Archive (Reagan Library)

Cold War: Geneva (Reagan-Gorbachev) Summit (dinner table talk) [declassified 2000]

Document type: Declassified documents
Venue: Villa at the Soviet Mission, Geneva
Source: Reagan Library: Matlock MSS (Box 92137)
Editorial comments: 2000-2230.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 925 words
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)
Declassified 5/15/00

United States Department of State
Washington D.C. 20520



SUBJECT: Mrs. Reagan's Dinner Conversation with Mr. Gorbachev

Date: November 19, 1985
Time: 8:00- 10:30 PM
Place: Villa at the Soviet Mission

Mrs. Nancy Reagan
Mrs. E. Arensburger, Interpreter
General Secretary Gorbachev
Mrs. P. Palashchenko, Interpreter

At the beginning of the dinner, General Secretary Gorbachev, announced that he had invited President Reagan to come to the Soviet Union and President Reagan had extended an invitation Gorbachev to come to the U.S.A. Both had accepted, but no definite time was set. At that point the ladies announced that, they, too, had extended an invitation to each other to come to their respective countries. There was much joking to the effect that Mrs. Reagan could come alone if President Reagan could not make it.

When the caviar was served, President Reagan spoke of sturgeon in the Sacramento River and Gorbachev told Mrs. Reagan of the building of hydroelectric dams on the Volga, which had decimated much of the beluga in the Caspian Sea. They had made some mistakes, he said, but now they were rectified and the fish were thriving.

Mrs. Reagan asked Gorbachev about tourism in the Soviet Union, and he told her at length about the Soviet tourist industry, how it was being built up and expanded, and at the end joked about the fact that tourism not only builds international understanding, but brings foreign currency into the Soviet Union. [end p1]

Addressing himself to Mrs. Reagan and Mr. McFarlane Robert McFarlane, Gorbachev spoke of Russian history, about the fact that Russia had acted as a buffer zone for Europe throughout the centuries. Russia itself was invaded by the Mogols of Central Asia and therefore, he said, "Scratch a Russian and find a Tartar." Because Russia had been Europe's buffer, he said, it had fallen behind. It had experienced many invasions, from the Mongols to Napoleon, not to mention two world wars. Nevertheless, Russia has always been able to recuperate from her wounds and build up her strength.

During the course of the dinner, perhaps to encourage hi guests' appetite, Gorbachev quoted the Russian scientist Temeryazov, who said that food was the closest man could corn to communing with nature.

Mrs. [?sic] Gorbachev said that American playwrights were very popular in the Soviet Union, especially Tennessee Williams and Albee Edward Albee. The Gorbachevs had recently seen a Moscow production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf? [sic] and argued at the table about who had given the better portrayal -- Elizabeth Taylor or the Russian actress.

Mrs. Reagan asked about the Soviet film industry and was told by Gorbachev and Korniyenko about the many film studios in various parts of the country. Three of the largest are in Moscow.

Mrs. Reagan asked about drug abuse in the Soviet Union and was told that the drug problem was very small in the Soviet Union. Gorbachev then told her that his anti-alcoholism campaign was a huge success and enjoyed great grass-roots support. Coffee shopes and ice cream parlors are becoming profitable ventures because people appear to be enjoying them more than hard liquor. He said that he had thought at the beginning of the campaign that moonshine production would increase, however, they found that since the beginning of tJ campaign the consumption of sugar has actually gone down. He explained that large amounts of sugar were used in distillil home brew. Apparently, such activity was not being indulged in.

Mrs. Reagan and Gorbachev spoke of their respective families and Gorbachev said it was his belief that the family was the foundation of society. He felt that there was a risk now of that foundation eroding. Too many people were living together without benefit of marriage, and there were too many single-parent families, especially among European Russians. This was not the case in Central Asia, he said, where the average family had 5-6 children and two and even three generations all live together in the same house. He said that he meant to speak about family values at the next Party Congress. [end p2]

Gorbachev Family

The Gorbachevs have been married one year longer than the Reagans. Their daughter, a doctor, wrote her thesis in medic school on the effects of alcohol on the human system. Their son-in-law is a surgeon. Their daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter live with them. Gorbachev said that he was a of conservative values when it came to keeping the family together. Their granddaughter, who will be six in January, knows all of the world leaders, he said. She watches the news broadcasts and periodically asks where Mrs. Thatcher is going now. Mrs. Gorbachev added that the granddaughter watches two TV programs: "Good Night, Children" and "Vremya," a news broadcast.

Gorbachev said that he and Mrs. Gorbachev had taken two, apparently private, vacations to Italy and France. They toured each country by car for 2l days. Gorbachev told Mrs. Reagan about a vacation to the Crimea that Mrs. Gorbachev had taken with her granddaughter. They visited the palace of an ancient khan, where they learned that the khan had 200 wives. Upon her return to Moscow, the granddaughter asked Gorbachev why the khan had 200 wives and he only had one. Gorbachev replied that the khan did not have single philosopher among his wives, and he did not know what do with the single one he had.

Drafted by: Eugenia Arensburger, Department of State, Interpreter