Gorbachev recalls Reykjavík Summit Skip to content

Gorbachev recalls Reykjavík Summit

At noon yesterday, Gorbachev arrived at the Höfdi House, the white ceremonial building on the waterfront near downtown Reykjavik.

The former Secretary General of the USSR walked into the small building, followed closely by his personal translator. A crowd of Icelandic men and women politicians followed up the steps.

Speeches by Reykjavík mayor Vilhjálmur Vilhjálmsson, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Iceland’s Foreign Minister Valgerdur Sverrisdóttir followed.

“I am very happy to be back in a place where, 20 years ago, a meeting took place that had far-reaching consequences for the entire world,” Gorbachev said through his translator in a speech shortly after.

“It was after Reykjavík that decisions were taken…that enabled us to preserve our planet and end a war,” he said.

Though no treaty was signed here 20 years ago, that two-day meeting is widely regarded as the beginning of the end of the Cold War era.

Gorbachev said Reykajvík was chosen as a meeting location because it was logistically a halfway meeting place.

“It was a good idea to meet away from the power centers of the world,” he said, adding that because the weather in Iceland is famous for changing every 20 minutes, “we thought this was a good place to discuss political change.”

Iceland’s Foreign Minister Valgerdur Sverrisdóttir spoke after Gorbachev about the impact that the meeting had on Iceland.

“The negotiations were part of a seismic shift in the international relations which touched most nations, especially those in Europe,” said Sverrisdóttir.

Sverrisdóttir said the departure of United States military forces from Iceland two weeks ago is one consequence of the way the world changed after the 1986 meeting.

In Washington yesterday, an agreement between Iceland and the United States was signed providing for future defense cooperation after the withdrawal of American forces at the end of September.

An American naval assault ship also arrived in Iceland yesterday as a show of visible forces after the US-Iceland agreement was signed.

While Reagan and Gorbachev met in the spirit of arms reduction, the anniversary of their summit comes at a moment of new global tensions over arms proliferation. This week, North Korea tested a nuclear weapon despite warnings from the international community.

To read more about Gorbachev’s visit to Iceland, click here.

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