30 years ago on this date, Malta had hosted the historic summit between the world’s two most influential leaders at the time: US President George Bush and President of the then Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev.
The Summit is recognised as the event which officially brought an end to the Cold War. 30 years on, Gorbachev is urging leaders to again start cooperating in the same spirit of the Malta meeting.
For nearly 30 years this had been the most visible sign of the harsh split between East and West.
The Berlin Wall came down on 9 November 1989. It was the beginning of the end of the so-called Cold War between the East and the West and their military alliances.
Two weeks before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Malta’s Prime Minister at the time, Eddie Fenech Adami, received a request from the ambassadors of both super-powers. He spoke about this five years ago in an interview which was never broadcast.
“They came together and the first thing they said was we are here on behalf of our Presidents who have asked us to see you and to put a question to you and the question was, Would Malta host a meeting between President Gorbachev and Bush in Malta? My immediate reply was ‘with open arms’.”
The story was repeating itself, as in February 1945 US President Franklin Roosevelt and UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill had also met in Malta. They had been on the way to Yalta for a meeting with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
In the words of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the Malta meeting had revised the decisions taken at Yalta, including about the division of Europe.
“The Malta summit had ended that cold war, and I think it is good to remember that the walls had not solved anything, and how happy the people had been to see the walls come down.”
It was said that Malta had been chosen for two reasons – because it was neutral, and also because the weather was usually traditionally good at the beginning of December.
On the weekend of 2/3 December 1989, however, Malta was hit by an exceptional storm, and the plan for the leaders to meet on each other’s warships had to be abandoned, and they ended up meeting on the Soviet civilian cruiseship Maxim Gorkiy, which was sheltered in Marsaxlokk Bay.
30 years later, Mikhail Gorbachev suspects the storm had been a sign of the Almighty’s plan for peace. “It seemed that someone high above, perhaps God, was dictating a peaceful setting for this meeting”.
Officials who at the time were close to the two most influential persons in the world argue that while in Malta, the two leaders managed to establish a personal relationhip and a dialogue for peace, as stated by US President George Bush at the end of the Malta Summit.
“As I leave Malta, I am optimistic that if the West works patiently together and increasingly cooperates with the Soviet Union, we can realise lasting peace and transform the East-West relationship to one of enduring cooperation”.
Although no agreement was signed in Malta, both leaders agreed that the political and hostile rivalry between both blocks, which had dominated the second part of the twentieth century, had ended here.