Meeting off the coast of Malta, President George Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev issue statements strongly suggesting that the long-standing animosities at the core of the Cold War might be coming to an end. Commentators in both the United States and Russia went farther and declared that the Cold War was over.
The talks were part of the first-ever summit held between the two leaders. Bush and his advisers were cautiously optimistic about the summit, eager to follow up on the steps toward arms control taken by the preceding Reagan administration. Gorbachev was quite vocal about his desire for better relations with the United States so that he could pursue his domestic reform agenda and was more effusive in his declarations that the talks marked an important first step toward ending the Cold War. The Russian leader stated, “The characteristics of the Cold War should be abandoned.”
He went on to suggest that, “The arms race, mistrust, psychological and ideological struggle, all those should be things of the past.” Bush was somewhat more restrained in his statement: “With reform underway in the Soviet Union, we stand at the threshold of a brand-new era of U.S.-Soviet relations. It is within our grasp to contribute each in our own way to overcoming the division of Europe and ending the military confrontation there.”
Despite the positive spin of the rhetoric, though, little of substance was accomplished during the summit. Both sides agreed to work toward a treaty dealing with long-range nuclear weapons and conventional arms in 1990. Gorbachev and Bush also agreed that another summit would take place in June 1990, in Washington, D.C.