The only reason Id never met with General Secretary Gorbachev’s predecessors was because they kept dying on me - Brezhnev, Chernenko, Andropov. Then along came Gorbachev. He was different in style, in substance, and, I believe, in intellect 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.
We first met in Geneva. My team had set up a guesthouse away from the main meeting area where Gorbachev and I could talk one-on-one. He jumped at the chance when I suggested we sneak away. And there we sat and talked for hours in front of a roaring fire. I opened by telling him that ours was a unique situation - two men who together had the power to bring on World War III. By the same token, we had the capability to bring about world peace. I said, "We don’t mistrust each other because we’re armed. We’re armed because we mistrust each other." I asked him how, in addition to eliminating the arms, how could we eliminate the mistrust?
I did not know when I left for that meeting in Geneva, I would eventually call Mikhail Gorbachev a friend. I did not know what to expect. This is the speech I gave to the American people as I prepared to depart for Geneva.
- Ronald Reagan -