Themes: Nuclear Weapons; the Strategic Defense Initiative; the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF); the 1991 Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (START).
What was NATO’s “Dual-Track” decision? What was the “zero-option”? What role did nuclear weapons play in ending the Cold War? What role did nuclear weapons play in prolonging the Cold War?
vi) Memorandum of Conversation between President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher, Sept. 29, 1983
Link to PDF: http://thereaganfiles.com/doc_22_83929_mt-rr_memcon.pdf
In this important meeting between Prime Minister Thatcher and President Reagan, Thatcher and Reagan discuss all areas of East-West relations. In terms of arms control, Thatcher emphasizes that “British and French forces don't belong in INF or START” negotiations, but that she would be willing to reduce British forces once the Soviet Union drastically reduced its intermediate range weapons.
Most significantly, Thatcher differs from President Reagan in insisting that the Western allies “strive to establish normal relations” with the Soviet Union because “we must live on the same planet with the Soviets.” Reagan and Thatcher also agree that when a “mutually advantageous” opportunity arises, the Western allies should work with the Soviets.
The Strategic Defense Initiative
A) Discussion Questions
What was the SDI? Why did the press label SDI “Star Wars”? What role did SDI play in arms control negotiations? How did SDI contribute to the end of the Cold War? Can you think of any arguments for why SDI may have prolonged the Cold War? Almost 30 years after President Reagan announced the SDI on March 23, 1983 the United States still does not have a working SDI system. Did the potential benefits of SDI (giving people hope that nuclear annihilation was not inevitable; supporting American defense contractors; bargaining chip for Reagan during negotiations with Gorbachev; others?) outweigh the negative consequences (almost four billion dollars spent on SDI research by 1991 and no results; contributed to budget deficit; prevented Reagan and Gorbachev from reaching the START agreement in 1988).
1) President Reagan’s March 23, 1983 speech announcing SDI.
2) Transcripts of Reagan/Gorbachev Summits.
3) Transcripts of National Security Council meetings
President Reagan says in this meeting:
You’ve got to remember that the whole thing was born of the idea that the world needs to get rid of nuclear weapons. We’ve got to remember that we can’t win a nuclear war and we can’t fight one. The Soviets don’t want to win by war but by the threat of war. They want to issue ultimatums to which we have to give in. If we could just talk about the basic steps we need to take to break the log jam and avoid the possibility of war. I mean, think about it. Where would the survivors of the war live? Major areas of the world would be uninhabitable. We need to keep it in mind that that’s what we’re about. We are about bringing together steps to bring us closer to the recognition that we need to do away with nuclear weapons.”
4) National Security Decision Directives