Reagan’s Pressures, Gorbachev’s Accommodations, Lessons for Extremists. Totalitarians and other ex- tremist militant forces must always advance to avoid serious internal criticism and loss of faith and new believ- ers and cannot deal well with less than infallible doctrine, total control and continued forward momentum. In a model for democracy that forces an extremist system to retreat and face collapse, Reagan’s multifaceted pressures forced Gorbachev and the Soviet state apparatus to reverse seven decades of totalitarian dogma, mo- nopolistic Communist Party control, and imperial practices. By December 1987, Gorbachev first notably did so in accepting Reagan’s long-rejected “zero option” for INF Treaty arms reductions, with asymmetric draw- downs for the larger Soviet forces, and with data and on-site verification measures importantly strengthened before gaining U.S. Senate ratification in May 1988. In this step and others moving toward accepting START reductions, and in being forced to address serious compliance and verification issues in chemical weapons and nuclear testing, Gorbachev no longer insisted on prior Soviet rejections and on U.S. termination of SDI research. Similarly, faced by high impact U.S. military aid to the Afghan resistance forces that included U.S. Stinger missiles able to shoot down Soviet helicopters and aircraft, Gorbachev agreed in April 1988 to with- draw Soviet invasion forces by February 1989 while also considering ceasefires in “liberation” wars the Soviet Union and its proxies were fighting in Africa.
Reagan’s efforts to support anti-Communist resistance fighters continued even after the Iran-Contra con- troversy that broke in November 1986 and his detailed public diplomacy reports continued to further expose Soviet-Cuban-Sandinista terror and slowed Communist momentum. Reagan understood that the extremist Communist totalitarian ideology, regime and empire were fundamentally anti-humanitarian and anti-dem- ocratic and could not readily sustain a monolithic status under his unprecedented pressure for change. Gor- bachev’s reform efforts could not begin to solve the Soviet regime’s growing ideological, domestic and in- ternational contradictions and shortfalls, and instead accelerated “new thinking” and an unraveling process toward regime change. Other extremist forces accustomed to assuming total control, new ideological recruits, intimidated masses, and victories in the field would face similar losses from sustained pressure, exposure, and loss of forward momentum.
Reagan’s Rising Freedom Tide - 1988. In the last year of Reagan’s presidency, the Soviet Union’s myths, masks, fractures, and failures were increasingly exposed under failing Soviet idiological and imperial authority. In the Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia major secessionist protests were still brutally suppressed by Soviet forces early in 1988, but in April 1988 the Soviets agreed to withdraw (i.e., retreat) from Afghanistan by the next February. In the summer of 1988 the officially atheistic Soviet regime agreed to tolerate millennium celebrations of Christianity in Russia. In July 1988, unprecedented competitive elections were set for a new Russian Congress of People’s Deputies. Meanwhile, far from backing off his pressures, as some of his diplomats wanted, Reagan’s tough speeches in Moscow in May 1988 demonstrate his undiminished insistence to push the Soviet leaders into a full freedom transformation moving toward regime change. It is a lesson for today that unexpected but real setbacks and defeats of extremist organizations and regimes can lead to their dramatic rollback and even unraveling.
The Collapse of Soviet Imperial Authority - 1989. Shortly after the end of Reagan’s presidency in Jan- uary 1989, the new Russian elections held in March 1989 led to the defeat of many Communist Party can- didates. In the same month, free elections in Hungary established a multi-party system there and, in June, Poland’s Solidarity movement won 99% of the seats to a national assembly that ended Communist rule in September. In April l989, Soviet troops suppressed an uprising in Georgia, but in the summer of 1989 an unprecedented breach in the Iron Curtain at the Czech-Austrian border became a vent for escaping Czechs and East Germans. This was congruent with a wave of peaceful protests in the churches and town squares of Communist East Germany that led to a November 5 demonstration of half a million people in East Berlin soon followed by a peaceful breach of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. In October 1989 the Soviet government had permitted a limited right for Soviets to strike, and in the same month, a regime spokesman declared the “Sinatra” doctrine of “going my way” was, in effect, replacing the Brezhnev Doctrine of unlimited Soviet supremacy throughout its “Socialist Camp.” In November 1989, the East German border guards, Stasi secret police and Soviet garrisons wanted to shoot the peaceful pro-democracy protesters in East Germany but were overruled from the Kremlin by Mikhail Gorbachev. No doubt he and his colleagues were both aware and fearful of the risks they were taking by either following or not following the example of the Chinese Commu- nist Party’s brutal military crackdowns in Tiananmen Square, Beijing (where pro-democracy protestors had