7

Reagan, Gorbachev and the end of the cold war, 1981-91

The Reagan presidency and the ‘second’ cold war, 1981-5

The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 represented a sea change in US politics and came at a time when Soviet-American relations were at their lowest ebb for twenty years. Reagan denounced America’s foreign policy of the 1970s in uncompromising terms. His critique of détente and arms control centred around three main propositions. First, it was impossible for Washington to have a stable relationship with a ‘totalitarian’ country. Second, under the guise of arms control (SALT I and II), the Soviet Union had actually gained a position of military superiority over the West. Third, the United States’ loss of military pre-eminence was not inevitable; on the contrary, it was possible to restore its military ‘margin of safety’. 1

Reagan was a conviction politician whose instincts were to confront the Soviet Union in an ideological way. In 1983 he denounced the Soviet Union as an ‘evil empire’. Yet this con-frontational attitude did not translate itself into a confronta-tional policy. George Schultz, who was appointed Secretary of State in 1982, called for arms control with Moscow and Reagan himself said, ‘we are ready for constructive negotiations with the Soviet Union’, only one year after the ‘evil empire’ speech. 2 The Soviet Union, under its new leader, Yuri Andropov, warned

-60-

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The Cold War, 1945-1991
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword viii
  • Preface ix
  • Chronology xii
  • 1 - The Origins of the Cold War in Europe, 1945-9 1
  • 2 - Communist China and the Cold War in Asia, 1945-53 14
  • 3 - Peaceful Co-Existence and Nuclear Confrontation, 1953-64 24
  • 4 - The United States and Indochina, 1945-75 33
  • 5 - China Between the Superpowers, 1949-80 42
  • 6 - The Rise and Fall of Détente in the 1970s 50
  • 7 - Reagan, Gorbachev and the End of the Cold War, 1981-91 60
  • Conclusion 71
  • Notes 76
  • Select Bibliography 79
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