America's Cold War Triumph

President Reagan’s Soviet Strategy, 1981 - 1989

Project Director:
Joe Egan

Source Materials:
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, NARA, Library of Congress, President Reagan’s Diaries, The History Channel© Media Resource Archive, The Cold War Museum, various other related repositories

The 1980’s saw a fundamental shift in the global balance of power. By the end of the decade it was evident that the United States, under President Ronald Reagan leadership, had gained a clear & distinct advantage over the Soviet Union in our decades long Cold War. The aggressive political and strategic defense policies enacted during his presidency were a marked shift from those of previous administrations and the result of his combined efforts proved a tipping point – the end of Détente.

By utilizing photos, archival footage, video interviews with key administration officials & Reagan confidants, official government documents, cabinet meeting transcripts, personal letters & official correspondence, and the president’s own diaries – as well as period newspaper articles, political cartoons, & magazine editorials reflecting all points of view (w/ a particular emphasis to those that opposed the president’s policy positions); our site seeks to provide a 360 degree view of the formulation & implementation of president Reagan’s aggressive new Cold War strategy. And just as importantly, we’ll take a fresh look at the results of these policies and try to assess the consequences of his actions – both at home and around the world.

The website will have two key features – a continuously expanding digital Archive repository of both primary & secondary documents (as listed above), as well as an in-depth interactive Timeline exhibit utilizing many of these archive holdings. Our core mission is to utilize the critical distance now available after 20 years to re-examine Reagan’s contribution to ending the Cold War.

Our attempt to provide a holistic examination of Reagan’s role in America’s Cold War victory is an admittedly ambitious one. The approach will be to take a focused and penetrating look at five seminal events that took place during the 1980’s. We believe that thorough scholarly & critical analysis of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), his 1983 “Evil Empire” speech, the unique relationship he had with Premiere Gorbachev, the historic 1985 US/Soviet negotiations at Reykjavík, and his 1987 “Tear Down this Wall” speech at Brandenburg Gate will provide both a sufficiently broad while also a simultaneously detailed view of the totality of Reagan's contribution.

Our first look will be at SDI – perhaps better know to history as “Star Wars”.

More broadly, we think that in studying these specific events our audience will also confront some of the larger questions that history has been asking since he left office — was Ronald Reagan the principal architect of 1980’s Soviet strategy or just an actor reading from script? Did the president “win” the Cold War or was America’s triumph the inevitable fruition of our long-held policy of containment? Was his administrations drastic escalation of the arms race a reckless gamble or a carefully informed risk?

These are among the still raging debates seeks to address. By making available scores of source materials — representing all points of view and across all visual mediums — and in providing detailed context & insightful scholarly analysis, our Archive collection and Timeline exhibit will greatly inform the user and help shape their own perspective.

These are open questions. We provide the information, you drawn your own conclusions.


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