At a summit meeting in Washington, DC on December 8, 1987, General Secretary Gorbachev and President Reagan signed the historic Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that eliminated an entire class of missiles. A key sticking point in the negotiations had been the U.S. demand that Russia eliminate not only all of its SS-20 Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs), wherever located, but also all of its Short-Range INF systems (SRINF) with a range of 500 kilometers (300 miles) or more. The Soviets resisted this demand until April 14, 1987 when Gorbachev told U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz that he agreed to the “global double zero level” on INF and SRINF.

Thanks to the National Security Archives, a transcript of that Gorbachev-Shultz discussion is available to us. It shows the Secretary seemingly caught off-guard by Gorbachev’s sudden acceptance of the U.S. position. It was a remarkable development but, then, Gorbachev was always full of surprises. I spent much of the 1980s studying Soviet nuclear missiles and for a time I was an adviser on the U.S. delegation negotiating the INF Treaty. It was the height of the Cold War and also the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union—either way, I remember it as an exciting time to be working on these issues. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog