Over the coming year, Shultz, Gorbachev and his advisors negotiated persistently to eliminate at least a lower level of weaponry: the U.S. and Soviet arsenals of intermediate and short-range missiles. In September 1987, Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze announced an agreement in principle on an Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty, and Gorbachev came to Washington that December.
Crowds along the streets applauded him. Like an American politician, Gorbachev stopped his car, got out and shook hands.
On Dec. 8, Reagan and the Soviet leader sat at a White House table once used by Abraham Lincoln and put their names to a ban on all nuclear missiles with ranges of 300 miles to 3,400 miles.
The destruction of these missiles — about 1,700 by the Soviet Union and 800 by the United States — was well underway by the time Reagan left office.
As for the long-range missiles, it was obvious before the remaining Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Moscow that SDI would be an insurmountable obstacle to any reduction. But Reagan went to the Soviet Union anyway.
He received a welcome from the Russians to match Gorbachev's in America. As Reagan walked through the Arbat, where artisans sold their wares, crowds pressed forward to greet him. KGB agents charged the people, causing a panic. But their friendly intentions carried the day.
Reagan spoke to students at Moscow State University, offering them his vision of the American dream. He met with 96 dissidents and pressed Gorbachev on human rights.
Gorbachev already had allowed hundreds to emigrate who were on lists Reagan had given him, and he would free thousands more.
Reagan met three more times with Gorbachev. Once was in New York when the Soviet leader spoke to the United Nations; the second time was in San Francisco, after Reagan had left office; and the third time was in Moscow, when Reagan was nearly two years into retirement.
By now, Reagan was calling Gorbachev "my friend."
Reagan never abandoned what he said was his favorite Russian proverb, doveryai no proveryai: trust but verify. But the warmth of their friendship started the thaw that ended the Cold War.
Going Home Happy
When he departed the White House and came back to California, Ronald Reagan had good reason to be satisfied. He had failed to balance the federal budget; the national debt had nearly tripled to $2.68 trillion. But his recession, which Cannon calls "the worst since the Depression," had been followed by what would become the longest peacetime recovery in history.
Reagan had achieved an unprecedented breakthrough in arms control, and his diplomacy had been crucial to peace. He was, Gorbachev declared, a "great political leader."
His credibility with Congress and the American people, dismayingly low during Iran-Contra, had recovered. His achievements as well as his unyielding belief that nothing was impossible and his uncanny ability to persuade Americans to believe in him and in themselves had earned Ronald Reagan a job performance rating in the Gallup Poll of 63% when he left Washington. It had been 51% when he arrived.
On Jan. 11, 1989, when he bade farewell from the Oval Office, there were two things he was proudest of. "One is the economic recovery . The other is the recovery of our morale. America is respected again in the world, and looked to for leadership."
The United States, he said, was a shining city upon a hill. "And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that. After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steadily no matter what the storm .
"As I walk off into the city streets, a final word to the men and women across America, who for eight years did the work that brought America back: My friends, we did it. We weren't just marking time, we made a difference. We made the city stronger, we made the city freer, and we left her in good hands.
"All in all, not bad. Not bad at all. And so, good-bye. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America."
Times staff writers Richard T. Cooper in Washington and Carl Ingram in Sacramento and researchers Anna M. Virtue in Miami and Jacquelyn Cenacveira and Janet Lundblad in Los Angeles contributed to this story.