| January 1986|
In 1984, U.S. and Soviet relations had dropped to their lowest point since the early 1960's. All arms control negotiations had been suspended, and the United States was pursuing the Strategic Defense Initiative (see March 1983), which greatly concerned the Soviets. In March 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union. In September 1985, he presented a new strategic arms proposal to the United States. He proposed that both the United States and the Soviet Union cut their total number of warheads and bombs in half. President Reagan responded just before the planned U.S.-Soviet summit meeting in Geneva with another proposal that included a 50% cut but also items not in the Soviet's favor. The two superpowers didn't make any significant arms control progress at the November summit in Geneva, but their positions appeared to be edging closer to one another.
In January 1986, Soviet President Gorbachev called for disarmament by the year 2000. He proposed a detailed, three-staged timetable for eliminating nuclear missiles, warheads, bombs, and other weapons from the planet. In the first stage, covering five to eight years, the United States and the Soviet Union would cut their arsenals by 50%. The first stage also included removing all intermediate-range nuclear weapons from Europe. The Soviet Union would also accept on-site inspection to verify any agreements. However, President Gorbachev made it clear that reducing arms would only be possible "only if the U.S.S.R. and U.S.A. mutually renounce the development, testing, and deployment of space strike weapons (Star Wars)." Gorbachev's proposal led to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in December 1987.