December 26, 2018
IN HIS WORDS
Reagan and the Cold War
The ongoing questions over Russian election meddling have placed the country in the American public consciousness on a level not seen since the Cold War. At that time, Americans looked to the president for strong leadership and defense—promises on which Ronald Reagan delivered.
The Ronald Reagan Cold War policies came to define his presidency, future foreign policy and the country’s international standing. Reagan escalated the Cold War with the goal of putting pressure on the Soviet Union and rooting out the detriments of Communism. He significantly increased American spending on defense, such as through missile development and the Strategic Defense Initiative, a proposed missile defense initiative that put the country in a better bargaining position with the Soviets.
However, it wasn’t all about defense. The Ronald Reagan Cold War policies also included a fair amount of international mobilization. Under Reagan’s direction, the United States built teams of anti-Communist forces throughout the world, particularly in Soviet-occupied lands. The Reagan Doctrine, as that approach came to be called, was centered on the idea that those directly impacted by the perils of Communism should be empowered to actively take a stand against it. And with the American resources he had at his disposal, Reagan made that idea a reality.
Throughout his presidency, Reagan took a hard line in his rhetoric toward the Soviet Union, going far beyond any previous presidents in vocalizing his opposition to the regime, and his commitment to breaking it down. When Mikhail Gorbachev came to power halfway through Reagan’s tenure, he somewhat reframed his approach to introduce more negotiation and advised the leader on reforms yet remained a stalwart supporter of rooting out Communism. Against a backdrop of the Berlin Wall in 1987, Reagan delivered a few of his most iconic lines: “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
A few short years later, that’s exactly what happened.
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