How Gorbachev & Bush ended the cold war in Malta.

This article is part of an ongoing collaborative series by Spunt.mt and Lovin Malta.


The 1945 Yalta conference marked the beginning of the Cold War, a 40+ year period of geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, and their respective allies. Winds of change were sweeping through Soviet states by 1989, culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall. This marked the ending of the Iron Curtain divide of Europe between the capitalist West and the communist East.


In a matter of a few weeks, a meeting was to take place in Malta between US President George H.W. Bush and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. Expectations were high for the “Malta Summit” and it was viewed as one of the most important high-level meetings since WWII. Malta was chosen as it was a constitutionally neutral, peace-seeking country.



The summit was held on the open seas, inspired largely by President Bush’s fascination with World War II President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s habit of meeting foreign leaders on board naval vessels. The meeting was not all plain sailing. In fact, it is also remembered as the “Seasick Summit”, owing to abysmal weather which left the American president stranded aboard his cruiser in Marsaxlokk Bay and forced an afternoon session of talks to be abandoned.



The summit is considered by some as central to the peaceful end of the Cold War and foreshadowing a “new relationship between East and West, a new Europe”. Others, however, called the meeting a “missed opportunity”, citing the overly cautious Bush administration for a failure to respond to Soviet arms control initiatives and the lack of significant changes to US foreign policy.


The ‘Malta Summit’ is another testament to the continued relevance of Malta’s strategic location, with this tiny island playing host to two political giants. It also reminds us of the unique role Malta can play in the current tensions to bring opposing sides to the same table of discussion.