Gorbachev Ended the Cold War, Not Reagan

September 20, 2009 at 11:22 pm | Posted in American politics | 18 Comments

Though it is a fantasy of the conservative world, Reagan did not end the Cold War. Gorbachev did. Credit must be given to Reagan for going along with Gorbachev in talking with the Russian leader. In fact, Reagan ought to be thanking Gorbachev for beginning the process of ending the Cold War, as Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was utterly ridiculous, and the Russians knew it. They looked at what the Americans were thinking of doing and were perplexed by the logic and reasoning. Hitting a bullet with a bullet. The answer is, of course, ridiculously simple. Smash the shield with thousands of bullets. Eventually enough bullets break through that they hit their target. Imagine the hypothetical day when the Soviets and Americans would finally be at war and America tried to deploy the SDI against the tens of thousands of Soviet missiles heading right for them. The sad thing is that even today there are “serious” Americans who still believe in SDI.

Gorbachev proved that there is a better way. Talk. Communicate.


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  1. Uh, wrong. Thanks for the delusion. Just a simple Google search will reveal what a partisan hack and revisionist you are on the subject. Here is one good article from Slate: http://www.slate.com/id/2102081/

  2. Chris,

    Uh, did you even read the article? Or were you so dumbfounded that someone challenged the current American thinking that you did a google search and picked up the first article that argued that Reagan did it?

    Let me be elementary clear, because clearly looking at history from a more mature, secondary education does not work with conservatives, particularly Reagan devotees.

    1. Reagan proposes SDI, a ridiculous and unwieldy, unworkable, unsustainable project.

    2. The Russians snigger. They figure one of two things. Either they build their own SDI (which when they looked at the details they were wondering what the Americans were smoking), or they simply build more missiles which would easily crush any missile shield.

    3. Gorbachev makes the decision that neither option is sustainable and presses instead for talks.

    Tada! See how simple that was? It was Gorbachev who initiated a change of course, not Reagan. Reagan would have continued the idiocy of the Cold War on and on and on and on and on. In fact, Reagan took it to silly levels, and it required a more mature, adult hand to bring the two nations to peace.

    It’s okay, Reagan hagiographers will continue worshipping the man as deity. Your own Fred Kaplan, who you link to admits this:

    The Gorbachev factor—too often overlooked in this week of Reagan-hagiography—was crucial

    See, this piece you link to was written in 2004, around the time of Reagan’s death, so clearly American writers are going to play up the importance of Ronald Reagan. Gotta worship our idols well.

  3. See, this piece you link to was written in 2004, around the time of Reagan’s death, so clearly American writers are going to play up the importance of Ronald Reagan. Gotta worship our idols well.

    You are an idiot and a buffoon. Or, simply put, a partisan hack.

    Such a brilliant argument. No wonder no one bothers to comment on your site. Your brilliant powers of retort comprise straw man, ad hominem and dumbass.

  4. Regina,

    It would strengthen your argument that my comments are ad hominem if you yourself don’t participate in ad hominem attacks. Sadly, you don’t know any better way. You’re conservative.

  5. Standing from the self-proclaimed middle the partisan R’s and D’s, as an independent, I agree that Reagan gets too much credit, and Gorbachev gets too little. However, Daniel, your claim the “Gorbachev did” end the Cold War is too one sided.

    I give credit to Reagan for seeing that America’s system of capitalism and economic strength could up the stakes in the arms race and cause the Soviet Union to collapse more quickly. Gorbachev deserves a lot of credit for fighting internally against the military establishment and leading the people to reject their influence in Russia. Both men did a great thing, which was end the Cold War without ever firing a nuclear missile.

  6. Scott,

    I admit to a propensity to try and tear down the hagiography of the Gipper. I think Americans think too highly of him, when he was rather loony and, worse, was not really a fiscal conservative. He cut taxes for the rich while at the same time expanding the size of the government. Hello! Major problems there.

    The SDI was a terrible idea. It was loopy. It was not scientifically sound, but rather sci-fi sound. From the account above, it seems Gorbachev made a decision (one he would have made apparently regardless of the SDI if we are to believe the accounts coming from Gorbachev supporters that he was going to push for perestroika and glasnost anyways). Gorbachev decided to convince his own military men that constant escalation with the Americans was not in the Soviet Union’s best interest, nor in America’s, nor in the world’s, frankly. Ronald Reagan did not push for peace, but Ronald Reagan was smart enough to see the communications from the Soviets for what they were: a way out. I applaud him for being braver than certainly George W. Bush was in say, 2003, when the Iranians, led by a moderate guy, attempted to do the same thing. Bush, petulant and childish as he is, ruled out any discussion with the Iranians, because it didn’t fit in his worldview, of totally obliterating Islam.

    Ronald Reagan saw an opportunity given him by Gorbachev and he took it. For that he should definitely be applauded. But he didn’t end the Cold War. Nor did SDI cause the Soviets to go bankrupt. There are other factors involved, such as Saudi oil prices, which drastically affected the Soviet empire in 1985.

    Russia’s current economy still leans too strongly on its exports of natural resources, and thus will still be unstable, and prone to expansive actions, but I like the general direction of the Russians today. But that’s neither here nor there for the current topic.

  7. Reagan outspent the Russians.

  8. We’re outspending the Taliban, but that doesn’t mean we’re winning. That’s about the silliest argument to make, cephalopod.

  9. Ever heard of the arms race? The Russian economy couldn’t take it… The Taliban are cavemen with 5 dollar rifles that hide behind women and children. Cowards… Reagan and Gorbachev ended the cold war together.

  10. Doesn’t matter if they are cowards. If they win, then it doesn’t matter how they did it, right? That is the general justification for things like dropping nuclear weapons on people. If we win, it is justified. It’s okay. So for the Taliban, if hiding behind women and children brings them victory, then of course, they are going to hide behind women and children. When America leaves with their tails between their legs, the ones to have the last laugh are those who you call cowards. I don’t support the Taliban, but being real here. We’re most likely leaving Afghanistan without defeating the Taliban.

    As for Russia, the Russian economy could take the arms race. But the Russian economy could not take the undercutting prices of oil by the Saudis. As the Russians are reliant on exports of their natural resources, this was a death blow.

    The third direction of the U.S. economic war dealt with one more crucial factor for Soviet hard-currency earnings–oil prices on world markets. To lower prices the United States needed cooperation from Saudi Arabia–one of the world’s main oil producers. The United States intensified diplomatic contacts with the Saudis, increased military assistance, gave Saudi Arabia security guarantees, and coordinated its policies in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan with Saudi Arabia. In return, in late 1985 the Saudis rapidly increased production, and oil prices dropped from $30 per barrel in November 1985 to $12 per barrel in May 1986, with devastating costs to the Soviet energy sector. The Soviets lost more than $10 billion a year–almost half of their previous earnings from oil exports. Thus by 1985-1986 expected technology supplies, credits, and hard currency from the West were drying up or being cut back. The Soviet economic crisis was aggravated tremendously.

    Here is a report of the initial drop in prices.

    Gorbachev ended the Cold War. Reagan was out of power when the Cold War ended, thus he could not have been there to “end the Cold War.”

  11. ending and winning arent the same thing.

  12. you’re right. Reagan did neither with the Cold War.

  13. Any historian will tell you that the speech Mr. Reagan made at the Brandenburg Gate was a key factor in ending communism.

  14. Aaron,

    Which historian?

  15. If this is some miserable attempt to troll than I am very sad for you.

    Any SANE person knows that no war is ended by one man, and it is foolish to think so. I would have to say that Reagan played a key role and likewise Mikhail Gorbachev. But the war did not end because Gorbachev said so… no no. Your argument is flawed, you take a stance that is far to biased, the president did not “go along with gorbachev” he pressured the Soviet leader into relations with the US ECONOMICALLY… even you mention the oil price drop… you know the one that the US influenced. (Stop suggesting that Reagans only method for entering diplomatic relations with them was to use the friggin SDI program). Yes, peacful relations with the US were one of Gorbachevs goals from the beginning but no, he was not responsible for bringing an end to the war. Before you forget I’m not saying that Reagan ended the war, im saying that Gorbachev did not.

  16. Any SANE person knows that no war is ended by one man, and it is foolish to think otherwise. my bad 😀

  17. Kieran,

    Um, what do you know of warfare? Far too frequently in history, wars were ended by one man, because most wars were fought between kings, who then gave the order to stop fighting. Wars are indeed ended by singular men. Now, you may disagree with me that it wasn’t Gorbachev that ended the Cold War, but don’t disparage me just because you disagree.

  18. Hi, just wanted to mention, I loved this blog post. It was
    helpful. Keep on posting!

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