The Reagan Years

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The Reagan Years
1981-89


Ronald Reagan:
President, 1981-89
Casper Weinberger:
Secretary of Defense,
1981-87
A harder stance towards the U.S.S.R.

Reagan administration placed competition
and possibility of war with Soviet Union at
center of its defense & foreign policy.


Pursued large build-up of U.S military forces
Took a more active stance towards combating
Communist insurgencies.
Reagan Doctrine

Called for helping anti-Communist
movements around the globe. Examples:



Nicaragua: aid for the contras (anti-Sandinista
guerillas).
Afghanistan: aid for mujaheddin tribesmen.
Angola: aid for UNITA
Increased defense spending



Military budgets increased for six straight
years (FY1980-85).
Reagan Administration spent about $2.4
trillion.
Defense budgets rose to $290-300 billion
annually.
Money spent on…


Maintenance, training,
and compensation.
New weapons
systems.




B-1 bomber
Trident II missile
MX missile
new ships
Strategic Defense Initiative



Announced March
1983.
a/k/a “Star Wars”
Sought to develop a
system to destroy
incoming missiles
Other effects…

1980-86: U.S. national debt doubled.


Debt service payments tripled.
Waste & fraud in defense procurement
reaches alarming levels.

$400-$500 for a hammer?
Arms control: Strategic Arms
Reduction Talks (START)


U.S.-U.S.S.R. negotiations from 1981-91.
Almost produce an agreement during
Reagan-Gorbachev meeting at Reykjavik,
Iceland, 1986.


Summit fails on issue of SDI
START talks produce treaty in 1991
Reagan & NATO

U.S.: Gets allies to continue deployment of
Pershing II & GLCM’s, and to spend more
for defense.


Army and USAF get NATO to adopt “AirLand
Battle” as common doctrine to for defeating a
Warsaw Pact invasion.
Allies: push U.S. on negotiations to reduce
theater nuclear and conventional forces.
December 1987: INF Treaty



U.S. & U.S.S.R. agreed to eliminate all
their intermediate-range (300-3,400 mile)
ground-launched ballistic and cruise
missiles.
Included provisions for on-site inspections.
All such missiles and related equipment
destroyed by May 1991.
U.S. involvement in Latin America

El Salvador: American aid
and advisors sent to help
the government


Fighting the Frente Martí
Liberación Nacional (FMLN)
since 1979.
Nicaragua: Began helping
groups opposed to the
Sandinista regime (contras).
October 1983:
Grenada

Soldiers from U.S.
and Caribbean
nations invade.



Follows a coup
Concern about
expanding Cuban and
Soviet influence.
Anxiety regarding U.S.
medical students.
Problems in the Middle East



Israel & Lebanon
Muammar Gaddafi &
terrorism
The Persian Gulf
1982: Israel invades Lebanon



Goal to drive out
Palestinian groups.
U.S. sent Marine
expeditionary unit to
help enforce a ceasefire.
October 23: truck bomb
blows up the Marine
barracks

220 soldiers die, 241
total.
Terrorist incidents on the rise

Attacks & hijackings double, 1983-85.


Led to 1,000 U.S. casualties
Most famous incident: 1985 hijacking of
the Achille Lauro

After event, US Navy jets force down plane
carrying hijackers to Tunisia.
1986: U.S.-Libyan tensions rise


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Naval incidents.
West Berlin bombing
tied to Gaddafi.
Reagan orders
bombing of Tripoli
and Benghazi.

Mostly military targets
destroyed, 200
casualties.
Problems in the Persian Gulf

Iran: fundamentalist
Islamic state, hostile
to U.S. interests.


Funding terrorist
movements.
Region large producer
of oil.
1980-88: Iran-Iraq War


Iraq received more foreign assistance, including
official U.S. aid.
Both sides attacked Gulf shipping.
U.S. looks to Saudi Arabia as a
regional ally.

Saudis had influence over other Mid-East
nations, and indirectly over Palestinians.


supported mujaheddin in Afghanistan
Spent money to buy American arms, and
allowed U.S. to build bases on Saudi soil.
Attacks on Gulf shipping rise.

1987-88: U.S. Navy deploys to Gulf and
Red Sea to protect tanker shipping.


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Destroys Iranian gunboats and other vessels,
missile sites, and attacks bases.
Iran responds with mine laying.
Worst U.S. goof: shooting down an Iranian
airliner.
U.S.S. Stark

U.S. frigate fired upon by an Iraqi fighter.

Resulted in 37 deaths.
Second-term problems for the
Reagan Administration


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Budget and debt issues.
Congressional opposition.
Lax oversight of subordinates leads to
political crisis.
Iran-Contra Affair



Administration officials
arrange secret arms sales to
Iran, some proceeds diverted
to contras.
Hope to release hostages in
Lebanon, influence Hezbollah.
Violated U.S. law that
prohibited arms sales to the
contras, and Administration’s
own stated policy not to
negotiate with terrorists.
Changes in the Soviet Union

Mikhail Gorbachev:
General Secretary of
the Communist Party,
1985-91.


Sought better relations
with the West
Pursued internal
reforms (perestroїka,
glasnost).
Gorbachev: Foreign Policy Highlights

1986, meets with Reagan in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Though fails in near term, ultimately leads to:

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INF Treaty, 1987
START Treaty, 1991
1988, announces U.S.S.R.:

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Will pull troops out of Afghanistan.
Will allow Eastern bloc countries to determine affairs.
Will unilaterally begin reducing conventional forces in
Europe.
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