tv Reagans Foreign Policy CSPAN August 30, 2015 9:35pm-10:01pm EDT
video. >> monday, on c-span two. recently, american history tv was at the society for historians of american foreign relations' anymore meeting in arlington, virginia -- and you will meeting in arlington, virginia -- annual meeting in arlington, virginia. james graham wilson, who is the author of a new book on reagan and gorbachev but you are also the historian for the state department. what is your job? i am one of wilson: a number of historians for the state department. we work on a project called the united states series which is a congressionally mandated, officials documentary record of u.s. diplomacy and foreign relations. we are currently working on 45 covering the reagan
administration from things like the soviet union and central america and policies towards south africa and it is an exciting project to be working on and we are hopeful to have the first volume come out later this year. the start about ronald reagan's foreign policy. let's talk about ronald reagan's foreign policy. on one of theased most high profile summits that took place. was the all, why location for the summit -- reykjavik the location for the summit? james graham wilson: it would be a prelude for gorbachev coming to the united states. it was a, let's get together in a compromise country between the east and the west and have an informal conversation about how to move forward. this turned very quickly into a
rather dramatic few days in which reagan and gorbachev spoke very seriously about getting rid of all nuclear weapons. end of the stumbling block right stumbling block right at the end was gorbachev asking reagan to limit testing of sti, something that was very dear to him. so this encounter ended with scenes of reagan slumped over, very emotional, gorbachev looking very disappointed. i think that ultimately as the two sides realized what had gone on they thought it should be regarded as a breakthrough in the history of arms control. book begins by talking about reagan's bid for the white house. he told an aide to get one of the reasons he wanted to run was to end the cold war but he did not have a plan. james graham wilson: i think
that reagan, who was a supreme the mission of his political career, which really skyrocketed in 1964, is finding some way out of the cold war. as i try to say in the book i do not think he had necessarily a clear idea of what to do. two great big games, to get rid of communism and nuclear weapons. , to get rid of communism and nuclear weapons. he had trouble reconciling him. reconciling them. it was the arrival of gorbachev that was the key moment and also the role of george and rationalizing the conflicting impulses. a fascinating story, president carter's national security advisor getting a call norad, thinking
that there were soviet missiles. what happened? james graham wilson: he received three phone calls. the first one was from military advisers saying they were racking soviet icbms -- tracking soviet icbms. he says to call back in a minute. the callback can say that they are no longer cracking a couple of hundred, they are tracking a couple of thousand. his responses that at least i know what to do. m b third phone call is to say about the whole thing had been a computer error -- and the third phone call is to say that the whole thing had been a computer error. in between these moments,
something incredible happened very quickly that nobody expected.o st -- there is an opportunity to figure out the causes of the end of the cold war. one of the exciting things that the conference this week is that in 2015 we have at least 20 papers that are on this. late -- this period of the late carter and early reagan administration. >> have you had a chance to talk to former president carter or ronald reagan's aides? james graham wilson: i have not met president carter. i have spoken to john poindexter and i have had a lot of -- withon wiht plays a verywho
important role as the top soviet advisor on the national security conference. it is one of the fun parts about my job, working for the state department. although the book is my own scholarship and not necessarily official policy of the state department or the u.s. government. one of the wonderful things is getting to encounter these people who are now retired and often have a lot of stories to say that they were not necessarily captured in the official record at the time. >> can they be a lot more open? james graham wilson: yes. >> let me ask you about one of the iconic moments. he travels to west berlin and says mr. gorbachev, tear down this wall. getting beyond the important speech and have significant it was to the 10 year period you
just discussed in terms of his approach to the cold war and the fall of the soviet union. james graham wilson: at the end of the day, there was no operational policy that flowed from it in the reagan administration. that is to say, they did not follow up my coming up with a policy for how to bring down the wall. the basic tenor in reagan's ofversation towards the end his administration was that maybe this was something that could happen in several decades. to give another example about the berlin wall, he said to me about hemorrhages and your said said ton november -- me that henry kissinger said to him in november that what would have been on his watch was the very gradual start of a very gradual communication of soviet
-- diminishing of soviet control. it might come down within the next two decades. it happens within a year and not because reagan said to tear down the wall. when it came down that night it was not because gorbachev gave a specific order. i do think it is an important moment but i think that even more important in terms of in 1989 andtoric the end of the cold war is what he said when he went to moscow in the summer of 88 when asked if the soviet union was still the evil empire. he said he was talking about a different time, another era. that really neutralized the perception of threat in the soviet union when it came to americans and it allowed events to proceed very quickly. 1989,n the wall fell in john sununu, the former white in a newef of staff
book says that president bush did not want to rub it into the face of maccallum gorbachev. he wanted to have a low-key .pproach -- mikhail gorbachev he wanted to have a low-key approach. was that the right one? james graham wilson: absolutely. one thing that was not clear at the time about president bush and that i have learned to appreciate is that in his role as vice president of the two terms, he was in charge of something called basically crisis management group and he was often presented with scenarios of things that might bad as, could be in the future. i think that a lot of times -- that is scenarios, could be in the future. times, one of the fears was what would happen if there were a kind of quick collapse of soviet power. what would happen, how would
they respond? and the expectation always was, before gorbachev, that there would be a very harsh reaction from the kremlin. night ofat bush on the november 9, 1989, you see somebody who was very, very cautious about saying anything, even with his body language, that might be interpreted in the images and broadcast to the soviet union as hostile. i did it was very unfair the way he was portrayed on the floor of the house the next day, criticizing the president for not taking a victory lap. i agree with the defense team at the time. seeds to the fall of the berlin wall. polish popen of a and the solidarity movement in poland. how significant were those movements? james graham wilson: both were
instrumentally important figures in the end of the cold war. ope, howus line, the p many divisions does he have? goes to polandii at the end of the 70's and it is a sensational moment, viewed by a billion people in the world. he played a big role in keeping live, inty a lot of -- a keeping support. there is an incredible moment in 1989. he debates one of the members of the government. it shows what a charismatic figure he is. and i think that history will regard him as a giant of the 20th century. know, is very important, confusing, but
relevant story in the early 80's. one of the scholars that is here, nick schaefer, has written a great book about u.s. policies towards poland from the late 70's to the early 90's. many of the things that we're about going on in the ukraine are very much -- -- that we hear about going on in the ukraine are very much like the political arguments and tensions between the united states and western europe once you have the series of strikes in poland and the possibility that the soviets might go in as they had done in hungry and czechoslovakia. number ofhave been a people at the conference that look at this issue in a way that will be helpful. in this book you describe the scene with gorbachev and reagan. what about the personal interaction between these two men? what was it like?
james graham wilson: it certainly evolved, i would say. the first encounter, was, perhaps, i do not think it was as warm as it then became. there was a moment when gorbachev made a joke about reagan having been in a bunch of b movies. redange took great umbrage and tried to say i was in some good ones, too. there is this moment when they encounter each other and you see gorbachev getting out of the reagan, bundled up, and bounding down the stairs. encounter, which gorbachevtch on tv, said, i hope you do not catch cold. reagan had outrun his interpreter so he had no idea what he was hearing. .e just stood there and smiled
that is a microcosm for the initial encounters. reagan really saw somebody that he had not expected. came to believe that gorbachev is somebody that believes in god, has a wonderful family and an educated wife, not at all what reagan expected from the leader of the communist world. and he began to put back inether with his confidence the strategic defense initiative or star wars. and by the second or third encounters started to conceive of a grand vision where the united states would build sdi, it would share it with the soviet union, and that would be a sort of insurance policy towards having a blockbuster deal that would in the long-term eliminate nuclear weapons. they would keep the defense
system in case somebody like qaddafi were to get their hands on the bomb. the series of soviet leaders until gorbachev took over, didn't margaret thatcher famously say we can do business with these guys -- this guy as opposed to rest of -- brezhnev? james graham wilson: she hosts gorbachev and is tremendously impressed by him. she says he is a man that we can do business with and tells reagan as much. another point to the story is that another thing that was not so well known at the time is that reagan was always reaching out to soviet leaders from the first few months in office. he wrote handwritten letters to to find, saying we need a way out of the cold war. he had this impulse to reach out to a soviet leader but obviously gorbachev was the one. >> what was the cold war all
about? james graham wilson: the cold war was about three things, i think. the division of germany, and europe more broadly. nuclear weapons. a real, unsettled ideological culture at the end of world war ii over what was the fair, the most fair way of organizing society. and i think that in all three of those questions, they were settled to some extent in the eriod from 1979 to 1991. they was not an answer -- did not go away but at least there was an answer to how we stop the arms race.
tommy does and does not go away but that does not mean the free market is the answer to everything. awaymmunism does not go but that does not mean the free market is the answer to everything. >> as the historian to the state department i understand that you cannot give your opinion but i wonder if you can apply what you learned with how we deal with russia generally true that. are there -- generally today. are there lessons that can apply going ahead? james graham wilson: i think that one of the lessons is that as we go forward, just to keep in mind that this history, this period at the end of the cold war is much fresher in the minds of people in russia and eastern europe. that, to them, this is something that could have happened last week. for people who are my age, they were kids when the soviet union
was a superpower. and they hear a lot of these things from their parents and they look at a world in which the country does not have the same status. that really has nothing to do with what our proper policies should be in terms of russia more broadly but i do think if we go into a cycle, and people are reading about the topic, it is something to keep in mind, the very recent history in this part of the world. >> why is this an area of study for you? james graham wilson: i got very interested -- as everyone my age events informative our lives ruby attacks of september 11. -- were the attacks of september 11. i was investor college. -- as -- in vassar college.
i became interested in several whats in trying to get at were these situations that led to this conflict. why did i get to grow up, be a teenager, and not have to worry about getting under the desk for nuclear drills? i never had to deal with it and my parents did. i think i was very lucky to go of the lateriod 90's were the sense of threat period at least a brief not there. >> in your book you talked about gorbachev's adaptability and reagan's engagement in the end of the cold war. -- and the end of the cold war. did the men make the moment ordered the moment make the individuals? james graham wilson: -- or did the moment make the individuals? james graham wilson: these
individuals, and i talk a lot about secretary of state george schultz, there were structural changes, the recovery of the russian economy, the collapse in the price of oil which had a devastating effect on the soviet economy, the technological revolution, these things were more important. even more important or decisions made by individuals in power, including reagan and gorbachev. at the end of the day, the individuals made the moment. >> how did mikael gorbachev become adaptable and how did ronald reagan engage? james graham wilson: gorbachev, because of his time in the 1970's traveling to western europe, and elsewhere, he saw that the promises that he was told -- and he believed in
communism -- that other societies were enjoying a higher standard of living. he was embarrassed by a lot of the stagnation, anti-semitism on the part of leaders in the kremlin and he was ready to try new things. , a european home, glasnost, to him, these were ideas to pursue. like franklin roosevelt, who wanted to try anything he could to save capitalism, that was gorbachev's mentality towards communism. he tried to adapt his ideology to fit changes. and reagan's engagement, from the start he was trying to engage soviet leaders. it was i think a function of his incredible optimism, he really believed he could sit down and talk to anyone and persuade them in the end. retained that confidence
through the end of his presidency. >> as one of the historians in the state department, is it a fun job? james graham wilson: it is the best job that there is and it is a lot of fun. i learn something new every hour of every day. >> what is the next project? james graham wilson: we have the first volume on the soviet union which should come up this year which is 1981-1983. i think there will be a lot of interest in it. i am trying to finish up the publication file, and you need file, it is a fascinating story. >> thank you for being with us. >> with live coverage of the u.s. house on c-span and the senate on c-span2, here on c-span3 we implement that coverage by showing you the most relevant hearings and on
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1994, discovered and subsequently excavated remains of the original 1608 fort where captain john smith and pocahontas walked the grounds. recently, jamestown rediscovery and the smithsonian institution announced they had identified the remains of four skeletons buried 400 years ago inside the fort's church. they also discovered a tiny silver box containing seven bones that may have been considered holy relics by the community. while the bodies were being excavated in 2013, the smithsonian used laser scanning technology to create this 3d model of the entire burial site. this time lapse video recorded