Assess The Impact Of Us President Ronald Reagan And Soviet Union Leader Mikhail Gorbachev In Ending The Cold War.

943 words - 4 pages

When US president Reagan entered office in 1981 he immediately believed that in order to achieve peace with the Soviets, he needed to 'talk tough' to the Russians, taking a firm anti-communist line in Central America and the Middle East, dramatically escalating the arms race and thus seeking a clear shift away from détente.A few years later when Mikhail Gorbachev was appointed as the Soviet leader in March 1985, Reagan immediately sought after good relations with the new and younger leader, but he made sure they would be on his terms, in order for him to re-assert America's dominance on a world stage.The United States, in the years before and during the Reagan presidency, underwent a revolution in high technology that the Soviets could not match. The Soviet system was under pressure from Reagan's defence build up and deployment of medium-range missiles in Europe, the CIA-backed Mujaheddin fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan and Reagan's proposed missile defence system, the Strategic Defence Initiative. Reagan also challenged Soviet regional power in several conflicts from Nicaragua to Angola and lent support to the Polish dissident movement.These final battles of the Cold War shaped Reagan's foreign policy, including his determination to support rebels fighting Nicaragua's ruling Sandinistas, a Marxist group, in the 1980s. In Reagan's second term, it was disclosed that he had bypassed congressional restrictions on aiding the rebels, known as the contras, in part by diverting $3.8 million from the secret sale of 2,000 antitank missiles to Iran.Early in his presidency, when he called the Soviet Union the "focus of evil in the modern world," Reagan's actions generated suspicion and paranoia among the aging leaders in Moscow. As the U.S. military build up accelerated, the superpowers came closer to a confrontation than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.However, Gorbachev's swift ascension on March 11, 1985, was a critical moment on the road to the end of the Cold War. Accounts of the Politburo deliberations suggest that the chief reasons Gorbachev was chosen were a desire for generational change and the press of Soviet internal problems. But the choice was also made at a time when some Politburo members were worried about the country's stagnation, especially in comparison to the West.Reagan noted the depth of Soviet economic stagnation. "The dimensions of this failure are astounding," he said. "A country which employs one-fifth of its population in agriculture is unable to feed its own people. . . . Overcentralized, with little or no incentives, year after year the Soviet system pours its best resources into the making of instruments of destruction."The Soviet Union knew it was falling increasingly behind the US and Gorbachev knew he had to quickly and effectively deal with the social, economic and political problems his country was facing. He also saw that the communist system and...

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