By Pavel Stroilov | 30 June 2011

US president George Bush senior only agreed to back the Soviet peace bid to Iraq over Kuwait if the background to it was kept secret.

In the smuggled transcript of his meeting in September 1990 at a summit in Helsinki with the then Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, Bush is recorded as saying: “I am concerned with one more thing. Whatever is suggested, it should not be a Soviet-American plan. If our two countries develop the settlement of this issue, it would seem very strange to many people in the world. Probably it should be a [United Nations] move.

“But I must say that the views you have expressed are very interesting. We shall think them over seriously.”

Gorbachev replied: “Can we take a decision on a plan here? No, but if we do nothing, then why meet? Surely, not for doing nothing.

“It is not important who suggested what, and when”
– Mikhail Gorbachev speaking to George Bush senior in 1990

“That is why I think if any idea emerges between us that seems fruitful, we might think of a mechanism to launch that process, and, as a result, some plan or a package might emerge. And then it is not important who suggested what, and when.

“The important thing is the result: multilateral efforts to establish a mechanism for resolving the problem.”

Bush said: “I agree. I would not like to send the others a message that we are working on this problem together.

“It is important just to start the search for a solution and to reach an agreement about the acceptable approach in the end. I agree with you in this respect.”

Gorbachev: “Today we might just say that we have conducted a broad discussion on the problem and believe it is possible to find an approach allowing us to untie this dangerous knot. In order to avoid escalation of this problem into a more dangerous crisis, it is necessary to act jointly now.”

Bush: “I agree with practically everything you have just said, with the exception of one formula. I would say, ‘We shall look for a solution,’ rather than, ‘We believe it is possible to find a solution.’ For I am still not sure that a solution is really possible.”

Bush agreed to the Soviets trying to “sound out” Saddam over the possible peace deal.

Pavel Stroilov is a Russian journalist and political exile living in London, and author of ‘Behind the Desert Storm’. Additional reporting by Alanah Eriksen.

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