During the 1985 Geneva Summit, President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev took a private walk, accompanied only by their interpreters. The conversation during this stroll remained undisclosed to the public for years. However, in a 2009 interview with Charlie Rose and Reagan’s Secretary of State George Shultz, Gorbachev shared a surprising revelation. He recounted that Reagan had directly asked him if they could set aside their differences in the event of an alien invasion.

According to Jimmy Orr’s report for the Christian Science Monitor at the time, Shultz recalled the walk to a nearby cabin during the summit:

“I wasn’t there…,” Shultz began, but Gorbachev interjected.

“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,” Gorbachev concluded, eliciting much laughter.

President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan (Photo by Laski Diffusion/Getty Images)

Despite the lack of an alien invasion in the 1980s, Reagan and Gorbachev’s casual agreement remains a fascinating anecdote. Reagan, known for his “Star Wars” nuclear deterrent plan, was an avid science fiction enthusiast. He grew up reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels, featuring characters like John Carter of Mars and Tarzan, as reported by Lauren Davis for io9.

Reagan’s interest in science fiction occasionally influenced his governance. While in office, he sought counsel from The Citizens’ Advisory Council on National Space Policy, a think tank composed of astronauts, engineers, and science fiction writers, including Robert Heinlein and Jerry Pournelle. This group played a role in shaping his space policy and contributed to his “Star Wars” speech.

It remains unclear how seriously Reagan pondered the prospect of an alien invasion. Nevertheless, he wasn’t the first government official to consider such scenarios. In the 1950s and ‘60s, U.S. Army engineers devised theoretical weapons for defending hypothetical lunar bases. More recently, Anatoly Zak reported for Popular Mechanics that the Soviet Almaz space station of the 1970s was equipped with a secret space cannon, which was even test-fired.