Containment - History - Ronald Reagan (1981–89)

Ronald Reagan (1981–89)

Following the communist victory in Vietnam, Democrats began to view further communist advance as inevitable while Republicans returned to rollback doctrine. Ronald Reagan, a long-time advocate of rollback, was elected U.S. president in 1980. Reagan took a more aggressive approach to dealings with the USSR, believing that détente was misguided and peaceful coexistence was tantamount to surrender. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, American policy makers worried that the Soviets were making a run for control of the Persian Gulf. Throughout the 1980s, under a policy that came to be known as the Reagan Doctrine, the United States provided technical and economic assistance to the Afghan guerrillas fighting against the Soviet army.

By sending military aid to anti-communist insurgents in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, and Nicaragua, he confronted existing communist governments and went beyond the limits of containment doctrine. He deployed the Pershing II missile in Europe and promoted research on a Strategic Defense Initiative, which critics called "Star Wars", to shoot down missiles fired at the United States. Reagan's aim was to defeat the Soviets through an expensive arms buildup the Soviets could not match. However, Reagan continued to follow containment doctrine in several key areas. He pursued a comprehensive nuclear disarmament initiative called START I and policy toward Europe continued to emphasize a NATO-based defensive approach.

The end of the Cold War in 1989 marked the official end of U.S. containment policy, though it kept its bases in the areas around Russia, such as ones in Iceland, Germany, and Turkey.

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