The Reagan Reversal: Foreign Policy and the End of the Cold War

The Reagan Reversal: Foreign Policy and the End of the Cold War

The Reagan Reversal: Foreign Policy and the End of the Cold War

The Reagan Reversal: Foreign Policy and the End of the Cold War

Synopsis

It is often assumed that Ronald Reagan's administration was reactive in bringing about the end of the cold war, that it was Mikhail Gorbachev's "new thinking" and congenial personality that led the administration to abandon its hard- line approach toward Moscow. In The Reagan Reversal, now available in paperback, Beth A. Fischer convincingly demonstrates that President Reagan actually began seeking a rapprochement with the Kremlin fifteen months before Gorbachev took office. She shows that Reagan, known for his long-standing antipathy toward communism, suddenly began calling for "dialogue, cooperation, and understanding" between the superpowers. This well-written and concise study challenges the conventional wisdom about the president himself and reveals that Reagan was, at times, the driving force behind United States-Soviet policy.

Excerpt

This is not the book I set out to write. While sifting through foreign policy documents for another project, I became intrigued by what appeared to have been an abrupt and dramatic reversal in the Reagan administration’s approach to the Soviet Union in early 1984. In January of that year President Reagan abandoned his hard-line approach to Moscow and began pursuing a more congenial relationship between the superpowers. Since this policy reversal preceded Mikhail Gorbachev and drastic reforms within the Soviet Union, I was curious as to why the Reagan administration would have suddenly reversed course. My hunch was that Secretary of State George Shultz had brought about the change. Shultz was a relative newcomer to the administration at that point, and was more moderate than his colleagues. I suspected that Shultz had somehow managed to redirect U.S. Soviet policy in a direction more to his liking. I had thought that I would be writing a book about a powerful secretary of state.

But I could find no evidence to support my working hypothesis. The more digging I did, the more my research led me away from the secretary. Frustrated and more puzzled than ever, I was forced to reexamine my assumptions about the Reagan administration’s way of formulating foreign policy. Like many others, I had assumed that the president played an inconsequential role in foreign policy development. I had assumed that Reagan was simply the administration’s spokesperson. His role was merely to read the policy statements that others prepared for him. It was only when I began to reconsider this assumption that the answer to my puzzle began to unfold. As I reread documents and speeches it became increasingly clear that Reagan’s fingerprints were all over them. Much to my surprise, I would be writing a book about a widely misunderstood president, one who was far more involved in foreign policy making than contemporary scholars had believed.

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