Ronald Reagan Dreamed Of A World Without Nukes.

by Daniel Russ on April 13, 2010

Ronald Reagan

If you can’t beat history, change it. That’s the double down the Republicans have been playing since Clinton took office. I mean when you become ideologically clogged into one point of view, you better make certain that your heroes also seem to agree with your decisions.

That said, Reagan dreamed of a world with no nukes.


“Beginning in November 1985, at a meeting in Geneva, Reagan and Gorbachev sought to slash nuclear weapons stockpiles in the U.S. and the Soviet Union by 50 percent or more. A year later they met in Reykjavik to discuss proposals to completely eliminate nuclear weapons from the arsenals of both nations. The U.S. president’s approach was so radical — and radically sincere, according to everyone close to him — that it alarmed many of his more conservative advisors. His hawkish defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger, was appalled. Relieved when the Reykjavik talks ended without agreement because of a fundamental disagreement over missile defenses, the hawks were disturbed, to put it mildly, when Reagan and Gorbachev signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987.

The INF treaty was truly historic, both because of its own deep cuts in the superpower arsenals and because of its symbolic portent of the imminent end of the Cold War. No treaty between the U.S. and the USSR had been signed and ratified by the Senate for 15 years by then — and this agreement stipulated the drawdown and destruction of nuclear weapons by both sides for the first time ever.

Morever, at a moment when conservative opinion widely distrusted Gorbachev and urged Reagan to maintain bitter antagaonism toward “our enemies,” he employed summitry and arms negotiations to reassure the Soviets that they could pursue liberalization without fear. It was a decisive moment in world history and one for which the intuitive president deserves great credit.

Reagan’s bold decision to cultivate Gorbachev and promote détente required him to dismiss the reflexive stupidity of his own base. Reaction from the right was almost unanimously negative: National Review and Human Events broke with him over the INF treaty, while Commentary accused him of pursuing “nuclear disarmament measures far more sweeping and radical than even many arms control proponents deem advisable.” George Will denounced him for “the moral disarmament of the West by elevating wishful thinking to the level of political philosophy.” Various Republican politicians, including Senate leader Robert Dole, R-Kan., declared that unlike the president, they did not trust Gorbachev.

Source: Joe Conason, Salon


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