Constructive leadership

There is no question that the whole world benefitted in the 1980s from the ability of The Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev and the United States’ Ronald Reagan to be brutally frank with each other, while still being committed to the shared idea of a reduction in nuclear arms.

What began as a trading of insults — Reagan called the Soviet Union “The Evil Empire,” the Soviets called Reagan a “warmonger” — evolved into the most productive negotiations of the Cold War.

On this day in 1987, Gorbachev proposed a solution for an idea that had been bogged down for a couple of years — a treaty to eliminate medium-range nuclear-tipped missiles in Europe.

Both sides had been trying since 1985 to reach such an agreement. However, both sides kept couching their offers to get rid of the missiles with codicils that affected other aspects of the Cold War.

The biggest stumbling point was that Gorbachev was insisting that a treaty be linked to the United States eliminating development of its Strategic Defense Initiative — or “Star Wars” as it was familiarly known. The SDI program was designed to build a defensive system that could knock down incoming offensive missiles.

On Feb. 28, 1987, though, Gorbachev proposed that getting rid of the medium-range missiles in Europe be put through on a stand-alone basis — no other issues would be allowed in the wording of the treaty.

The ice was broken, both sides seized on the idea of a stand-alone treaty on the missiles.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed in December 1987.

(Source: “Today in History”)

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