fact-filled presidential speeches, reports to Congress, and unprecedented range of public diplomacy meetings, reports, and broadcasts, all spoke to America’s freedom principles. All maximally exposed the Kremlin’s arms buildups, subversion and intelligence operations and informed and rallied the public, Congress, Allies, and the world. In addition to such public messages, and strengthened U.S. intelligence capabilities to improve assessments and countermeasures, Reagan provided advisors and overt and covert military assistance to na- tional anti-Communist resistance forces especially in Afghanistan, Latin America and Africa, and important non-military civil and diplomatic assistance in Poland (working with labor and church organizations). Today several of the above approaches are appropriate to consider in assisting Ukraine to regain sovereignty over ter- ritory seized by Moscow-directed forces and in assisting other nations and societies facing terrorist attacks and invasions from militant Islamist forces in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
Overcoming Opposition at Key Cold War Turning Points. The increasingly dangerous course of the Cold War was radically reshaped by Reagan’s shifts from unrealistic assumptions and strategies to new ones that took on an aggressive totalitarian ideology and by generally peaceful means took down its imperial capa- bilities, even while reducing the weapons and risks of nuclear war. He overcame constant strong opposition especially from key elements of the Congress, national media, the academic communities and from some of his own traditional diplomats worried that tough U.S. policies would harden and provoke militant Soviet “hawks.” The diplomats’ special concerns included Reagan’s NSC-interdepartmental system; his “evil empire” phrase and similar moral judgments about Soviet tyranny, deceptions, and aggression; U.S. strategic force modernization (e.g., the MX Peacekeeper missile); deep asymmetrical arms reductions (versus “freezes”) in INF and START; and on-site treaty verification and public exposure of Soviet violations. Other concerns arose over his not agreeing to use the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) as a bargaining chip; sharply confronting the Soviets in support of Poland’s Solidarity; sustained support of the Nicaraguan Contras; and systematic unmask- ing and public reports on Soviet “active measures” intelligence operations. The bulk of Reagan’s key points in which he had to overcome strong resistance still apply in the development of effective anti-extremist strategies today.
Changing Cold War Dynamics and Today’s. Reagan never yielded to Soviet imperial demands and some diplomats’ fears, but was authoritative and persuasive in maintaining unrelenting pressure through two terms on such turning point issues in those noted above. Reagan dramatically changed the Cold War’s global dynam- ics as he exposed and raised the Soviet costs of empire to the breaking point on several key fronts. It became increasingly impossible for Soviet leaders to maintain the supposedly infallible and invincible monolithic Party-run military-industrial-planning complex and its associated mythologies. Nor could they sustain the required totalitarian control of aggressive imperial doctrines and forward momentum of Marxist-Leninist rev- olution, the Brezhnev Doctrine, “national liberation wars,” and “active measures.” General Secretaries Leonid Brezhnev, Aleksey Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko, and Mikhail Gorbachev had not expected and could not long evade such unprecedented U.S. pressures. This too brings important lessons for countering today’s extremist leaders, organizations, and wars.
Gorbachev’s Role in the Soviet Collapse. Mikhail Gorbachev was no anti-Communist or deliberate destroyer of the totalitarian Soviet regime when he became Communist Party General Secretary and Soviet premier in March 1985. A protégé of hardline Communist predecessors, including former KGB chief An- dropov, Gorbachev was a loyal Party intellectual and official schooled and confident in Marx’s prophecies and Marxist-Leninist dogma. His initial pronouncements and actions closely reflected this philosophical legacy. Within a year in office, however, Gorbachev was forced by the realities of Reagan’s increasing pressures on each ideological, technical, and geographical Cold War front to consider moderate reforms or restructuring (perestroika) and openness (glasnost) to rescue the totalitarian Soviet ideology, regime and over-extended em- pire. Gorbachev’s use of these Leninist terms signaled efforts to reduce his Communist Party’s widespread corruption and inefficiency in its top-heavy state bureaucracy and central planning apparatus. No doubt also encouraged by his forward-looking advisor Alexander Yakolev and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, Gorbachev took a path toward “new thinking” and reform efforts that, along with his Hamlet-like points of indecision and/or decisions against authorizing violent crackdowns, fatally undermined the Party and regime’s totalitarian monopoly of authority, power, and imperial momentum. All states and movements controlled by extremist ideology and supreme leaders and parties required unhesitating use of state terror, secrecy, and de- ception to move forward.