WASHINGTON -- President Reagan said Wednesday the Moscow summit made him feel like he 'dropped into a grand historical moment' and he believes Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev 'may actually be able to change things.'
Reagan, at a White House luncheon for out-of-town press, also described the Soviet people as 'the warmest friendliest, nicest people you could want to meet' and said he is convinced they support Gorbachev's reforms.
He called the Soviet economy as a 'basket case' and said Gorbachev definitely wants to bring about change with his 'glasnost' and 'perestroika' policies of openness and restructuring the economy.
The president also said he has 'met a number of their (Soviet) leaders' but they 'kept dying on me' delaying his ability to begin a new relationship with the Kremlin.
Actually, Reagan only met the late Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev - and then only for a handshake -- at San Clemente, Calif., during a reception President Nixon hosted during Brezhnev's visit.
Reporting to members of the visiting press about his personal feelings about the summit, Reagan said: 'That's just how I felt last week ... like I dropped into a grand historical moment.'
He repeated his endorsement of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's assertion that 'you can do business' with Gorbachev.
'Now under Mr. Gorbachev, the Soviets have a leader who appears to want to change things and who may actually be able to change things,' Reagan said. 'It's been a long time coming...if the Soviets want it to grow, it can and it will.'
But the president criticized news media coverage of U.S.-Soviet summits, saying in the past it was 'geared more for the hunt for headlines than the reality of business.'