Courtesy Reuters

American presidents have usually inherited poor relations with the Soviet Union. President Eisenhower, of course, was confronted by the tensions of Korea and President Kennedy by the Berlin crisis. Lyndon Johnson was a temporary exception, but Richard Nixon inherited Vietnam and the Czech crisis. Gerald Ford had to deal with a faltering détente, and Jimmy Carter was embroiled in early disputes. In January 1981, Ronald Reagan found himself in much the same position as his predecessors, except that relations were worse than usual. Indeed, relations were frozen. Even the outgoing Administration was pessimistic. The departing American Ambassador to the U.

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