Wednesday, November 23, 2022

After some of the coldest years of the Cold War came a thaw in U.S.-Soviet relations that witnessed historic summits and the signing of groundbreaking disarmament pacts. Face-to-face meetings that were once improbable became common: Reagan-Gorbachev, Bush-Gorbachev, Clinton-Yeltsin. President George W. Bush even got along for a while with Boris Yeltsin’s successor, Vladimir Putin.

Contrast those more cordial arrangements with today’s broken relationship between the two countries. There is almost no communication, let alone cooperation, between Washington and Moscow as the Kremlin’s war of aggression grinds on in Ukraine. U.S.-Russia relations are at their lowest point since President Reagan’s first term, when the nuclear balance of terror deterred the superpowers from direct hostilities. The heady optimism about free markets, democracy and peace that greeted the end of the Cold War now seems to have been somewhat naive – at least when it comes to Russia’s place in the community of nations. And the return of nuclear proliferation represents a stark regression from the successful disarmament efforts of the late 1980s and early ’90s.

In this episode of History As It Happens, historian William Inboden, a former Republican policy maker in the national security arena, discusses the pillars of Reagan’s foreign policy and why, in his view, the strategy of “peace through strength” brought about a peaceful end to the Cold War and a world without Soviet Communism. By bolstering U.S. alliances and supporting anti-Communist insurgencies throughout the Third World, the Reagan administration’s statecraft pressured the USSR to produce a reform-minded leader willing to negotiate, Mr. Inboden contends. In 1985, that was Mikhail Gorbachev.

“Enough time has passed. It’s been more than 30 years since the end of the Reagan administration and over 40 years since he took office that we can judge it with some critical distance now and evaluate policy outcomes,” said Mr. Inboden, whose new book, “The Peacemaker,” chronicles Reagan’s statecraft.

Mr. Inboden’s work calls for today’s Republican Party to restore its internationalist outlook in the face of Trumpian unilateralism and to embrace U.S. security commitments from Ukraine to Taiwan — to engage with the world rather than shun multilateral agreements.

Listen to the full interview by downloading this episode of History As It Happens.

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