That delicious moment we thought the nuclear nightmare was over
Jon Snow was ITV News’s Washington correspondent in 1986, when Reagan and Gorbachev took the first serious steps that led to nuclear disarmament and the end of the Cold War.
My defining memory of the 1980s resides at the Hofdi House in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev had tipped up for yet another East-West summit. In those days, our lives as journalists were dominated by East and West and Left and Right.
Right was banging the drum back home in Britain, Mrs Thatcher wielding the drumsticks. But outside the Hofdi House that brittle summer in 1986 we were as far from Left vs Right and East vs West as we could ever have dreamed.
With the US and Soviet nuclear arsenals primed and locked on to key targets in each other’s countries, the most improbable moment dawned.
The whispers began to creep around the serried ranks of hacks gathered to try to establish what was happening inside the little wooden house. There were no trees, no crowds, just us – and those two guys allegedly talking peace.
The whisper grew louder. Each leader had offered the other the possibility of doing away with their nuclear weapons altogether.
To distort Aneurin Bevan’s great comment, they both seemed stripped naked inside the debating chamber.
We would have known nothing of this but for the Prince of Darkness himself, Richard Perle, a Hawk of Hawks, a rightwinger of rightwingers, and a Commie-basher par excellence.
It was first reported that Mr Perle had started banging his head against the outer wall of the room in which Gorby and Reagan were talking.
Some said he even shouted: “You can’t do it, Mr President. You can’t do it.”
Suddenly, three hours after we should have left for Washington, the presidential jet started up its engines at Reykjavik airport and we knew it was all over.
That delicious moment when quite suddenly we thought the world of war and atomic bombs might have been closed for ever.
We clambered into our seats as if nothing much had happened.
And perhaps it hadn’t. The summary of the talks was bland. Mr Perle smiled from ear to ear.
Nearly three decades on, we are still talking atomic bombs. We are even going to build some more.
Follow @jonsnowC4 on Twitter