Despite protests in Washington concerning Soviet human rights abuses, most Americans get swept up in “Gorbymania” as Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev arrives for his summit with President Ronald Reagan. Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, charmed the American public and media by praising the United States and calling for closer relations between the Soviet Union and America.
Aside from the excitement surrounding Gorbachev (whose face was soon plastered on T-shirts, cups, and posters), the summit with Reagan resulted in one of the most significant arms control agreements of the Cold War. Reagan and Gorbachev signed off on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force (INF) Treaty, which called for the elimination of all ground cruise and ballistic missiles and launchers in Europe with ranges of 320 to 3,400 miles. By June 1991, the United States had eliminated over 800 missiles and the Soviets had eliminated 1,800 such weapons.
The INF Treaty was the first arms control agreement that eliminated, rather than simply limited, nuclear weapons. The treaty also required on-site inspections to ensure compliance, part of Reagan’s famous “trust but verify” credo. Some critics in the United States denounced the treaty, claiming that it would “de-nuke” Europe and leave America’s allies at the mercy of the Soviets’ massive conventional forces. Most Americans, however, considered it a monumental step toward the reduction of the risk of nuclear war. The treaty was ratified by the Senate and went into effect in June 1988.