Iran releases American Hostages (January 20, 1981) 52 Americans were taken hostage from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on November 1979 and were finally released on the day of Reagan’s inauguration. (See Prominent Issues of the Election C for more)
British House of Commons (July 2, 1982) Reagan spoke about how there is hope for the future and how we can be optimistic. He said democracy can work and is working. Hence the quote: (we are at the) “end of a bloody century” He then went on to relate his beliefs that no matter what Communist leaders say (especially the Soviet Union) every person, no matter where they are,wants freedom. Then he said that all our enemies should know that if it comes to it we will fight for our freedom though we would rather solve problems peacefully. He ended his speech with saying we have gone through the worst and it’s only going to get better from here.
America Invaded Grenada (October 25, 1983) (Code Name: Operation Urgent Fury)- Grenada’s leader Maurice Bishop (a Marxist) started having a friendly relationship with Russia. In 1983, Bernard Coard (another Marxist) had Bishop assassinated and now he had control of Grenada. There was a lot of violence because some people didn’t like the new government When a threat was posed to American Nationals in Grenada, Reagan sent troops in to save the Americans and fight the Marxist . Eventually Coard’s government collapsed and a new government that met the American standards was set up.
Reagan makes his Evil Empire Speech (March 8, 1983)-he spoke to the National Association of Evangelicals. Reagan started by saying that the relationship between U.S. and Russia was not okay and they needed to talk about limiting nuclear weapons (in both America and the Soviet Union), everything was far from fine. His “Evil Empire” speech focused mainly on the evil empire, Russia. He said that fighting on the battlefield( this time) isn’t gonna solve any problems. When Reagan stood up and said straight out Russia is an Evil Empire, the relationship between the two countries changed forever. His speech continued by saying no matter how good you think Communism is for your country, not one ounce of goodness is coming from it. (He also stated that he wanted to make abortion illegal.)
Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) (March 23, 1983) Reagan proposed his idea of the SDI which was a defense systems against incoming nuclear missiles. At this time, Reagan was concerned about the Soviet’s advanced nuclear capabilities and was trying to protect the United States from nuclear missiles. This Defense Initiative, used both ground and spaced based systems to block missiles. (Part of the goal of the SDI was to make Russia nervous and drive them to remove their weapons out of fear)
The SDI was not accepted among Americans. People felt it was unrealistic to create such an advanced technology in space and therefore nicknamed the plan “Star Wars.” Congress was also concerned about the high cost of the project. Eventually in 1991, the SDI was renamed the Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (GPALS). Its goals were minimized to only protect against smaller attacks.
Attack on U.S. embassy (April 18, 1983)- a suicide bomber drove a truck filled with explosives into the U.S. embassy in Beirut. Sixty-three people were killed, 16 of whom were American.. At this time the U.S. had troops in Beirut to help keep stability during the Lebanese Civil War. Many people wanted the U.S. out of Beirut. One group of people who felt this way was the Islamic Jihad Organization, who claimed responsibility for the embassy attack.
Bombing of Lebanon Barracks (October 23, 1983). Lebanon was fighting a major civil war. US troops had been stationed in Lebanon in order to help the Lebanese government that would be friendlier to the US and Israel. They tried to maintain peace and order within the country. In 1983, suicide bombers attacked the US Marine barracks, killing 241 men. This attack made it more difficult for the US to maintain peace. Two years later, Lebanese government asked for all the american troops to be removed and Reagan complied. This attack was a huge blow to America and particularly president Reagan. These events changed his administration policy and he never sent anymore troops back to Lebanon.
Reagan Doctrine (1985)- Reagan wanted to stop the Soviet movements in other countries (to make sure communism doesn’t spread and to try to end the cold war) and promote capitalism. The Reagan Doctrine allowed him to give help to anti- communist groups in places where there were communist governments, such as: Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The Reagan Doctrine was especially helpful for Nicaragua. At the time the Somoza regime had been overthrown by a group called the Sandinistas. At first the Sandinistas seemed ok, they created programs to improve the lives of the poor, but then the Sandinista leaders started taking away basic human rights. In addition, America saw the Sandinista revolution as a act of possible move towards communism. As a result of this, America cut off all economic aid that Nicaragua was receiving from them. As things got worse in Nicaragua, Reagan secretly gave help to the Nicaraguan contras (rebels) who wanted to overthrow the Sandinista government. Reagan also gave money to help the contras train in military.
Geneva Summit (November 19 and 20, 1985) The first meeting between Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev (leader of the Soviet Union), took place in Geneva, Switzerland. The purpose was to discuss refraining usage of nuclear weapons, as well as forming a partnership between the Soviet Union and the US. Although the summit didn’t amount to anything, the leaders held nice conversations and established a relationship.
The Reykjavík Summit (October 11-12, 1986) This was the second meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev and was held in Höfði, Reykjavík. The two leaders discussed removing nuclear arms from Reykjavík. They negotiated for many hours and were almost able to dismantle all nuclear weapons from both countries. Although Reagan and Gorbachev couldn’t come to an agreement on anything, this meeting was considered a turning point of the cold war.
Operation El Dorado Canyon (April 15,1986). Libya threatened to send nuclear missiles to America and committed a series of terrorist attacks against Americans. Reagan retaliated by carrying out a series of air strikes in Tripoli and Benghazi. During the air strikes Reagan addressed the nation and said: “When our citizens are abused or attacked anywhere in the world, we will respond in self-defense. Today we have done what we had to do. If necessary, we shall do it again.” This operation silenced the earlier threats of Muammar Gaddafi, leader of Libya.
“Tear down this wall!”(June 12, 1987) Reagan made a speech while visiting West Berlin. He addressed the leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, and requested the removal the Berlin Wall, which divided eastern and western Germany. The wall was built by the Soviets after WWII when they acquired the land in eastern Germany. It was extremely significant since it separated the communist Soviets from the rest of Europe. The wall was heavily guarded, preventing people from escaping. Many families from the East and West of Germany lost all contact and were unable to see each other for many years.
Iran-Contra Affair (August 20, 1987- March 4, 1987)- Reagan secretly traded weapons with terrorists in Lebanon who were holding American hostages. Funds from this trade agreement were also used to help rebels in Nicaragua (who were against the Nicaraguan government). People were very upset at Reagan about this. He was doing secret things without telling the people, as well as aiding terrorists!
13. Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces signed (December 8, 1987) (Its real name: Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles) Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed it in Washington D.C. It abolished all nuclear and conventional missiles that were 500-1,000 kilometers (short-ranged) and 1,000–5,500 km (intermediate- ranged). This treaty did not apply to sea-launched missiles.
The Cold War had a major effect on Reagan’s presidency. Communism went against everything Reagan stood for and therefore he did everything he could to stop it. The Cold War started in 1945 after World War II and finally ended when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. It wasn’t a war that was fought with guns and armies, but was a competition between the world’s two most powerful countries. They competed for the strongest military, the most advanced technology, and who could gain the most power.
Many times in his presidency Reagan expressed his hatred for communism (see “Evil Empire Speech” Foreign Policies #3). Reagan felt that America should have a strong military for many reasons. One reason was that he wanted to be viewed as the “higher up country”, the one with more strength. He did this by having a stronger military than the Soviet Union. He also felt that when he would negotiate with the Soviet Union (which he did) he’d be able to get what he wanted more easily if he had the “upper hand” (the stronger military). When Reagan proposed the SDI, (see Strategic Defense Initiative Foreign Policies #5 for more) Russia became a nervous (even though the SDI relied on technology America didn’t even have, it did exactly what Reagan wanted it to do: make Russia afraid) This was another thing that gave America an edge on negotiating.
When Reagan increased defense spending, an arms race was created between the U.S and Soviet Union. As each country tried to have the bigger, better military, more and more money was spent. America’s economy was able to handle it, the Soviets wasn’t. Their economy was severely damaged because of their increased defense spending.
In 1985, a new communist leader came to power, Mikhail Gorbachev, he was very good for the Soviet Union and wanted to make his country a better place, he wanted to make his country’s political system democratic.
Reagan liked Gorbachev and they formed a close relationship and made many treaties together. (for example:Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles). Reagan felt strongly about communism. He came into his presidency and told America he saw a problem with the Soviet Union. He made treaties, he negotiated, he met with leaders. He did everything in his power to bring communism down. Two years later, the wall came down. Did Reagan bring the wall down himself? He definitely had a major part in in it. The Cold War shows Reagan in a good light. He accomplished something very hard and he did it in the best way possible without killing people. Where would the Soviet Union be if Reagan hadn’t accomplished what he did? Where would America be? Reagan accomplished many great things and the way he dealt with the Soviet Union was his greatest feat.