The New Moralists
The United States has always played a twin role to the United Nations, first friend and first critic.
— President Clinton
Marsaxlokk Bay on the east coast of Malta is normally a haven for affluent tourists vacationing on warm Mediterranean waters. It is not an idyllic place to be when strong storms blow in, as one did on December 2 and 3, 1989. The seas were whipping up sixteen-foot waves; the rain fell in torrents, driven by sixty-mile-per-hour winds. Through the downpour a visitor could make out two warships ominously at anchor in the bay. One was the American cruiser Belknap. The other was the USSR's Slava. Tugboats worked steadily to keep the two ships from crashing into each other under the dire conditions. On the Belknap George Bush waited unsuccessfully for the seas to calm in hope of making the 1,000-yard trip to the Soviet ship. In port Mikhail Gorbachev, aboard the Soviet cruise liner Maxim Gorky, prepared for his anticipated meetings with the president of the United States.
Such was the improbable setting for what would be the formal conclusion to the cold war. For the third time in the twentieth century, an era in international affairs had come to an end. Like Woodrow Wilson at Versailles and Franklin Roosevelt at Yalta, President Bush hoped to resolve any remaining issues between the major adversaries and to commence a new period in world politics. He called his trip to this island—where FDR had met with Winston Churchill forty-four years earlier—a "great and noble undertaking," thus recalling Dwight Eisenhower's words on D-Day as the invasion began. History was in the making.
In the end the two presidents were forced to meet several times on the Gorky. At the conclusion of the two-day meeting, while no grand alliance had been hammered out, the leaders spoke of "partnership" on a large number of world issues. 1 They also signed several bilateral agreements. The new world order had begun rather inauspiciously.____________________