Only a generation ago A J P Taylor argued that the most likely outcome of the Cold War was hot war. The early 1980s were the most dangerous period in East–West relations since the Cuban Missile Crisis twenty years before. By the end of the decade, to general astonishment, the Berlin Wall was down and the Cold War effectively over. Robert Service gives much of the credit for this to Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan, ‘truly exceptional politicians working in cooperation in extraordinary times’. They were the first Russian and American leaders to get to know each other. By 1988 they called each other Mikhail and Ron.
When Reagan became president in 1981 at the age of sixty-nine, however, he seemed more likely to aggravate than to end the Cold War. He had long regarded the Soviet Union as the source of all evil in the international system. There was no possibility of a meeting of minds between