The Soviet Threat

The delegations of Communist leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Reagan met in Geneva in 1985. "The President, from the very start, started to speak in a kind of lecturing tone, as though I was a suspect, or maybe a student," says Gorbachev.


Edmund Morris, Official Biographer: Out of the big black Russian limousine comes this awkward, short, rather dumpy, heavily overcoated, heavily scarfed, hatted communist leader, who fumbled with his scarf and fumbled with his coat as he approached this great benign presence. And they met at the foot of the stairs. Reagan towered over Gorbachev. Gorbachev looked up into Reagan's face, looked at him very intensely. Reagan smiled down at him and then gently choreographed him up the stairs.

Sergei Tarasenko, Foreign Ministry USSRGorbachev's in standard Politburo hat, standard Politburo overcoat. It reminds me of KGB agent from bad American films. So, I said to myself that that we have lost this photo opportunity. We have lost this first round.

Narrator: When the delegations met, Reagan recalled, "I took Gorbachev through the long history of Soviet aggression. I wanted to explain why the free world had good reason to put up its guard against the Soviet bloc."

Edmund Morris, Official Biographer: His language was brutal. He would say things like "Let me tell you, Mr. General Secretary, why we fear you and why we despise your system." Now that in a diplomatic meeting is extremely confrontational language.

Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary USSR: The President from the very start started to speak in a kind of lecturing tone as though I was a suspect or maybe a student. And I cut him short. I said, "Mr. President, you are not a prosecutor. I am not the accused. You are not a teacher. I am not a student."


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  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH