Ronald Reagan was dubbed as one of the United States most staunch cold war warriors. He was fiercely opposed to communism and the threat this posed to the American way of life. Reagan adopted a hard line stance against the Soviet Union and provided firm leadership in the cold war that lasted until 1991. Others criticised Regan as being too militaristic and credited the more balanced soviet leadership of saving the world from the brink of nuclear war. Reality is that both sides were intransigent but this improved with personal relationships between Michael Gorbachev and Reagan in his second term of office.
REAGAN AND THE COLD WAR
In the early part of his presidency Regan was faced against the Russian premier Leonid Brezhnev. It was Brezhnev that adopted the hard line Stalinist model and was determined to keep the Russian Communist soviet empire intact. Reagan matched Brezhnev’s hardline stance and dubbed the Soviets as ‘The Evil Empire’, the speech using the slogan from the film Star Wars was used to denounce the Soviet Union as the main emphasis of evil in the modern world.
It was during this time that the US president called for a massive buildup of the armed forces in order to deter any threat from a potential Soviet attack. As both of the super powers developed a huge arsenal of weapons the tension between the two states heightened to a point that the US and Russia had not seen since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. It was in the early 1980’s that the concept of an all-out nuclear war seemed a distinct possibility.
For decades Reagan consolidated his beliefs on communism and he believed that the administration were deceitful and manipulative liars that could not be trusted. It was not until 1985 that Gorbachev emerged as a new type of Soviet leader who saw that Communism was withering on the vine and this was destroying the USSR. He proposed a new style of leadership based upon ‘glasnost’ (openness) and that of ‘ perestroika’ (restructuring). He offered the Soviet Citizens a more open society based upon political freedom and the ability to have greater economic freedoms. Gorbachev saw an opportunity to lessen the tension with the USA by invoking arms reduction treaties and negotiating a potential end to nuclear threat.
Reagan and Gorbachev admired one another and had an ability to build a dialogue. Reagan managed to change his cynical overtures, setting aside his previous firm convictions and met with Gorbachev to move the world to a safer level of co-existance.
| Strategic Arms Reduction Talks
The Strategic Arms Reduction (SALT) talks were launched in the 1960’s with the aim of reducing the number of inter-continental ballistic missiles between Russia and the United States. This was aimed at maintaining a balance of power between the two super powers and thereby creating a mutual deterrent to war. The Soviet leadership believed that the road to peaceful co-existence was through continued dialogue and the need for both sides to restrain from the escalation of arms (arms race). This did not mean that the leadership style of the soviets was passive but they dreaded the consequences of the alternatives and potential nuclear holocaust. (Garthoff, R.L. 1978)
In the early days of SALT1 the Russian Administration accused the US Reagan administration of a lack of equity in the arms balance. This not only included the inclusion of the British and French atomic arsenal but also other considerations that included both technology and economics. This concept of inequity came up again at the preamble of the SALT2 talks and as such it was agreed that as a matter of principle both sides must agree upon the equality of the weapons that are to be reduced. An added complication was the emergence of an atomic power of China and this nuclear arsenal was deemed more of a threat to the Soviets than that of the USA. In SALT2 the USA objected to the Russian posture of ‘first strike capability’, with high yield ICBM weapons aimed at maximum damage in terms of neutralising the opponent and thereby limit the impact of inbound ICMBM’s to Russia. This led to Reagans controversial ‘Star Wars Proposal’ and a global defence shield using orbiting satellites to destroy any missiles fired at the USA before they impacted. This neutralising the Russian first strike advantage and changing the balance of power. (Kartchner, K.M. 1992)
| International Relationships and Obligations
China remained for many years a secretive nation that refused to share information with the international community. This started to change in the 1980’s and now there is a much more balanced relationship between the USA, USSR and China. As an emerging superpower and nuclear state, China has become a major player and has a permanent seat on the UN Security council (Allen, K.W. 2012)
The more pressing situation is that between getting arms reductions and treaties to cover both India and Pakistan. With continued buildup of arms in the region, both India and Pakistan have escalated the capability of nuclear confrontation between the countries (Khan, F.H. 2010)
India believes that China is trying to encircle the country and deny it the capability to emerge as an emerging power. This has escalated since China started to support Pakistan and help in the military development of that country. The increase of Chinese Naval presence in the area has encouraged India to invest in building up a similar naval capability based upon ballistic missile submarines and meanwhile China announced a massive $500+ billion into further strengthening its armed forces and worrying India on the implications of this. Meanwhile Pakistan remains nervous looking at the India Military buildup and it already has problems with the Taliban and Al Qaeda using Pakistan as a base to conduct military operations in Afghanistan. This further exasperating the relationship between the USA and Pakistan.
FUTURE EFFECTS OF DOCTRINE
START 3 was attempted between President Clinton and the Russian Premier Boris Yeltsin but this treaty broke down and was never signed. Start 2 and 3 were never fully implemented and this gave rise to NEW START that commenced in 2009 between President Obama and the Russian Federation. This became ratified in 2010 and it is anticipated will stay in force until 2021. Both countries have entered a new era of co-operation and the days of communism are gone and the new democratic Russian Federation is likely to be much more aligned to the Western Democracies and as such more flexible in the peace negotiations. Although the transformations may have resulted in the new Russian Federation losing super power status, it will continue to remain a leading power and influence in the world today.
History will show that President Reagan and President Gorbachev were instrumental in transforming the world from the brink of nuclear holocaust to that of a structured and managed peace through the START summit meetings. It was President Reagan that demonstrated flexibility from previously held convictions and Gorbachev that created the path towards a modern democracy for Russia and the end of an oppressive communist regime. It ended the Cold War and created a new era of co-operation between Russia and the USA.
Allen, K. (2012, 1 24). Chinas approach to confidence building measures. Retrieved from Stimson: http://www.stimson.org/images/uploads/research-pdfs/cbmapchina.pdf
Garthoff, R. (1978). Mutual Deterrence and Strategic Arms Limitation in Soviet Policy. International Security, Vol 3 Iss 1, 112-147.
Kartchner, K. (1992). Negotiating START: strategic arms reduction talks and the quest for strategic stability. New Brunswick NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Khan, F. (2010). Prospects for India and Pakistan Arms. Naval War College Review Vol 63 No 3, 105-121.