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Roger sits down with Simon Miles, Assistant Professor at Duke University, and the author of Engaging the Evil Empire: Washington, Moscow, and the Beginning of the End of the Cold War and co-editor of a new book, The Reagan Moment: America and the World in the 1980s. Roger and Simon discuss President Reagan’s foreign policy, including his strategy towards the Soviet Union.
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Exceptionally interesting podcast.
Prof. Miles debunks the Able Archer myth, that the Soviets mistook a 1983 NATO exercise as preparations for a sneak attack. Miles says this was mainly intended to convince Soviet citizens that the miserable economy they lived in was necessitated by the imminent Western threat. Internal documents from the Eastern Bloc show that all the Communist governments were entirely aware that it was just another exercise.
I don’t think Miles goes into this, but the story was also picked up by liberals and leftists in the United States and the West, because it fit their narrative that Ronald Reagan was a warmonger.
Miles also describes how Reagan avoided JFK‘s mistake from early in his term (my example, not his), a too-soon summit conference with the Soviet leadership. (It was after taking JFK’s measure in that meeting that Nikita Khrushchev greenlighted the building of the Berlin Wall.) By contrast, Reagan wisely kept his distance until his military buildup had strengthened his hand in negotiations.