Following up on their successful November 1985 summit meeting in Geneva, President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev meet in Reykjavik, Iceland, to continue discussions about curbing their intermediate missile arsenals in Europe. Just when it appeared that agreement might be reached, the talks fell apart amid accusations and recriminations, and U.S.-Soviet relations took a giant step backwards.
The sticking point arose when Gorbachev requested that the talks concerning the missiles be expanded to include limitations on America’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Referred to as the “Star Wars” initiative by opponents, SDI was one of Reagan’s pet projects. A multi-billion-dollar program, SDI was supposed to use space technology to provide a “shield” from nuclear attacks. Not surprisingly, Reagan refused to consider Gorbachev’s suggestion, and the talks ended the next day, October 12, with no agreement in hand. Reagan charged the Soviet leader with bad faith in trying to expand the parameters of the talks; back in the Soviet Union, Gorbachev reported that Reagan seemed to be lying about his desire for serious negotiations concerning arms limitations. Talks on the missile issue did not resume until December 1987, when the two leaders met for a third summit in Washington, and Gorbachev dropped his insistence on including SDI in the negotiations.