Politico | May 30, 2018
By Andrew Glass

On this day in 1990, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev arrived in Washington, D.C., for three days of talks with President George H.W. Bush. A potentially reunited Germany and its future place in Europe served as one focal point for the summit meeting.

At the time, Gorbachev faced stiff political headwinds at home. The Soviet economy, despite Gorbachev’s attempts at reform — his critics claimed because of — had reached a crisis point. Russia’s control over its satellites in Eastern Europe had eroded. The Baltic republics, led by Lithuania, were seeking a divorce from the Soviet Union.

A cable from Jack Matlock, the U.S. ambassador in Moscow, had informed Bush that Gorbachev seemed “less a man in control and more an embattled leader.” The five years during which the Kremlin pursued Gorbachev’s reform agenda, he wrote, “have undermined the key institution of political power in the Soviet Union, the Communist Party,” without replacing it with any coherent, legitimate governance system.