Back in 1985, the fall of the Soviet Union was not yet assured, but the wheels of progress were already moving within the Soviet Bloc. Glasnost, the Soviet policy of openness and transparency that, in many ways, helped usher in the collapse of the Soviet Union in favor of modern-day Russia was still a year away, but Mikhail Gorbachev had already begun establishing himself as a different sort of leader than his predecessors. Perhaps that’s why American President Ronald Reagan felt comfortable enough with the man to pose an interesting and enigmatic question during the 1985 Geneva Summit.

During the high-level diplomatic talks, Reagan and Gorbachev took a short break from their ongoing negotiations to go for a walk, accompanied only by their private interpreters. The two leaders, each in control of the most powerful militaries on the globe at the time and actively working to prevent a nuclear war that could mean the end of all mankind, walked and talked in secrecy, not sharing the details of the conversation with the world for decades to come. It wasn’t until 2009, in fact, that the subject of their short conversation finally came to light.

It would seem that in the midst of those high-level talks, Reagan had a different threat on his mind — one that was even more significant than that posed by the Soviet stockpile of nuclear weapons. That threat, Gorbachev would soon learn, was so unusual, it was downright out of this world.

During an interview with Charlie Rose in 2009, Reagan’s Secretary of State, George Shultz was asked what the two leaders discussed as they walked and talked in private, but Shultz was interrupted.

All of a sudden President Gorbachev and President Reagan took a walk,” Schultz explained. “They went down to some cabin on Lake Geneva where there was a fire in a fireplace and you sat down there — I wasn’t there, but I know when you came back, there were two friends, almost. Talking about what was going to happen. Then we went to the next —”

Before he could go on, Shultz was cut off by Gorbachev himself, also participating in the interview.

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From the fireside house, President Reagan suddenly said to me, ‘What would you do if the United States were suddenly attacked by someone from outer space? Would you help us?’

“I said, ‘No doubt about it.’”

“He said, ‘We too.’ So that’s interesting.”

President Reagan was certainly a fan of science fiction, and he famously relayed elements of that conversation two years later in a speech he delivered before the United Nations. That speech remains a highly cited part of modern UFO lore, with many contesting that Reagan was attempting to ascertain the level of cooperation he could expect from world leaders if such a threat were ever to surface. The question, of course, in the minds of many UFO enthusiasts has always been whether or not it was Reagan’s interest in science fiction or his awareness of classified intelligence that prompted his line of questioning.

Perhaps we need some outside universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.” He said in 1987.

It seems reasonable to assume that Reagan was using the concept of an alien invasion to point out how even the enemy nations had a mutual desire to see the world survive — a concern that seems appropriate when working to avert a nuclear war. However, in the minds of some, that private stroll in 1985 remains as among the best evidence to date that the United States government was aware of a potential threat posed by the presence of UFOs or alien life — a threat that continues to be addressed behind closed doors at the Pentagon through programs like the recently defunded Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program.

Whether or not Reagan was secretly aware of the presence of UFOs, or if he was simply using popular culture to find common ground with other world leaders, will remain the subject of debate among those with interests in either explanation, but regardless of any potentially hidden intent, it’s nice to know that even the United States and Soviet Union could have put their tensions on hold long enough to fight for the sake of the planet.

Watch the portion of Reagan’s speech before the United Nations in 1987 that addressed an alien invasion below:

Featured image: President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev having their first meeting in the oval office at the White House in December 1987. | Wikimedia Commons