THE NEW ERA
The only reason I'd never met with General Secretary Gorbachev's predecessors was because they kept dying on me. . . . Then along came Gorbachev. He was different in style [and] in substance . . . from previous Soviet leaders. He is a man who takes chances and that's what you need for progress. He is a remarkable force for change in that country.
RONALD REAGAN, FEBRUARY 1, 19891
RONALD REAGAN'S SECOND TERM in office nearly coincided with the first four years of Mikhail Gorbachev's leadership, the period when the United States and the Soviet Union abandoned four decades of confrontation and turned to what Reagan called "a new era" of cooperation. Overcoming their own suspicions and the deeper reservations of conservative forces in both societies, Gorbachev and Reagan walked together down the path that led to the end of the Cold War. It was a hesitant walk, with many pauses along the way, and it would remain for President Bush to complete the journey with Gorbachev. But in 1987, after significant Soviet concessions, Reagan and Gorbachev signed the first treaty in history to reduce the nuclear arsenals of the superpowers.
Historically, each leader served the other's purpose. Gorbachev arrived on the scene when the failure of the Communist experiment could no longer be concealed from the Soviet people. He opened up Soviet society ("glasnost") and attempted to restructure its economy ("perestroika"). To attain these goals, he sought a reduction in Soviet military spending and international tensions. He needed Western economic credits and a breathing spell. He had much to gain and little to lose by dealing realistically with the popular president of the United States.
Reagan had reasons of his own for reaching out to Gorbachev. Even