Reagan, Gorbachev and the End of the Cold War

· Geopolitics

I feel that someone in this space needs to comment in some way on the Reagan legacy, so I guess I will.
The two biggest things that will linger in memory are clearly the end of the cold war (good) and Iran-Contra (not good). The Cold War ended on his watch, and he certainly deserves some credit for it. Though his bluster concerned many liberals and skeptics, the fact is that he continued the reasonable policy of containment and diplomacy and eventually won the war of attrition. And possibly the bluster helped soften up the enemy, if you will.
But the main reason the Cold War ended was that Mikhael Gorbachev came to power on the other side, a forward-thinking man who was ready and willing to make a change. He represented a new generation of Russians who cared more about personal liberty than holding together an empire, and dared to begin the shift away from the command economy and back into the free market. Reagan was smart enough to realize this, work with him, and wait it out. For that, and his charm and aura that, like it or not, he had, I give the man credit.
On a personal note, I was in the Soviet Union on a student study program when Chernenko (Andropov? I keep forgetting which forgettable term came last) died and Gorbachev came to power. The fact that they didn’t prop up another old cold warrior really generated some positive feelings. It was also one of the rare times in my life I found myself defending Reagan, over the “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” fiasco. I fielded a number of questions from concerned Russians and other European students, and my take was basically, no, I’m sure he isn’t a Nazi sympathizer – it must have just been a public relations blunder. Can’t say I ever learned for sure what happened there.
So here’s to President Reagan, a man who helped end the cold war. Iran-Contra … nah, don’t feel like going there right now.