The Reagan Speech Preservation Society

The Conflict with the Soviet Union

Modified: Tuesday, 20 July 2021 21:59 by admin - Categorized as: Podcasts
The following is a collection of the materials used in creating the fifteenth episode of the Citizen Reagan podcast (pending permission from the Reagan Foundation) about the Reagan's Radio Commentaries.





Welcome to the Citizen Reagan podcast. As you may know, what I do with this podcast is discuss the contents of the Ronald Reagan Radio Commentaries produced between 1975 and 1979. Sometimes, I may decide to talk about some other topic, but with over 1000 of these Commentaries to cover, the bulk of my work will be on them.

Today, I'm not going to bring you a Reagan broadcast, because the history I'd like to discuss was covered in a great number of them. Today, we're all going to learn about détente and the failed SALT II treaty. Reagan, judging from his broadcasts, did not like détente. He believed that the Soviet Union was not doing its part to relax the tensions present in the Cold War.

By the way, détente is French for relaxation. It's origin for a diplomatic strategy comes from the relationship between France and Germany for about seven years before the first world war. France and Germany had not had a very good relationship after a war, which Germany won, in the 1870s. French diplomat Jules Cambon attempted to ease tensions. By getting France to accept that Germany was the superior country in Europe, he hoped the relationship would improve. It was not terribly successful.

Reagan viewed the United States as the superior country over Soviet Union, but détente seemed to cast the US as the inferior, or even as a dupe. As Reagan once ended one of his broadcasts, "Détente... Isn't that what a turkey has with his farmer — until Thanksgiving Day?" He believed that we made the most damaging concessions in treaty negotiations and we were unable or unwilling to recognize when the Soviet Union broke treaties.

Reagan saw news reports of Soviet military bases in Cuba and Cuban military supporting and training Communist revolutionaries throughout the world, including such places as Angola, Yemen, Panama, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Let us not forget their influence and support during both the Vietnam War and Korean War. The support for Communism was growing throughout the world and we were letting it happen. This was a failure, as far as Reagan seemed to be concerned. We should be fighting to make more people free, not allowing them to fall farther into slavery to the State.

One of these broken, or perhaps just bent, treaties Reagan spoke of was the Helsinki Accords. The accords were a collection of agreements between the Soviet Union and the western countries (above and beyond the NATO countries) to define and maintain a peaceful status quo between the two groups of countries. Sovereignty, borders, non-intervention of internal affairs, human rights, and more were to be included. Reagan would say it was best used for wrapping garbage. In particular, one such provision which, in its breaking, got under Reagan's skin was one regarding emigration rights. He would share several stories of Russian citizens who attempted to obtain exit visas, but were denied. One is Ida Nudel. Being Jewish, she wished to move to Israel. Her husband, Yuli Brind, had gained a visa before meeting her and they were separated in the process. She applied for her visa in 1971. She would not be allowed to leave until 1987. During that 16 year period, she would be regularly arrested and placed in prison. Reagan states that her visa is denied because she has knowledge of state secrets. She claims the limits of her expertise is where rats made their nests, as her job related to hygiene in food shops.

What Reagan did not say, perhaps he didn't know, but Nudel was rather active with the refusenik movement, which the Soviet Union objected to, especially after a failed attempt to hijack an empty cargo craft in June of 1970.

Reagan’s broadcast would be recorded in November of 1976. In 1978, Nudel would make her most drastic action, the hanging of a banner out a window reading "KGB, Give me my visa to Israel." She would end up spending 4 years in a Siberian gulag as a result. Upon her release, she would be homeless for about a year before being allowed to live in Moldova, and from there, she would move to Israel.

There were numerous examples over the years of others wishing to leave, not just the Soviet Union, any Soviet controlled territory. In 1961's comedy One Two Three starring James Cagney, we have the following scene:, "There may be a little problem. Everyone's coming this way. Fifteen hundred people a day. You want to fight all that traffic?" while moments later, a Soviet commissar states, "Is old Russian proverb, go west young man." Correction, he was an ex-commissar. The movie is worth watching, if you can find it. It’s mad-cap and hyper-exaggerates the capitalist and socialist systems... or does it?

In regards to the SALT II treaty negotiations, as I mentioned earlier, Reagan felt the United States gave away too much and there was little assurance that the Soviet Union would stick to the restrictions imposed on them. Reagan spoke of many issues, so I'm just going to run them down in a list:
  • Missile restrictions may have limited the total number of missiles or the overall throw weight, but did not address warhead numbers in its final wording. By this time, the MIRV missile had been developed. MIRV is an acronym for Multiple-Independent-Reentry-Vehicle. It was a technology similar to that of a shotgun. Instead of a missile being armed with a single, larger warhead, it would carry multiple, smaller ones. 5 MIRV missiles might be capable of striking as many targets as 20 normal missiles. In a couple broadcasts, Reagan discusses the Soviet R-36, which Reagan calls the SS-18, using its NATO designation. In one, he asks why the missile is being tested with 14 warheads, when the SALT II treaty, as it stood at the time, would limit MIRV to 10 warheads. In a separate broadcast, he seems disturbed that the most warheads any American missile currently carried is 3.
  • Another part of the limitation was in regards to air fleets that could deliver nuclear weapons. Reagan speaks of the "Backfire Bomber." This was a NATO designation. The Russians called it the Tupolev Tu-22M. The Russians argued it was a medium range bomber, yet it was capable of striking the United States with a range of 3400 miles. Two other Russian medium bombers, the Ilyushin IL-28 and the Sukhoi Su-24, had ranges less than half that amount.

Reagan was also unhappy with the Carter administration's pivot in Cold War strategy in regards to military technology development. After the 1960 downing of Gary Powers' U-2 spy plane, the United States chose to change its strategy of development from high-altitude technology to low-altitude. Instead of flying above missile ranges, we'd fly below radar. This led to the start of development of the B-1 Bomber under President Nixon, but the Carter administration would put it on the back burner, in favor of cruise missile technology and a modernization of the aging B-52. Reagan would actually do a series of 3 broadcasts in 1979 detailing the poor condition of the B-52 fleet. Meanwhile, in Russia, development began on the Tupolev Tu-160 which bears a striking resemblance to the B-1. Reagan mentions this in a broadcast, highlighting that despite Carter’s shelving of the development, a B-1 would fly by 1985, its just being built by the Russians.

As President, Reagan would greenlight the B-1 so that it could act as a transitional aircraft between the B-52 and the soon-to-come B-2 stealth bomber. Despite Reagan's plans, now, 30+ years after he left office, all three planes are in service together.

After all the talk, the SALT II treaty was agreed to and signed by both Carter and Soviet general secretary Brezhnev in Vienna in June 1979, sending it to the US Senate for ratification. Within 6 months, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and Carter retracted the treaty from the Senate. The next treaty with the Soviet Union would be the START treaty. Negotiations started in 1983 with an Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty signed in 1987, with the full START treaty being signed 4 years later by President Bush (41) and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.

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