Washington: In June 1987, US President Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin and issued what would become a famous demand from his Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev.
“Secretary General Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate,” Reagan said. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
Regan’s plea for Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall reflected his view that the Soviet Union (which he previously referred to as an “evil empire”) was a fundamentally despotic, totalitarian regime. The Soviet news agency TASS responded back, calling Regan’s speech in Brandenburg an “openly provocative, bellicose speech”.
Six months later, Reagan and Gorbachev appeared at the White House together to sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a landmark agreement that banned the countries from using nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. .
The agreement showed that, while the US and the Soviet Union remained fierce ideological and economic rivals, the Cold War superpowers could work together for a vital shared interest: preventing a global nuclear catastrophe.
There were echoes of that breakthrough three decades later on Thursday (AEDT), when current bitter geopolitical rivals, the US and China, issued a surprising joint pact on climate change.
Just days earlier, during his performance at COP26, Biden had lashed out at Chinese leader Xi Jinping for making a “big mistake” by bypassing the Glasgow summit. This followed the infamous March meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, in which top Chinese and American diplomats exchanged insults in front of the cameras.
But as with Reagan and Gorbachev, the confrontational rhetoric masked diplomatic progress behind the scenes.