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Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold War

Overview

A dramatic account of the historic 1986 Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Iceland—the turning point in the Cold War—by Ken Adelman, Reagan's arms control director and a key player in that weekend's world-changing events

In October 1986, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met for a forty-eight-hour summit in Reykjavik, Iceland. Planned as a short gathering to outline future talks, the meeting quickly turned to major international issues, including SDI ("Star Wars") and the possibility ...

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Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold War

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Overview

A dramatic account of the historic 1986 Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Iceland—the turning point in the Cold War—by Ken Adelman, Reagan's arms control director and a key player in that weekend's world-changing events

In October 1986, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met for a forty-eight-hour summit in Reykjavik, Iceland. Planned as a short gathering to outline future talks, the meeting quickly turned to major international issues, including SDI ("Star Wars") and the possibility of eliminating all nuclear weapons. Both men were at the height of their powers, and they had a rare opportunity to move toward peace. The meeting led to negotiations and concessions that neither side had predicted—and laid the groundwork for the most sweeping arms accord in history, adopted the following year, and the end of the Soviet Union a half decade later.

From his position as a participant in these historic events, Ken Adelman is able to reveal the motivations, relationships, and conversations that led to the summit's breakthroughs. His analysis as both a participant and historian provides an invaluable perspective on this uniquely significant episode.

Scrupulously researched and based on now-declassified documents, Reagan at Reykjavik tells the gripping tale of the weekend that changed the world. Adelman provides an honest, laser-etched portrait of President Reagan at one of his finest and most challenging moments—and, indisputably, one of the most significant triumphs of his presidency.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/17/2014
Adelman (The Defense Revolution), arms control director under President Ronald Reagan, pulls back the curtain on the dramatic weekend in October 1986 when Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met in Reykjavik, Iceland, to discuss matters at a sort of presummit meeting. In this firsthand account, Adelman draws on the extensive public record of the event to deliver a comprehensive look at the larger-than-life figures, divisive issues, monumental breakthroughs, and frustrating stalemates, which in his opinion led this to be “the weekend that ended the Cold War.” While he’s quick to acknowledge that the initial responses to Reykjavik were mixed, even disappointing, he tracks the aftermath to show how the seeds for the breakup of the Soviet Union and the impetus for mass nuclear disarmament treaties took hold in Reykjavik. There’s no doubt that Adelman was a Reagan man through and through, but he pays due respect to Gorbachev and other noteworthy Soviets such as Field Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev. Adelman’s style is quick, accessible, and occasionally humorous, giving this tale an almost whimsical feel despite its world-changing subject. Whether or not his thesis is true, this is certainly a uniquely close-range look at a Cold War turning point. Agent: Jay Mandel, William Morris Endeavor. (May)
Ken Burns
“A riveting history of one of the most important moments of the Cold War. Adelman has written a page-turning narrative that leaves us on the edge of our seats.”
Henry A. Kissinger
“The weekend meeting in Reykjavik between Reagan and Gorbachev in 1986 marked a significant turning point in the Cold War. Adelman, an active participant in the talks and a gifted writer, has provided a thoughtful account of that episode.”
Bob Woodward
“This is real history and brilliant analysis, a profound book that could only have been written decades after the Reykjavik weekend, which now can be measured by the outcome. With their large humanitarian vision, it is clear that Reagan & Gorbachev helped make the world a much safer place.”
Christopher Buckley
“A fascinating, gripping and essential account of the definitive end-game moment of the Cold War, told by someone who had a front-row seat.”
Walter Isaacson
“With wonderful insight and color, Ken Adelman details the great drama of the Cold War’s most surprising summit. This book is deeply important in an era when Reagan’s art of principled negotiation needs reviving.”
Ted Koppel
“A knowledgeable, passionately engaged fly on the wall at one of the least heralded, most productive summits of the Cold War era.”
Tom Brokaw
“Reagan at Reykjavik is a lively, important account of an historic weekend. On a barren island nation in the north Atlantic, the two great nuclear adversaries faced reality—and the world was changed.”
James Fallows
“Ken Adelman has written a genuinely fascinating book—vivid and personal, humorous, full of surprising new details. The book’s portrayals are all memorable, but most so when it comes to Ronald Reagan.”
Tom Brokaw
“Reagan at Reykjavik is a lively, important account of an historic weekend. On a barren island nation in the north Atlantic, the two great nuclear adversaries faced reality — and the world was changed.”
James Fallows
“Ken Adelman has written a genuinely fascinating book — vivid and personal, humorous, full of surprising new details. The book’s portrayals are all memorable, but most so when it comes to Ronald Reagan.”
Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-18
Effectively focused, vividly adept portraits of two newsmakers at the pinnacles of their relevance on the world stage. Not only was he present at the Reykjavik summit in October 1986, in the role of director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Adelman (Shakespeare in Charge: The Bard's Guide to Leading and Succeeding on the Business Stage, 1999, etc.) has taught Shakespeare and knows a thing or two about drama, character and leadership. He is convincing in his argument that the Iceland weekend of arms control maneuvering between the two superpower chiefs—Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, who was perched precariously atop the geriatric Soviet dictatorship and desperate to enact reform—had enormous repercussions, namely the beginning of the dismantling of the Soviet state. Indeed, both leaders sorely needed to score a coup during this one-on-one weekend. The gathering was supposed to be low-key, with few advisers, but Gorbachev brought along more than 300 officials and his educated, elegant wife, Raisa. The Soviet leader badly needed to rein in Soviet spending on nuclear armaments to keep up with the West—e.g., countering Reagan's much vaunted Strategic Defense Initiative—since the Soviet Union, sprawled across satellite minions, was simply broke. Reagan, for his part, emerges in Adelman's heartfelt yet witty portrait as more in touch than his advisers. However, SDI, or "Star Wars," proved the sticking point to an agreement between the two mostly willing partners: Gorbachev was terrified of it, Reagan agreed naively to share it, while the truth was that it didn't even exist. Yet the weekend, involving the warm, open conversing between the two once-icy contingents, would change everyone, "humanize officials" and bring the much-needed Cold War thaw. More personalities than arms arcana, infused by a deep reverence for his man.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062310194
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/6/2014
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 65,429
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Ken Adelman was President Reagan's arms control director at Reykjavik during the 1986 superpower summit with Mikhail Gorbachev. Adelman accompanied Reagan to three superpower summits in all. He has also served as a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and an assistant to the secretary of defense. After leaving government, he taught Shakespeare at Georgetown University and George Washington University, and National Security Studies at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown Universities. He is the author of several books, including Shakespeare in Charge and The Defense Revolution. He lives in Arlington, Virginia.

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