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1986: Reykjavik summit ends in failure

VIDEO : The final day of the Reykjavik talks

US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev have failed to reach agreement at a disarmament summit in Reykjavik.

The two men came close to striking a radical arms reduction deal after a weekend of lengthy negotiations at Hofdi House in the Icelandic capital.

But the talks finally stalled over President Reagan's refusal to abandon his Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI).

Disappointment

The White House spokesman, Larry Speake said, "We had high hopes and we came very close to realising them but in the end we are deeply disappointed at the outcome."

After the summit, Mr Gorbachev said that he had told President Reagan, "We are missing an historic chance. Never had our positions been so close together."

Before flying back to Washington, President Reagan said:

"We moved towards agreement on drastically reduced numbers of intermediate-range missiles in both Europe and Asia and sharply reducing our strategic arsenals for both."

"We made progress in the area of nuclear testing, but there was remaining at the end of our talks one area of disagreement."

This was the American SDI programme - also known as Star Wars - a series of networked satellites intended to protect the USA from foreign missile attacks.

Reykjavik Deal

The deal under discussion included plans to:

  • limit continental weapons to 1,600 delivery vehicles and 6,000 warheads on each side
  • reduce intermediate-range nuclear forces to 100 warheads, restricting Soviet missile bases to Asia and US missile bases to the US
  • eliminate all nuclear missiles within 10 years
  • progress towards a test ban
  • The two leaders have met for 11 hours over the past two days including an unscheduled meeting today.

    Stalemate was reached this afternoon.

    President Reagan agreed to develop and test his missile defence system for a decade but wanted a definite plan to deploy it after then.

    Mr Gorbachev insisted a decision on its implementation should be reserved until the end of the 10 year period.

    Soviets officials questioned the need for Star Wars if America's stated ambition was arms reduction.

    They fear the project could potentially give the US a first strike capability and promote an arms race.

    The US Secretary of State George Shultz defended SDI saying it "was the best insurance policy" against the USSR backing out of arms reduction.

    The leaders plan to meet in Geneva next but no fixed date has been arranged.

    In Context
    President Reagan's administration invested heavily in building up America's nuclear capability.

    It was estimated that SDI would cost $26bn over a five-year period.

    Critics dubbed the project Star Wars indicating they thought SDI was nothing more than a futuristic plan that would never work.

    Gorbachev eventually de-linked negotiations on arms control from the SDI issues.

    In December 1987, Gorbachev and Reagan signed the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. This was the first ever treaty to reverse the arms race.

    The INF treaty effectively eliminated more than 2,500 long and short range missiles.


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