Ronald Reagan came into office in 1981 calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Four years later he sat down with that empire's leader for the first time. Subsequent meetings between Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev would result in arms reduction agreements and a warmer relationship between the superpowers. Two excerpts from The Post of Nov. 20, 1985:
By Lou Cannon and Gary Lee
Washington Post Foreign Service
GENEVA, Nov. 19 -- President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev began their long-awaited summit on an unexpectedly personal note today, departing from their schedule of formal sessions with aides present to hold nearly two hours of private talks in what spokesmen for both sides said was "a good atmosphere."
These private conversations, conducted under the terms of a U.S.-proposed news blackout on the substance and details of the talks, suddenly placed heavy reliance on the personalities and rapport of the two leaders as the center of this summit.
Soviet and U.S. officials interpreted the private talks between the two leaders, held with only their interpreters present, and the blackout as positive signs that Gorbachev and Reagan are interested in serious accomplishment at the summit.
"We must achieve a decision together," Gorbachev said in a tone of compromise as the two leaders posed for photographers at the beginning of the talks. "If someone will insist only on his own, I'm not sure it will be correct, that it will look like a decision. We are very much interdependent."
Reagan responded, "I agree with this."
After a total of four hours of talks, Gorbachev was asked this evening by reporters whether any agreement had been reached.
"We are working, we're continuing to work," he answered.
By David Hoffman
Washington Post Staff Writer
GENEVA, Nov 19 -- Just as the wailing horns of the Soviet motorcade were heard in the distance, President Reagan stepped into the bracing cold winds off Lake Geneva without an overcoat and waited on the steps of the Swiss chateau for his first words with a leader of the Soviet Union.
When Mikhail Gorbachev climbed out of the black Zil limousine with a Soviet flag flying from the right fender and took off his charcoal-gray hat, the first conversation he had with Reagan was about the overcoat. Gorbachev gestured to his own coat and asked the president, in Russian, "Where is your coat?"
"It's inside," Reagan said, motioning toward the glass doors and warmth of the 120-year-old Swiss chateau, as they posed for photographers in a chill wind. The president steered his guest by the elbow inside, and so began an extraordinary personal encounter between the American president, who devoted a career to denigrating communism, and the Russian who may rule his Communist nation into the next century.
It was a meeting of historic significance that began in an air of nervous cordiality, a day planned months ago that was marked by unexpected last-minute twists, an encounter by the leaders of hostile superpowers that produced moments of gentle humor.