June 3

This Day in History

Cold War

Jun 3, 1990:

Bush and Gorbachev end second summit meeting

President George Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev end their three-day summit meeting with warm words of friendship but without any concrete agreement concerning German reunification.

Bush and Gorbachev held their second summit conference in Washington, D.C. The main topic of conversation was the future of a reunified Germany. Communist rule in East Germany had already crumbled and the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989. Differences arose between the United States and the Soviet Union, however, over the issue of a reunified Germany in Cold War Europe. The United States wished for the new Germany to be a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which had been created in 1949 as a mutual defense organization to oppose Soviet expansion into Western Europe. The Soviet Union, already somewhat fearful of a reunified and armed Germany, expressed grave concerns over German membership in NATO. Gorbachev proposed that the new Germany be a member of both NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the communist bloc equivalent of NATO. Also part of the discussions at the second summit was the fate of Lithuania, the Soviet republic that had proclaimed its independence in late 1989. The Soviet government responded harshly to the Lithuanian independence movement, imposing economic sanctions and threatening military intervention. The Bush administration was clearly in favor of independence for Lithuania and asked the Soviet government to cease its threatening attitude toward the republic.

No agreements were reached at the summit concerning either Germany or Lithuania, or any other issue for that matter. President Bush, however, preferred to end the meetings on a positive note, declaring, "We've moved a long, long way from the depths of the Cold War. I don't quite know how to quantify it for you, but we could never have had the discussions at Camp David yesterday, or as we sat in the Oval Office a couple of days before, with President Gorbachev, 20 years ago." Events of the next year, however, rendered moot the issues that had been raised at the summit. Economic and political turmoil in the Soviet Union led to Gorbachev's resignation as president in December 1991, at which point the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

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