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"How Reagan Won the Cold War" Topic

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doc mcb01 Dec 2005 1:32 p.m. PST

Okay, we'll try this.

Carl Bernstein called it "The Holy Alliance" (TIME Magazine, Feb 24, 1992), the amazingly successful partnership between Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan that accelerated, if not caused, the fall of Communism and led to the end of the Cold War. Reagan and the Polish-born Pope shared a spiritual unity, a common animosity toward communism, and an unshakeable commitment to bring down the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.
President Reagan personally met with the Pope on three occasions—twice in Rome and once in Miami—but they maintained a vigorous exchange of ideas and plans aimed at ending, first and foremost, Moscow's domination of Poland, and ultimately, bringing about the collapse of the Soviet empire. The practical implementation of these plans was left to the President's and the Pope's principal aides. On the U.S. side that included Secretary of State Alexander Haig, Deputy Secretary and later National Security Advisor Bill Clark, and, especially, CIA Director Bill Casey, all strong Catholics. On the Vatican side these operations were coordinated principally by the Holy See's "Secretary of State", Agostino Cardinal Casaroli.
Pope John Paul himself caused the most serious crack in the Soviet Union's control over East Europe in 1979. His 9-day pilgrimage to his homeland drew enormous and enthusiastic crowds, marking, in George Will's words, "a national epiphany, a thunderous realization that Poland was of one mind" in rejecting the atheism of communism and restoring Polish national identity.
In the face of growing success by Lech Walesa and the Solidarity movement, the Polish government of Marshall Jaruzelski tried to salvage its authority by imposing martial law in 1981. That drastic measure only intensified American and Papal resolve to break the back of the empire. Washington provided extensive economic, communications, and organizational support to Solidarity, much of it distributed through Catholic Church networks. Ironically, the Reagan Administration also worked closely with two unusual allies in this cause, the Socialist International and the AFL-CIO (the former very anti-communist, the latter motivated to assist Solidarity).
Covert aid to Hungary and Czechoslovakia, as well as Poland, was accelerated. Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty broadcasts were increased and became more direct and bold in encouraging resistance, and a plan to economically isolate the Soviet Union was developed. The twin pillars of the effort to bring about the economic collapse of the USSR were an accelerated defense buildup—propelled by the expectation that the Soviets could not keep pace—and a determined effort to deny Moscow access to advanced Western technology.
President Reagan valued his contacts with John Paul II, and held the Pontiff in great esteem. The meetings with the Pope included a number of advisors on both sides, but as was the practice with other leaders such as Margaret Thatcher and Helmut Kohl, Reagan and John Paul also conferred "one on one". A major difference was that the Pope preferred not to have any of us aides present, even as notetakers, in these private sessions. The President always emerged from these meetings animated and enthusiastic—clearly they shared a common vision and hope for the future of mankind. (These discussions were not completely free of friction, of course—the Pope and the President had different takes on the global role of capitalism and what needed to be done in the Third World).
Pope John Paul returned to Poland in triumph in 1987, hailed by millions, and the cracks in the monolith further deepened. Under growing popular pressure, Soviet President Gorbachev finally conceded that Solidarity would be a full and legitimate partner in governing the country. In December of 1990 Lech Walesa became the President of Poland and two years later the Soviet Union itself was dissolved. The alliance and partnership between President Reagan and Pope John Paul II was a crucial element in bringing about this amazing change.

Personal logo Condottiere Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2005 1:34 p.m. PST

Reagan did not win the cold war.

Better check the facts there.

SNOWMAN returns01 Dec 2005 1:39 p.m. PST

Mr Doc Mcb, no use in trying this. As they say, 'don't try and teach a pig to sing, it will waste your time and annoy the pig.'

See if it's not on NPR or some other left of center blog site, it simply did not happen.

Personal logo Condottiere Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2005 1:40 p.m. PST

'We all lost'

But if he had warm, appreciative words for Reagan, Gorbachev brusquely dismissed the suggestion that Reagan had intimidated either him or the Soviet Union, or forced them to make concessions. Was it accurate to say that Reagan won the Cold War?

"That's not serious," Gorbachev said, using the same words several times. "I think we all lost the Cold War, particularly the Soviet Union. We each lost $10 USD trillion," he said, referring to the money Russians and Americans spent on an arms race that lasted more than four decades. "We only won when the Cold War ended."

By Gorbachev's account, it was his early successes on the world stage that convinced the Americans that they had to deal with him and to match his fervor for arms control and other agreements that could reduce East-West tensions. "We had an intelligence report from Washington in 1987," he said, "reporting on a meeting of the National Security Council." Senior U.S. officials had concluded that Gorbachev's "growing credibility and prestige did not serve the interests of the United States" and had to be countered. A desire in Washington not to let him make too good an impression on the world did more to promote subsequent Soviet-American agreements than any American intimidation, he said. "They wanted to look good in terms of making peace and achieving arms control," he said of the Reagan administration.

The changes he wrought in the Soviet Union, from ending much of the official censorship to sweeping political and economic reforms, were undertaken not because of any foreign pressure or concern, Gorbachev said, but because Russia was dying under the weight of the Stalinist system. "The country was being stifled by the lack of freedom," he said. "We were increasingly behind the West, which . . . was achieving a new technological era, a new kind of productivity. . . . And I was ashamed for my country — perhaps the country with the richest resources on Earth, and we couldn't provide toothpaste for our people."

Inmate 92882901 Dec 2005 1:41 p.m. PST

So, Doc, are you saying that presidents before Reagan contributed nothing to the ending of the Cold War?

Personal logo Condottiere Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2005 1:42 p.m. PST

Resorting to calling me names Snowman? How mature.

doc mcb01 Dec 2005 1:43 p.m. PST

James, I am saying what I am saying, which isn't that.

Here's a bit more:

Victory: The Reagan Administration's Secret Strategy That Hastened the Collapse of the Soviet Union (Paperback)
by Peter Schweizer

From Publishers Weekly
Beginning in 1982, according to the author, then President Ronald Reagan and his senior advisers mapped out a systematic strategy to hasten the demise of the Soviet Union by attacking its fundamental economic and political weaknesses. In a convincing, startling expose that reads like a spy thriller, Schweizer ( Friendly Spies ) draws on interviews with Caspar Weinberger, George Shultz, KGB generals, Politburo members, Reagan advisers and others to show how the Reagan administration used covert operations, hidden diplomacy, military build-up and policy maneuvers to exacerbate the Soviet crisis in natural resources, sow political discord and weaken the Soviet empire. The Reagan strategy, as revealed here, included restricting Soviet access to Western credit and technology, covert financial and logistical support to Poland's Solidarity movement and to the Czech underground, a campaign to slash Soviet hard currency earnings by driving down the price of oil with Saudi cooperation, and substantial covert aid to the Afghan resistance fighting the Soviet invasion.

From Library Journal
To exhaust the Soviet economy, the Reagan administration tightened technology export controls, launched SDI, funded Afghan resisters, and induced the Saudis to keep oil prices low. The unfolding of this not-so-secret strategy, in which CIA director William Casey took a leading role, is admiringly recounted by the author of Friendly Spies (Atlantic Monthly, 1993) with "re-created" dialogs and homey details of Casey's secret meetings with friendly despots like Pakistan's General Zia and the Saudi royal family. Specifics of the CIA's technology disinformation program and of its relationships with the Vatican, Solidarity, and the Voice of America make interesting reading. Otherwise, there's little new here other than the notion that Casey's maneuvers were key to the demise of the Soviet empire, which, as Schweitzer admits, was already in deep economic trouble by the end of the Carter administration. For general readers with a taste for tabloid history-Robert Decker, Palo Alto, Cal.

A reader review (Amazon)

Once in awhile a book comes along that has that special quality of illuminating a real world mystery. Robert Caro's biography of Johnson and Albert Speer's memoir are two such works. Peter Schweizer's Victory is another.
For years I wondered, as I read news accounts and histories, why no one had a logical explanation for why oil prices had dropped so dramatically in 1985, when just a couple years earlier pundits were saying the sky was the limit for oil. And why, shortly thereafter, did the Eastern Bloc begin to crumble, soon to be followed by the Soviet Union itself? Then why did the Bush Administration see fit to conduct a war to liberate Kuwait and protect Saudi Arabia? And were all these momentous events related? The answer is yes. Victory describes clearly how they all were indeed closely related.
King Fahd of Saudi Arabia was worried that he would be overthrown as the Shah of Iran had been, either by Muslim extremists, or by Soviet backed revolutionaries. At the same time, the Reagan Administration was interested in the economic strangulation of the Soviet Union. The source of most of the USSR's hard currency was the sale of its oil on international markets. So a deal was struck.. The US would guarantee the security of the Saudi monarchy with AWACS jets and Stinger missiles and, ultimately, US armed forces. In return, Saudi Arabia would flood the market with oil, driving the price for a barrel of crude from $35 USD down to $10. USD
With its oil income cut by 70%, Moscow could no longer buy the technology it needed to keep pace in the arms race, let alone dole out largesse to Poland or East Germany. And when Iraq invaded Saudi Arabia's tiny neighbor Kuwait, it was time for the US to uphold its part of the bargain.
Victory aptly describes this and other maneuverings to win the Cold War, such as the support of the mujahedin in Afghanistan and of the Solidarity movement in Poland. It is based largely on interviews with such key players as Caspar Weinberger, Robert MacFarlane, George Schultz, Richard Pipes, Herb Meyer, and Richard Allen, so that it provides an almost palpable sense of being in the White House as the strategy was crafted. It effectively gives the lie to those facile commentators in the media who claim the Soviet Union fell of its own weight. It didn't. It was pushed.

SNOWMAN returns01 Dec 2005 2:13 p.m. PST

Calling you names Mr John?

NPR?…Blog?……singing pig?

Personal logo Condottiere Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2005 2:22 p.m. PST

You realize that Peter Schweizer is a fellow at the Hoover Institute, which means that his approach to the subject is bound to be rather biased.

doc mcb01 Dec 2005 2:29 p.m. PST

NO! Really? Biased?!? Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear . . . .

Personal logo Condottiere Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2005 2:31 p.m. PST

I would like (for once) to see something written by someone taking a truly objective approach to this topic.

More banging on the table McB?

SNOWMAN returns01 Dec 2005 2:33 p.m. PST


50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick01 Dec 2005 2:35 p.m. PST

Albert Speer's memoirs have a "special illuminating quality" ?? My God! This is why I tell my students they can't use Amazon reviews. (I guess nobody told this guy that Speer's memoirs have been totally shredded 15+ years ago as mostly lies.)


By 1981, the Soviet Union was in deep trouble. Yuri Andropov knew this, and began a process of trying to figure out what to do about – a process that was interrupted by his premature death, but which morphed and re-appeared under Gorbachev as "Perestroika." By 1985, a majority of the Politburo was willing to face the facts:

* Real Soviet economic growth had stopped in the mid-1970s. Since then, they'd been making the figures up. (Ditto for the satellite states. Charles' Maier's excellent book "Dissolution" details their downward economic spiral very well.)

* The USSR had, since the mid-1970s, been experiencing an increase in infant mortality and a decrease in the average male life span. (It actually decreased to 54 (!) by the time Gorbachev came to power.)

* Their reckless disregard of their environment was now haunting them, as rivers ran with industrial sludge, cancer was rising everywhere, probably linked to faulty nuclear safety, which was so dramatically illustrated at Chernobyl. (There is an excellent book on how this affected the rise of the Solidarity movement, written a couple of years ago by Blake Conway – I forget the title. In short, he illustrates how people with no connection to Solidarity were nonetheless furious by the deterioration of the Polish environment and health-safety.)

* The invention of the PC and all that it entailed had started the West on a new trajectory of development that the communist world couldn't possibly hope to match, particularly as the new technology depended upon a free exchange of information. In the 1980s, communist regimes in Eastern Europe actually began to steal Japanese PC technology, bring them back to the East and tried to copy them, with no success. (I've seen some of these knock-offs in the DDR museum in East Berlin. They're pretty funny.)

* The total failure of the Soviet Union to develop a consumer economy worthy of the name had, by the 1970s, already created a broad black market in all the communist states. Corruption was widespread, faith in the system virtually nonexistant. The people were ripe for change, as Kendrick Smith so brilliantly depicted in "The Russians." When Gorby began to lift restrictions on travel and communication, Easterners got an eyeful of all the glitter the West had to offer, and that was all she wrote.

Now: was Ronald Reagan involved? I have no doubt that the Reagan administration did things to undermine the Soviet system, just as every other US administration had done (although nowhere nearly as much as Eisenhower or Kennedy.)

But giving Reagan credit for "defeating Communism" is an absurd bit of selective revisionism.

doc mcb01 Dec 2005 2:35 p.m. PST

Objective meaning he agrees with you?

doc mcb01 Dec 2005 2:41 p.m. PST

Sure, the USSR was in deep economic trouble. But very few in the West thought so or were prepared to act on that belief. Reagan was one of the few.

Obviously the fall of Communism was complex and had many causes. Besides Reagan, I'd give lots of credit (in the 80's) to Pope John Paul II, to Walesa, to Maggie Thatcher. In the fifty years of the Cold War key decisions or key concepts and arguments were made by Truman and Churchill, the American labor movement, Solzynitsyn, and others.

doc mcb01 Dec 2005 2:46 p.m. PST

Now, now, Sam, I'm sure we all understand about the subjective nature of reviews, and certainly of Amazon reviews. The reason for posting them was that I can't post the book, and no one would want to take time to read it if I could, so I post a few reviews to give everyone a summary of the book's argument.

Personal logo Condottiere Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2005 2:46 p.m. PST

No. Reagan just talked a good game.

And, maybe you think that "objective" means agreeing with you, but I do not.

SNOWMAN returns01 Dec 2005 2:47 p.m. PST

And of course the final topping of the cake, Star Wars.
What little that was left of the economy of the USSR

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick01 Dec 2005 2:53 p.m. PST

[And of course the final topping of the cake, Star Wars.
What little that was left of the economy of the USSR


The US never built Star Wars. It was an (expensive) figment of Reagan's imagination. It was intended as a bargaining chip to get the Soviets to ditch the ABM treaty (into which they had forced an exception for their own anti-missile fantasy, the "Ganesh" program, which was equally stupid and expensive.) Ganesh was actually built and deployed long before Reagan came to office, though.

Im out of here01 Dec 2005 2:53 p.m. PST

"And of course the final topping of the cake, Star Wars."

Star Wars was nonsense. The majority of it was technically (and physically) impossible, and what could be achieved was easily negated.

No-one, east or west took it seriously.

SNOWMAN returns01 Dec 2005 2:57 p.m. PST

No one Mr Stirlingmoomoo? Also disagree Mr Sam…
maybe check the DATES when the research started, than the time frame for the R&R phase, than of course the 'testing'
etc…..check the timelines vs the Soviet 'cash flow' problems.

No one took it serious…..yea.

Im out of here01 Dec 2005 2:59 p.m. PST

"No one took it serious…..yea."


(I do love the cut and thrust of reasoned debate)

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick01 Dec 2005 3:00 p.m. PST

Snowy, what's your point? I don't get it: Reagan's Star Wars idea (which was never built), resulting in Soviet cash-flow problems HOW?

mlicari01 Dec 2005 3:00 p.m. PST

Mcb, would it be possible for you to actually argue your own case rather than doing by proxy through posting write-ups off of Amazon. I could do that all day with books that directly refute your above posts.

But that would be boring.

Please don't be boring any more.

Inmate 92882901 Dec 2005 3:03 p.m. PST

Oh, geez, here comes the American Maksim.

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick01 Dec 2005 3:03 p.m. PST

I'm sorry: Not "Ganesh" – that's the Indian missile. I was thinking of the "Galosh" ABMs, which the Soviets had deployed between 1969-72.

Im out of here01 Dec 2005 3:06 p.m. PST

" I was thinking of the "Galosh" ABMs, which the Soviets had deployed between 1969-72."

What, they were launching inter-continental welly boots? grin

Mobius Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2005 3:07 p.m. PST

I know that the defense company where I worked at the time got dollars for starwars research.

And as to talking a good game. Isn't 'Jaw boning' the way the left wants to deal with any threat nowdays?

(Change Name)01 Dec 2005 3:08 p.m. PST

I was an exchange student in Leningrad in 1978. The place was going to Hell in a handbasket. And while everyone would mouth the party line, nobody, and I mean nobody, actually believed it.

Now, I think that Reagan does deserve a lot of credit for ending the cold war and for the fall of the Soviet Empire. That being said, it would not have taken much of a push to knock the Soviet monolith down. It just needed a little push.

I seriously doubt that Reagan's approach would have worked ten or twenty years earlier.

SNOWMAN returns01 Dec 2005 3:13 p.m. PST

Mr Sam, it was trying to stay on topic. The 'cold war' involved several 'fronts', one which was the money needed
to 'compete' with the otherside. This process was understood
begining back in the 1950's. The more 'tech' advanced the weapon systems the more cost etc….even at times allowed
'plans' to be stolen to get the otherside to waste money
on worthless projects. The final straw was the proposed Star Wars plans….the money ran out, the USSR began to fold
from the inside out. So,per the topic, WHY Pres Reagan gets the credit.

Im out of here01 Dec 2005 3:22 p.m. PST

Gorbachev got Andrei Sakharov to analyse the potential threat of Star Wars and Sakharov dismissed it as unworkable.

Gorbachev informed Reagan of this, telling him ''I think you're wasting money. I don't think it will work. But if that's what you want to do, go ahead.''

SNOWMAN returns01 Dec 2005 3:28 p.m. PST

Yes Mr Stirlingmoomoo, the 'soviets' stated many things.
My favorite was their unending belief that they would win.

There were MANY others, but I believe this is my real favorite.

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick01 Dec 2005 3:37 p.m. PST

Snowy: the Star Wars idea forced the Soviets to spend money on WHAT?

Im out of here01 Dec 2005 3:40 p.m. PST

This is all documented history Snowman.
Do you have evidence to the contrary or are you just blowing it out your rear end as usual?

doc mcb01 Dec 2005 3:49 p.m. PST

The US never built Star Wars. It was an (expensive) figment of Reagan's imagination. It was intended as a bargaining chip to get the Soviets to ditch the ABM treaty (into which they had forced an exception for their own anti-missile fantasy, the "Ganesh" program, which was equally stupid and expensive.)

Yes, Sam, you have it. Reagan challenged the Soviets to an arms race which they couldn't refuse and couldn't win. It was intended to bankrupt them, and with help from the Saudis keeping oil prices low, it did.

mlicari, if my posts bore you, there's a simple solution for you.

doc mcb01 Dec 2005 3:54 p.m. PST

Zarquon wrote:
Now, I think that Reagan does deserve a lot of credit for ending the cold war and for the fall of the Soviet Empire. That being said, it would not have taken much of a push to knock the Soviet monolith down. It just needed a little push.

I seriously doubt that Reagan's approach would have worked ten or twenty years earlier.

McB replies: I expect you are correct that Reagan's approach wouldn't have worked a decade or two before, though perhaps a different approach might have. The USSR was always weaker than it appeared, I believe. However, Reagan is on record as believing in Soviet weakness long before it became fashionable to do so, and indeed in face of the consensus of academia who mostly thought the Soviet Union was sound.

doc mcb01 Dec 2005 4:00 p.m. PST

"It is a vulgar mistake to think that most people in Eastern Europe are miserable." (Paul Samuelson, Professor of Economics, MIT, Nobel Laureate, Economics, 1981)

"The Soviet Union is not now, nor will it be during the next decade, in the throes of a true systematic crisis, for it boasts enormous unused reserves of political and social stability that suffice to endure the deepest difficulties." (Seweryn Bialer, Professor of Political Science, Columbia University, Foreign Affairs Magazine, 1982/3)

"I found more goods in the shops, more food in the markets, more cars on the street… those in the United States who think the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and social collapse, ready with one small push to go over the brink are wishful thinkers who are only kidding themselves." (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., 1982)

"In an ironic sense, Karl Marx was right. We are witnessing today a great revolutionary crisis – a crisis where the demands of the economic order are colliding directly with those of the political order. But the crisis is happening not in the free, non-Marxist West, but in the home of Marxism-Leninism, the Soviet Union. What we see here is a political structure that no longer corresponds to its economic base, a society where productive forces are hampered by political ones. It is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history by denying freedom and human dignity to its citizens. A march of freedom and democracy will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history." (Ronald Reagan, Address to the British Parliament, June 1982)

"All evidence indicates that the Reagan administration has abandoned both containment and detente for a very different objective: destroying the Soviet Union as a world power and possibly even its Communist system. [This is a] potentially fatal form of Soviet phobia … a pathological rather than a healthy response to the Soviet Union." (Stephen Cohen, Princeton University Sovietologist, 1983)

"The Soviet economy has made great national progress in recent years." (John Kenneth Galbraith, Professor of Economics, Harvard University, New Yorker Magazine, 1984)

"That the Soviet system has made great material progress in recent years is evident both from the statistics and from the general urban scene…One sees it in the appearance of well-being of the people on the streets…and the general aspect of restaurants, theaters, and shops… Partly, the Russian system succeeds because, in contrast with the Western industrial economies, it makes full use of its manpower." (John Kenneth Galbraith, Professor of Economics, Harvard University, 1984)

"On the economic front, for the first time in its history the Soviet leadership was able to pursue successfully a policy of guns and butter as well as growth … The Soviet citizen-worker, peasant, and professional – has become accustomed in the Brezhnev period to an uninterrupted upward trend in his well-being…" (John Kenneth Galbraith, Professor of Economics, Harvard University, New Yorker Magazine, 1984)

"What counts is results, and there can be no doubt that the Soviet planning system has been a powerful engine for economic growth…The Soviet model has surely demonstrated that a command economy is capable of mobilizing resources for rapid growth." (Paul Samuelson, MIT, Nobel laureate in economics, 1985)

1987 – Reagan – "In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards… Even today, the Soviet Union cannot feed itself. The inescapable conclusion is that freedom is the victor. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" (Ronald Reagan, Speech at the Brandenburg Gate, 1987)

"Can economic command significantly compress and accelerate the growth process? The remarkable performance of the Soviet Union suggests that it can. In 1920 Russia was but a minor figure in the economic councils of the world. Today it is a country whose economic achievements bear comparison with those of the United States." (Lester Thurow, Professor of Economics, MIT, The Economic Problem, 1989)

"Ladies and gentlemen, if it had not been for the Reagan defense buildup, if the United States had not demonstrated that it is willing not only to stand up for freedom but to devote considerable sums of money to defending it, we probably would not be sitting here today having a free discussion between Russians and Americans."—Boris Pinsker, Soviet Economist.

"Reagan was the main author of the victory of the Free World over the Evil Empire." – Radek Sikorski, Poland's deputy foreign minister, head of Solidarity during the Cold War, member of committee to rechristen one of Warsaw's central squares "Reagan Square."

"American policy in the 1980s was a catalyst for the collapse of the Soviet Union."—Oleg Kalugin, former KGB general

"[Reagan administration policies] were a major factor in the demise of the Soviet system."—Yevgenny Novikov, former senior staff member of the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee

Personal logo Condottiere Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2005 4:03 p.m. PST

[Snowy: the Star Wars idea forced the Soviets to spend money on WHAT?]

An encyclopedia of American Pop Culture and Movie Guide…

Personal logo Condottiere Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2005 4:05 p.m. PST

[mlicari, if my posts bore you, there's a simple solution for you.]

Well, since you've done little except quote reviews, I would hardly say that they are yours. Why not use your own words for a change?

doc mcb01 Dec 2005 4:18 p.m. PST

So, Mr. Holly, why are you even here?

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick01 Dec 2005 4:28 p.m. PST

[Yes, Sam, you have it. Reagan challenged the Soviets to an arms race which they couldn't refuse and couldn't win. It was intended to bankrupt them, and with help from the Saudis keeping oil prices low, it did.]

No, he won election in 1980 by claiming that the USA had fallen behind the already-existing Soviet buildup. (This was a bit disingenuous, since Jimmy Carter was actually the signatory for many of the weapons systems that Reagan later took credit for, such as the M-1 tank, the B-1 bomber, the MX missile, the Aegis cruiser, etc, etc.)

The Soviets, in the meantime, were already bankrupt. The fact that a number of people in the West didn't realize that, is testimony to the efficacy of Soviet propaganda (or perhaps to the inefficacy of western intelligence, or both.)

The Soviets had already shot their bolt in Afghanistan by the time Reagan arrived. It was devouring their first-line military strength. Their forces stationed in East Germany were so broke that they couldn't even move out! Gorbachev had to beg money from Germany and the USA in order to re-deploy them back to Russia.

My maternal grandfather was the historian Donald W. Mitchell. If you study the USSR, then you probably know him as the author of "A History of Russian and Soviet Sea-Power." (He also wrote extensively about the US Navy, but the latter portion of his career was spent researching and writing in and about the USSR.) He spent years over there and had access to a number of military sites and archives. The picture that he painted was not pretty; a posturing, exaggerated Soviet military that hid its bankruptcy and incompetence behind lots of big equipment, which more often than not couldn't even be mobilized. Officers drunk and miserable, and stealing equipment to sell on the black market. Men maiming themselves to avoid service in Afghanistan. Everything about the place was crumbling.

Hell, don't take it from me. Ask any Russian over the age of 40.

doc mcb01 Dec 2005 4:43 p.m. PST

Sam, I'm sure you are correct in most or all of that. But what would you say to an analogy with the Ottoman Turkish Empire, the "sick man" of Europe? It managed to totter along for centuries before finally collapsing in WWI. Come to think of it, much the same could be said of the Spanish empire; it had already slipped to 2nd rate status by 1700 or so, and to 3rd rate status by 1898. But it still takes an active push by some catalyist to cause a collapse. Might not the USSR have gone on quite a while longer absent Reagan's determination to bring it down?

desaix01 Dec 2005 4:43 p.m. PST

Sam Mustafa -

[Snowy: the Star Wars idea forced the Soviets to spend money on WHAT?]

The only people that were forced to spend money were the US taxpayers.

A 10 billion dollar boondoggle to enriched military contractors.

As an aside: The major particle accelerator that was the "test bench" for the star wars program (and never fuctioned) is, after languishing outside an Indiana University lab for the last several years, being sold as scrap to a local salvage yard for 1/1000s of a penny on the dollar.

God bless level headed 'cloth coat' Republicans!

desaix01 Dec 2005 4:46 p.m. PST

Actually I think 1/100000s of a penny on the dollar may be more accurate.

Mobius Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2005 5:20 p.m. PST

doc mcb, those are great quotes. Reminds me of the NY Times reporter who was reporting on the workers paradise during the '30s while Stalin was starving 20 million of his people.

doc mcb01 Dec 2005 5:27 p.m. PST

Yes, all those brilliant Ivy League minds, and the poor old broken down and napping ex-actor got it right.

The NYT reporter was named D – something. I'll google it.

doc mcb01 Dec 2005 5:29 p.m. PST

Walter Duranty. And I don't thgink the NYT ever returned the Pulitzer.

mlicari01 Dec 2005 5:32 p.m. PST

mlicari, if my posts bore you, there's a simple solution for you.

Actually, I was hoping to get something a bit more complex from you. I'm interested in debating the influence of the Reagan administration on the demise of the Soviet Union (and its grip on Eastern Europe). But all you're doing is vomiting quotations onto this topic without any sort of analysis or argument to go with them.

But maybe you just don't have anything to say. That's my assusmption when I see people do what you're doing here.

doc mcb01 Dec 2005 5:49 p.m. PST

Okay, then, Mlicari:

It's a fact that RR was commander-in-chief from 1981 to 1989, and it's a fact that Communism was collpasing in Poland and then E. Germany and the Warsaw Pact generally, and then the USSR shortly after RR left office.

The question is whether those facts are coincidental or related in some cause-and-effect way. I say they are.

First, it is clear (see the above quotes) that RR wanted to bring down Communism, at a time when most people (in the West at least — and certainly including many in the CIA and State, etc.)thought it couldn't be done. That doesn't prove cause-and-effect, but it does establish intent.

Second, unless you think Schweizer made it all up, it is clear that Reagan had a strategy that was designed to bring down Communism. You can read the reviews above to get an idea of the major features of that strategy. I would note that not every member of RR's administration agrees with all the details of Scheizer's book; I read several somewhat critical reviews of it, when it first came out, suggesting that he had put too much emphasis on this and not enough on that. And of course it was a team effort. Paul Johnson, in MODERN TIMES, gives Reagan a lot of credit but (as a Brit) also emphasizes the role of Margaret Thatcher. Bertstein, in the "Holy Alliance" TIME article mentioned in my first post, stresses the roles of the Pope and Walesa, and that the main men around RR were Catholics. But I suggest that it is established that Reagan's administration actively and aggressively pursued a strategy of undermining the Soviet Union economically and diplomatically and morally and militarily. That's method and opportunity.

Did the USSR fall or was it pushed? Well, Reagan intended to push it, and had the weapon and opportunity. The prosecution rests its case.

Mobius Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2005 6:44 p.m. PST

Gorbachev informed Reagan of this, telling him ''I think you're wasting money. I don't think it will work. But if that's what you want to do, go ahead.
Hey, Gorbi, how'd that Afghan war work out for ya? Go ahead this.

I think this was just another factor in pushing the USSR government into giving up. Though its still hard to believe that a country as populous and so rich in natural resources and having an educated population would just call it quits.

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