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Arms Control and International Security: Thirtieth Anniversary of the Reykjavik Summit

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Reykjavik Summit, when over the course of a fateful two days, the ideas President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev discussed created the foundation of modern arms control and disarmament, helped reverse an arms race, and propelled the negotiation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

During the Cold War, the United States and the former Soviet Union accumulated tens of thousands of nuclear warheads and placed them on missiles and heavy bombers trained on each other’s homelands and allies. Through the bold vision of President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev to reduce our nuclear arsenals and eliminate thousands of nuclear weapons and the missiles and bombers which carried them, the threat of a nuclear exchange became far less likely.

The vision of Reykjavik is still alive today. In his 2009 Prague speech, President Obama re-affirmed the U.S. commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. The United States is pursuing that vision by implementing the New START Treaty, seeking entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and working to negotiate new agreements such as a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT).

Stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and achieving a world where they no longer threaten our existence will require hard work, cooperation, and patience among all nations. It also requires all countries to abide by and fulfill their obligations. As President Obama said, rules must be binding. That is why we are urging Russia to return to compliance with the INF Treaty, thus ensuring the Treaty’s legacy of eliminating an entire class of weapons from our arsenals for the benefit of Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world. President Obama warned in Prague against the deadly adversary of fatalism. At Reykjavik 30 years ago, President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev could have bowed to fate, but chose instead a courageous path—one we must continue on today.

Distribution channels: Military