182. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation1


  • Telephone Call between the President and First Lady and Chairman and Mrs. Gorbachev


  • U.S.

    • The President
    • The First Lady
    • Rudolf Perina, Director, European and Soviet Affairs, NSC (Notetaker)
    • Dimitry Zarechnak, Interpreter, Language Services, Department of State
  • USSR

    • Chairman Mikhail Gorbachev
    • Mrs. Raisa Gorbachev
    • Unidentified Soviet Interpreter

The President said he received word the night before of Chairman Gorbachev’s early departure from New York and wanted to express how sorry he was that the Chairman had to leave. He understood, however, that the Chairman had no choice but to return to his own country and be with his people following the tragic earthquake of the day before. The President said he spoke for all Americans when he expressed his deep personal sorrow at the loss of life caused by this earthquake.

Chairman Gorbachev thanked the President for his understanding and condolences. He said he had received details the night before of the magnitude of the earthquake. Four cities, including the big city of Leninakan, had suffered severely, and the loss of life was considerable. Thousands of people had been in schools and factories when the earthquake struck between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m., and many people died under the rubble. The Chairman said that under the circumstances, he could not continue his visit but rather had to go back and lead the relief effort. He thanked the President for all his help.

The President asked the Chairman to let him know if there was any way the United States could be of assistance, either bilaterally or through the international community.

Chairman Gorbachev thanked the President and said that, if necessary, he would let him know and act upon his kind offer.

[Page 1251]

The President said that he wished to tell the Chairman again how much both the Vice President and he had enjoyed meeting with the Chairman. It had been a very useful meeting for both sides. The President wished the Chairman success in the future, a safe journey home, and Godspeed.

Chairman Gorbachev replied that he also valued the meeting of the day before. He said that the President had taken very important steps in the concluding phase of his term which were in the interests of the peoples of both countries and of peace. He wished to thank the President for these.

The President thanked the Chairman and said that the First Lady would like to speak to Mrs. Gorbachev.

The First Lady said she knew that the President had just been speaking to Chairman Gorbachev, but she also wanted to express her sympathy on the terrible tragedy of the earthquake. She sent her personal sympathy and was so sorry about this tragedy.

Mrs. Gorbachev thanked the First Lady and said that it was, indeed, an enormous tragedy which forced the General Secretary to cut short his stay. They would be leaving to return to Moscow in two hours.

The First Lady said she understood but was sorry that the visit would be cut short and that Mrs. Gorbachev and her husband could not see more of the United States. As they had discussed, she hoped that Mrs. Gorbachev and her husband would come back to visit with her and the President in California. But she understood that at this time it was important to return and be with their own people.

Mrs. Gorbachev thanked the First Lady for remembering them, for the telephone call, and for the words of sympathy. She wished the First Lady the best of health and well-being, and said she hoped they would meet and talk again.

The First Lady said that, as they had told each other before, destiny had brought them together for their husbands, their countries and the world. She looked forward to seeing Mrs. Gorbachev again in Russia or in California.

Mrs. Gorbachev replied that she hoped for this also.

The First Lady added that if there was anything that the United States could do to help, we would be ready, and she wished Mrs. Gorbachev a safe trip home.

Mrs. Gorbachev thanked her and sent best regards to the President.

The First Lady said she would tell the President and also wished to send her best wishes to President Gorbachev.

The conversation ended at 10:33 a.m.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Ledsky Files, Soviet Union (USSR) [Gorbachev New York Visit 12/07/1988]. Confidential. Drafted by Perina. Reagan spoke on the telephone from the Residence at the White House; Gorbachev was in New York.