President Ronald Reagan brokered no peace settlements, and his first term saw a historic hiatus in the modern-day parade of summit conferences. Determined to rebuild America's power and prestige, Reagan and his advisers initially were hostile toward any dealings with that "evil empire," the Soviet Union. During his second term, however, there occurred a notable reversal of policies and attitudes. After Mikhail Gorbachev's accession to power in March 1985, Reagan met more frequently with his Russian counterpart than had any of his predecessors. Reagan and Gorbachev arranged a "meet-and-greet" in Geneva in November 1985; took part in a summit at Reykjavik, Iceland, in October 1986; were reunited in Washington in December 1987 to sign the Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty; embraced in front of Lenin's Tomb at the Moscow Summit in June 1988; and met a final time in New York in December 1988.
The Reykjavik Summit was notable for its departures from the scripted agenda. President Reagan, eager for an attention-getting foreign policy feat prior to midterm congressional elections, agreed to a summit meeting without the usual lengthy preparations. The American delegation was stunned when Gorbachev proposed a 50 percent cut in intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and their eventual elimination in return for U.S. abandonment of its missile shield, the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Apparently convinced he was in a high-stakes poker game, Reagan offered to eliminate all American (and British and French) ICBMs within ten years if the Russians accepted deployment of SDI. This proposal confused Gorbachev, Reagan's aides, and, quite likely, the president himself. The Reykjavik summit broke up in disarray. Thereafter, summits have hewed closely to prearranged scripts.
The end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union brought neither the end of history nor the abolition of the summit conference as a favored tool in the American diplomatic and political arsenal. President George Bush met on six occasions with Gorbachev prior to the latter's transfer of power to Boris Yeltsin in December 1991, and he made numerous trips abroad.