Reagan was ‘theatrical’ and ‘eager to please’: Diplomacy secrets from Gorbachev’s interpreter
“The initial process is earning the trust,” Palazhchenko said of the beginning of his six-year stint as an interpreter for the Soviet Union’s leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze in 1985.
“Inevitably, you become closer.”
Palazhchenko translated during a series of US-Soviet summits held in the late 1980s and witnessed first-hand the growing personal relationships between leaders such as Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan.
These took longer to grow due to their “very different background,” the translator said, while Shevardnadze’s personal relationship with his US counterpart George Shultz took off almost immediately.
“Despite the problems and obstacles” of the late 1980s which included spy scandals and military tensions, Gorbachev and Reagan (later Gorbachev and George H.W. Bush) never allowed the process of peace “to be sidetracked.”
When asked if Reagan’s pre-presidential career as an actor may have given him an edge in diplomatic talks, Palazhchenko said he believes he was naturally theatrical rather than using his acting skills to be deceitful.
Noting Reagan during his first meeting with Shevardnadze at the White House in 1985 Palazhchenko says: “He was eager to please, that he was eager to be liked. That was part of his nature, not because he was an actor.”
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