The Wall Street Journal today discloses the strange turn that President Ronald Reagan’s fourth summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev took in 1988:
It was during the first one-on-one session in Moscow that Reagan engaged in a bold but questionable endeavor well beyond his mandate as president of the United States. According to the memo of their conversation, which was based on notes taken by two Reagan aides and has now been declassified and made available at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., Reagan secretly attempted to persuade Gorbachev of the existence of God…
As the meeting ended, Reagan became even more direct and personal. He noted that his own son Ron did not believe in God either. “The President concluded that there was one thing he had long yearned to do for his atheist son. He wanted to serve his son the perfect gourmet dinner, to have him enjoy the meal, and then to ask him if he believed there was a cook.”
Of the two American notetakers who were present for this extraordinary conversation, one took Reagan’s effort at face value. “Reagan thought he could convert Gorbachev, or make him see the light,” said Rudolf Perina, who was then the director of Soviet affairs on the National Security Council in a 2005 interview.