tv The Presidency Ronald Reagan Cold War Politics CSPAN January 26, 2019 5:10pm-6:01pm EST
politics from a conference titled "ronald reagan and john paul the second: the partnership that change the world." speakers include former national security council staffers that served under reagan. the white house writers group organized this event. >> the ambassador has held a number of prominent positions in diplomacy and academia, serving as the national security council's director of soviet and european affairs during the administration of president george w. bush. what concerns us today, her service on the national security council in the white house of ronald reagan. a resident scholar at the university of california berkeley, a fellow at ashland university, a fellow at pacific research institute and a frequent contributor to powerline blog.com, dr. steven hayward is the author of a number of books including a magisterial two-volume work, the age of reagan.
the founder and president of the institute of world politics here in washington, he is the author of many works including his 2011 book, full spectrum diplomacy and grand strategy. he served on the national security council in the white house of ronald reagan. doctors, or as i have known you all for years, paula, steve, and john, welcome. three quotations. [applause] >> three quotations. richard nixon, president richard nixon in may 1973. we seek a stable structure. national security must rest upon a certain equilibrium. president jimmy carter in 1977. we have moved to engage the soviet union.
our goal is stability, parity, and security. president ronald reagan speaking in december 1981 about the crackdown on solidarity of the polish trade union. i think there must be an awful lot of people in the iron curtain countries who feel the same way as the people of poland. we may never get another chance like this in our lifetime. if this were sesame street, you would say, two of these quotations sound like each other. but one does not fit. how did ronald reagan do that? stand up to the mindset, richard nixon and jimmy carter. then along comes reagan. where did it come from, paula? >> ronald reagan was a leader. ronald reagan came into the
white house with a vision. this did not happen suddenly. he had purpose, he had vision, and it was a platform he also definitively campaigned on won then not just only election, but executed it. what is remarkable when you think about it is the consistency of purpose and the way in which it was detailed in the doctor's book, the integrated diplomacy. there was a strategy. all the elements were tied together. the economic components. diplomacy being crucial to this execution. also the military. the military in the sense of defenses and in terms of having,
as was the slogan, peace through strength. you had a president who had a vision coming in, putting in place all the elements and executing. it was a privilege to be part of that team and that execution. >> john and steve, i want to ask you to establish the background. how bad was it? as a matter of geo-strategy. the soviets have entrenched themselves in cuba and africa, built a deep water navy. on and on it goes. this is the background is ronald reagan takes office. john, is this something we could have lived with? as a matter of geo-strategy, how bad is the situation ronald reagan inherits when he takes the oath of office in january 1981? >> the soviet union in the
1970's was on the march. it was involved in helping to bring about communist takeovers in many countries around the world. you mentioned indochina. the soviets were heavily responsible for the north vietnamese victory in south vietnam. they and their propaganda apparatus around the world was a huge part of it. the north vietnamese generals declared the fundamental reason, maybe the decisive reason for their victory, was the effectiveness of their propaganda and psychological operations against the united states during that war. then you had a procommunist coup in south yemen. you had communists take over in namibia. you had a communist take over in grenada and another one in
nicaragua. there was soviet-cuban subversion all over latin america. much of this is documented in the grenada archives, which nobody studies anymore. these were the internal documents of the new jewel movement, when we invaded grenada, we got a hold of their internal documents, which had black on white agreements, soviet and east german, cuban military assistance, intelligence agreements, and so forth. there were blueprints for the destruction of the churches in grenada, which included such things as the promulgation of liberation theology on the island, and bringing experts on that subject from cuba and nicaragua. we were not only demoralized after vietnam and divided as a nation, but the soviets
perceived us as increasingly weakening. they were beginning their own -- they had their own massive peace movement. they had hundreds, maybe as many thousand, front organizations operating around the world. that did not count the active communist parties involved. it was a massive global movement backed up by their massive military and diplomatic operations. espionage and active measures, coverts disinformation, influence and so on. >> john just mentioned the word demoralized. we are laying down a record. we are talking about 30 years ago. 30 years from now we will all be tottering around or gone.
it is important to get this down. what do you teach, what do kids need to grasp about what the united states felt like? the question of national morale by 1979. that in theudents old days, you got up to while a phone, you had to get up to change the channel on the tv because they were not remotes. they are shocked. you are trying to explain the demoralization of a country that reaches its apotheosis in the famous speech of president reagan's predecessor. students can't believe it. it's a whole different world to them. what people need to know, and it bears on the title of our panel, we may never get another chance like this. the whole story of getting to that moment is this dramatic, it is moving, it is profound. it testifies to reagan's greatness as a statesman. i stay he was a statesman in the old sense of that word.
it is archaic, but it means an attachment to principal and a profound grasp of the circumstances. let me say more about reagan's grasp of the circumstances. it was very profound. one of the key elements there of his many virtues is patience. but there is another sense in which that statement, or title, is wrong. i don't mean inaccurate, not truthful to the moment. not in any revisionist sense. what i mean is it takes it back to something else reagan said early in his political career. back in the 1960's, which should stick with us. he said we are only one generation away from losing our freedom. we are now a little more than one generation past reagan. as you and i were talking, socialism is back. how did this happen? john, you put your finger on it recently when i heard you talk. you mentioned whittaker chambers saying this is the root of this.
gone.viets may be but we don't want to leave it just the chance. a lot of things came together. the pope, president reagan, margaret thatcher should be mentioned. what are the odds of that happening? and by the way, all three of them survived an assassination attempt. i'm not normally one to make declarations on the elegy, but it is hard to dismiss the role of province and that could the reason we -- in that. the reason we study it is hopefully we create the same chance. >> a couple of events in the reagan administration, decisions, tell us what they meant. national security decision directive nsdd-75, the united
states will contain and overtime reverse soviet expansionism by competing with the soviet union in all arenas and promote the process of change in the soviet union toward a system in which the power of a privileged ruling elite is reduced. did that feel as breathtakingly aggressive at the time as it sounds today? >> it is interesting the way you ask the question. being in that decision-making process, i will say, and this may be surprising there was , actually a kind of unity of purpose here. i felt, even with other agencies, that's not to say there were not little battles here and there, but there was a unity of purpose. it was breathtaking at the time. but it was something that mobilized us and guided us. i brought with me, beautiful reflections by margaret thatcher on her view of reagan.
one of them relates to what you just asked. she said his view that we should fight the battle of ideas for freedom against communism throughout the world and to refuse the concept, to accept the permanent exclusion of captive nations from the benefits of freedom. that undergirds nsdd 75. it is worth saying three points here. your first question, nsdd 75 underscores the first question. ronald reagan wanted to advance freedom, not accept the existence of captive nations worldwide, no less the soviet union, which is what nsdd 75 targets, but he wanted to do something about it and apply all instruments of policy toward that end. secondly, what was also
significant, it was not just the actions, also the words. ideas mattered. the ideas that were put on the table were followed up by policies. they had consequences, definitively. thirdly, to me, being in foreign policy, i think about these directives and i do think about that directive and how that directive has provided a kind paradigm for many, not only at that time, but even up until this present day. recently, some were telling me they look back at that directive in thinking about how you deal with iran at this time. interestingly enough. the blueprint for action was not only relevant and gripping then, but at the same time, extremely relevant up to this time. >> address from the oval office,
march 23, 1983 -- "let me share with you a vision of the future that offers hope. we embark on a program to counter the soviet missile with measures which are defensive. what if we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?" the strategic defense initiative, or star wars, which the new york times termed a pipe dream, strategic importance? >> i think it was extremely important. it was one of those material things the administration, the president applied in the various pressures on the soviet system. let me summarize the material things. i think ultimately it would not have happened without the
nonmaterial things, which is what this conference is mostly about. the nonmaterial things did require some kind of a material complement. first, there was the military buildup. in quantitative terms, the reagan military buildup did not even match the gorbachev military buildup. you should be aware. but we had the advantage of technology, sprint capability, we had the computer revolution in military affairs, stealth technology, and sdi was one of those things. it was ready -- that presented the soviet union with the prospect of trumping its potential -- either complete or partial first strike capability with nuclear weapons.
the military buildup put huge pressure on the soviet military economy. people talk about a crisis in the soviet economy. the principal crisis was in the military economy. the crisis in the civilian economy started in 1917 and it was the inability to keep up with us technologically that compelled the soviets to experiment with different types of reforms, but they never could do reforms -- gorbachev for example never decentralized his economy even as much as khrushchev did. then we deprived them of hard currency earnings, particularly in their energy earnings by stimulating the saudis to increase energy production. we had a massive security program to deprive them of
technology. we supported the anti-communist resistance movement in afghanistan, central america, southern africa. all of those are the material things. they were incredibly important. but ultimately, none of those material things explain how a million people can take to the streets of moscow. >> in 1990? >> yes. it does not explain how the coal miners were going on strike not for safer working conditions, more wages, or better vacations. they were demanding radical political change. none of this material things explain that. what explains it is the nonmilitary strategy that ronald reagan brought to bear. question, youirst said, what is the difference
between the nixon-carter discussion of stability versus reagan's idea? reagan understood the soviets were on the political strategic offensive. instead of engaging in moral equivalence and 19th-century balance of power politics kissinger style, which assumed there was no fundamental threat of one side to the other by virtue of our dna -- remember, george cannon said the soviets hate us not for what we do, but for who we are. reagan understood that if they are going to be on the offensive, why should we be on the defense of all the time? we should do reciprocity in all this. what is the cold war? not hurling guns and rockets. it is the war of ideas. the war of two different philosophies of life. two different philosophies of
the relationship between man and the state. two different philosophies on the concept of human rights versus anti-human rights. it is that war which reagan fought, which nobody else fought. >> address to the national association of evangelicals in 1983. "in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, i urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and labeling both sides equally at fault. of ignoring the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding, and thereby remove yourselves from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil." now, that was over the top, don't you think? >> not a bit.
>> not a bit. >> he says your discussion of a nuclear freeze proposal, explain that. the nuclear freeze movement. >> it was a religiously-based movement that started with the catholics. but it spread to protestants. there were several initiatives on state ballots calling for a nuclear freeze in 1982 that won, so this had momentum. what alarmed the white house was when the southern baptist convention, one of the southern s adopted avention' nuclear freeze. this could be problematic to go too far into this. unlike pope john paul, for lots of reasons it would take too long to explain, protestant christianity, certain parts of it have often said, we are maybe americans, but our first loyalty is to god.
your obligations as a citizen may sit on the back burner. there is a lot more to discuss than we have time to today. on the other hand, these are basically conservative anti-communist people and reagan wanted to rally them. he gives a very serious protestant theological explanation of why you can't check out of this. and you certainly can't offer implicit or explicit aid to the moral equivalency at the root of the nuclear freeze movement. he does not directly attack the nuclear freezers as being people of bad motives, which we know they were. but it was implied. it is very effective. >> that the background. he calls the soviet union an evil empire and says, do not remove yourselves from the struggle between right and wrong. and good and evil.
and you wish to defend those terms? >> yes. back to your first question, the old equilibrium theory everyone had, why does reagan depart from that? he does it for two reasons. by the way, conservatives believe that. a lot of neo-conservatives thought soviet communism is going to be here for 100 years or more. they said sooner or later, we're going to have to have a war with these people. what reagan thinks is, it is not a durable form of rule. they can make missiles but they cannot make cornflakes. he would say things like this. beyond that, he said it was a natural. it is an immoral system and an immoral system cannot survive in the long-term. he instinctively and philosophically rejected the core theory of the establishment about the problem. that is why it is easy for him to say it is an evil empire, let's just call them that. >> may i jump in on that one? to me, the result of that was so
consequential because he was speaking to the audience, definitely -- well, in the soviet union, in russia, and also around the globe, and he was speaking to the truth. margaret thatcher said one of the most strong weapons deployed by ronald reagan was his acknowledgment and upholding of human rights. and the hope people want. >> just briefly, i have to ask you because you have been talking about the unity behind nsdd 75 and so forth. i just read a speech that got to the president over the objections of his senior staff. like the westminster address he delivered in june 1982. like the berlin wall address.
you remember because you and i were in the trenches on that one. [laughter] >> very senior members of the white house staff and the foreign-policy apparatus objected to all three of those speeches. >> i didn't. >> you didn't. >> i didn't either. [applause] >> this is a serious question. how much of a problem for president reagan and those of us who were on his side so to speak, was the deep state? how much of a problem? >> you ask me about nsdd 75. pikes passed away recently. he was intimately involved in that. i was engaged also at the time and i remember that process. i am making a distinction to be clear between that process
which was a longer-term process of versus a speech, a single speech. you were quite right on everything you said about the various speeches. it was a battleground. i remember in particular yours, the one you worked on for berlin, tear down that wall. i remember distinctly. even some of our colleagues on the national security council staff, we had a fierce debate because some of us were in favor of it and some of us were against it. the wonderful thing about ronald reagan, and that was your first question, he came in and had a vision and a purpose. absolutely a statesman. but it is not just having the vision, it is implementing it and seeing it through. he took advice, but he went with his passion and instinct and what he knew was right. >> concerning the deep state, he
was overcoming resistance from within his own office. -- operation. >> the proper running of government is the forces of continuity versus the forces of change. and bureaucracy are the forces of continuity and the newly elected officials are the forces of change. it is always a struggle no matter the government. what has been well ensconced for over a decade inside the u.s. government was an understanding of the ussr that it was a permanent feature of the international political landscape and never going to change. and we had to learn to accommodate to this reality and the balance of power and policy and dealing with the symptoms of the tension rather than the
causes of the tension. the causes of the tension were not missiles and rockets and armies. the causes was the dna of the soviet system, an aggressive human rights violating system that had to expand in order to demonstrate the veracity of its ideology. and the president did not accept this precisely because he saw the nature of the system as contrary to human nature and having intrinsic vulnerabilities. our intelligence community was never, throughout that decade and a half, collecting any intelligence on soviet vulnerabilities. it was not done. as a matter of fact, there was one report done on civil unrest in the ussr. published in the mid-1980's, 1985 or so, it was
written in our intelligence community, but the cia, even under bill casey would not publish it. the guy who wrote it had to have it published under the moniker of the national intelligence council, not the cia. because nobody wanted to study. the only person doing vulnerability studies of the soviet union was herb meyer, working for bill casey. and we were collecting no intelligence on the cold war stuff, the war of information and ideas. nothing on propaganda or active measures. there was an anti-anti-communist attitude within the state department and intelligence community. >> i want to cover two more events. you first, hayward.
>> it happens all the time. we get each other's email. >> you first. reykjavik, for a day and a half , gorbachev proposes sweeping cuts in all kinds of weapons, including and especially nuclear weapons, and ronald reagan agrees. and then, to quote steve hayward in the second volume of "the age of reagan," the unheard-of had occurred. the president and general secretary agreed to seek the abolition of all nuclear weapons. near the end of the second day, gorbachev says, by the way, one little condition. sdi toe to confine limited lab research. reagan says nothing to him and the summit ends.
everybody thinks it is a disaster, at least at first. why was that such an important point in the cold war? steven: for several reasons, one of them directly involving him. reagan said early on that what i really want to do is to be nyet.o say there are several important moments lost in the general narrative. it shows his farsightedness. speech, he said this is a long-term project. it might take 20 years, which turned out to be about right. when gorbachev tried to appeal man-to-man,onally
there is this missile defense thing you want to do. it was funny stuff. this, says, even if we do there may be a rogue nation. reagan mentioned libya. both us will need to defend against that. guess what? here we are in a war with north korea and iran. it shows you how farsighted reagan was on so many of these things that tied together. i was doing research in the reagan library. i found right before reykjavik in the timeline was a memo from someone on the national security staff that had it exactly right. i read it 15 years ago, it said, what is gorbachev up to? he said i think he is going to go after sdi. he said we want to smoke him out early if we can. do you remember this memo? it struck me as being that he
nailed it. john: i was skeptical because of pageant like summitry was a was a battlefield that benefited the soviets. it is one of the most dangerous things american presidents can do. peter: everything has to be compressed to be remembered. i have my children in mind so we must compress it all. a fair summary of what happened at reykjavik is that gorbachev makes one run at reagan's effort to bring to bear economic and technical dynamism on this race between us and the soviets and re-confine it to a conventional balance and reagan says no way.
at that moment, it is over. they cannot compete. is that correct? it is a decisive moment. paula: it was a very decisive moment. it is worth going back to when he made the announcement about sdi. it is worth noting you are reading the reagan library literature and memos. cominglooks at what is out of moscow at the time, this was one of the most threatening military developments for moscow. gorbacheva surprise did what he did. because when you look at the material years later, you see that the actual announcement in development, when reagan in the meeting leading up to reykjavik, this
was singled out as one of the most threatening military developments. >> briefly, steve. steve reagan liked to argue : about ideas. the soviet transcript is more complete than the state department transcript. in the soviet transcript, it reads wonderfully. wantn says you communists single party rule. and gorbachev says, there he is again, quoting phony lenin quotations. and then reagan says, look. every soviet leader from lenin down has said it. but you have not said it. maybe you don't believe it. i have noticed you don't say it. and i was thinking to myself, that is the moment where you could almost a clear that the cold war was over and gorbachev missed it.
he missed the chance and there was reagan, saying it. that got lost in most talks of it. gorbachev missed the chance. there was reagan saying that. it is fascinating to see. that got lost in most of the accounts of it. >> the next topic is poland. paula: i am of ukrainian descent. rethink allve to the years of affection. apologize to you and all your ancestors. paula: we had a united front. >> the pope visits poland in 1979. for all eight years of the reagan administration, there was coordination at a minimum between the white house and the
vatican. in 1990, left linda -- lek walensa takes office. there is a lot going on in the world. what is the role that poland played in the end of the cold war? john, let's start with the pol e. john: can i answer this in the context of the way this panel was described, which is the grand strategy issue? ronald reagan had a grand strategy. and it was to harness all of the different instruments of power, as paula eloquently describes, in order to compete in the cold war. and the cold war was not simply aircraft intercepting each other over the bering strait or north atlantic and submarines chasing each other. the cold war was a war of ideas,
of philosophies of life, and so on. as paula said central , to it was presidential rhetoric. the president told the truth. he told the truth. he said truths about the nature of the soviet system, which all his predecessors, except maybe going back to john f. kennedy, all of the presidents censored themselves. if you are languishing in the gulag in the soviet union what , do you think when american presidents are censoring themselves and playing kissy-face with their oppressors, like carter did? you think moscow is so powerful, even the americans have to go along with the political correct party line that this is a legitimate regime and there is nothing objectionable about it. and so, ronald reagan broke the
self censorship. when he said evil empire, his words reverberated in the dankestcorridors -- corridors of the gulags and gave them hope that finally here is someone who has the courage to bear moral witness. then there have to be the force multipliers. reagan in his westminster speech , instead of simply being anti-communist he was offering a , positive alternative. human rights, democracy, legitimate government. this is the vision we would like to see. not simply that we think this thing is bad. of course we think it is bad. aleksandr solzhenitsyn and ed nice described the voice of america as the most powerful
weapon we possessed in the cold war. scratch your favorite foreign policy expert in washington, d.c., and asked them for an explanation of what he was talking about. and you will not get an intellectually satisfying answer. the answer is that those radios not only broadcast the truth and news and gave them religious programming when they were denied religion. it gave them alternative ideas, which they had been denied. they also served as a vehicle to enable people to communicate with each other. whenever there is a civil disturbance in the communist world, what do the communists do? they cut off communication to that place. then they go crush the disturbance. if news gets out to the
population there was a riot that was crushed, it was crushed. resistance is futile. then what happened? we were getting a good signal into poland and there was a strike in the lenin shipyards. the strikers knew that if they could develop an underground line of communication with the radio liberty and the voice of america, the very fact of the strike could be broadcast to millions of people in real time, before it is crushed. and that is when in solidarity with the strikers, practically the entire adult population of poland rises up and joined the solidarity union overnight. and combine that with the moral witness of the pope and the courage that he gave everybody in poland.
you had this conflagration within the middle of the soviet empire. >> paula, poland? paula: let me start with poland, but i want to make a comment about grand strategy. just a comment because of the component of public diplomacy and ideas. on poland, poland was pivotal. i think people will remember when i say this. when ronald reagan saw that you had the soviet troops at the border which they were at the , border in poland in 1981 when reagan came in. and martial law had been imposed. remember, charles wick was the head of the usia. charles wick was also a cabinet member as a member of the usia. why that matters, public diplomacy was integrated as policy was being developed, not
after the fact. do you remember the simple phrase, let poland be poland. light a candle in every window. i remember this. the simple excerpts from reagan's speech. light a candle, everyone, like a candle in the window, let poland be poland. a simple phrase but it motivated people and brought them together in poland. it was a force, a movement, and they felt connected. the church was absolutely in this context connected. everything from the conscience and spirit and words of pope john paul ii, but also the dissemination of aid that was smuggled into poland. the father, who is well remembered, of the catholic church, died. he put his life on the line. he was beaten to death because
of his involvement in supporting solidarity. there was a movement and poland was crucial. poland was crucial because of the confluence of all of the elements, of the political support and leadership from the united states. support also throughout europe, no less in terms of the church and the movement on the ground. let me say one last thing on grand strategy because i think it is important. public diplomacy was significant and the importance of ideas that there was a goal and target that literally tied together the speeches and tied together what president reagan advanced, there was not only 75, there was 77 about public diplomacy itself, about using the radios and using instruments john described. and also significantly, i would
add, because i do not know that this has continued, but on the nsc staff on which i served, you had a public diplomacy unit. our colleague friend who is deceased, but there were others. that was an important part of state craft. as a statesman, he knew and it was not only the political relationships the economic, the , military. but it is about a grand strategy and making sure your policies not only are well understood by your audiences but provide that inspiration and hope. >> steve, last word. hold on. i'm going to ask you. i am so conscious that we are events to the
students in your classroom. and i'm not talking about sixth-graders. i am talking about your college students. we might as well have served for ulysses s. grant. how do you sum it up? what do you tell them they need to grasp about the grand strategy of ronald reagan? and you get the last word. steven: that is difficult to do. i emphasize the ability of the statesman to understand the circumstances deeply and have the judgment to know what to do. and all the virtues required for that. in this case, as great as the grand strategy was, i'm not sure it would have succeeded without the pope, john paul ii. my recollection is a 20-year-old student was reading "time" and "newsweek" about the visit the pope made. some details stuck with me. soviet troops confined to bases
in poland. the civil government had ceased to function during the pope's five days there. i remember thinking, these people are in trouble. my refined judgment now having thought about it and looking back, the pope did not call for a revolt, instead he turned the hourglass upside down and started the sand running out on that form of rule. reagan could help, but he could not have done it without that happening. peter: could the pope have done it without the united states, without ronald reagan? steven: that is a big question. i think reagan, casey, bill clark thought of the vatican as a better source of intelligence and insight into what was going on. peter: i have never been able to resist paula for 30 years.
paula: on poland, i do not know how many people know this, but at the same time reagan said advanced let poland be poland, the pope in 1981 cent a private note to brezhnev about the troops that were amassed on the border and made an appeal. his moral uplifting, his involvement, engagement, i believe was vital. peter: john, we are over time. but some it up for us. john: some little tidbits are part of this that have not been mentioned in this conference. there were regular briefings by cia director bill casey and his deputy general vernon walters. they would come regularly to the vatican and brief the holy father about the nuclear balance in europe. the soviets had been engaged in
a huge anti-inf deployment campaign to prevent us from balancing their intermediate range nuclear forces with their -- with our own. the europeans had invited us to do this because of the obsolescence of our own forces there. but the soviet campaign was so great that they had managed to -- disinform large numbers of europeans thinking this was an american initiative nuclearizerize -- and make a nuclear battlefield out of europe. as a result of the briefings, which were a lot about soviet inf deployment, the holy father did not object to american nuclear deployments. normally, you would think, all the men of the cloth just want to beat swords into plowshares and you would have expected the
vatican bureaucracy to oppose this. but the holy father, having gotten the briefings, did not do so. and we could go and do that with confidence. another tidbit. bill casey once called the chairman of our board, owen smith, at the institute of world politics, his son-in-law and former business partner. and he said, you know those memo machines? what do you want me to do? he said go buy 50 of them. ok, now what do you want me to do with them? send them to the vatican. walesa came to the went up tond owen him and asked if you knew anything about the machines. and he said they had picked them up at church.