he had with Gorbachev's predecessors three years earlier regarding the Pentecostals, whereas Gorbachev pushed for strict limits on BMD as a matter of “principle.” Both sides then scrambled to salvage the future, in an interpretive effort, centered on the leaders’ personal relationship, that ultimately yielded today's favorable view of Reykjavik's place in history.

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