New View of Ronald Reagan and End of the Cold War
Ronald Reagan (February 1911 – June 2004)
40th President of the United States
The first major indication of the crumbling empire came less than ten months after Reagan departed office with the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. That was roughly 18 months after Reagan went to the Brandenburg Gate and demanded that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev "tear down this wall."
Reaganites point to the event in claiming their hero's buildup of
American defenses, and particularly his pursuit of a costly missile
defense system, ultimately bankrupted the
In "The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War,"
Mann makes a persuasive case that the man once
disparaged as "an amiable dunce" by Democratic wise man
Mann argues that Reagan, for all his casual and supposedly malleable
persona, did perceive Gorbachev's recognition of his own country's
internal weakness and corruption, and his attempts to set it on a more
conciliatory path toward the West,
Despite Reagan's first-term belligerent talk of "evil empire," Mann
notes, upon meeting Gorbachev in
At the same time, he writes, Reagan was "horrified by the possibility of nuclear war," and that "doomsday exercises of the early 1980s" that Mann uncovered "may have scared Reagan into trying to change American policy" in his second term, prodding "military and defense officials to accept cutbacks in nuclear weapons and ballistic weapons."
Days after the
Mann writes that although Reagan's first-term aggressiveness may have had "a long-term effect on the Soviet economy that might have eventually led to the country's disintegration ... there is little evidence that the American actions brought down the Soviet regime."
The Soviet economy, he writes, "was foundering because of deep-seated and chronic problems that had nothing to do with the Reagan administration's policies. Although the Soviet system was in decline, it was not headed toward a collapse, and Reagan's first-term policies, including the defense buildup and the covert-action programs, did not cause the collapse."
Rather, Mann writes, "the proximate cause ... was Gorbachev himself,"
in his decision "not to intervene in
Still, he says: "Reagan's willingness to do business with Gorbachev gave the Soviet leader the time and space he needed to demolish the Soviet system. ... Gorbachev existentially destroyed the Soviet system. Reagan gave him the help he needed to do it."
That conclusion alone, however, casts
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New View of Ronald Reagan and End of the Cold War | Jules Witcover
(c) 2009 U.S. News & World Report