Just the Facts

Five Facts on Notable Summits Between the US and Russia

By No Labels
July 17, 2018 | Blog

On Monday, President Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland for a historic summit between the two leaders.  This summit is the latest in a long line of high profile and consequential talks between leaders from the two countries.  These meetings represented some of the most pivotal moments of the 20th century. Here are five facts on notable summits between the U.S. and Russia.

The Potsdam Summit between Joseph Stalin, Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee, and President Harry Truman sought to establish a postwar order in the aftermath of World War II

The summit spanned nearly two weeks during the summer of 1945, shortly following Germany’s unconditional surrender. It was the third in a series of important summits—following both the Tehran and Yalta conferences—between allied leaders from the United States, The United Kingdom, and The Soviet Union that occurred during World War II.  At Potsdam, the leaders made decisions concerning the German economy, land boundaries, reparations, and punishment for war criminals.

The 1961 Vienna Summit between John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev has been historically viewed as a failure for President Kennedy

The summit took place at the height of the Cold War, occurring just six weeks after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. The summit was the result of a letter sent by the Soviet Premier congratulating JFK on his recent election victory and stating his intent “to continue efforts to solve such pressing problems as disarmament … the German issue [of Berlin] … and improvement of the entire international situation.” The most significant accomplishment of the summit was an agreement “on a common goal of a ceasefire, neutrality, and a coalition government” in Laos. Kennedy ultimately looked back on the summit with regret, stating that it was the “worst thing in my life … [Khrushchev] savaged me.”

The Reykjavik Summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev almost resulted in the complete elimination of nuclear weapons

Several historians and officials consider the 1986 summit a crucial turning point in the Cold War. The main topics of discussion included nuclear testing, human rights, and Soviet-American Accords. At the end of the summit, Reagan and Gorbachev came close to eradicating all nuclear weapons, but eventually failed to reach an agreement. However, the progress made at the summit laid the groundwork for the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which was agreed upon the following year and “required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.”

The Slovenia Summit took place in 2001 between U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin

This summit was part of President Bush’s first official trip to Europe as the president the United States. It took place shortly after President Bush urged NATO to expand to the Russian border by admitting Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia to the organization. However, this aggressive stance was at odds with the atmosphere of friendly cooperation that was promoted throughout the summit; during a joint press conference, President Bush famously stated: “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.”

Yesterday President Trump and President Putin met in Helsinki, Finland amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia following Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election

During the summit, the two leaders spoke one-on-one for nearly two hours before holding a joint press conference. While details of the talks are still emerging, the two presidents discussed issues including Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential elections, the Syrian Civil War, and the advancement of U.S.-Russia relations. The Helsinki talks came on the heels of a NATO summit where leaders agreed to take a stronger stance against Russian aggression throughout the world.  Following the summit, President Trump has faced harsh criticism for accepting President Putin’s stance that he did not meddle in the 2016 election, which fell in direct opposition to the opinion of the American intelligence community.


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