The "Cold War" as we have seen so far, the Cold War was not predetermined. Leaders made choices. During the Second World War, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, and Winston Churchill were besieged by competing impulses and clashing priorities. They distrusted one another. Yet as allies they labored diligently at wartime conferences to modulate their differences and plan for victory and peace. As the most horrible war in history came to an end, leaders in Washington and Moscow, including the untutored and provincial Truman and the evil and paranoid Stalin, recognized that cooperation was preferable to conflict. So did their successors.
Cooperation might mean collaboration in preserving the peace when the advent of atomic weapons made war even ghastlier than before. It might mean collaboration in punishing and controlling foes whose eventual revival was taken for granted and whose long-term behavior was a frightening imponderable. It might mean collaboration in reconverting wartime economies and reconstructing devastated areas. Moscow might receive reparations from the western zones of Germany and might get credits from Washington in exchange for its acceptance of a liberal peace based on open markets and selfdetermination. If conflict could be avoided and an arms race modulated, American and Soviet leaders might be able to focus on their domestic priorities and direct funds to meet the needs of their societies as defined by their respective political cultures. Stalin and Truman; Malenkov and Eisenhower; Kennedy, Johnson, and Khrushchev; Brezhnev and Carter; and Reagan, Bush, and Gorbachev never doubted that they represented alternative ways of organizing human society. But the question they faced was whether they could identify and pursue common interests notwithstanding their ideological differences.
Until the mid- and late 1980s, they were unable to do so. The Cold War emerged and persisted for four decades because these leaders were trapped by their ideas and ideals and beleaguered by the dangers and opportunities that lurked in the international system. Their beliefs heightened their sense of danger and accentuated messianic impulses. Their rhetoric and programs mobilized domestic constituencies and empowered interest groups and bureaucracies that opposed policy changes and made them increasingly difficult. Foreign allies and clients often developed their own stakes in the bipolar system, manipulated the United States and the Soviet Union in behalf of their own interests, and made it harder for the two powers to relax tensions and reconfigure their relationship. Leaders in both countries often glimpsed the mutuality of their interests but became hostages to their ideas and constituents rather than agents of change. It took an exceptional man, Gorbachev, to reconceive the nature of threat and to focus on domestic resurrection rather than external opportunity. It took an exceptional man, Reagan, to muster the inner conviction, personal charm, and domestic political strength to leverage his opponent's concessions into a framework that preserved and institutionalized his own nation's global hegemony.
The Cold War lasted as long as it did because of the ways in which American and Soviet ideas intersected with evolving conditions of the international system. U.S. and Soviet leaders thought they represented superior ways of organizing human existence. The men in the Kremlin sincerely believed they were reconfiguring human society and eradicating human exploitation. By eliminating private property and a marketplace economy, they thought they could supplant human greed as the driving force behind human progress.
Planning would replace the anarchy of the marketplace. Workers would no longer be at the mercy of their employers, and oppressed peoples would no longer be subject to imperial domination. The Communist Party would serve as the vanguard of the proletariat and the liberator of colonial peoples. The trajectory of history envisioned the end of capitalism, perpetual peace, universal justice, and the emancipation of mankind.
The men in the White House had a different vision of how history should unfold. Their aim was to fashion a world order along the lines of democratic capitalism. They wanted people to be free and markets to be open. Political parties should compete for power in governments that represented their citizenry. Individual rights and private property were the keys to human advancement and personal opportunity. God, they often said, intended people to be free. Certainly, men and women could not worship as they pleased if they were not free.
These contradictory visions of mankind's future were inseparable from Soviet and American ideas about the past. Historical memories and ideological assumptions shaped perceptions of fear and opportunity. For Soviet leaders, from Stalin to Brezhnev, capitalist countries could neither escape conflict with one another nor resist the temptation to crush an ideological foe. History since 1917, as they understood it, confirmed the implacable hostility of capitalists, the volatility of the international capitalist economy, and the enmity of other powers like Germany and Japan, whose governments were controlled by fascists and militarists. Notwithstanding the immense suffering that Soviet citizens had endured, their utopian experiment had survived and, allegedly, demonstrated its superiority. If the Kremlin remained vigilant, history's trajectory portended a glorious future for communism.
U.S. officials, no less than their counterparts in Moscow, were inspired by their ideals and shaped by their experience. For Americans, their past confirmed that totalitarian governments, whether fascist, Nazi, or communist, were likely to expand and to crush human freedom-the freedom to speak, to practice religion, to own property, and to trade. Americans had learned from the interwar years that freedom and liberalism could not be safe at home if they were at risk abroad; the United States could not be secure if a totalitarian adversary controlled the human resources, raw materials, industrial infrastructure, and technological know-how of Eurasia and used those assets to challenge the American way of life.
The international environment posed danger and opportunity to leaders in Moscow and Washington. In Europe, the suffering bequeathed by the years of depression, war, and genocide was almost beyond human comprehension. Almost forty million Europeans had perished during the war, but the suffering did not end when the guns fell silent. The anguish, the turmoil, the hunger, the upheaval, were just beginning for millions and millions. As Europeans yearned for a better future, communism and communists competed vigorously for their allegiance, especially in France and Italy. Stalin's reputation was not tarnished by his brutality but exalted by his wartime victories. Europeans wanted change, security, welfare, peace. They have suffered so much, Dean Acheson acknowledged, that they will demand that the whole business of state control and state interference shall be pushed further and further. For Stalin, opportunity beckoned in Western Europe; for Truman there was peril-in the prospect not that Soviet armies would march to the Atlantic but that demoralized peoples would choose alternative ways of organizing their societies.
While U.S. officials worried about the configuration of West European politics, Stalin could not relax about his East European periphery. Everywhere his armies went, they marauded. Soviet troops raped and despoiled, intensifying the distrust that traditionally existed between Russia and many, if not all, of its neighbors. Proximity to Soviet behavior usually meant revulsion; lived experience was very different from utopian imagination. In Romania, Hungary, and Poland, communist partisans were few; in Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and eastern Germany, they had no chance of triumphing in free elections. Free elections in the lands occupied were not likely to lead to governments friendly to the Soviet Union. These countries had assisted the enemies of the Soviet Union in the past and might do so in the future. Even Soviet minions and clients were susceptible to capitalist blandishments, like the Marshall Plan. Nobody could be trusted in a world beset by capitalist adversaries who neither controlled their own penchant for conflict nor resisted the temptation to surround, squeeze, or maybe even crush Stalin's utopian project to remake mankind. For him, the postwar Soviet occupation of other countries in Eastern and Central Europe offered an opportunity to gain defense in depth, as the Americans liked to call their own security perimeter, which stretched across the oceans and included all of the Western Hemisphere.
Security could not be entrusted to others when the future of Germany was so uncertain. And the international configuration of power depended on the future of Germany. On this fact, American and Soviet leaders agreed. They also agreed for many decades that Germans, left to themselves, could not be trusted. From Stalin to Gorbachev, German power was feared; from Truman to Bush, German power had to be harnessed in behalf of the West. Tension in Europe abated when the wall that divided Berlin seemed to resolve the German question and when the sovereignty of two German nations was recognized, one bourgeois and democratic, the other communist; the Helsinki Final Act in 1975 confirmed this understanding. To the extent that it allayed the fears of Brezhnev and his colleagues about German revanchism, the Helsinki Agreement was the high point of detente and, in Soviet eyes, worth the price of agreeing to reconfirm the legitimacy of human rights. Thereafter, Kremlin leaders could focus on negotiating strategic arms agreements and expanding trade with the West. But to their chagrin, Brezhnev's comrades would learn that the security of their way of life was far more endangered by the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Final Act than by the resolution of the German question-a fine illustration of how their vision of the morrow was buried in fears of the past rather than in any understanding of the future.
The same could be said about U.S. officials in the 1970s. After Helsinki and SALT I, their apprehensions did not wane and the Cold War did not end. The growth of Soviet military capabilities and ferment in the third world continued to conjure fears they could not overcome. They were haunted by the threat of Soviet gains in the Horn of Mrica, the Persian Gulf, and southwest Asia; an arc of crisis defined that part of the globe, said Zbigniew Brzezinski. If U.S. officials did not calm regional turbulence and thwart Soviet inroads, critical sources of petroleum and other raw materials might fall outside Western control, and the industries of Western Europe and Japan would be at risk. As the great economic advances of the 1950s and 1960s slowed-as cheap oil disappeared, unemployment mounted, and inflation soared-social peace showed signs of unraveling and people wondered, as Time magazine put it, "can capitalism survive?"
The aging men in the Kremlin were heartened. Systemic conditions appeared to be confirming their idea of history's trajectory. Their own society was advancing more slowly than it had in the past, but they could take heart in the travails of Western capitalism. For a brief while in the 1970s, there were even fleeting hopes for communist gains in Europe as Spain and Portugal threw off their neofascist governments, leftist parties competed vigorously for power, and the souls of Europeans as well as Asians, Africans, and Latin Americans seemed up for contestation once again. Upheavals in Afghanistan, Angola, Ethiopia, Indochina, Mozambique, Nicaragua, and Yemen tantalized the Kremlin. New leaders from these and other nations genuflected before their patrons in Moscow, spouted Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, and enticed ever more aid out of aging military leaders and party ideologues who saw a chance for vindication and reincarnation.
The Cold War lasted through the 1960s and 1970s because these revolutionary nationalist upheavals and regional turbulences engendered exaggerated hopes in Moscow and aroused exaggerated fears in Washington. In Moscow, defense managers and party ideologues were eager to exploit new opportunities, and for a few years Kremlin leaders were awash in petrodollars that financed foreign adventure. They sent arms, deployed agents, and empowered surrogates in faraway places like Angola, Ethiopia, and Yemen. In the United States, there was a political groundswell against this perceived Soviet adventurism. Disaffected liberals-soon to become the intellectual forefathers of neoconservatism-joined with traditional conservative groups, ethnic blue-collar workers in the Northeast, defense industrialists and business entrepreneurs in the South and Southwest, and evangelical Christians. These business, ethnic, and religious groups had little in common but their fear of Soviet power, their antipathy to atheistic communism, and a desire to redirect what they regarded as a wrongheaded liberal tendency in American politics. They believed strongly that the United States had to rebuild its military strength. Jesus "was not a sissy," asserted Jerry Falwell, the emerging leader of America's so-called Moral Majority. For these groups-and their representatives in the Congress-the contest for the soul of mankind abroad was related to the struggle to fight feminists and gays at home, preserve traditional culture, stifle the growth of big government, and maintain the underpinnings of an interconnected global economy open to the free movement of goods, capital, and people.
The hopes and fears of politicians, bureaucrats, defense managers, and ideologues in Moscow and Washington obscured the subterranean crosscurrents in the international system. For while the oil crisis of the 1970s eroded the strength of Western capitalism and brought huge revenues to Moscow, it diverted attention from the profound technological changes imperceptibly transforming capitalism in the United States, Japan, and Western Europe. Electronics, microprocessors, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology were creating knowledge-based industries and services that would not only rejuvenate economic productivity in the United States but also refashion and refurbish its military capabilities. But for the time being in the 1970s, the United States seemed vulnerable. Its economy was battered by stagflation, its relative military power was diminished, its alliances were shaky, and its position in the third world was more vulnerable than ever before.
Systemic developments seemed to be playing to the advantage of Moscow. "The global swing away from democracy in the 1960s and 1970s was impressive," writes the renowned political scientist Samuel Huntington.5 Soviet leaders talked with pride about their accomplishments and aspirations. "The world is changing before our very eyes, and changing for the better," Brezhnev declared to the twenty-fifth Congress of the CPSU Central Committee in February 1976. "We have created a new society, a society the like of which mankind has never known before. It is a society with a crisis-free, steadily growing economy .... [I]t is a society governed by the scientific materialist world outlook. It is a society of firm confidence in the future, of radiant communist prospects. Before it lies boundless horizons of further all-around progress. "
But for Soviet leaders vigilance was forever necessary because capitalists were forever seeking to undo Moscow's mighty achievements and thwart the trajectory of history. The Americans had tried and failed to set back revolutionary forces in Indochina. The imperialists had been dislodged from Iran when the Shah was overthrown, and they were being challenged in Central America by the Sandinistas. But the Americans nonetheless were scheming with the Chinese renegades to encircle the Kremlin, and plotting to insert themselves in Mghanistan where the People's Democratic Revolution of 1978 was devouring itself in incompetence, repression, and corruption. Detente between the superpowers began to founder on these Soviet perceptions of threat. Soviet leaders deployed troops to Afghanistan not because they aimed to seize oil in the Persian Gulf but because they dreaded the prospect of encirclement. If the communist revolution were reversed in Kabul, where would the forces of reaction stop?
Ideology shaped perceptions-this is one of the great lessons of the Cold War-accentuating fears, highlighting opportunities, and warping rational assessments of interests in Washington and Moscow. And in the early 1980s, the relationship of fear to opportunity evolved. U.S. officials sensed that the Kremlin was growing more vulnerable. The Soviet Union's economic growth rate was slowing to a trickle.7 The appeal of the Soviet model of development was waning. The Chinese were abandoning it. Almost everywhere "the vogue of revolution" was disappearing. "There was a sweeping loss of faith throughout Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia in the promise of revolution and in the dominant revolutionary ideology-socialism." In India, for example, socialism and planning were seen as failures that had created enormous inefficiencies. As the first generation of revolutionary nationalist leaders passed from the scene in Asia and Africa, the "force of anti-colonial and nationalist sentiments" declined. New leaders were willing to open their economies and learn from the West. The colossal failure of governmental human-engineering projects, like Mao Zedong's attempts to remake China's economy, society, and culture, made people aware that" certain kinds of states, driven by utopian plans ... [were] a mortal threat to human well-being." Among Western intellectuals, the light generated by communist utopianism and the Soviet Union's heroic defeat of Nazism finally disappeared after fading for almost two decades. Asians and Africans studying in Paris and London in the 1970s and 1980s were receiving different cues and learning vastly different lessons than had the previous generation.
The optimism of official Soviet rhetoric was belied by confidential reports and internal memoranda from Soviet experts and officials, especially during the Polish crisis of 1980-81, when it became clear that the Poles could no longer tolerate their communist government and wanted change, and when the Polish pope, John Paul II, championed human rights and positioned the Church as the guardian of individual freedom and personal conscience. When he visited Poland in June 1979, his trip commanded enormous attention. "Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the globe," he exclaimed. The huge crowd in Warsaw's Victory Square cheered rhythmically, "We want God, we want God."
The men in the Kremlin did not want God, but they understood the popularity of the Pope and the enthusiasm for Solidarity. Fearing that the movement would "spur workers in the Soviet Union ... to press for improved living conditions, greater freedom, and an independent trade union of their own," they knew that Solidarity had to be thwarted. Recognizing that military intervention would be costly and self-defeating, they orchestrated the Polish government's imposition of martial law, but the communist hold on Poland and Eastern Europe would never be the same.
Soviet leaders now worried less about their security and more about their vision. From Malenkov to Brezhnev, the justification for the existence of the Soviet regime and one-party rule was that the Bolsheviks projected the best and boldest vision for the future. It is customary to trivialize their rhetoric and mock their vision. The Soviet nomenklatura was corrupt, complacent, and self-referential. But Soviet leaders were not cynics; they were "authentic true believers," writes Martin Malia, the eminent scholar of Soviet politics and ideology. The archival materials recently brought to light underscore the importance of taking their public rhetoric seriously. In speech after speech, whether by Malenkov or Khrushchev, Kosygin or Brezhnev, or even Andropov or Chernenko, Soviet leaders pronounced that they would promote the welfare of Soviet peoples and bring about a more humane society guided by social justice. In November 1961, at the twenty-second Party Congress, they declared improvements in social welfare and increases in distributive equality to be their central policy goals. "As Lenin taught us," declared Andropov in a typical speech in 1979, "the ultimate goal of socialism is to secure the 'complete well-being and free all-around development of all members of society.
Although they stepped back from Khrushchev's boast that communism would surpass capitalism in a generation, and although they constantly reformulated the stages they were traversing toward communism, Brezhnev and his colleagues always spoke in heroic terms about the need to accelerate economic development, technological innovation, and agricultural outputY They were excited by their ability to turn out military hardware to protect "Great October," and they gloried in statistics showing substantial gains in Soviet coal, steel, and electrical production. But the revolution also was designed to deliver more dill and more potatoes for Soviet consumers, as Khrushchev once put it at a Presidium meeting. IS In fact, Soviet leaders never ceased talking about their obligation to provide more housing, more food, better health care, and more education to the Soviet people. And "most people," writes the historian Stephen Kotkin, "simply wanted the Soviet regime to live up to its promises."
But the regime fell short of its promises. The Soviet economy gained relative to the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, advancing from about a quarter to a little more than a third of per capita U.S. production, but by 1980 it was falling behind. In fact, many other nations, including Italy, Spain, Japan, and South Korea, narrowed the gap between their per capita production and the American level better than did the Soviet model
More important for Soviet peoples themselves, increases in per capita consumption slowed noticeably in the late 1970s. Growth rates for consumption had peaked in the late 1960s, when advances per year were at a hefty rate of about 5 percent. Although in the mid-1970s most Soviet citizens (about 74 percent) thought life was improving, the government's expenditures on social consumption--education, health care, social security, and housingwere taking a turn for the worse; soon spending on education and health care barely increased to keep up with the times. The food supply was not improving. Soviet consumers ate far more bread and potatoes and much less meat and fish than did Americans, British, Spaniards, Italians, or Japanese. Workers began expressing their discontent. In the last years of Brezhnev's rule, strikes, theoretically forbidden, "became larger and more frequent," particularly at major automotive plants in Gorky, Togliatti, and Cheliabinsk. Many Soviet citizens had once been willing to accept or acquiesce to one-party rule and authoritarian government in return for employment security, health care, educational opportunity, and better and more equal living conditions. But when the regime faltered in carrying out its side of the deal, people's disaffection grew. The Kremlin could not compete for the soul of mankind when it could not win the trust of its own citizens-another great lesson of the Cold War.
Gorbachev understood this growing demoralization. He did not want to retract Soviet power, but he believed the first priority was to refashion communism at home so that it could have a demonstrative appeal elsewhere. In order to do this, he needed to shift resources from the military to the civilian sector, which he could not do so long as his own society felt beleaguered by an intractable, formidable foe. Changing the zero-sum game of the Cold War was Gorbachev's great challenge and his greatest achievement. He accepted the argument that the U.S.S.R. must reduce the threat perception of the adversary; to accomplish this he had to make wrenching changes in his own perception of threat.
Basically, Gorbachev came to feel that Soviet security was not threatened by capitalist adversaries; it was far more endangered by communist functionaries, economic managers, and demoralized workers than by any external foe. Rigid controls, leveling practices, and alcoholism had sapped individual creativity, eroded productivity, and interfered with the potential of national planning. When he made his decisions to modulate the arms race, he did so because he was scared of his society's growing impoverishment. "We are encircled not by invincible armies but by superior economies," he said.
While altering his conception of threat and changing his views about the functioning of capitalist systems, Gorbachev never ceased to believe that communism represented something better than capitalism. But capitalists need not be seen as intractable foes. Nor was it necessary to believe that economic conflicts with the United States were more salient than the mutual interests that bound the U.S.S.R. to its antagonist as well as to socialist economies. Common human interests, Gorbachev and Shevardnadze came to feel, transcended class ties.
Gorbachev's achievement was a uniquely personal one, although he was not alone. He was general secretary of a party with a monopoly of power; traditions of deference were ingrained. When he made his fateful decisions to de-ideologize international politics, to let the Berlin wall come down, to agree to the unification of Germany, to withhold force against secessionist republics within the U.S.S.R., and to end regional disputes in south~rn Mrica and Central America, he rarely asked the Politburo for advice or consulted with the Defense Council. He did confer with experts, advisers, and other officials in an ad hoc fashion, but he had no process and no blueprint. He twisted and turned. Rather than implement a policy, he followed a vision that, however blurry at first, became clearer as he trekked forward.
Strong as was his position as general secretary (and then president), Gorbachev was not unassailable. Malenkov and Khrushchev had both been pushed aside. Indeed, Gorbachev perhaps at times exaggerated his vulnerability. From 1985 to 1989, he worked to remove opponents from key positions and to promote people who held a more flexible disposition. But he could never satisfy some of his allies, who tired of what they saw as his ambivalence. His vacillation, however, was a reaction to an unpredictable environment where so much was contingent on the responses of friends and foes. As the man most responsible for Soviet affairs, he appreciated the formidable obstacles he faced and understood the daunting nature of the enterprise he was contemplating. His acceptance, however grudging, of a unified Germany within NATO suggests how profound were the changes he was willing to tolerate even when they awakened tortured memories and infuriated political foes. In a functioning democracy, Gorbachev might not have been able to make these changes; in fact, he could do so in Soviet Russia only so long as he functioned as general secretary of the party representing the dictatorship of the proletariat. When he altered the structures of Soviet domestic governance in 1989, he vastly complicated his own efforts to bring about the changes he wanted. But he felt he had no choice, given the ends he pursued.
Gorbachev would not have persevered with his reforms had he not found sympathetic listeners in Washington. Reagan's greatness was not his buildup of force but his inspiring of trust. In March 1985, when Gorbachev became general secretary, the rearmament phase had peaked in Washington and Reagan was constrained by new budget deficits, growing antimilitarism in Congress, and mounting skepticism about the practicality of Star Wars. Unlike so many of his predecessors, however, Reagan could persuade the American people and the American Congress to appreciate the changes under way in the Soviet Union. Reagan, thought Gorbachev, would have the strength and might have the will not only to convince his countrymen to accept armsreduction treaties but also to imagine the possibility of transcending the Cold War. Although Gorbachev frequently ranted to the Politburo about Reagan's inflexibility, he nevertheless appreciated a partner who could help him to reconfigure the image of the Soviet Union in the West and thereby allow him to concentrate on reforms at home.
The many conversations that Reagan and Shultz had with Gorbachev and Shevardnadze about human rights, religious freedom, and democratic practices had an impact. Gorbachev and Shevardnadze frequently responded favorably to the American requests to intervene in certain cases because they wanted to make headway on issues they deemed more important, such as anns reductions. But they also responded positively because they were embarrassed by the cases, which revealed flaws in a system they continued to regard as superior to capitalism. Dissidents such as Andrei Sakharov upset Gorbachev because he felt they were aberrations and got too much attention. Accusations of mass repression in the Soviet Union incensed him because he considered them untrue, part of a Stalinist past that had been disavowed. When Gorbachev learned from the KGB just how many political prisoners there were (only 250-300), he did not mind jousting with Reagan and Shultz about the virtues of their respective systems. Still, in tactful and respectful yet forceful ways, Reagan and Shultz never let Gorbachev forget the gap between the promise and the reality of communism in the Soviet Union.
Reagan's ideological fervor was very important in bringing about the end of the Cold War because it gave him tremendous confidence about the appeal of his way of life. His predecessors had also believed that democratic capitalism worked well in the United States and represented the best system of political economy, yet they were not sure that others agreed. They worried incessantly about communism and eurocommunism, state planning and nationalized industries, Marxist-Leninist rhetoric and revolutionary nationalist impulses. But by the late 1970s and early 1980s, the world economy was changing and Reagan's beliefs meshed with evolving international realities. Shultz spoke frequently about the trend toward economic globalization and the pace of technological innovation. Planned economies would never keep abreast of the changes wrought by the information and communications revolutions, he said. Only free men and free women operating in democratic societies and motivated by free markets and personal incentives could harness the new technology and employ it to generate economic growth and material advancement. Command economies and nationalized industry might have generated impressive results when the output of steel and coal were benchmarks of success, but not when electronics, computers, data processing, and biotechnology had redefined the meaning of modernity in production. Command economies and national ownership might have seduced revolutionary nationalists in the third world during the era of decolonization, and communist rhetoric might have appealed to demoralized and hungry Europeans in the wake of depression and war, but the world was changing dramatically. Men and women around the globe were discovering, Reagan declared, that "Democracy, the profoundly good, is also the profoundly productive. "
Reagan believed that if people had a choice, they would always choose personal freedom, private markets, and entrepreneurial opportunity. In this respect, he expressed what most Americans thought. He was a salesman for the American way of life, certain that he offered salvation for the souls of mankind everywhere. Consequently, he was afraid neither to compete with nor to talk to his opponents. He knew, moreover, that most Americans were sure he would not betray their interests or their ideals. Reagan could talk to the men from the evil empire with less fear of partisan recriminations and conservative criticism. Unlike Truman, he was not facing a Congress dominated by the virulent anticommunism of an opposition party; unlike Eisenhower, he did not have to deal with an American political culture aroused by McCarthyism; unlike Kennedy and Johnson, he was not haunted by fears that his domestic policies would be undercut by the appearance of weakness in foreign policy; unlike Carter, he did not have to worry that he would be accused of temerity. Reagan could lead the American people to accept the end of the Cold War-on American terms, of course.
Reagan's legacy is instructive. He believed in strength. Strength tempered the adversary's ambitions and tamped down its expectations. But the purpose of strength was to negotiate. Even while he denounced the tyrants who ran an evil empire, he reached out to talk to them. In one of his most famous speeches, he asked the American people to imagine what Ivan and Anya would say to Jim and Sally if they should discover one another in a waiting room. "Would they debate the differences between their respective governments?" Or would they talk about their hobbies, their children, and their careers? All people "want to raise their children in a world without fear and without war," Reagan said. "They want to have some of the good things over and above bare subsistencb that make life worth living. They want to work at some craft, trade, or profession that gives them satisfaction and a sense of worth. Their common interests cross all borders."
Reagan believed that leaders were obliged to work in behalf of these common interests. "The fact that neither of us likes the other system is no reason to refuse to talk," he said. "Living in this nuclear age makes it imperative that we do talk. "28 Moreover, as he tried to find opportunities to talk, he discovered that the fears of the adversary were not feigned and that the dreams of the enemy were not dissimilar to some of his own-for example, the abolition of nuclear weapons. With patience and determination, with dignity and grace, Reagan crossed the ideological divide without altering his principles or ideals. "Tell the people of the Soviet Union," he said to Gorbachev on 2 June 1988, "of the deep feelings of friendship felt by us and by the people of our country toward them."30 In his "farewell address" to the American people a few months later, he advised, "We must keep up our guard, but we must also continue to work together to lessen and eliminate tension and mistrust. "
Reagan's shrewdest insight was his understanding that the Cold War would be won by the system that could respond most effectively to people's wish for a decent living, a peaceful environment, and an opportunity for free expression, religious piety, and individual advancement. Mter World War II, it had been far from certain that democratic capitalism would have the capacity to avoid another depression, sustain the peace, and satisfy the yearnings of Asians and Africans for autonomy and self-determination. The Cold War tested the capacity of two alternative systems of governance and political economy to deal with the challenges of a postcolonial and postindustrial age.
The overriding achievement of Cold War America was that its leaders usually remained patient and prudent in dealing with the Soviet Union. Although ideology and historical experience accentuated their sense of threat and tempted them to overreach when danger loomed or opportunity beckoned, they recognized that nuclear weapons made any armed great power conflict irrational. They realized they had to achieve their overriding strategic goal-a favorable correlation of power in Eurasia-without war. They were most successful at this during the early postwar years, when they calculated interests carefully, rebuilt Germany and Japan, helped to reconstruct Western Europe, forged the North Atlantic military alliance, and avoided embroilment in China's civil war. They did less well in the 1960s and 1970s, when they allowed fears of revolutionary nationalism and regional turbulence to overcome any reasoned assessment of national interest. Forever worried that their adversary would seek to blackmail them in a crisis, exploit opportunities in the third world, and shrink the world capitalist market, they built up and maintained a nuclear arsenal that exceeded U.S. needs, got sucked into conflicts (like the one in Vietnam) that drained U.S. resources, and supported authoritarians (like the Shah in Iran) and insurgents (like the Mujahedin in Afghanistan) who disdained U.S. ideals. These Cold War policies did not cripple America's ability to compete with a much weaker adversary-in the case of Mghanistan, American policy actually worked to America's shortterm advantage-but they inflicted misery on millions of people in Asia, Africa, and Central America who were having difficulty enough dealing with the problems of modernization and industrialization.
Like the men in the Kremlin, U.S. leaders recognized that the ultimate proof of the superiority of their system would be measured by its capacity to give security, opportunity, and a high standard of living to its people. Yet, unlike the men in the Kremlin, they had to contend with a well-established democratic culture and a host of democratic political processes. At critical moments during the Cold War, public opinion-real and imagined-and legislative intentions complicated the presidents' efforts to modulate conflict and reduce tensions. But in the final phase of the Cold War, in the middle and late 1980s, something like the opposite happened: Congress reined in defense and intelligence officials when it thought Reagan was overspending on defense, exaggerating the potential value of Star Wars, overreacting to a perceived communist threat in Central America, and in fact disobeying the law (as in the Iran-Contra scandal). Although Reagan fumed at this, his efforts to reach out to the Kremlin may well have been aided by the legislative constraints: his rearmament programs and interventionist proclivities had in fact been playing into the hands of Gorbachev's foes and making it harder for Gorbachev to reach his goals.
No one, then, was more responsible for ending the Cold War than the Soviet leader. Reagan was critically important, but Gorbachev was the indispensable agent of change. Without losing his political faith, he transcended the Marxist-Leninist ideological postulates that defined the nature of threat and opportunity in the international system. He used his authority to retract Soviet power in ways that his predecessors had considered unimaginable. He understood how nuclear weapons had transformed the traditional security imperatives of the Soviet Union and how economic shortcomings required the government to reconfigure Soviet priorities. His predecessors had occasionally recognized this, but their unchanged perception of threat and of opportunity, as well as their sense of mission, prevented them from shifting course and sticking to a new direction.
Gorbachev believed that external threats to the Soviet Union were small and external opportunities even smaller. Success, for him, depended on democratizing socialism and making it work more productively for Soviet citizens. He failed miserably in these efforts, but for him, a geopolitical world with a relaxation of tensions at its core would be the key to a successful reformation of socialism with the well-being of Soviet people as its centerpiece. This nexus brought together geopolitics and ideology in ways that could not have been imagined when the Allies met at the Elbe River in 1945, and when Stalin and Truman first pondered the risks and opportunities of the postwar world.
The End of the Cold War P.1
On 13 March 1985, Vice President George H. W. Bush, Secretary of State George Shultz, and Ambassador Arthur Hartman met the new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, in the Kremlin for the first time. Konstantin Chernenko, Gorbachev's predecessor, had just been laid to rest. Gorbachev thanked the Americans for paying their respects and then delivered a sweeping statement of his government's aims. "The USSR has no expansionist ambitions .... The USSR has never intended to fight the United States and does not have any intentions now. There has never been such madmen in the Soviet leadership, and there are none now. The Soviets respect your right to run your own country the way you see fit .... As to the question of which is the better system, this is something for history to judge."
Bush responded, and then asked Shultz to say a few words. "President Reagan told me to look you squarely in the eyes and tell you: 'Ronald Reagan believes that this is a very special moment in the history of mankind,' " the secretary of state said to Gorbachev. "You are starting your term as general secretary. Ronald Reagan is starting his second term as president .... President Reagan is ready to work with you." He invites you "to visit the United States at the earliest convenient time .... If important agreements can be found, the sooner the better."
Gorbachev then said: "this is a unique moment; I am ready to return Soviet-U.S. relations to a normal channel. It is necessary to know each other, to find time to discuss outstanding problems, and to seek ways to bring the two countries closer together." 1
For four years President Ronald Reagan had been seeking a negotiating partner in the Kremlin. Few suspected this was the case because his sharp rhetoric, ideological convictions, and defense buildup had made him appear as the coldest of cold warriors. During the 1970s, long before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, he had been one of the harshest critics of detente. He had assailed the second strategic arms limitation treaty negotiated by President Carter and denounced Soviet adventurism in the third world. But he was not simply hostile to Soviet conduct. He detested the Soviet system. "When a disease like communism hangs on as it has for half a century or more," he wrote in notes prepared for a radio broadcast in 1975, "it's good now and then, to be reminded of just how vicious it really is .... Communism is neither an edonomic or a political system-it is a form of insanity-a temporary aberration which will one day disappear from the earth because it is contrary to human nature. "2
Nor was this rhetoric reserved simply for the campaign trail. In his first press conference as president of the United States, he was asked about the long-range intentions of the Soviet Union. Its goals, he said, were well known: "the promotion of world revolution and a one-world Socialist or Communist state." And to this end, Reagan went on, "they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat."3 The communists believed in "treachery, deceit, destruction, & bloodshed."4 They denied the existence of God and the sanctity of human life. They vitiated the human spirit. "Let us be aware," Reagan said in one of his most famous speeches as president, "that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the Earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world."5
Although Ronald Reagan hated communism, he did not fear it, not nearly as much as many of his predecessors. He was supremely confident of the superiority of American values and of the American way of life. "The West won't contain communism," he told the graduating students at the University of Notre Dame on 17 May 1981, "it will transcend communism."6 His adversaries in the Kremlin might trumpet its inevitable victory, but Ronald Reagan saw a different reality. Speaking to the British parliament in June 1982, he rephrased Winston Churchill's 1946 iron curtain speech: "From Stettin on the Baltic to Varna on the Black Sea, the regimes planted by totalitarianism have had more than 30 years to establish their legitimacy. But none-not one regime-has yet been able to risk free elections. Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root."7
The tide of history was moving in a direction that belied the beliefs of Marxist-Leninists. "Democracy is not a fragile flower," Reagan declared, nor was capitalism a decaying system. "We are witnessing today," he said in 1982, "a great revolutionary crisis, a crisis where the demands of the economic order are conflicting directly with those of the political order. But the crisis is happening not in the free, non-Marxist West, but in the home of MarxismLeninism, the Soviet Union. It is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history by denying human freedom and human dignity to its citizens."8
There were new dynamics in the international system. The era of decolonization was over, having expired with the breakup of the Portuguese empire in the 1970s. No longer could the Soviet Union exploit the evils of Western imperialism or present itself as the embodiment of a successful model of development. Revolutionary nationalists were no longer flocking to Moscow to learn the secrets of economic modernization and technological innovation. The Soviet economy was sputtering, the Chinese communist economy was being reimagined, and those of Eastern Europe, deeply indebted to Western creditors, were floundering. Outraged by the rising cost of meat, Polish workers went on strike in the summer of 1980 and demanded the right to form independent trade unions and to express themselves freely. Garnering widespread support among the Polish people, the Solidarity movement, as it was called, challenged the Communist Party's monopoly of power and demanded that the Polish government comply with the human rights provisions inscribed in the Helsinki Final Act. Although the movement was suppressed after the Kremlin threatened to intervene militarily and after the Polish government declared martial law in December 1982, Solidarity's resonance was considerable. "Around the world, the democratic revolution is gathering new strength," Reagan declared. Humankind was rejecting "the arbitrary power of the state." Everywhere, peoples were refusing to "subordinate the rights of the individual to the superstate"; everywhere, they were recognizing that "collectivism stifles all the best human impulses." If given the choice, Reagan predicted, people would always choose democracy over dictatorship. They would "leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history," as they had left other tyrannies that had stifled the freedom and muzzled the voice of the people.9
Reagan's confidence in the superior appeal of Western values meant that he welcomed peaceful competition with the Kremlin. He was not a warmonger, as so many of his critics claimed, but he believed sincerely in peace through strength, and even more sincerely in his capacity to deal with the Kremlin. Reagan's unique contribution to the end of the Cold War was not his ideological convictions, because they did not depart from those of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter, nor his conviction that the United States must negotiate with the Soviet Union from strength, a policy that Truman and Acheson had made axiomatic during the formative years of the Cold War and that Eisenhower and Dulles had perpetuated until the era of detente. What was unique about Reagan was his willingness to reach out to a leadership he abhorred, men whose values he detested; to appreciate the concerns of his adversary; and to learn from experience. What was unique about Reagan was his confidence in himself and his capacity to effectuate change. "We meant to change a nation," he said, "and instead, we changed a world." 10 Of course, this was made possible by time, circumstance, and the personal qualities and beliefs of the new man who ruled the Kremlin. But Reagan had his own gifts: personal charm, a core set of convictions, and optimism about himself and the way of life he represented.
It was no accident that Reagan entitled his autobiography An American Lzfe. For him, America was a special place, a city on a hill, because it gave all its citizens "the freedom to reach out and make our dreams come true." In America, individuals" could determine their own destiny; their ambition and work determine their fate in life." Every day was "Morning in America," Reagan's campaign theme in 1984, because every day every man and every woman could shape his or her destiny through hard work, self-discipline, entrepreneurship, and personal creativity. Reagan thought his mission in politics was to preserve the America of his imagination, the institutions and values that nurtured individual opportunity and personal freedom. He thought his own life embodied the American odyssey, from rags to riches, from obscurity to eminence. He loved his life story. He loved being president. His optimism was inbred, but the trajectory of his life proved, at least to himself, that the America of his imagination was the America of lived experience.11
ciHe wasn't a complicated man," said Nancy Reagan, his second wife, the person who knew him best. "He was a private man, but he was not a complicated one." He was also the most optimistic man she had ever known. "If he worries, you'd never know it. If he's anxious, he keeps it to himself. Depressed? He doesn't know the meaning of the word."12
The sources of Reagan's basic disposition are somewhat hard to fathom, but not inexplicable. He grew up in a poor, if not impoverished, family. His father was an unsuccessful shoe salesman, moving frequently from one small illinois town to another, with a brief stint in Chicago. He was also an alcoholic, periodically going through bouts of inebriation and fighting with Reagan's mother, who preached tolerance. 13
As a child, Reagan had a wandering existence until the family settled down in Dixon, illinois, when he was nine years old. He loved Dixon; it was "heaven"-a small community where people knew and cared for one another. Yet Reagan was not popular. "I was a little introverted," he recalled, "and probably a little slow in making really close friends."14 Ronnie was "a loner," Nancy explained in her memoir. "There's a wall around him. He lets me come closer than anyone else, but there are times when even I feel that barrier. " 15
Ronald Reagan's optimism, serenity, and patience were most clearly shaped by his mother. From his father he learned the "value of hard work and ambition, and maybe a little something about telling a story. From my mother, I learned the value of prayer, how to have dreams and believe I could make them come true."16 His mother, wrote Nancy Reagan, "was a very religious woman whose faith saw her through bad times. She was also an incredible optimist .... Ronnie once said, 'We were poor, but I never knew it.' "17
Reagan's mother told him that "everything in life happened for a purpose. She said all things were part of God's Plan, even the most disheartening setbacks, and in the end everything worked out for the best." She taught her boys not to let bad things get them down. "You stepped away from it, stepped over it, and moved on." 18 Those who knew him well knew that Reagan's faith ran deep. "Ronald Reagan believed that God had a plan for everything."19
Not many boys in Dixon went to college in those days. Reagan's father could not afford to pay tuition, but Dutch, as Reagan was known in his youth, followed his dream and enrolled in Eureka College, a small liberal arts institution affiliated with the Disciples of Christ, situated not far from his hometown. Reagan was able to secure a football scholarship and a part-time job. He preferred sports and acting to studying economics, his major.20
Reagan graduated in 1932, during the depths of the Great Depression. He struggled to find a job, as did all his contemporaries, and finally landed a position as a radio sports announcer in Des Moines, Iowa. He worked hard at perfecting his rhythm and delivery and enjoyed broadcasting college football and professional baseball games. When he began to vote, he voted Democratic, following his father's political loyalties. Dutch Reagan "idolized" FDR. He loved the president's fireside chats. Roosevelt's "strong, gentle, confident voice ... reassured us that we could lick any problem. "21
In the mid-1930s, Reagan went to southern California each year to report on the Chicago Cubs during spring training for the baseball season. In 1937, he used the opportunity to schedule a screen test at a Hollywood studio. The studio liked his voice, if not his looks, although he was a strong, tall, handsome man in splendid physical condition. He got a contract, began an acting career, and repossessed his birth name, Ronald. Within a couple of years, Ronald Reagan was a minor star, making popular movies and earning a very substantial income. He won no Academy Awards, but producers, directors, and actors liked him. He was modest, reliable, and hardworking. He had a great memory and learned his lines quickly. His career was flourishing when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. As a reserve officer, he was quickly assigned to active duty, but because of his terrible eyesight he was not shipped overseas and spent the war years making training films for the air force.22
After the war, Reagan resumed his film career and became active in the Screen Actors Guild. These were critical years in his political maturation. He was still "a New Dealer to the core," and joined a host of political organizations. Although he knew little about communism and almost nothing about the Soviet Union, he quickly became suspicious of communist sympathizers. When a labor dispute erupted in 1946 that threatened to shut down a number of studios, Reagan wanted to have the Screen Actors Guild mediate the tangled conflict, which involved producers as well as unions. "More than anything else, it was the Communists' attempted takeover of Hollywood ... that led me to accept the nomination as president of the Screen Actors Guild, and indirectly at least, set me on the road that would lead me into politics." Although his grasp of these events was less than perfect, they shaped his understanding of the postwar world. "Now I knew from firsthand experience how Communists used lies, deceit, violence, or any other tactic that suited them to advance the cause of Soviet expansionism. I knew from the experience of hand-to-hand combat [in Hollywood] that America faced no more insidious or evil threat than that of Communism. "23
In the late 1940s, Reagan's acting career floundered and his first marriage collapsed. Not long thereafter he met Nancy Davis, and they were married in March 1952. A few months later, he and Nancy took the train to Fulton, Missouri, where an old friend had arranged for Reagan to give the commencement address at tiny William Woods College. Reagan's speech, entitled "America the Beautiful," presaged much that he would be saying for the next forty years. He said that America was less a place than an idea. The idea "is nothing less than the inherent love of freedom in each one of us." America, he told the audience, '\vas set aside as a promised land." He exhorted the new graduates to join in the struggle against "totalitarian darkness" and urged them to ensure that "this land of ours is the last best hope of man on earth. "24
Soon thereafter, Reagan realized that his acting career was over. He could not get the roles he wanted, and he faced growing financial difficulties. He took a job as host of a new television drama series sponsored by the General Electric Corporation. The program was a great success in the early days of the new medium, and Reagan became a household presence in millions of homes every Sunday evening. He also went around the country delivering speeches for his new corporate employer.25
During the 1950s, Reagan's political beliefs shifted. He became a staunch foe of government regulation and opposed the progressive income tax, which in his view throttled business enterprise and personal initiative. He shifted parties, registered as a Republican, and in 1964 eagerly accepted the cochairmanship of Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign in California. His speaking was polished and effective. Toward the end of the campaign, some of Goldwater's leading backers asked Reagan to prepare a half-hour address to be presented on national television the week before the election.26
"The Speech," as it became known, was nothing more than a compilation of the ideas that Reagan had been articulating for a decade. The American people, he warned, faced a stark choice between individual freedom and creeping totalitarianism as embodied in Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs. "You and I have a rendezvous with destiny," he concluded. "We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness."27
Among Republican conservatives, the speech was a smashing success and it transformed Reagan's life. He was encouraged to run for governor of California, and in November 1966 he defeated the incumbent, Pat Brown. He served two terms in Sacramento and in 1976 challenged President Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination. Although he lost in a very close contest, he spent the next four years delivering speeches and perfecting his messages for a run against Jimmy Carter in 1980.
Reagan was one of the oldest men ever to campaign for the presidency, but his message was one of spiritual renewal. America's greatest years lay in the future, he said. He assailed Carter's talk of malaise. The American people were not to blame for the country's difficulties, for they were optimistic, energetic, innovative, and resilient. The Democrats, not the American people, were the source of the problem. For decades, Democrats had been taxing and spending the American people's money, triggering huge deficits, causing runaway inflation, and eroding personal incentives to work and invest. The Democrats' arms negotiations and defense programs had tied America's hands and eroded American power. "We had to recapture our dreams, our pride in ourselves and our country, and regain that unique sense of destiny and optimism that had always made America different from any other country in the world." Vote for Reagan and there would be a new "morning in America."28
Reagan won a decisive victory over Carter in November 1980, and the Republicans captured a majority in the Senate for the first time since 1954, although the Democrats still controlled the House of Representatives. In his inaugural address on 20 January 1981, Reagan reemphasized his most fundamental convictions: "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem .... It is time to reawaken this industrial giant, to get government back within its means, and to lighten our punitive tax burden." Under his leadership, the United States would recapture its greatness. "We have every right to dream heroic dreams," he told the American people. Adversaries should take heed: "our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will .... We are a nation under God, and I believe God intended us to be free. "29
Reagan's priorities were clear: to restore the nation's economic vitality and augment its military strength. His staff worked feverishly to push through Congress his program of tax and spending cuts. The defense budget skyrocketed-12 percent in fiscal year 1981, and 15 percent in 1982. Military officials envisioned spending $2.7 trillion during the 1980s. Increased funds were allocated for training, for preparedness, for command and communications, for the B-1 bomber, for one hundred MX intercontinental ballistic missiles, for fifteen Trident submarines, and for research and development of the B-2 Stealth bomber and the Trident II missile.30
Reagan's most fundamental axiom on national security policy was that the United States must negotiate from strength. The Soviets, he believed, respected "only strength." The United States had been negotiating with its hands tied behind its back. Greatly distorting what had happened during the 1970s, he claimed that Washington had unilaterally disarmed, providing little incentive for the Kremlin to negotiate in good faith. "[W]e're going to be far more successful," Reagan declared, "if [the] adversary knows that the alternative is a buildup. "31
Critical to Reagan's way of thinking was his conviction that the Soviet system was in rotten shape. State Department officials, national security advisers, and intelligence analysts conveyed abundant information about Soviet economic problems, popular malaise, and ethnic discontent. "The Soviet people are no longer confident that their standard of living will continue to improve," reported the CIA's directorate of intelligence. "Popular dissatisfaction and cynicism seem to be growing." Corruption was rampant. Economic productivity was declining. Ethnic discontent was mounting.32 None of this surprised President Reagan. Among his core beliefs was the inefficiency of a command economy, and its fundamental incapacity to satisfy the aspirations of people who wanted a better way of life. "We could have an unexpected ally," he said as early as 1977, "if Ivan is becoming discontented enough to start talking back." 33
Reagan wanted to squeeze the Soviet Union. The United States would do whatever was necessary to stay ahead of the Kremlin in the arms race, he insisted. "[W] e could outspend them forever." The men in the Kremlin knew "that if we turned our full industrial might into an arms race, they cannot keep pace with US."34
negotiate from strength, however, meant a willingness to talk. Reagan grasped
this fundamental reality and wanted to engage the Soviets in a dialogue:
I wanted to let them know that we realized the nuclear standoff was futile and dangerous and that we had no designs on their territories .... Somewhere in the Kremlin, I thought, there had to be people who realized that the pair of us standing there like two cowboys with guns pointed at each other's heads posed a lethal risk to the survival of the Communist world as well as the free world. Someone in the Kremlin had to realize that in arming themselves to the teeth, they were aggravating the desperate economic problems in the Soviet Union, which were the greatest evidence of the failure of Communism.35
After Reagan was badly wounded in an assassination attempt on 30 March 1981, he lay in bed mulling over these issues. "Perhaps having come so close to death made me feel I should do whatever I could in the years God had given me to reduce the threat of nuclear war; perhaps there was a reason I had been spared. "36 He told Secretary of State Alexander Haig that he wanted to lift the grain embargo and write a personal letter to Brezhnev. Haig opposed both ideas, which agitated Reagan, who desired to engage with the Soviet leader "as a human being." In his typically compromising way, the president allowed Haig to write Brezhnev a formal letter that represented the tough-minded attitude of the administration, but Reagan stubbornly went ahead with his own letter, which he wrote in longhand to underscore its authenticity.37
In this letter, the president emphasized the hopes the Soviet leader had kindled when Brezhnev first met President Richard Nixon, a decade earlier. "Those meetings had captured the imagination of all the world." At the time, Reagan reminded Brezhnev, they had met one another at Nixon's home in San Clemente. "You took my hand in both of yours and assured me ... that you were dedicated with all your heart and mind to fulfilling those hopes and dreams." The peoples of the world, Reagan continued, still retained those dreams. Regardless of race and ethnicity, they shared similar aspirations for themselves and their children:
wanted the dignity of having some control over their individual destiny. They
wanted to work at the craft or trade of their own choosing and to be fairly
rewarded. They wanted to raise their families in peace. . . . Governments exist
for their convenience, not the other way around .... Is it possible that we
have permitted ideology, political and economic philosophies and governmental
policies to keep us from considering the very real, everyday problems of
Reagan concluded by saying he hoped that lifting the grain embargo would catalyze "meaningful and constructive dialogue which will assist us in fulfilling our joint obligation to find lasting peace. "38
Nothing came of this letter, partly because Brezhnev replied coolly and was by then physically and mentally incapable of taking any new initiative, partly because Reagan did not know how to move his administration forward. His national security team had been in disarray from the moment he took office, and things got worse before they got better. The president's style of decision making, his aloofness, his aversion to conflict, his disdain for facts and detail, and his penchant for ideological verbiage contributed greatly to the disorder. Those who knew him best, whether admirers or detractors, agreed on the way he operated. "He made no demands, and gave almost no instructions," explained Martin Anderson, a longtime admirer and one of Reagan's most influential economic advisers. "Essentially, he just responded to whatever was brought to his attention and said yes or no, or I'll think about it." According to David Stockman, the president's first budget tsar, Reagan "gave no orders; no commands; asked for no information; expressed no urgency." At some meetings of the National Security Council, according to Richard Pipes, the Soviet expert who served on the NSC staff, the president seemed "really lost, out of his depth, uncomfortable." "Unlike some of his predecessors," wrote Haig, "Reagan made no decisions on the spot, and gave little indication of his own position on the issues."39
His advisers on foreign and defense policy feuded, sometimes for personal reasons, sometimes because of institutional rivalries, and sometimes over policy. Secretary of State Haig, a former general and NATO commander, believed he was entitled to shape policy as he pleased. He was never on intimate terms with the president. Reagan's closest advisers and friends in the White House-Edwin Meese, Michael Deaver, and James Bakerdisliked Haig, and he reciprocated their feelings. Haig and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, an old associate of Reagan's, also were at odds, the strife being as much departmental rivalry as personal antipathy. Theoretically, the president's national security adviser, Richard Allen, should have been able to ease these feuds, but he lacked both intellectual stature and a personal tie to the president-indeed, he did not even have direct access to him. Moreover, Allen had staffed the National Security Council with many hard-line anticommunists who regarded State Department officials with disdain, if not contempt. "The entire first year and a half of the administration passed in an atmosphere of unremitting tension between the NSC and State," wrote Pipes.40
The feuding bureaucracies took more than a year to produce a strategy statement for the new administration. On 20 May 1982, President Reagan approved it. Times were treacherous, e document stressed:
growing scarcity of resources, such as oil, increasing terrorism, the dangers
of nuclear proliferation, uncertainties in Soviet political succession,
reticence on the part of a number of Western countries, and the growing
assertiveness of Soviet foreign policy all contribute to the unstable
international environment. For these reasons, the decade of the eighties will
likely pose the greatest challenge to our survival and well-being since World
But there was no reason to despair. The Soviet Union had significant vulnerabilities. "The economies and the social systems of the Soviet Union and of most Soviet allies continue to exhibit serious structural weaknesses. The appeal of communist ideologies appears to be decreasing throughout much of the world, including the Soviet bloc itself." Soviet military difficulties in Mghanistan after their intervention in December 1979 demonstrated the limits of the Kremlin's power-projection capabilities. Unrest in Poland revealed weaknesses in the Warsaw Pact. Inside the Soviet Union, the growth of non-Russian nationalities posed a latent threat to "the dominant Russian population. "
The strategy statement also stipulated that the administration's policy should be designed to nurture the economic well-being of the nation, strengthen its industrial and technological base, and promote access to foreign markets and resources. The United States should maintain and strengthen alliances and "wherever possible" encourage and reinforce "freedom, the rule of law, economic development and national independence throughout the world." With regard to the Soviet Union, the United States had to be able to deter attack and prevail in war. The strategy statement explained that the Soviet leaders did not want war but would be inclined to engage in aggressive risk-taking in light of their mounting military capabilities, believing they could intimidate or blackmail the United States. The aim should be to "neutralize" these efforts and "to contain and reverse the expansion of Soviet control and military presence throughout the world, and to increase the costs of Soviet support of proxy, terrorist, and subversive forces."42
William Clark, an old friend of Reagan's and perhaps his closest confidant other than his wife, claimed that the president focused much attention on this document.43 On 1 January 1982, the president had made Clark his national security adviser when a minor scandal discredited Allen. Clark was a virulent anticommunist but knew little about international affairs. His task was to improve communication among the departments and with the White House. Like many other Reagan advisers, he believed this goal could be achieved if Haig were removed as secretary of state. In June 1982, Reagan, who loathed controversy among his advisers and hated firing anybody, dismissed Haig and appointed George Shultz as secretary of state. A man of great ability and experience in business, government, and the academy, Shultz had been a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, served as secretary of labor and secretary of the treasury in the Nixon administration, and was currently president of the Bechtel Corporation.44
But Shultz's arrival did not ease the difficulties besetting the national security process. He immediately sensed that "a cult of secrecy verging on deception had taken root in the White House and NSC staffs." He agreed with all the basic Reagan doctrines. The challenge, in Shultz's view, was "to use freedom and open markets as the organizing principles for economic and political development, and to do so long enough to allow communism's failures to be fully recognized and to play themselves out." But Shultz also believed that the United States should negotiate with the Soviet Union to nurture a more constructive relationship. He knew the president shared this view, but was convinced that Clark, Weinberger, CIA director William Casey, and their staffs were obstructing implementation of the president's wishes.45
Shultz thought that he alone among Reagan's top advisers actually had experience dealing with the Soviets. As secretary of the treasury, he had conducted extensive trade talks with Nikolai Patolichev, then Soviet minister of foreign trade, a hardened old communist who during World War II had been in charge of tank production. On a trip to Moscow in 1973, Patolichev had taken Shultz to a Leningrad cemetery where more than a million dead soldiers lay buried. Shultz and Patolichev walked solemnly among the graves as Patolichev vividly described the fighting around Leningrad. The experience left an indelible impression on Shultz:
learned something of the human dimension to the Soviet Union. I learned that
World War II-the Great Patriotic War against fascism, the Soviets called it-was
a matter of deep significance to them. I also learned that the Soviets were
tough ne~tiators but that you could negotiate successfully with them. In my
experience, they did their homework and had skill and patience and staying
power. I respected them not only as able negotiators but as people who could
make a deal and stick to it .... Their willingness to engage seriously would
depend entirely on how they perceived their interests. Such occasions would
come, I felt, when the Soviets concluded that we were not only strong and
determined but also willing to make agreements that were mutually
Bill Clark's NSC staff did not see things in quite this way. Richard Pipes and his colleagues labored during 1982 on a new document more precisely defining American policy toward the Soviet Union. NSDD-75, "U.S. Relations with the USSR," specified that the Reagan administration would seek to achieve three broad objectives: "to contain and over time reverse Soviet expansionism"; to promote, "within the narrow limits available to us, the process of change in the Soviet Union toward a more pluralistic political and economic system"; and "to engage the Soviet Union in negotiations ... consistent with the principle of strict reciprocity and mutual interest. "47 Clark explained to Reagan that what was distinctive about the document was the second goal, "namely encouraging antitotalitarian changes within the USSR."48 Nothing transformative was expected in the short term. Neither Pipes nor Clark believed this was a strategy to dismantle communism in the Soviet Union. Although their expectations were modest, they were nonetheless significant: "the prospect for major systemic change in the next few years is relatively low, [but] the likelihood of policy shifts is much higher, and some of these could set the scene for broader changes in the system over the long term."49
What separated Clark and Pipes from Shultz was their relative indifference to the importance of negotiations. When Brezhnev died in November 1982, and Yuri Andropov succeeded him, Shultz warned Reagan that the new Soviet leader would inject more dynamism into Soviet policy. "There is already evidence of greater foreign policy energy and sophistication under Andropov," Shultz wrote Reagan on 15 January 1983, "and the Soviets will clearly pe on the offensive." The United States needed to react with "strength, imagination, and energy." It needed to revitalize its economic and military capabilities, promote alliance cohesion, stabilize relations with China, compete briskly in the war of ideas, and mediate regional conflicts in the Middle East, Central America, and elsewhere. But to be successful, Shultz emphasized, America also needed to enter a dialogue with Andropov. The Soviet Union was not about to collapse nor lose its capacity to compete. "While recognizing the adversarial nature of our relationship with Moscow, we must not rule out the possibility that firm U.S. policies could help induce the kind of changes in Soviet behavior that would make an improvement in relations possible. "50
Reagan endorsed Shultz's policy, but he then proceeded to intensify his rhetorical and programmatic onslaught against the Kremlin. The president was angered by the declaration of martial law in Poland. He assailed the Soviets for aiding Castro, supporting the Sandinistas, indirectly fomenting insurrection in El Salvador, and escalating the fighting in Mghanistan. He denounced them for their arms buildup, religious persecution, restrictions on Jewish emigration, and violations of the Helsinki Agreement on human rights. Reagan's vitriol reached new heights in a speech he gave to evangelical Christians on 8 March 1983, when he called the Soviet Union an "evil empire." "Let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in totalitarian darkness," he said, "pray they will discover the joy of knowing God." "Religion," he believed, might "turn out to be the Soviets' Achilles heel. "51
Shultz shared the president's disgust with Kremlin policies, but he thought Reagan's rhetoric was getting out of hand. White House officials had not told him that the president would denounce the Soviet Union as an "evil empire," and Shultz felt that he was being excluded from the decisionmaking loop. He met with Reagan at the White House on 10 March determined to present a new approach and to persuade the president, who he believed had become a "prisoner of his own staff," to shift gears. Reagan, however, assured him that he supported Shultz's ideas, and he encouraged him to go ahead with his efforts to engage the Kremlin in a constructive dialogue.52
Reagan was no one's prisoner. He\possessed his own complex and protean ideas about the nation's security, however inept he was in thinking them through or finding the means to implement them. On 23 March, with little consultation with either his secretary of defense or his secretary of state, he announced his intention to launch a program "which holds the promise of changing the course of human history." He wanted to build a shield to protect the United States and its allies from incoming missiles with nuclear warheads, something he had been thinking about for several years. He knew it would take a long time, knew he needed to reassure allies and adversaries alike that this initiative would not endanger their security or contravene previous treaties. But the president firmly believed that relying on the doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD) to preserve peace was mad. It was also irresponsible, and a conventional wisdom whose time had passed. Purposefully avoiding discussion with advisers who he knew would oppose it, Reagan announced that he was initiating a "long-term research and development program" designed "to achieve our ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by strategic nuclear missiles. This could pave the way for arms control measures to eliminate the weapons themselves. We seek neither military superiority nor political advantage. Our only purpose ... is to search for ways to reduce the danger of nuclear war. "53
Reagan did not want his support of "Star Wars," as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) came to be called, to ratchet up the arms race or intensify Cold War tensions. He insisted that he would be willing to share the anticipated technology-space-based lasers, mirrors, particle beams, and kineticenergy weapons-with the Soviet leaders so that they, too, could gain reassurance.54 According to Jack Matlock, the experienced foreign service officer who at this time succeeded Pipes as the Soviet expert on the NSC staff, Reagan did not want to torpedo diplomatic negotiations with the Kremlin; he wanted to engage the new Soviet leadership. Matlock later recalled:
From the time I joined the NSC staff in 1983 my main duty [was] to devise a negotiating strategy for dealing with the Soviet Union. Many in his administration ... doubted that the Soviet leaders would conduct negotiations in good faith, but Reagan was an optimist. For all his distaste for the Soviet system, he nevertheless believed that it could change if subjected to sufficient l(ressure and his personal negotiating skill.55
1982 and 1983, Reagan repeated that he wanted to talk with Soviet leaders. He
was ready and willing to attend a summit conference with Andropov,
notwithstanding the Soviet leader's KGB background and aura of toughness. On
learning of Brezhnev's death, Reagan told a press conference:
"I want to underscore my intention to continue working to improve our relationship with the Soviet Union."56 The United States, he insisted, was accruing strength not to wage war, but to negotiate more effectively. We want "to discuss practical steps that could resolve problems." Talks would improve if the Soviets ended the bloodshed in Afghanistan and permitted reform in Poland, but "we do not insist that the Soviet Union abandon its standing as a superpower or its legitimate national interests. "57
Reagan exchanged letters with Andropov reiterating his desire to preserve the peace and eliminate the nuclear threat. "You and I share an enormous responsibility for the preservation of stability in the world. I believe we can fulfill that responsibility but to do so will require a more active level of exchange than we have heretofore been able to establish. We have much to talk about. . . . Historically, our predecessors have made better progress when communicating has been private and candid. If you wish to engage in such communication you will find me ready. I await your reply. "58
written responses were hopeful, but Soviet actions belied his words.59 On 1
September 1983, Soviet fighter planes shot down a Korean civilian airliner
wandering through Soviet airspace, killing 269 people. Reagan was
"outraged." Cutting short his summer vacation in California, he
returned to Washington on Labor Day weekend and wrote a speech conveying his
"unvarnished" feelings: the downing of the plane "was an act of
barbarism, born of a society which wantonly disregards individual rights and
the value of human life and seeks constantly to expand and dominate other
1. George P. Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1993),531-32.
2. Kiron K. Skinner, Annelise Anderson, and Marrin Anderson, eds., Reagan in His Own Hand (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001), 10-12.
3. "President's News Conference," 29 January 1981, Public Papers of the Presidents: Ronald Reagan (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1982),57 (hereinafter cited as PPP: Reagan, year, page).
4. Skinner, Anderson, and Anderson, Reagan in His Own Hand, 15.
5. "Remarks at the Annual Convention of the National Association of Evangelicals," 8 March 1983, PPP: Reagan, 1983,743.
6. "Address at Commencement Exercises," ihid., 1981,434.
7. "Address to Members of British Parliament," 8 Juoe 1982, ibid., 1982,743.
8. Ibid., 745.
9. Ibid., 746-47.
10. Skinner, Anderson, and Anderson, Reagan in His Own Hand, 4.
11. Ronald Reagan, An American Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990),28,22,27; also see Lou Cannon, President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime (New York: Public Affairs, 2000); Edmund Morris, Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan (New York: Random House, 1999); Richard Reeves, Prest~ dent Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005); John P. Diggins, Ronald Reagan: Fate, Freedom, and the Making of History (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2007).
12. Skinner, Anderson, and Anderson, Reagan in His Own Hand, xli; Nancy Reagan with William Novak, My Turn: The Memoirs of Nancy Reagan (New York: Random House, 1989), 104, 108.
13. Reagan, An American Life, 19-34.
14. Ibid., 31.
15. N. Reagan, My Turn, 106; Cannon, President Reagan, 172-95; Morris, Dutch, 61.
16. Reagan, An American Life, 22.
17. N. Reagan, My Turn, 107.
18. Reagan, An American Ltfe, 20--21.
19. Michael K. Deaver, A Different Drummer: My Thirty Years with Ronald Reagan (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 68; also see Paul Kengor, God and Ronald Reagan (New York: HarperCollins, 2004).
20. Reagan, An American Life, 44-61; Morris, Dutch, 64-75.
21. Reagan, An American Life, 66; also see Reagan to Ron Cochran, 12 May 1980, in Reagan: A Ltfe in Letters, ed. by Kiron K. Skinner, Annelise Anderson, and Martin Anderson (New York: The Free Press, 2003), 27-31.
22. Reagan, An American Ltfe, 75-104.
23. Ibid., 114-15; Cannon, President Reagan, 242-44.
24. Kengor, God and Ronald Reagan, 94-96.
25. Reagan, An American Life, 126-36; Paul Lettow, Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (New York: Random House, 2005), 10--18.
26. Reagan, An American Life, 129-30, 137-43; N. Reagan, My Turn, 124-31.
27. Reagan, An American Life, 141-43.
28. Ibtd., 219. "Morning in America" was the theme of the 1984 campaign, but it also captures the essence of Reagan's run for the presidency in 1980. See James 1. Patterson, Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 145-51.
29. "Inaugural Address," 20 January 1981, PPP: Reagan, 1981,3.
30. David A. Stockman, The Triumph of Politics: How the Reagan Revolution Failed (New York: Harper and Row, 1986), 108-109; Ronald E. Powaski, Return to Armageddon: The United States and the Nuclear Arms Race, 1981-1999 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 15; John M. Collins, U.S.-Soviet Military Balance, 1980--1985 (New York: Pergamon-Brassey's International Defense Publishers, 1985), 19--22; Christopher Simpson, National Security Directives of the Reagan and Bush Administrations: The Declarstfied History of u.s. Political & Military Policy, 1981-1991 (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1995),46-49.
31. "Address on the State of the Union," 26 January 1982, PPP: Reagan, 1982,78; "Interview with Walter Cronkite," 3 March 1981, ibid., 1981, 195; "President's News Conference," 19 January 1982, ibid., 1982,43; also see "Intetview with Skip Weber," 9 February 1982, ibtd., 151; Reagan to John Matzger, 11 May 1982, in Skinner, Anderson, and Anderson, A Life in Letters, 405; Reagan to Irving S. Schloss, 28 June 1982, ibid., 406-407.
32. CIA, Directorate of Intelligence, "Soviet Society in the 1980s: Problems and Prospects," December 1982, box 1, End of Cold War Collection, National Security Archive (NSA); CIA, Directorate of Intelligence, "Soviet Elite Concerns About Popular Discontent and Official Corruption," December 1982, ibid.; Robert M. Gates, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), 194-97.
33. Skinner, Anderson, and Anderson, Reagan in His Own Hand, 147; "Interview with the Editorial Board of the New York Post," 23 March 1982, PPP: Reagan, 1982,368; Reagan to Mrs. Jay Harris, 26 April 1982, in Skinner, Anderson, and Anderson, A Life in Letters, 402-403.
34. Reagan, An American Life, 267; Lettow, Reagan and Nuclear Weapons, 35.
35. Reagan, An American Life, 268; for signs of dialogue, also see Anatoly Dobrynin, In Confidence: Moscow's Ambassador to America's Six Cold War Presidents (New York: Random House, 1995), 490-93.
36. Reagan, An American Life, 269.
37. Ibid., 270-71; also see Skinner, Anderson, and Anderson, A Life in Letters, 737-41.
38. Reagan, An American Life, 272-73. His real reason for lifting the grain embargo was because "no other free world nations would join us and we were therefore hurting our own farmers." Reagan to Franciszek Lachowicz, 9 December 1982, in Skinner, Anderson, and Anderson, A Life in Letters, 377-78.
39. Martin Anderson, Revolution: The Reagan Legacy (Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1990), 289-90; Stockman, Triumph of Politics, 76; Richard Pipes, Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2003), 166; Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Caveat: Realism, Reagan, and Foreign Policy (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1984),77.
40. Pipes, Vixi, 153; Robert C. McFarlane and Zophia Smardz, Special Trust (New York: Cadell and Davies, 1994), 171-83; Haig, Caveat, 80-86,311-15.
41. National Securiry Decision Directive (NSDD) 32, "U.S. National Securiry Strategy," 20 May 1982, NSDD 32, Executive Secretariat, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library (RRPL).
43. Lettow, Reagan and Nuclear Weapons, 61-70.
44. For dismissal ofHaig and appointtnent of Shultz, see Haig, Caveat, 311-15; Reagan, An American Life, 255-56, 360-62; Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, 3-15.
45. Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, 12, 10 (for quotations), also 162--67,268-70,309-22.
46. Ibid., 119.
47. NSDD 75, "U.S. Relations with the USSR," 17 January 1983, in Simpson, National Security Directives, 255--63; also see materials regarding NSDD 75, in box 91644, William Clark Papers, RRPL.
48. Clark to Reagan, 16 December 1982, NSDD 75, Executive Secretariat, RRPL.
49. "Response to NSSD 11-82: U.S. Relations with the USSR," pp. 13-14,6 December 1982, ibid.; Lettow, Reagan and Nuclear Weapons, 75-79.
50. Shultz to Reagan, 19 January 1983, box 1, End of Cold War Collection, NSA.
51. "Remarks at the Annual Convention of the National Association of Evangelicals," 8 March 1983, PPP: Reagan, 1983,359--64; Reagan to John O. Koehler, 9 July 1981, in Skinner, Anderson, and Anderson, A Life in Letters, 375; Reagan to Suzanne Massie, 15 February 1984, ibid., 379; also see Dobrynin, In Confidence, 517-20; Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, 159-71.
52. Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, 267-71; Clark to Shultz, 26 May 1983, box 91644, Clark Papers, RRPL.
53. Lettow, Reagan and Nuclear Weapons, 81-121, with quotations from Reagan's speech on 111-12; John L. Gaddis, Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of American National Security During the Cold War, revised and expanded ed. (New York: Oxford Universiry Press, 2005), 356-59.
54. Lettow, Reagan and Nuclear Weapons, 117-21.
55. Jack F. Matlock, Jr., Autopsy of an Empire: The American Ambassador's Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union (New York: Random House, 1995), 77; Lettow, Reagan and Nuclear Weapons, 124-26; for an overall critique of Reagan and Star Wars, see Frances Fitzgerald, Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000).
56. "President's News Conference," 11 November 1982, PPP: Reagan, 1982, 1450.
57. "Radio Address," 8 January 1983, ibid., 1983,23-25.
58. Reagan to Yuri Andropov, 11 July 1983, Executive Secretariat, National Security Council (NSC), Head of State, USSR, box 38-39, RRPL; Reagan, An American Life, 576-82.
59. Andropov to Reagan, 27 August 1983, Executive Secretariat, NSC, Head of State, USSR, box 38-39; Shultz to Reagan, 29 August 1983, ibid.
60. Reagan, An American Life, 584.