Reagan the peacenik missionary

Alternating hilarious, disturbing, and encouraging.

Bad joke after bad joke. A bizarre attempt to help Gorbachev get religion. A clandestine meeting with a stubborn Nixon. A cry for help from an exasperated Gorbachev: “He’s blathering on again!” Newly declassified documents from American and Soviet archives provide a look behind the scenes at the Reagan-Gorbachev summit talks and the events around them—and show Ronald Reagan to be both shrewder than we imagined and more hapless than we dared to think.

Reagan continually telling conservative rubber chicken-circuit jokes mocking the Soviet Union to Gorby during diplomatic negotiations is one of the stranger entries. Reagan ratcheting back his rhetoric on the USSR was a critical component in Gorby having the room to maneuver with his reforms, though, so it all worked out.