Rudy Giuliani: Ronald Reagan's unyielding style won the Cold War





[Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001. He is a trustee of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.]

In the 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union is viewed by some commentators as the result of systemic weakness. While it is true that the free nations of the West had significant economic, social and political advantages, the reality is that any existential struggle comes down to two things: the capacity to fight and the will to keep fighting.

Before Ronald Reagan came along, the West was dangerously close to losing its will. The Soviet Union was on the march, while the United States continued to deal with the repercussions of internal political scandals and the pullout from South Vietnam. Soviet leaders were flush with confidence; in the West many of the so-called foreign policy establishment accepted the doctrines of moral equivalence and inevitable coexistence.

Reagan always understood the basic fact of the Cold War - that when two victorious armies met in Germany in 1945, one wanted to go home and leave the people it had liberated in freedom, and the other stayed and occupied and oppressed Eastern Europe. It was a war only one side chose.

To win the Cold War, the West had to rediscover its confidence. It had to be galvanized around not just the idea of freedom, but the principle that every person in the world has a right to be free.

Reagan understood this truth and made it his purpose to communicate it to the world. Where others equivocated, Reagan was direct and unyielding, calling the Soviet Union the Evil Empire and standing at the Brandenburg Gate and demanding, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Reagan understood the necessity of negotiating from strength and the critical importance of leverage. In contrast to much of today's diplomatic posturing, Reagan backed his words with action. Reagan knew a strong national defense was essential to deterring Soviet ambitions, but he had inherited a military weakened by years of neglect.

"History teaches," Reagan told the nation, "that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap." He convinced the nation it was time to rebuild...


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