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Reagan Record

Silent Courage:

The world has, of course, seen many international doctrines--Monroe, Truman, and Brezhnev have all made their contributions, some more positive than others. But for my money it is the Reagan doctrine, spelt out very clearly in the speech he gave to British parliamentarians in the Palace of Westminster in 1982, that has had the best and greatest impact. This was a rejection of both containment and d*tente. It proclaimed that the truce with communism was over. The West would henceforth regard no area of the world as destined to forego its liberty simply because the Soviets claimed it to be within their sphere of influence. We would fight a battle of ideas against communism, and we would give material support to those who fought to recover their nations from tyranny.

President Reagan could have no illusion about the opposition he would face at home in embarking on this course: He had, after all, seen these forces weaken the West throughout the seventies. But he used his inimitable ability to speak to the hearts of the American people and to appeal over the heads of the cynical, can't-do elite. He and Cap Weinberger made no secret of the objective: military superiority. The Soviets understood more quickly than his domestic critics the seriousness of what was at stake. The Russian rhetoric grew more violent; but an understanding that the game was up gradually dawned in the recesses of the Politburo.

It is well-known that I encouraged President Reagan to "do business" with President Gorbachev. I also still give credit to Mr. Gorbachev for introducing freedom of speech and of religion into the Soviet Union. But let's be clear: The Soviet power brokers knew that they had to choose a reformer because they understood that the old strategy of intimidating and subverting would not work with Ronald Reagan in the White House and--who knows?--even Margaret Thatcher in 10 Downing Street.

The final straw for the Evil Empire was the Strategic Defense Initiative. President Reagan was, I believe, deliberately and cunningly tempted by the Soviets at Reykjavik. They made ever more alluring offers to cut their nuclear arsenals, and the President, who was a genuine believer in a nuclear-weapons-free world (it was one of the few things we disagreed about), thought he was making progress. There was no mention of SDI, and it appeared that the Soviets had tacitly accepted that its future was not for negotiation. Then, at the very last moment, they insisted that SDI be effectively abandoned. The President immediately refused, the talks ended in acrimony, and in the media he was heavily criticised. But it was on that day, when a lesser man would have compromised, that he showed his mettle.

As a result of his courage, work on the SDI programme continued and the Soviets understood that their last gambit had failed. Three years later, when Mr. Gorbachev peacefully allowed Eastern Europe to slide out of Soviet control, Ronald Reagan's earlier decision to stand firm was vindicated. The Soviets at last understood that the best they could hope for was to be allowed to reform their system, not to impose it on the rest of the world. And, of course, as soon as they embarked upon serious reform the artificial construct of the USSR, sustained by lies and violence for more than half a century, imploded with a whimper.

The idea that such achievements were a matter of luck is frankly laughable. Yes: The President had luck. But he deserved the luck he enjoyed. Fortune favours the brave, the saying runs. As this hero of our times faces his final and most merciless enemy, he shows the same quiet courage which allowed him to break the world free of a monstrous creed without a shot being fired. President Reagan: Your friends salute you!

--- Margaret Thatcher ---