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Initiating Trust in High Politics: The Gorbachev-Reagan Summit in Geneva 1985

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Trust is central to international politics. Trust-related theoretical arguments can be divided between rationalist, cultural and psychological schools. We present concise reviews of these approaches, emphasizing the initial trust-creation phase, and apply these factors to our historical case: the emergence of a fragile interpersonal trust between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan before and during their first meeting in Geneva in 1985. Based on archives and first-hand reminiscences, we conclude that the cultural trust theories are not able to contribute much to the initial trust-building process in this particular case, except for explaining the obstacles for trust. The rational approaches explain the necessary but not sufficient conditions for trust to emerge. Ultimately, what triggered the trust that ultimately ended the Cold War cannot be understood without taking into account the cognitive and psychological factors involved in this interpersonal relationship.

Affiliations: 1: UiT, The Arctic University of Norway Hansine Hansens veg 18, 9019 Tromsø Norway christer.h.pursiainen@uit.no ; 2: Nordpolvegen 4, 9013 Tromsø Norway angelica.matveeva@gmail.com

10.1163/15718069-12341326
/content/journals/10.1163/15718069-12341326
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2017-12-18

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