Chapter 9 – The Strategy Gains Force: The Second Term

the United States and supported abroad by dynamic anti-Communist leaders like Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, West Germany’s Helmut Kohl, and (at a far-reaching moral level) by Pope John Paul II. The Soviet leaders may well have hoped for a return to 1970s Cold War patterns of U.S. and Western devisions, weakness and accommodation. But like Reagan’s domestic critics, they greatly underestimated Reagan’s strategic insights, leadership capabilities, and resolve.

Opening Soviet Doors and Minds. With Reagan’s re-election, the Soviet Politburo confronted the inescapable reality that for the next four years the U.S. would not return to the accommodationist Cold War strategies promoted by Reagan’s Democratic Party political rivals and his many media and academic critics. In this situation, the Kremlin leaders were cornered rather than helped by their Communist ideology and history as their Marxist-Leninist regime’s fatal flaws left them vulnerable to Reagan’s multi-faceted pressures. They had to open doors and minds long shut by Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Brezhnev, et al. They had to risk reassessments of their totalitarian doctrines and strategies required if their Communist cause and the imperial “Socialist Camp” were to have any chance to keep pace with a reinvigorated America and its Free World allies.

Soviets Reassessments. In the core area of defense and arms control that was the focus of international attention to superpower relations, the Soviet failure even to dent, much less break, Reagan’s Cold War strategy and the certain prospect of four more years ensured that by January 1985, the Chernenko government could no longer rely on the Kremlin’s traditional propagandistic “moratorium,” “disarmament” and “peace” proposals. The Soviet leaders would continue to try to block Reagan’s policies—including U.S. and NATO defense modernization, the Strategic Defense Initiative, INF “zero-zero” arms reductions, the START “deep cuts” proposal, support to anti-Communist resistance forces, etc. But the Cold War’s military, economic and diplomatic balance was shifting. Traditional Soviet thinking and practices could not withstand Reagan’s principled resolve to remain true to his anti-Communist perspectives, of “peace and freedom” and “peace through strength.”

Arms Control: The Soviet’s Return—January 1985. The Soviets agreed early in January 1985 to return to the arms control negotiation table they abandoned in November 1983. In 1983, they relied on U.S. and Allied weakness and the growing global “Nuclear Freeze” movement to back them when the Kremlin rejected the choice presented by Reagan either to negotiate on his November 1981 “zero-zero” arms control proposal for INF or to accept NATO’s Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF) deployments required by NATO’s 1979 decision to counter-balance the rapid deployments of new Soviet SS–20 missiles (see Chapter 11 on INF). The Soviets also rejected Reagan’s June 1982 proposals for “deep cuts” in the Strategic Arms Reductions Talks (START)(see Chapter 12 on Strategic Offense) and they took great offense at Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) arms control concepts (see Chapter 13 on SDI). As Reagan’s second term began, the Soviets continued their verbal opposition to Reagan’s proposals, but in reality agreed to negotiate on the essence of Reagan’s terms instead of their own.

Second Inaugural: “Freedom on the March”—January 1985. Reagan’s Second Inaugural Address on January 21, 1985 opened with a statement about his economic policies producing a robust U.S. economic recovery from the deep recession, double digit unemployment and inflation, unprecedented national debt, and overextension of government inherited from Jimmy Carter four years earlier. In contrast to Carter’s “malaise,” Reagan praised America’s “fullness of freedom”—economic and political—and assured the American people that “we are creating a nation once again vibrant, robust and alive.” In a review of his national security policies, he discussed his forward-looking peace, arms control, and Strategic Defense Initiative, while pointing to the Soviet arms buildup and the continuing battle to support “freedom on the march.” Thus:

[Economic Recession to National Recovery via More Economic Freedom] Four years ago, I spoke to you of a New Beginning, and we have accomplished that. But in another sense, our New Beginning is a continuation of that beginning created two centuries ago, when for the first time in history, government, the people said, was not our master, it is our servant: it’s only power that which we the people allow it to have. The system has never failed us, but for a time we failed the system. We asked things of government that government was not equipped to give. We yielded authority to the National Government that properly belonged to the States or to local governments or to the people themselves. We allowed taxes and inflation to rob us of our earnings and savings and watched the great industrial machine that had made us the most productive people on Earth slow down and the number of unemployed increase.

[Toward the Fullness of Freedom] By 1980 we knew it was time to renew our faith, to strive with all our strength toward the ultimate in     individual freedom, consistent with an orderly society.

[Book pg. 189]