Ending the Cold War
Reagan "had this overriding conviction that a strong military face presented by the United States for a year or two would bring the hostile system to its knees," said official biographer Edmund Morris. But President Reagan needed to make concessions in order to reduce the nuclear threat.
Narrator: From a position of strength, Reagan said, he would negotiate arms reductions. He would build up to build down. That was the stated goal. The unstated goal was more ambitious.
Richard Allen, National Security Adviser: He did not want an arms race, but if there was to be an arms race, we were not going to lose it. And that was the message he wanted to convey to the Soviets. Namely that we would be willing to spend them into oblivion. And it would be done peacefully, although the major expression of this spending race so to speak would be military.
Edmund Morris, Official Biographer: He had this overriding conviction that a strong military face presented by the United States for a year or two would bring this hostile system to its knees.
Lou Cannon, Biographer: You've got the two leaders of these two powerful countries running way beyond their arms controllers and their defense ministries and their State Departments and saying let's get rid of nuclear weapons.
Alexander Bessmertnykh, Foreign Ministry USSR: There was a time out asked by the American side. And Gorbachev walked out and we were sitting in a small room and he said, if Reagan accepts, the world will be a new one. Things will change historically.
Narrator: Reagan could realize his dream of reducing the nuclear threat. Perhaps only by risking his dream of a space defense. Gorbachev still insisted on restricting SDI research to the laboratory.
Richard Perle, Assistant Secretary of Defense: The President needed to understand. He needed information in a very tense situation. When asked, I expressed the categorical view that there was no way you could see the program through to a successful conclusion if we accepted the constraints that Gorbachev had in mind. Upon hearing that, he turned to Don Regan and said, "If we agree to this, won't we be doing that simply so we can leave here with an agreement?" And it was a rhetorical question, of course, and you knew the moment he put it that he'd made his decision. And within seconds, it was over.
My American Experience
Who was your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it FDR? Kennedy? Reagan? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United Sates through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?