Purchased a FORA.tv video on another website? Login here with the temporary account credentials included in your receipt.
Sign up today to receive our weekly newsletter and special announcements.
Welcome this evening. We're here to honor the participants of the Reykjavik Conference Summit that we have today and tomorrow. This is the 20th anniversary of the important Reykjavik Summit, and we've had a marvelous first day, a second day to follow. There are 21 participants at this workshop or conference, nine of which are Hoover fellows, one of which is a Stanford professor, and eleven invited guests, many of which participated in the actual summit 20 years ago. What they're doing is to recall the past, think about the past as it relates to the present, and try to think about the future of our challenges going forward. Interestingly, we have a challenge before us, in the last couple of days, with respect to North Korea, relating to nuclear weapons. Indeed you may recall some 20 years ago, in fact I have here something that was written by one of the participants, Ambassador James Goodby, who wrote just last month that the Reykjavik Summit discussed the elimination of all ballistic missiles held by their two countries, the USSR and the United States, and even aired the possibility of eliminating all nuclear weapons. In the press you may recall because of the SDI initiative, you know, Reykjavik was pronounced a bit of a failure close but no cigar but I think indeed these gentlemen and gentlewomen would say that this was an important breakthrough from a historical perspective. I would say to you that we have a distinguished panel tonight, which Peter Robinson will moderate, and Peter will introduce our guests to you, our participants. Peter, during one of the Uncommon Knowledge segments, you'll recall that Hoover had a television program on PBS for some ten years titled Uncommon Knowledge, and one of the installments was titled "A Crack in the Ice: the Legacy of the Reykjavik Summit." In which Peter interviewed George Schultz and a journalist from The New Yorker. So we've already dabbled in this. Finally, before turning it over to Peter, I would say to you that we have two television cameras, or two video cameras, positioned in the room, so that this proceeding will be taped and also distributed. We have entered into a new partnership with Foratv. Foratv it's f-o-r-a, tv provides on-demand public policy and public affairs video content over the web. This is a relatively new venture for Hoover, and we are taping the full presentations at this symposium. Eventually they'll be streamed over the internet so that those of you with sufficient bandwidth can look at what actually happened tonight, if you want to review it again, or the daytime sessions on www.fora.tv. Not wishing to take any more time from the main event, let me now turn it over to my colleague and Hoover fellow, Peter Robinson. Two decades ago, this very day, Ambassador Roz Ridgeway, Ambassador Max Kampelman, and Secretary of State George Schultz, were in Reykjavik, Iceland with President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Michal Gorbachev. But we begin this evening not with 20 years ago, but with sometime afterward. And the setting is not Reykjavik, Iceland, but the Stanford University home of George Schultz, whose guest that day was former General Secretary Michal Gorbachev. Tell us what happened. He was here visiting us, and we wound up somehow sitting in the backyard of our house on the campus with his interpreter. And I said to him, "When you and I entered office, the Cold War was about as cold as it could get. And when we left, it was all over but the shouting. So what was the turning point?" And he didn't reflect a second. He just said, " Reykjavik." And I said, "Well, why do you say that?" And he said, "Because the leaders got together and over an extended period of time, they talked about all of the issues. Talked about the issues." Then he said to me, "Well what do you think the turning point was?" I said, "I thought the turning point was when we, the NATO alliance, were able to deploy the Ballistic Missile in Germany in late 1983. And that display of cohesion and strength is probably what led to Reykjavik." And he said, "Well, there's something to it, but I think Reykjavik." But in reviewing, in preparing for this conference, all of the ins and outs of what went on, I'd have to say that with all due respect to our deployment of missiles in Germany, SDI, the Strategic Defense Initiative of President Reagan's, seemed to be the most prominent thing on his mind. But at any rate, it is clear from looking at this, that talk, diplomacy, work hard on the issues, is essential, but you have to have that against the background of some compelling strength to go with it, otherwise you don't get anywhere. So that was why I think Reykjavik was such a success, and I would have to agree with President Gorbachev that it was a very important event. Extremely important. 20 years ago, Reykjavik, the critical moment. Michal Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan agreed to reduce their strategic nuclear arms by 50% within five years and then to eliminate them within a second five years. In other words, both men agreed to what would have been the most sweeping agreement in the history of the Cold War. But the agreement fell apart. Why? Gorbachev insisted on restricting the SDI to laboratory research only. Reagan insisted on being able to engage in research, development, and testing. I always kick myself for not saying to him, "Well, President Gorbachev, what do you have in mind by a laboratory. I mean, space is my laboratory...the world is my laboratory, what is a laboratory. Gorbachev insisted and insisted, Reagan refused and refused, but at one point, Ronald Reagan handed a note to George Schultz. The note said, "Am I wrong?" George Schultz looked at Ronald Reagan and said, "No, you're right." George, you could have made Reykjavik a success! Why did you back him up? No, it would have been a failure if he had gone back on his commitment to strategic defense. And I think even to this day we look around, in lots of different settings, including for example what happened to Israel and Lebanon, and you say to yourself, "Wouldn't it be nice if we had a defense against these rockets?" So I think President Reagan was onto something important and shouldn't have given it up. However, in addition, by that time the willingness of the Soviets in effect to agree to what was called the Zero Option Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces, was there on the table, basically. And through a lot of hard work over a nighttime session with Paul Nixie and Max Kampelman and Richard Pearl, who's here, and Jack Matlock and some others, they had agreed to a very satisfactory formula for cutting strategic arms in half, which was a breathtaking achievement. So those things were on the table, and they weren't going to go away. Former ambassador Jack Matlock, ambassador to the USSR, in his book on the collapse of the USSR called Autopsy of an Empire Roz, you listen to this especially closely. "By noon of the second day an agreement on intermediate range missiles seemed so close that we sent out urgent messages to our ambassadors in Western Europe to seek out the heads of government to which they were accredited, and brief them on the terms." Roz, as I recall, you succeeded in placing a telephone call to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Would you is that not correct? No it's not. It was difficult to reach heads of government. We managed to reach all of the special assistants, we managed to reach the ambassadors that we had to reach. It was a very close time frame. The word was out as to what was happening in Reykjavik, we were convinced that the Allies would need a few minutes to prepare themselves for their own public presentations on it. But no, I never got through to Mrs. Thatcher, I would probably have scars if I had. Mrs. Thatcher's response when she was reached, Mrs. Thatcher's response to Reykjavik was...? Well, Mrs. Thatcher was concerned about the future of Britain's own nuclear force. Her most memorable response was to fly into Washington, no sooner had we returned, and to ask Secretary Schultz to come over to the British Embassy where she could get her own private briefing on what had happened and what her interests were, and how she expected them to be protected, and we assured her they had been, and she flew home again. But she was not going to be satisfied with a telephone call from me. Will you show us your scars, George? Well there also was all this talk about abolishing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and she didn't like that at all. So she had me come over to the Embassy and she took me to the woodshed. And I mean, Margaret Thatcher can do it. Then she went by that time it kind of got out of her system, and she did the same thing with Ronald Reagan, but she was a little nicer when she talked to him. But here's what she was thinking of course. In her memoirs, Mrs. Thatcher described Reykjavik as an earthquake. She argued that if the United States had done away with its nuclear umbrella, the Europeans would have found themselves staring at overwhelming conventional soviet forces, and would have been forced to accommodate the Soviets. So if Ronald Reagan had agreed in Reykjavik to eliminate nuclear weapons, he'd have destroyed NATO and split the West. Max Kampelman, when Ronald Reagan almost agreed to do away with nuclear weapons, what was he thinking? Well you have to understand, when you go back and look at Ronald Reagan as a person, that our image of the man is really not an accurate picture of what, at least, I found, in working with Ronald Reagan. The general public image and the general press image did not reflect the seriousness or the intensity of feeling that he had on certain subjects. One of those important subjects was the nature of the Soviet Union, human rights, and we've seen this as we've gone back through his history his determination to try to end nuclear weapons. This was an important objective in his mind even before he became President of the United States, it would appear, from looking at some of the records here. And I, at that time, had been appointed the Head of the American Delegation to negotiate with the Soviets on three issues. One was the intermediate weapons, the other was the long-range weapons we called them INF and Start and the third was Reagan's issue and determination to establish defenses against the Soviet missiles that might come over, and that was my job. Otherwise I wouldn't have been at Reykjavik. There I was in Reykjavik, following eagerly the private meetings between the two principles and the secretaries. You mentioned SDI. This brings us to what remains, in my judgment, the central puzzle, all these years later, of what happened at Reykjavik. SDI. Star Wars. In the eighties, many informed observers in the Union of Concerned Scientists for example even today, one of the informed observers, Sid Drell, will tell you that SDI was never going to work. It was technically infeasible. In the words of journalist Rick Herdsberg it was a fantasy. So. If SDI was a fantasy, why did Michal Gorbachev make a containment of SDI his central demand. Roz? I don't think he thought it was a fantasy. And he certainly saw the price tag. The price tag of... Of trying to match it. Okay. So Sid he knew something Sid didn't know? Or he fell for it? Well, I don't want to put it in terms of "fell for it," because it sort of diminishes the importance of the exchange and it diminishes his own intellectual capacity. It was a difficult issue for them, it represented a competitive challenge, it challenged what was happening in their economy, it challenged what was happening in their society, it was an issue within his own bureaucracy, with his military, and he simply had to find a way to respond to it to eliminate it, and I think both with respect to the summit in Geneva, the first, and the summit in Reykjavik, his single objective was to obtain the defeat of SDI. And he failed, and then we went on with the rest of the objective. George, why didn't he say to Ronald Reagan, "Look. My technical people in the Soviet Union are telling me this is nonsense. You pursue it if you want to, you're just going to waste tens of billions of dollars. Instead he went after it. How come? Well, as Roz said, they had varying views but they took it pretty seriously, and I imagine, as I think it was Richard Pearl pointed out today in our discussion, that maybe they thought it was more than a defensive weapon. That if you get something up there in space, that presumably is intended to knock down something that might come at you, maybe that thing in space could also deliver something down on the ground. So...strategic defense initiative is defensive, and Ronald Reagan always thought of it that way, but I think you could easily imagine that if you were Soviet and hearing about how a weapon might be put in space, how something in space might come down at you, so I think there were a lot of reasons that he took it very seriously. I'd like to add something here. Please. The Russians had their own program of missile defenses. Or Star Wars, which the critics used. I recall in one of...we had three negotiation sessions running simultaneously...and on the one dealing with missile defense, for example, I made the point that they also had such a program. And it became clear to me that their negotiators in Geneva really didn't know about it. Or if they did know about it, they didn't know much about it. And I persuaded General Abramson, who was in charge of our program, to come to Geneva. And he came. And I invited him to meet with the Soviet delegation. And all these generals were in the audience there, and Abe, who was you know, very viril and young looking fellow, came, and told them exactly where they were practicing and doing their work in missile defenses. And they were writing feverishly because they did not know what he was telling them, and that what we had been learning through the air. So that also has to be kept in mind, that even though there was great criticism in the United States, because of Star Wars, and they made fun of it, the critics, the Soviets were also engaged in that effort. The principles, Michal Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan. October 1986, Michal Gorbachev was 55 years old. He'd been in office as General Secretary of the Soviet Union for 18 months. Just 18 months. Did you know yet that you were dealing with a different kind of Soviet leader? When you arrived in Reykjavik, over the 48 hours, I assume, you saw things that surprised you. You knew already? Well, I had dealt with leaders in the Soviet Union when I was Secretary of the Treasury some years earlier. So I had some experience in negotiating with them. And when we went to the funeral of Chernenko, Gorbachev, the new Secretary General, received our delegation. Fortunately from my standpoint, Vice President Bush was there, so he was the leader of our delegation. I had the luxury of sitting and watching. And I watched Gorbachev, we met for an hour and a half or so. Toward the end, one of the last delegations he made. So this must have been a very trying time for him. But he was really alert and on the ball. He had a big pile of papers in front of him, which he shuffled around, never looked at them. He was clearly convergent with everything that came up, very aggressive intellect, and afterwards, I remember, when our delegation went back to Hofdi house or wherever we went, saying to everybody, "This is a very different kind of Soviet leader than we have ever had before. He's much more knowledgeable, much more of a conversationalist, much more confident in handling things. He's going to be formidable on the one hand, but reachable, on the other hand." Peter, I'm sorry, you're missing something in your questions. Go right ahead. The big thing. One of the most important things we were all trying to do was to figure out what's going on in the Soviet Union, all the intelligence agencies, and we're all doing it, and we go and meet, and we're looking around, "What's taking place?" And at Reykjavik, something happened that was just a little bit of an insight, a wedge. And the person responsible for bringing that out was Roz Ridgeway. Because we had two working groups set up on the night between the two days at Reykjavik. One was on arms control, diplomacy chaired, and the other was on human rights and regional issues and such things, which Roz chaired. And she negotiated something very important, and I think she ought to tell about it. It's a little bit of pre-history, if I could even go back to your question just a moment ago, to Secretary Schultz. You don't just drop into a capitol and start talking to a team of people and then drop out and go on back to business. There's always a pre-history. And we had been meeting with a new generation of Soviet leadership ever since the summer of 1985. And as Gorbachev began to assemble his own team, with a new foreign minister and the new foreign minister started to assemble the new foreign ministry team, and the embassy in Washington began their embassy in Washington began to show new faces it was very clear that there was a very different kind of person across the table from us. That's one part of the pre-history. The other is, of course, that Reykjavik was preceded by the first summit meeting in Geneva, in November of 1985, and in that session, we were given at the very last minute, instructions from President Reagan to go out and find a way to record what had happened in something called a joint statement. Richard was with me in the room, there were four of us working with the Soviet team, to record the kinds of things that had been discussed in the Geneva session. And as Richard reminded us today, when we got to the question of Human Rights, and Human Rights was item #1 on the American four-part agenda. Human rights, arms control, the regional issues such as Afghanistan, and bi-lateral issues of sort of day-to-day working relationship topics. And when we got to the question of human rights and recording our determination to go on with the discussion of human rights and our view of what should be happening, we thought the Soviet Union would find in its own interest to have happening, the Soviet side insisted there were no words in Russian for human rights. That they could not translate "human rights". And it would have to be "humanitarian affairs." If the United States wanted to say "human rights," we could, it was our topic, but as far as they were concerned, it couldn't be accommodated either within their own substance of interest or within their language, and so it was "humanitarian." When we got to Reykjavik and another side room at the Hofdi House, we once again sat down and the question was human rights. And it was very clear that in the interceding months, there had been a change on the Soviet side with respect to their willingness to take up the question of human rights. I've always attributed that to a number of things. One, to this continuous dialogue that was taking place, what the Secretary was often teased about, running a classroom in the Kremlin as he tried to get the Soviet side to understand that the necessity to them, if they wished to be a successful society, of being an open society, of being a society which encouraged freedom of thought, being a kind of society which could compete in a world which was changing dramatically. That was one lesson. Another was Max Kampelman saying, "What is all this stuff about interference in your internal affairs? You assigned the Helsinki accords on human rights [one of the most important documents of the Cold War years], you did it as a sovereign act, so we're not interfering with anything. You've got your own obligation to take it up." It's hard to say which of that sank in most. But by the time we were approaching the close of the Reykjavik meeting, the Soviet side was willing to state, in writing, that the agenda going forward would be one which included something called "human rights." It suddenly could be found in the Russian language that you could write "human rights." So we agreed that we would proceed with discussions on human rights and humanitarian affairs. They said that if we're going to do that, we want to talk to you about what we think is wrong in your society in the area of human rights, and we said "Fine. Let's talk away. Let's have those discussions on societies and what's happening in both of our societies and what we think and what you think." So we were all set to go with that. It got lost in the dramatic ending of Reykjavik, but it remained active, and we after that really did not have the kinds of confrontations on lists and names and issues and all of the rest, and somebody pointed out again today that it was a few days after Reykjavik that Sakeraf was told that his isolation in Gorki was coming to an end and he could go to Moscow. So there were real evidences of a change and a beginning of an understanding of what an open society is about, with respect to the treatment of its own people. As I understand from George's book on Reykjavik, the Soviets arrived prepared principally to talk about disarmament, and it was our side, and President Reagan who insisted on setting up the other discussions as well. Is that so that when they agreed to use the term human rights was that demonstrating a new kind of flexibility? Were they improvising? Or did they come prepared? I haven't seen their instructions. I don't know. But the cast of characters, if I can call us characters, was very much the same as we separated ourselves into working groups across these two years of the Geneva and Reykjavik meetings, and so the dialogue was continuous, and whether they expected to have to talk about human rights or not, the team on the other side of the table was the team from Geneva. The human rights were always on the top of President Reagan's agenda. Always #1. And most people don't realize it, but the first deal we made in the Reagan Administration with the Soviet Union, was a human rights deal. We got the Pentecostals remember they were holed up in our embassy we got them out and President Reagan always said, "I just want to have this happen, and I'm not going to take any credit or have anything to say about it." So the deal was, we'll let them out if you don't crow. And President Reagan never said a word. It was always a mystery to people how that happened. Max Ronald Reagan. Let me quote to you defense analyst Robert Uler writing in The Nation magazine. "At Reykjavik, Ronald Reagan proved ill-prepared and overwhelmed." What do you have to say to that? How did Ronald Reagan do at Reykjavik? Obviously, he did extremely well, I found, in all of my experiences with him. I'm glad I'm sitting at this distance because I think you have the impulse to take a swing at that. Well, you know, my own judgment, and I speak as somebody who's a Democrat, not a Republican. And I always found him to be quite well-prepared and quite effective. As an example, what runs through my mind now is the particularly legislative problem he had with the Congress evolving the MX Missile. And I was in Geneva negotiating, and my own position was, I wanted us to continue with our armaments unless we could get reductions from the Soviet side. And that seemed to be the way we ought to function. No unilateral reductions on our part. And Reagan asked me to come back from Geneva, so I came back, but then my fellow democrats were pretty much prepared to kill the MX missile, and I went and spoke to speaker Tip O'Neal about it and I said to him that I also would like to get rid of all these missiles, but I didn't want to be in a position to be the only one to get rid of the missiles, I think we all ought to get rid of these missiles. And he, by virtue of cutting out the appropriation, meant that we'd be the ones to cut it out, whereas they would not be cutting theirs out. And I went back and reported this to the President, and he quickly got on the phone and called the speaker. And said, I'll never forget this, "Max tells me you're a patriot." And out these two tough Irishmen were cussing each other out, I could only hear one side of the conversation, not both sides of the conversation, but there they were cussing each other out about patriotism, and about golf, and everything else, but the fact of the matter is that Reagan strongly wanted to get rid of all nuclear weapons, but he didn't want to be in a position of our getting rid of our nuclear weapons, whereas the Russians didn't get rid of theirs. And this is exactly the way it turned out. And that's been my experience with him in that area. George, we hear a lot about Ronald Reagan, the great communicator. Tell us about Ronald Reagan the negotiator. Well, he enjoyed negotiations. And both of us had some experience in labor negotiations. So we'd often sit and talk about it and he would tell about how he was head of the Screen Actors Guild, and he had to bargain with the management and the different techniques he used, and he very clearly understood, that among other things for example, you can't want an agreement too much, or you won't get a good agreement. And all of these things were kind of instinctive with him. And it showed, I think, in the way he went about the negotiations that we conducted. But in response to your question that you ask next, I sat there in Hofdi House, in this little room, the room was about as long as from here to that podium and about as wide. Tiny room. The table was about as long as from me to the edge of Roz's chair. It was like two card tables put together. And there was President Reagan on one end, and Gorbachev on the other, and sitting next to him was Chevrenazi, sitting next to President Reagan was me, and there was note taker in the room, and each of us had our interpreters. It was very small, intimate space. So it makes me realize how right Gorbachev was in saying, "The leaders got together [and remember this was two full days] and talk about the issues." Which we really, literally did, in this small space. And I can assure you that President Reagan handled himself very skillfully and in the first session, here comes President Gorbachev, and basically what he did was concede all of our positions. It just came one after another, agreeing with positions that we had taken on intermediate-range forces and strategic forces, and President Reagan sat there smiling and sort of collecting. What's to complain about? And by the time President Gorbachev got through, I think Reagan asked him some very acute questions, showed that he understood it well, and fortunately from our standpoint we adjourned for lunch. And one of the things we'd done that was good, was we had brought a terrific delegation with us...fairly large. But we had people there who really knew all the issues, so we came back, made a report to our group, exactly what happened, and people got busy then rearranging our talking points and our position and talking us over with President Reagan, but he was really on top of things. Was there a feeling of astonishment, it seems when you got together, they're willing to give up this, they're willing to give up here, there must have been a feeling almost of giddiness. Or did you feel calm and professional. What did you feel? I think it was calm, it was professional. The delegation representatives and secretary said, "All of the expertise that had ever been dealing either with the relationship or the various issues, the books that were prepared [Jim Tibby reminded me tonight the big fat books that came along with us], there hasn't been anything that hasn't been carefully analyzed." And I always thought that the reason the story got out that we were winging it, and didn't know what happened, was that at one point, in order to this place was so small and there were no facilities, we even had to borrow carbon paper from the Soviet side because we had long gone past carbon paper and typing anything but we couldn't turn on an electric typewriter because the security people wouldn't let us plug anything in.. I remember Akramayok came with the carbon paper and he said, "Vell, once again, Soviet technology comes..." And in the back of this place, in order to keep up with talking points and to make sure that the secretary and the others had all the information they needed, Richard and the late Bob Lyndhard had made up a desk, and it was a bathtub with a door over it. But they had the books. And so people looked at the bathtub and the door and said these guys were winging it, they weren't prepared, they didn't know what they were doing they never saw the briefing books, the expertise, and the people very well-prepared. These were not folks who were going to be astonished. These were people who knew what was happening. The secretary said to gather it all in, come up with the answers, and go on. George Schultz in his memoirs, Turmoil and Triumph, "Ronald Reagan, resigned to the inability to resolve the inquest, stood up as did Gorbachev. They gathered their papers. It was dark when the doors of Hofdi House opened and we all emerged. As I later watched