Peace Through Strength

“There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Confronting the challenges posed by the spread of communism and the superpower armaments of a belligerent Soviet Union, Reagan sought to restore America’s military strength as the best avenue to prevent war and promote peace and freedom. He embraced American advantages in modern technology, launching and defending the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), and upgrading the Nation’s nuclear and non-nuclear forces. He spoke blunt truths about the nature of communism and its increasingly apparent failures as an economic provider and as a morally acceptable system of government. He crafted what he called a “forward strategy for freedom” in the world, helping provide aid – but not troops – to anti-communist resistance fighters across the globe. He pledged not to cede on his watch another inch of territory around the world to Soviet domination. He famously challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall. His policies clearly led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously said that Reagan ended the Cold War “without firing a shot.”

Key Reagan Defense – Foreign Policy Actions and Achievements

  • Strongly promoted significant increases in defense spending, despite growing deficits
  • Pursued a 600-ship Navy, almost reaching that goal
  • Described communism as an “evil empire” destined for “the ash heap of history.”
  • Worked closely with Thatcher and Pope John Paul II on anti-communist activities
  • Introduced intermediate range nuclear missiles in Europe to counter the Soviet threat
  • Successfully opposed the misguided, but once-popular, “nuclear freeze” movement
  • Pursued the “Reagan Doctrine,” aiding anti-communist freedom fighters around the world
  • Authorized successful brief military actions in Grenada and Libya
  • Restored new national pride in military service, overturning the Vietnam-era malaise
  • Rejected Gorbachev’s ploy to kill SDI at the Reykjavik Summit
  • Delivered an eight-year drumbeat of speeches extolling freedom against communism
  • Signed the INF Treaty with Gorbachev, removing nuclear missiles from Europe

In His Own Words

“Above all, we must realize that… no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today’s world do not have.”
First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981

“We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we will always be free.”
D-Day Commemoration at Normandy, France, June 6, 1984

“Experience has taught us that preparedness deters aggression and that weakness invites it.”
Proclamation 5880 – Veterans Day, 1988, October 12, 1988

Remarks at a Dinner Honoring the Republican Majority in the Senate, December 9, 1982

“We live in a precarious world threatened by totalitarian forces who seek to subvert and destroy freedom. The peace we enjoy is maintained only by our strength and resolve, and it’s our duty to fortify both.”
Remarks on Signing a Proclamation Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the British Surrender at Yorktown, Virginia, September 14, 1981