Part II -- THE REAGAN REVOLUTION IN U.S. COLD WAR STRATEGY AN OVERVIEW

Chapter 9 – The Strategy Gains Force: The Second Term

Summary

Ronald Reagan’s overwhelming November 1984 election victory for a second term brought him a strong popular mandate for continuing the bold domestic and international Cold War strategy he set in his first term. Although his victory ended Soviet hopes for a change to potentially far weaker U.S. leaders, some senior Reagan diplomats and advisors now urged Reagan to shift to a post-election reduction in U.S. pressure in areas like arms control. Reagan, however, did not heed their advice and even intensified his tough first-term “let Reagan be Reagan” approach on major Cold War issues.

Gorbachev Gambles. In January 1985, the Soviet Union (still headed by Konstantin Chernenko) agreed to Reagan’s October 1984 proposal for “umbrella talks” arms control negotiations to replace those Moscow had angrily broken off in 1983 in response to Reagan’s 1983 implementation of his 1981 “zero option” proposal for Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF). In March 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev succeeded Chernenko and became the new Soviet leader, at first sounding like a hard-line Leninist in pushing back against Reagan’s strong pressures, Gorbachev appears to have assumed he could safely modernize the inherently secretive, centralized, and corrupt totalitarian Communist society through glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). Reagan, in contrast, understood the Cold War’s high stakes for peace and freedom against totalitarianism and how any real Soviet openness and reform would severely undermine the cohesion of the Communist ideology and regime.

[Book pg. 187]
 

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