Ronald Reagan was—as early 1945—an ardent proponent of the abolition of atomic weapons and the internationalization of atomic energy.
Reagan’s “dream” was a world free of nuclear weapons.
In the late 1940s, Reagan, a liberal Democrat, took on a leadership role with Screen Actors Guild in Hollywood, and began to engage in “philosophical combat” with Communists in the movie industry.
Reagan was a strong supporter of the idea of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) and the Nixon administration strategy of “détente.”
Détente ran counter to Reagan’s Cold War approach. He maintained that the Soviets were using it as a cover to lull the United States into passivity and self-restraint—leading to a precipitous decline in the military position of the United States in the area of nuclear arms.
As early as his unsuccessful 1976 presidential campaign, Reagan insisted that a U.S.-led military buildup would strain the relatively weak Soviet economy and force the Soviet Union to concede the arms race and agree to reduce the number of nuclear weapons.
Reagan campaigned extensively on the issue of missile defense in the 1980 presidential campaign.
Reagan felt that he had been spared by God from an assassins’ bullet in order to destroy the Soviet Union and win the Cold War.
By early 1982, the Reagan administration was moving beyond “Containment” of Soviet expansionist tendencies and toward “Rollback.”
SDI did not originate with Reagan, but with his Secretary of State George Schultz.
Reagan’s speech in March 1938 unveiling the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) came as a complete shock to almost everyone outside the administration, and ignited debate and controversy.
Reagan actually liked the name “Star Wars” given to SDI by its critics.
Reagan expressed no preference for what kind of defense technologies SDI might explore. He wanted the United States to look into a wide variety of potential systems, which could be based on land, at sea, or in the air or space, destroy incoming ballistic missiles.
The Soviet Union was critical of SDI, arguing that it would result in a new, expansive arms race in both defensive and offensive high-technology systems.
Soviet leader Gorbachev was the first to suggest a summit with Reagan. He issued an invitation to Reagan in early 1984, but Reagan, suspicious of his motives, refused to meet initially. Only public opinion persuaded Reagan to change course, and meet with Gorbachev.
Reagan saw SDI as a bargaining chip in the summits with Gorbachev from 1985 to 1988.
Reagan maintained a personal dislike of Gorbachev throughout his presidency.
Reagan believed one of the successes of the Geneva Summit in 1985 was his demonstrating to Gorbachev that he would not budge on SDI.
Secretary of State George Shultz consistently worked to undermine President Reagan. He was a strong supporter of détente, and refused to support SDI. Reagan ultimately fired him.
At the Reykjavik Summit in 1986, Reagan told Gorbachev that he would share SDI with the Soviets and that it would be deployed after the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.
When did Reagan get his first real introduction to missile defense?
Why did Reagan not like the concept of MAD?
Early in his presidency, Reagan’s foreign policy team was comprised mostly of individuals who had worked with him in California. Who was the glaring exception?
What constituted the fundamental, authoritative statements of U.S. national security policy during the Reagan administration? Signed by the president, they were used to promulgate presidential decisions implementing national policy and objectives in all areas involving national security