Frederick the Great of Prussia once said that heads of state should avoid meeting one another. With all the hyperbole surrounding the Reagan/Gorbachev summit, the three-day meeting aroused almost hysterical expectations, setting up Americans, inevitably, for a fall. Previous summit conferences should have taught us at least that much.
In 1972 President Nixon went to Moscow to sign the SALT I agreement, the ABM Treaty, the "Basic Principles of Relations," and a host of other lesser agreements. The Soviets and Americans agreed to refrain "from efforts to obtain unilateral advantage at the expense of the other, directly or indirectly." That may have been the intent, but in 1972 the U.S. had 1,474 intercontinental missile warheads and the Soviets had 1,547; now we have 2,176, while the Soviets have 6,420.
The Soviets in October of 1973 armed and encouraged the Egyptians in their war with Israel, and U.S. troops went on a high state of worldwide alert. This happened after Nixon and Soviet Secretary Brezhnev exchanged bear hugs in San Clemente in June of 1973 and signed the "Agreement on Prevention of Nuclear War."
After Brezhnev and President Ford met in Vladivostok in November of 1974 to talk of SALT II, the North Vietnamese, aided by the Soviets, made a travesty of the Paris Peace accords and went on a rampage in South Vietnam in April of 1975.
After President Carter and...