Why Ronald Reagan Was Not Responsible for Ending the Cold War

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  • Topic: Cold War, Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet Union
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  • Published : April 25, 2011
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Why Ronald Reagan Was Not Responsible For Ending

the Cold War

Mr. Cotey
Savoula Stylianou

Ronald Reagan is one of the most respected and well-liked presidents in the history of the United States and one of the most important accomplishments that he is accredited with is ending the Cold War. During this 50-year period in time, two of the world’s greatest superpowers were at odds, both having the power and ability to annihilate the other at any given moment. People at this time were forced to live in fear and terror, not knowing what the next day would bring or if they would even live to see tomorrow. The Cold War began, arguably, with several stands taken by the United States to aid the global community post World-War II, such as the Marshal Plan and the creation of NATO[1]. It can be argued that the Cold War also ended with several platforms originated from the United States. The man at the helm of the operation was Ronald Reagan. History shows that the strides this president took towards seemingly ending the war actually prolonged it. Strategies like brinkmanship and positive nuclear proliferation did not portray the message of a man whose goal was to end a war, but rather a man who had no problem continuing a war until his country won. Thus, Ronald Reagan did not end the Cold War. Reagan escalated the arms race, took a hostile approach to the Soviet Union, and was not as crucial as Gorbachev in ending the war.

At the beginning of Reagan’s presidency, he was a self-proclaimed nuclear abolitionist. He pleaded for peace in his speeches and ordered his subordinates to write studies on its application. Therefore one would assume that this desire would help him to end the war. Yet if that were true, he would not have pushed so hard for the institution of the Strategic Defence Initiative, a project that dealt directly with nuclear weaponry. Past presidents had mostly used détente as a means of dealing not only with the Soviet Union, but with all external countries. This policy had worked quite well until John F. Kennedy’s time in the Cuban Missile Crisis when he was forced to slowly climb up the escalation ladder to brinkmanship in order to ensure the safety of his nation. The next time that this harsh and unnecessary policy would be brought to the United States would be during Reagan’s presidency. “Push it to the edge”[2] was his policy and the only result this brought was a war that went on far longer than necessary. Brinkmanship dictated that the United States continue the arms race and hold nuclear weaponry against the Soviet Union. Meagan’s hope was to put them into a position where they had no choice but to surrender. This was a fruitless dream since the Soviets already knew they could not enter war and were smart enough to try to make peace before it was too late. In trying to end the war, Reagan was purposely sabotaging the stiff relations with the Soviets in order to force them to implode on themselves, crippling the status quo of the nation and thus proving the hegemonic power of the United States. However this president discounted one important element: the Gorbachev factor. Ronald Reagan came to power years earlier than Mikhail Gorbachev did and in that time he managed to cripple his country’s economy, enlarge the already increasing budget deficits and national debt of his country, and completely alienate the Soviet Union, calling them ``the evil empire``[3]. Gorbachev’s political and economic reforms remain unmatched in Soviet history. It is true that the USSR was in turmoil after World War II, but Gorbachev became the new voice of the Soviet Union and brought hope and change into the hearts of the people. Through policies like glasnost and perestroika, this president was doing far more for his country than Reagan was during wartime. He disassembled the previously dominant Communist party in his country and made headway for democracy in the...
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