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Reagan's Changing Views On The Soviet Union

2030 words - 8 pages

Seven American presidents over the course of 44 years engaged the Soviet Union in cold war prior to Reagan’s election in 1980. They used policies such as containment and Détente to contain Soviet aggression and win the Cold War. Ronald Reagan came to power at the pinnacle of the Cold War, following, what he saw, as the failures of Détente. Reagan was a tireless cheerleader of American patriotism in a time when America had lost faith in its national institutions and its position on the world’s stage. An ardent anti-Communist, Reagan often invoked anti-Soviet rhetoric, calling them an “Evil Empire” and challenging Soviet leadership to “tear down” the Berlin Wall. More than any other American president, Ronald Reagan took saber-rattling to a whole new level. Many at the time of his administration viewed him as a warmonger; he restarted weapon system projects previously canceled, carried out a massive military buildup, and deployed American intermediate range nuclear missile in Western Europe. This paper will seek to answer the following question; how and why did Ronald Reagan’s views of the Soviet Union change from his early days in politics to his last day as president of the United States? By 1985, after Mikhail Gorbachev's rise to power in the Soviet Union, Ronald Reagan's anti-Communist views of the 1970s and early 1980s changed to focus on a new era of friendship and cooperation between the two superpowers. This change in rhetoric led to policies that resulted in Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks. Mikhail Gorbachev’s openness with the United States and America’s position of military strength were the most important factors in this change of policy. Reagan's distrust of the Soviet Union and its leadership did not diminish, but was less prevalent.
“I’ve often wonder how our lives are shaped by small and inconsequential events, how an apparently random turn in the road can lead you a long way from where you intended to go” wrote Reagan in his memoir, An American Life. Who would have predicted a man who came from humble beginnings, a Midwesterner born in Tampico, Illinois, on February 6, 1911, would become one of the most revered and respected presidents in recent American history. Prior to 1964, Ronald Reagan had described himself as a Truman Democrat, a man who was staunchly anti-communist but embraced New Deal like programs at home. By 1964, however, Reagan had undergone a political transformation and came out for Barry Goldwater in a televised speech that was titled, “A Time for Choosing” but is more often known as, “The Speech.” It was Reagan’s political introduction to the American people. Though he had been an actor and spokesman for General Electric, he was not considered a politician.
October 27, 1964 changed Reagan’s image for good. “A Time for Choosing” focused on the nation’s domestic ills and the results of a social-welfare state created by President Johnson. Though not a speech on...

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