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Free «Reagan Administration's Foreign Policy» Essay Sample

Big differences maintain and amplify between politicians - Democrats and Republicans. They cannot often make compromises with each other.  However, they are necessary. For better understanding reasons of discrepancies and policy framework of the Republican Party, it is useful to dwell on its recent history. President Ronald Reagan and his administration wrote bright pages of the story. Ronald Reagan was the president who had a high rating and was loved by all Americans.

Ronald Reagan was born in a small town of Tampico, Illinois into a poor family in 1911. He graduated from high school in Dixon in the same state and entered the Department of Economics at the university in 1928. However, he was more interested in sports (especially football) than in study of economy. After graduation, he worked as a sports columnist at the local radio station. He had other goals. Since his school years, he dreamed of becoming an artist. This dream was realized when he was awarded a contract in Hollywood in 1937. During the next 15 years, he acted in 50 films, and was a popular actor. Some films made him very famous. The audience loved a beautiful and bellicose cowboy or a freedom-loving American, whose roles Reagan often played. Since then, Americans loved Reagan (Benson, 2004).

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Ronald W. Reagan was - after Dwight D. Eisenhower - the second president of the American post-war history, who ruled two terms. He resigned, having high social prestige, and significantly contributed to the fact that his vice president was elected as his successor. If to follow comments of some journalists, political scientists and historians, any other president after Franklin D. Roosevelt did not implement more changes in American politics than Ronald W. Reagan did. It is well known that Ronald Reagan was a quite well-known public figure and former actor, who later became the Governor of the State of California. He was nominated a presidential candidate of the Republican Party, won the election and became president in 1981. Ronald Reagan had many usable qualities that helped him break into the top of the political Olympus. To be successful in the second half of the XX century, a modern president should have such skills:

  1. To be able to set priorities, separate important from unimportant, that is, to know what a president wants, and do not lose sight of what he can achieve.
  2. To compromise, and thus establish a consensus, that is, to act pragmatically.
  3. To build coalitions and find a majority in the administration, in Congress and among the public. To convince people and gain confidence.

Ronald Reagan learned these qualities during his long political career. U.S. historians consider that from nature Reagan had a gift of an actor, great linguistic abilities and "talent of a communicator". He had great creative thinking, which helped him understand the nature of human relationship and through intuition penetrate deep into specific issues of life. All of these could help him win high social prestige. However, Reagan did not have enough ability and skills to abstract theoretical thinking, which is typical of economists, lawyers and politicians. Advisers and aides in the White House helped Ronald Reagan fill all gaps, shortcomings and failures. However, in general, some historians believe that Ronald Reagan came to governance of the country when he was not ready for this (Benson, 2004).

The international significance of the Reagan presidency is, above all, the fact that he stopped the Cold War. He could get rid of the specter of the "evil empire," as they called the Soviet Union. Eight years of presidencies of Ronald Reagan were crowned with complete and unqualified success. Former Kremlin leaders, whose predecessor had promised to catch up and overtake America, is now thinking of joining NATO. Such brilliant success of Reagan's presidency was due to the fact that he approached all issues with a common sense. In foreign policy for the majority of American voters, who were frightened of the impending Soviet threat, Reagan’s slogan about the need to close the "window of vulnerability" of America became particularly attractive. This vulnerability was formed as a result of the nuclear missile backwardness of the U.S. from the Soviet Union. Declaring the Soviet Union an "evil empire," Reagan proclaimed his aim to wear down and weaken it economically by imposing the Soviet Union unbridled arms race. Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire". He took the phrase from the film of Star Wars director Lucas (Kernek & Thompson, 1993).

There was a further aggravation of the Soviet-American relations with the advent of Reagan. The arms race rose to a new, higher level. In the spirit of a conservative policy there was was a huge increase in military spending, against the Soviet Union, which entered into Afghanistan.  The only area, in which Reagan insisted on expansion of government programs, was the military industry and the arms race. Military spending increased from $ 34 billion in 1979/80 fiscal year to $ 291 billion by the end of the Reagan presidency. The President also gave a free hand to secret services, especially the CIA under William Casey, in stimulating resistance in the sphere of Soviet influence and to support anti-communist guerrilla force in the "third world". During his term a costly research program "Strategic Defense Initiative" was launched. It was known as "Star Wars". Billions of dollars were invested in this program. It was intended to create a large-scale missile defense with space-based elements. However, as it turned out, many of components of the program were not designed and developed in due measure, and, in fact, were not feasible. This project remains unfulfilled to our days. In mid-1982 Ronald Reagan formulated a plan about funding of the military production in the rate of 1.5 trillion over five years. President Reagan pushed the Soviet Union to back-breaking military spending in the hope that the Soviet economy could not bear such burden. Reagan felt that the Soviet economy was in serious condition, if it was unable to feed its own population without grain imports. And if to deny the Soviet Union in credits, the U.S.A. could easily put it on its lap. (This was written by Reagan in his articles and his biographers admitted it, for example, E. Wright) (Kernek & Thompson, 1993).

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The first half of Ronald Reagan’s presidency (1981-1985) was marked by the deterioration of Soviet-American relations. Lessening of international tension, which led Nixon, Ford and Carter, did not seem exceptional value for the new owner of the White House. Reagan accused the Soviet leaders that they "reserved the right to commit any crime, to lie and cheat". Confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, he compared with the struggle "between right and wrong, good and evil," a struggle in which one cannot compromise on principles. In the early 1980s, Reagan denied the very possibility of negotiating with the Soviet Union: "We cannot compromise with people who deny the existence of the soul, the afterlife and God". Reagan said that he did not know "any leader of the Soviet Union since the revolution, including the current leadership of the country, who would not have said, and in fact many times, in various Communist congresses that their goal were to promote world revolution and to establish a unified socialist or communist state". The next day American journalists tried to find out what facts possessed president to refer to the Soviet Union's desire to rule the world. However, the press secretary of the White House J. Brady said that he did not know the answer to this question. Ronald Reagan initiated a new round of the arms race, trying on the basis of technological and economic power of America, to achieve overwhelming military superiority over the USSR. Particular attention was paid to the development of expensive weapons systems with the use of high technology  (Kernek & Thompson, 1993).

Reagan's second term was marked by the next turn of foreign policy of U.S. ruling circles toward realism and better relations with the Soviet Union. This was facilitated by a range of factors. Among these factors the most important was coming to power a new leadership in the Soviet Union - Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985. He announced a policy of improving relations with the United States, based on a "new thinking". Considerable importance was the recognition by the U.S. ruling circles futility of the strategy of expansion of arms race and disastrous of aims to achieve victory in nuclear war (Kernek & Thompson, 1993).

Jack Matlock, an adviser of President Ronald Reagan's National Security 1984-86 and the U.S. ambassador in Moscow in 1986, in his book "Reagan and Gorbachev: how the Cold War ended ", describes in details the vicissitudes of several years of preparation, the most important documents on nuclear arms reduction and actions that lead to end the Cold War. At the first meeting in Geneva in November 1986, conditions for agreements did not mature. Partners were introduced to each other. Reagan praised Gorbachev's intelligence, his determination and ability to lead the honest dialogue. Milestone on the way to ease tensions in US-Soviet relations was the meeting of Heads of State of the USSR and the USA in 1986 in Reykjavik. During this meeting they got into an argument over sharp ideological questions about the coexistence of two world systems. In this case, Reagan finally realized that he could trust his Russian partner, considering him capable on bold peace initiatives aimed at the ending of the Cold War. Reagan pushed Gorbachev for decisive actions in a market economy and reforms in the Soviet Union (without which there will be no changes in foreign policy). A large staff of advisors and specialists from both sides helped prepare agreements on disarmament (military experts from ministries, generals, diplomats, and physicists).The meeting in Reykjavik created a qualitatively new situation. This meeting raised a struggle for the reduction of armaments to new heights. At the meeting in Washington in December 1987 Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signed agreements for the withdrawal of U.S. and Soviet medium-range missiles from Europe (the U.S. "Pershing-2" and Soviet missiles «SS-22" and «SS-23 "). These agreements were ratified by the U.S. Congress and the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in May 1988 (Matlock, 2004).

 
 
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This was a great achievement in the policy of detente. An agreement on the reduction of intercontinental missiles on both sides by 50% (SALT-2) was preparing. There were a lot of technical and other difficulties, and inconsistent problems. It was not clear how to update and change the text. However, world opinion was prepared for the reduction of nuclear weapons, which stocks were capable of destroying all life on the Earth. Gorbachev’s "New political thinking" was welcomed by the U.S. side. However, during Ronald Reagan's visits to Moscow in December 1987 and in May 1988, an agreement START-2 was not signed, because the conservative Republicans in Congress and in the government were not ready to this. During the high-level talks in Washington and Moscow ideological and psychological basis for the ending of the Cold War were laid. Changes in the Soviet foreign policy were also radical. In 1988 the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan began. Human rights were expanded in the Soviet Union. Ronald Reagan proposed M. Gorbachev to increase the quota for immigrants from the Soviet Union to the United States. At the same time Reagan said that he did not consider the Soviet Union an "evil empire". This can be forgotten (Fischer, 2000).

Results of the second stage of Ronald Reagan’s presidency in foreign policy were positive and fruitful. He wrote his name into the history of the ending of the Cold War. The destruction of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 was a symbol of the ending of the Cold War. The 20th anniversary of this historic event was celebrated in November 2009. The beginning of arms reduction marked a shift from the confrontation between two powers to search for peace and cooperation. This was aided by the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988 and democratic revolutions in the former socialist countries in 1989-1991. All of these created a new geopolitical situation and put an end to the "Cold War" (Fischer, 2000).   

There were also other important areas in foreign policy of President Reagan. He began the fight against international terrorism. He considered sponsors of international terrorism five countries: Iran, Libya, North Korea, Nicaragua and Cuba. However, the struggle against international terrorism was carried out often very ineffective under President Reagan. At the very beginning of his presidency, U.S. hostage diplomats were finally liberated in Iran. It was a great success. However, there was a scandal known as the "Iran-Contra" at the end of his presidency. This scandal brought the president a lot of trouble. Sophisticated weapons were supplied in Iran, and money went to the rescue of squads "contras" in Nicaragua (who fought against the Sandinistas associated with Cuba). Supplies of chemical weapons to Iraq were also an undoubted mistake of Reagan government. President Reagan instructed his assistants to supply weapons to the Middle East. So Osama bin Laden and the mujahedeen in Afghanistan got anti-tank missiles and other advanced U.S. weapons. Important place in the foreign policy of Reagan took control of left-radical and anti-American movements in Central America and the Caribbean. His administration made a tremendous effort in trying to overthrow the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. Squads "contras", fought against the Sandinistas. They had the full support of the Americans, received arms and money from the U.S. in semi-legal and illegal ways. Huge financial and military assistance was provided to the Government of El Salvador to suppress guerrilla movement. Reagan authorized the U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983 to overthrow the pro-communist government. Operations against terrorists in Libya and Lebanon were also unsuccessful. Active policy against the communist threat led the Reagan administration in other regions of the world. Large amount of military equipment was sent to the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, fighting against the communist government and Soviet forces. In Angola, the Americans supplied arms and money to the guerrillas J. Savimbi, despite openly gangster nature of their actions. All-out U.S. support for armed groups that fought against the pro-regimes in different countries, received the name "Reagan Doctrine" in the press (Kernek & Thompson, 1993).

 Reagan also was inclined to deal Middle East problems from a position of strength. He had a negative attitude to the idea of an Arab Palestinian state, as he was assumed that such state would inevitably take a pro-Soviet position. In September 1982, he put forward his own plan of Middle East settlement, known as the "Reagan Plan", which denied the rights of the Arab Palestinian people to establish an independent state. During the civil war in Lebanon, Reagan spoke in support of the government headed by the leader of the Christian forces Bashir Gemayel. In 1982, U.S. Marines landed in Lebanon and took part in the battle against anti-government forces. Ships of the U.S. Sixth Fleet shelled residential districts of Beirut, captured by enemies of Gemayel. In October 1983, about 250 Marines were killed in a bomb explosion in deployment of U.S. troops in Beirut. In early 1984, Reagan was forced to withdraw all surviving Americans from Lebanon. The death of soldiers in Lebanon caused controversy in American society: the president was accused of undue risk. However, the actions of the Arab terrorists were certainly condemned. Reagan announced tough anti-terror policy. The object of presidential anger was Libya. Its leader Muammar Gaddafi was responsible for a series of terrorist attacks. As a preventive measure, the American planes bombed Libyan cities in 1986. Scandal "Iran-Contra" tarnished the reputation of Reagan. His influence declined in connection with the presidential elections of 1988. Despite these mistakes and failures, Reagan still maintained his popularity and remained in the memory of Americans as a successful and a major political figure. It can be concluded that President R. Reagan managed to return Americans a sense of optimism and confidence in their abilities. He was an "eternal optimist", according to his wife Nancy Reagan. His efforts to end the Cold War were successful and he went down in history as a popular and beloved American president (Kernek & Thompson, 1993).

   

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