Reagan's role in ending the cold war...

Ok, first of all yes i want help for my homework…pretty please.
My question is-What was Ronald Reagan’s role in ending the cold war? Is it as big a role as many historians have claimed or did he simply take credit for being in the right place at the right time? What do you guys think.
Thanks in advance.

Wow. This is what they study in Kigali?

I’m of the opinion that Reagan did play a role, but I’d say that Gorby played a much more pivotal role. He’s the one who created the policies of Glastnost and Peristroika, both of which came to undermine communism and open Eastern Europe.

However, I think that singling out any specific individual will lead to inaccurate understandings. I believe that communism fell becuse it had too many internal contradictions and it collapsed upon itself. The ideas of communism (class struggle, material interests) were obviously false. And, in the end, communism could not compete with market economies in terms of technology and economic output.

So, I’d say that Reagan did play an important role, and he was in the right place at the right time. Well, since the wall fell in 1989, he was almost in the right place at the right time. That distinction goes to George H. W. Bush.

Hmmm…was communism the problem, or was totalitarianism the problem? To be honest, I never studied Marx and those guys, but I’ve heard a lot of people say that the Soviet system bore little resemblance to true communism. I’m sure someone will be along to elaborate. I might also point out that democracy doesn’t seem to be working very well for them right now either. They’ve replaced totalitarianism with systemic corruption and near-anarchy.

Point accepted, [blowero**. You’re right, I was pretty sloppy with my language.

I had meant communism as practiced in the USSR, not as originally envisioned by Marx and Engles.

The problem came from the fact that the USSR’s economic system was planned, and not market-oriented. This was horribly inefficient, and eventually led to its collapse. Democracy isn’t going too well either, but that’s rather beyond minega’s question. Minega asked about Reagan’s role in ending the Cold War, and hopefully we’ll help a bit.

Good luck on your homework!! - ShoNuff

Interesting question…

My theory (and that’s all it is):

President Reagan had no role in the end of the cold war. As Americans, we heard incessantly that Communism was a doomed form of Government. Therefore, no one had to cause its end - it was doomed from the start. I believe this one. Reagan / Bush just happened to be standing watch from our side when the inevitable happened. He did nothing to bring its end about.

Then, the alternate theory:

Communism is representative of the evil empire and must be destroyed before it takes over the world. This is, of course, laughable.

IMO Reagan, if he had any role at all, was much less important in the fall of communism than the Pope or even pop culture.

It’s true that Communism - especially as practiced in the former USSR - is an unworkable system that would have eventually imploded. However, there’s no indication of how long it would’ve lasted without the pressure of constant resistance from the western world, especially given the expansionist policy that the USSR embraced for so long. I think it’d probably still be going strong if we hadn’t stood up to it.

What did Reagan have to do with it? Well, he - as well as Margaret Thatcher - took a particularly hard-line stance against it, which put a lot of political pressure on Gorbachev. (“Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”) Fortunately, Gorbachev wanted reform almost as bad as we did, and he was willing to push his government along with Reagan and Thatcher. All three of them together were vital in the collapse of the USSR.

Another thing Reagan did that helped along the demise of the Soviet Union was the intense military build-up that he initiated. He knew that as we built up our forces (most notably our nuclear stockpile), the USSR would be forced to do the same. However, while our wealthy capitalist economy could handle it, the Soviets’ comparitively poor communist economy simply couldn’t handle it. This created so dire an economic situation in the USSR that everything just fell apart.

Reagan wasn’t single-handedly responsible for the demise of the Soviet Union by any means. However, he did play a pivotal role, and it’s entirely possible - if not likely - that without Reagan’s influence, the USSR would still be standing. But the same can be said for Thatcher and Gorby. They were all remarkable people who had a great deal of courage to act during a real f’ed up time period.

Reagan had a LARGE role in ending the Soviet Union. The fact that Gorbachev was selected as leader by the Politburo has much to do with the atmosphere that Reagan had set up in the first place. The Soviets picked a reformer because they were taking a huge hit on the world stage, and because their economy was in the dumper and they couldn’t match Reagan’s arms buildup.

And it’s interesting that when Gorbachev came to power, he had no interest in ending Communism. He was a Communist through and through. He thought he could just restructure things a bit (Perestroika), while maintaining the essential nature of the Soviet Union. Reagan kept up relentless pressure on him, doing things like going to the Berlin Wall and shouting, “Mr. Gorbachev - Tear down this wall!”. Unrest started building in the Soviet satellite countries, and eventually the whole thing came apart.

That’s not to say Reagan was the sole cause of the collapse, or even the major cause. Gorbachev himself gives Reagan much credit (search the archives for other threads along these lines - I’ve linked to Gorbachev quotes before). But much credit goes to Gorbachev, Thatcher, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, and lots of other people.

The Soviet Union would eventually have collapsed, but it could have lasted for decades, and the end could have come in a violent spasm instead of a gradual decline. Reagan sped the process up, and his military buildup made it clear to the Soviets that they could no longer keep their regime alive through conquest.

Had Jimmy Carter won another term, who knows? Maybe the Politburo would have gambled on invading another country, or grabbing oil reserves in the Middle East or something? That could have led to a war. But we’ll never know.

Balderdash, sir! Tommyrot!

To paraphrase P.J. O’Rourke, the whole system, the secret police, the gulags, the Comintern, the whole magilla fell apart because no one wanted to wear, much less buy, Bulgarian shoes.

Reagan is far down on the list-at the top would be the Pope, Gorby, and I would say the people living in the USSR.

The problem with this theory is the lack of imperical evidence that the USSR made any effort to keep up. If anything, his statements and the massive military buildup worked in favor of hardliners who wanted to slow reform.

Reforms were not a response to american pressure, rather they were a response to internal structural impediments to advancement. Reagans strategy did nothing but provide amunition to those who opposed those changes.


First off, the Soviets had to maintain military parity, at the very least, with the Americans.

As the Americans fielded the next generation of weapons throughout the 80’s, the Soviets had to keep up. And given the high-tech nature of the armaments, the cost was disproportionately higher for the already smaller Soviet economy. It was not only easier for America to produce high-tech weapons, once Reagan cranked up production from anemic 70’s levels, the Soviet industrial machine simply could not keep up. But it had to try; The Soviets would never have accepted flat-out convential military inferiority, in addition to nuclear inferiority (aided by the deployment of the MX, B1B, etc)

It is ridiculous to say that the Soviet system was changing due to pressures from within. The Soviets were obviously locked in a arms race with America. They could just as easily have not fielded the latest generation of weapons, and stood behind their ‘nuclear shield’; But they decided to lock-horns with an economy (and president(s)) that would stare them down. Better then merely ‘force reform’, their entire damned system collapsed under the strain.

Obviously, some don’t want to give President Reagan credit where credit is clearly due. Doesn’t change the facts, though. Reagan doesn’t get sole credit, but he get a large chunck of it. At a time when Western resolve was wavering, Reagan made damned sure that the Soviets knew who had the upper hand. The Soviet system, predicated on being ‘scientifically superior’, could not stand up to the paradox of being so clearly outclassed militarily and economicaly.

No offense, Brutus, but can you please ante some proof/cites that:

a) the U.S.S.R actually tried to keep up with the U.S arms race during the 80’s, and,

b) That military spending by the U.S.S.R during that time, in and of itself, caused the Soviet economy, and thus the government, to collapse?

Otherwise the Reagan connection seems to hold little water.

Sorry, but that opinion is practically exclusively held by US conservative pundits, and few other people in the world. As was mentioned, there is no evidence whatsoever that the Soviets actually acted in the way you described. Rather, the softening of the communist line had already started much earlier than Reagan ever dreamt of holding power. The fact that eastern Europe was seeing more and more that the West was NOT the threat they made it out to be, both by receiving western European media (you DO know that west german TV was being widely watched in Eastern Germany, no?) and by the acts of western non-US politicians in the East (such as Brandt’s visit to Warsaw in 1970) undermined the inflammatory propaganda. Likewise, actions in the East itself, such as the founding of Solidarnosc in Poland undermined the authority of the totalitarian regimes. They were forced to open up not the least by the power of evidence. Defying them with arms actually supported the regimes much more than it destroyed them, because it confirmed the image of the imperialistic enemy threatening conquest and destruction.

I didn’t mean that as a criticism; I was genuinely asking if people think communism is unworkable per se, or if the Soviet Union did itself in because it was a repressive regime. I guess I’m getting outside of the scope of this thread though…

There is the common idea, expressed here in more eloquent terms, that Reagan made a few tough speeches and the Soviet Union fell. This idea that political pressure hastened the downfall of the USSR is silly. As if none of his predacessors put pressure on the Soviet Union. For crying out loud, Kennedy brought the US this close to nuclear war.

Reagan did his part in opposing the USSR - but I think the collapse could well have happened at the same point under pretty much any president. In my view, the xerox machine and the personal computer probably had a bigger role in the collapse of the USSR than Reagan’s speeches and policies.

Why? Because the silly communist government couldn’t realize that those two inventions were great ways of improving their economy and efficiency, rather than threats to their national security. While western (not just US) business boomed with fax machines, computers, copiers, coffee makers, Federal Express, and jet transportation at reasonable cost, the Soviet people had an industrial system that, according to some, produced goods that actually had a reduced value from the materials that made them.

Reagan didn’t invent American ingenuity, and he didn’t create the failure of Soviet economic policies. The Soviet system had been living on borrowed time since the early-to-mid 60s.

The policy of “The Reagan administration” of hotting up the arms race might well have hastened the Soviet Union’s demise. Reagan himself was a former B-movie actor whose attention span extended no more than a piece of A4 paper containing simple bullet points.

I think the Rekyavik summit showed who the real hero out of Reagan and Gorbacev was.

A lot of people would like to think that Communism could still work, but one must remember that every single communist government that started in the 20th century degenerated into totalitarianism.

As for the OP, I think we need to distinguish between the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union True, they occurred simultaneously, but given George Bush’s absolutely non-plussed expression when given the news of the collapse, I don’t believe that was the plan. Conservative administrations like the US to have an enemy handy. The CIA was soundly rebuked at the time for not having seen it coming.

There were in fact a lot of internal pressures in the SU. I suggest seeking out the book “Soviet Civilization” by Sinyavsky for an amazing look inside the life of everyday Russians. While Brezhnev was presented to the American people by Reagan as a sinister mastermind in the mold of Kruschev and Stalin, leading an “Evil Empire”, the Soviets regarded him as an ineffectual buffoon, the last of an old guard that had clearly lost any vision of where the country was going. After a couple of other Premiers who didn’t survive beyond a few months, Gorbachev was seen as just the breath of fresh air the nation needed. Those of us here who bought Reagan’s lines about “Evil Empire” had a hard time reconciling them with the facts of the events ocurring then.

Reagan’s brinksmanship led us to the same sort of standoff that led to WWI, which is why Europeans were mostly cynical about the Cold War during this time: They had been there before. The situation could have easily degenerated into a shooting war over the smallest incident.

Meanwhile, our national debt reached 13 figures, and the economy plunged into recession (sure, term limits tossed Reagan out of the driver’s seat before it really took hold, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve the credit.) We were the last man standing in the Cold War, but it was an extremely Pyrrhic victory.

The Soviet Union was on its way to collapse anyway, taking the Cold War with it. Reagan’s defense spending may have helped it along to some degree, but it was by no means instrumental, and certainly not worth the eventual price.

As a former resident of a communist country I must say that speeding up the demise of the USSR by even one day was certainly worth the price.

If you would like a book length treatment of the subject read ** Reagan’s War** by Peter Schweizer. He discusses the military buildup, the support of anti-communist insurgencies around the world, opposition to oil pipelines, increased support to opposition groups such as Solidarity through money, radio broadcasts and materials. All these things drained the Soviet economy of billions of dollars while emboldening domestic opposition.

To be fair to Mr Anderson, I do not think he was referring to the millions abroad whom the collapse of the USSR freed. He was refering to the domestic economy of the 90’s. Anyone who experienced that horrible economy with its armies of hoboes and millions of starving children will never forget it.