There were no banner headlines pronouncing the superpower summit a success or a failure to greet Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev on his return from Iceland on Monday.
And for a full 24 hours afterward, Moscow appeared to be treating the superpower meeting in the world’s most northernmost capital almost as the summit that wasn’t.
There were clear signs that the Soviet press had initially been tipped off in advance to prepare for some big news. On most Mondays, usually only Pravda is published. On Monday, however, all the major papers appeared--but with a notable lack of summit news to report.
The two major daily newspapers, Pravda and Izvestia, simply ran a headline saying, “The End of the Soviet-American Meeting” over a four-paragraph report from the Icelandic capital.
The Path to Security
The two papers said Gorbachev met twice with President Reagan on Sunday and discussed “basic questions of nuclear disarmament and the path to international security” before Gorbachev discussed his views at a news conference.
Soviet television ignored the summit for 24 hours after broadcasting Gorbachev’s rare 90-minute news conference live from Reykjavik on Sunday night in which he blamed Reagan’s intransigence over the “Star Wars” anti-missile defense for failure to reach an arms agreement.
But when the Soviet news machine finally geared up late Monday, it did not stop.
The official Tass news agency weighed in with its pronouncement of the summit with reports titled “Washington’s Ghosts Over Reykjavik” and “Moment of Truth.” Later, the nightly television news, Vremya, opened its program with Gorbachev’s return to Moscow and then interviewed Muscovites on the street, who expressed disappointment over the lack of results.
They ‘Were Not Ready’
“The Soviet people expected much from this meeting, and not only Soviet people but all people of the world,” said a worker identified as S. Ivanov. “But the American Administration and Reagan himself were not ready. That is why this meeting did not give any results.”
“Like Mikhail Sergeyevich (Gorbachev), I remain an optimist,” a young woman teacher said in a street interview in the Gruzinski flower market.
“They came so close to agreement on so many things, I don’t see how it can be seen as a failure,” said a pensioner, wearing the medals of a war veteran. “We always knew that agreement on ‘Star Wars’ would not be easy.”
The Gorbachev news conference was repeated during Vremya, which is viewed by millions of Soviets across the nation.
‘Hope to Disappointment’
“Hope gave way to disappointment,” Tass said. The report quoted Western newspapers as saying Reagan’s failure to compromise on his Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars,” would cause a conflict with allies.
“These eloquent quotes come from West German, Japanese and British newspapers, newspapers of those three countries who together with Italy have joined the United States in preparing for ‘Star Wars,’ ” Tass said.
A separate Tass report said the talks “threw an unusually bright light on the tenacious imperial ambitions of the U.S. ruling circles” to militarize space.
“The ghost of the American President who said way back at the dawn of the space age that he who would dominate space would dominate the world clearly prevailed over the U.S. delegation in Iceland,” the news agency said.