Cold War Termination - Revitalized cold war




If Soviet leaders had hoped for renewed détente with Reagan, they were quickly disappointed by the rhetoric and policies of the new administration. As part of his transition from New Deal liberal Democrat during the 1930s and World War II to conservative anticommunist by the early 1960s, Reagan had developed a strong personal distaste for communism through his bruising battles with communists in Hollywood as president of the Screen Actors Guild and a strong opposition to the Soviet Union as the source of global communism. Reagan never endorsed Richard Nixon's strategy of détente and quickly stepped up public criticism of Moscow. In his first press conference, on 29 January 1981, Reagan responded to a question by dismissing détente as "a one-way street that the Soviet Union has used to pursue its own aims," that is, the promotion of world revolution. Reagan expanded his views in an address to the British Parliament at Westminster in 1982 with a call for a crusade for freedom and democracy that would "leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history" and pointed to the communist states in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union itself as prime candidates for this fate. Finally, in March 1983, Reagan used a speech to the National Association of Evangelicals to refer to the Soviet leaders as "the focus of evil in the modern world" and to the Soviet Union as an "evil empire."

The Kremlin resented Reagan's remarks but worried more about the campaign that hard-liners initiated to step up U.S. resistance to the Soviet empire and intensify a wide range of pressures on the Kremlin. Reagan and his advisers had argued in the campaign of 1980 that the United States had fallen behind in the Cold War and needed a substantial defense buildup to catch up to the Soviet Union and its allies, most seriously with respect to a "window of vulnerability" related to strategic missile forces. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger proposed a $32.6 billion increase to the defense budgets for 1981 and 1982, although Congress had already approved a 1981 budget with a 9 percent increase. Defense spending would increase from $142 billion in 1980 to $222 billion in 1982, and the Department of Defense anticipated requests for further yearly increases of 7 percent. After Congress approved the first defense budget in October, Weinberger presented a new request for a strategic modernization of U.S. forces, including plans to build a hundred MX missiles, six Trident submarines, three thousand air-launched cruise missiles, and a new Stealth B-2 bomber, and to reactivate the B-1 bomber that President Carter had canceled. Although the emerging deficit would prompt Congress to cut back the Defense Department's projected increase, Reagan's substantial increase clearly troubled Soviet officials as they attempted to ascertain the intentions of the new administration.

Hard-liners in the Reagan administration had the most influence with Reagan at the start and quickly pushed for a strategic offensive against the Soviet Union. According to Schweizer, the hard-liners, led by CIA Director Casey, the National Security Council staff under the direction of Richard V. Allen and William P. Clark, and Secretary Weinberger, with advisers such as Richard Perle and Fred Ikle, shifted their pre-1981 perception of the Soviet challenge to emphasize fundamental Soviet political and economic weaknesses. Casey frequently presented Reagan with unfiltered intelligence data on the Soviet economy that supported this assessment.

Reagan endorsed the recommendations of Casey and the NSC without much opposition from his advisers or Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who favored more negotiations with the Soviet Union than did the hard-liners. Most of the initiatives developed gradually and did not require either congressional approval or extensive publicity. Several focused specifically on economic objectives, including an effort to reduce Soviet hard currency earnings through the sale of oil and natural gas and stepped-up restrictions on the export of technology to the Soviet Union, as well as a CIA disinformation campaign to sell flawed technology and equipment to Moscow.

Along with the defense buildup, the most significant dimensions of the hard-liner campaign involved U.S. covert support for Solidarity in Poland and the Afghan mujahedin resistance to the Red Army. After the declaration of martial law in Poland and the arrest of Solidarity leaders, Reagan invoked economic sanctions against the Polish government and pursued a covert plan to aid Solidarity through financial assistance and communications equipment.

In Afghanistan the Reagan administration took over an existing Carter policy of aid to the Afghan resistance through Pakistan. Casey made numerous trips to Pakistan to bolster the government's commitment to the mujahedin. Casey also persuaded Reagan to increase the flow of arms, training, and assistance. When Moscow stepped up the war in 1985, Reagan approved an increase in high-tech weapons supplied to the mujahedin, which helped them blunt the Soviet offensive, including the delivery of Stingers, effective ground-to-air missiles that made Soviet helicopters and jets vulnerable below 15,000 feet.

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