At the recent Geneva Summit, President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a joint declaration containing strong echoes of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. It “reaffirm[ed] the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” and committed Russia and the U.S. to “an integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue in the near future that will be deliberate and robust.”
Reagan and Gorbachev took similar steps at their 1985 Geneva Summit. It was a time of acute nuclear dangers, which they succeeded in easing. Today, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock is at 100 seconds to midnight—the closest to the edge it has ever been. Can Biden and Putin turn it back, and make the world safer than it was in 1985? Time will tell, but history gives us hints.