Lot #3012
Ronald Reagan 'Geneva Summit' Golf Putter Used on Air Force One

'Trust, but Verify Open’ golf putter used by President Reagan on Air Force One en route to the Geneva Summit, the historic meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev aimed at reducing nuclear arms and averting the proposed 'Star Wars' missile defense program

Description

'Trust, but Verify Open’ golf putter used by President Reagan on Air Force One en route to the Geneva Summit, the historic meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev aimed at reducing nuclear arms and averting the proposed 'Star Wars' missile defense program

Spalding TPM 6 'Trust, but Verify Open' golf putter used by President Ronald Reagan aboard Air Force One en route to his fabled Cold War-era meeting in Geneva, Switzerland with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev on November 19 and 20, 1985. The putter measures 35.5" in length and features a Golf Pride grip. In fine condition.

Accompanied by a handwritten letter of provenance from Robert 'Bud' McFarlane, Reagan's National Security Advisor from 1983 through 1985, who was on board Air Force One and witnessed Reagan borrow this putter for an impromptu contest. The letter, in full: "This is to confirm that the owner of the putter in President Reagan's storied putting contest while on the way on AF1 to the 1985 Summit in Geneva with President Gorbachev, is Bill Martin, who was serving as Special Assistant to President Reagan and Executive Secretary of the National Security Council. In offering his putter for the event, Bill proposed that the contest be titled the 'Trust but Verify Open.'" Included are two additional photos of Reagan, one of him during the 'Trust, but Verify Open,' with McFarlane pictured in plaid to the left, and another of Reagan with Martin, the original owner of the putter.

The first American-Soviet summit in more than six years, the Geneva Summit also served as the introductory meeting between President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev, whose shared ambition of reducing the number of nuclear weapons led to their longtime and well-documented friendship. However, the Geneva Summit was not exactly a roaring success. While both parties aimed for the bilateral reduction of nuclear arms, Reagan's offered collaboration on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)-a proposed nuclear missile defense system codenamed 'Star Wars' by the media-was strongly opposed by Gorbachev (and the Kremlin), who feared the program would lead to an arms race in space.

The General Secretary pressed for continued strategic parity for the two states, 'equal security at lower levels of force,' and tendered to negotiate on offensive weapons reduction if and only if Reagan abandoned SDI. The President refused, reiterated his offer to share the technology with the Soviets, and a stalemate was reached, one that continued throughout the next day of negotiations as well.

Despite the lack of tangible progress on specific nuclear arms measures, the Geneva Summit was a breakthrough point for American-Soviet relations, one largely predicated on the personal connection forged between Gorbachev and Reagan. The groundwork laid in Geneva ultimately led to the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed by Reagan and Gorbachev on December 8, 1987, an arms control agreement that, within four years, had eliminated a total of 2,692 short medium-range and intermediate-range missiles.

While Reagan's SDI program was little more than a phantom threat, the possibility of a laser-based satellite defense system pressed the Soviets into action. The development of the Polyus spacecraft, a direct response to SDI, proved an immediate failure, and while its creation did not bankrupt the Soviet Union-as modern myth suggests-Reagan's ambitious sci-fi project coerced the Soviets into an unwinnable arms race, one which exacerbated the downward trajectory of an already ailing Soviet economy.

The Russian proverb 'Trust, but verify' or 'Doveryay, no proveryay,' was taught to Reagan by Suzanne Massie, an American scholar of Russian history who met with and advised the President many times between 1984 and 1987. She explained to him that 'The Russians like to talk in proverbs. It would be nice of you to know a few.' After Reagan used the phrase at the signing of the critical INF Treaty, Gorbachev remarked, 'You repeat that at every meeting.' To which Reagan answered, 'I like it.'

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Remarkable Rarities
  • Dates: #638 - Ended June 23, 2022