Reagan’s Role in the USSR Collapse

The collapse of the Soviet Union was supposed to be one of the most geopolitical events of the 20th century. It implies the variety of processes taking place in the socio-political life and the economy of the USSR in the second half of the 1980s – early 1990s of the 20th century. They led to the cessation of existence of the USSR on December 26, 1991. However, even nowadays, the issue of the collapse of the Soviet Union is supposed to be a quite controversial question. In fact, the great variety of historians as well as Peter Schweitzer supports the idea of the key role of Ronald Reagan in the Soviet Union collapse. Meanwhile others, including Sean Wilentz, oppose the abovementioned concept. The following paper is aimed to provide the overview of the geopolitical situation in the 1980s-1990s as well as define the role of Ronald Reagan in the Soviet Union collapse based on the arguments of Peter Schweitzer.

US Strategy against the USSR

The development of the US strategy toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War was held by the great variety of the US internal security agencies. Nevertheless, the period of Ronald Reagan’s presidency (1981-1989) is considered to be a culmination of the development of the US strategy in the Cold War. The Reagan administration, especially with the help of the CIA, formulated and implemented the systematic strategy aimed to undermine the power of the Soviet Union. It had significantly influenced the development of the Soviet Union through its weak sides such as economic problems, the huge size and cost of the military machine, ethnic heterogeneity of the country, and expanded bureaucracy. The military and political impact of the United States involved the USSR into the arms’ race and, at the national level, provoked inter-ethnic conflicts.

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Immediately after taking the office, President R. Reagan introduced the national security strategy, based on the economic, military, political and ideological components and regulated by the secret directives of the National Security Council. The economic part was aimed at undermining the financial and economic power of the Soviet Union. One of the methods of its implementation had implied the limitation of the currency revenue of the USSR received from its natural resources in foreign markets. It could be done through the decline of international prices for raw materials as well as the prevention of the USSR’s access to the high technological and innovative goods. Trade, economic, financial and technological sanctions of the US against the Soviet Union applied during the 80s had made the country lose approximately $150-200 billions annually. Additionally, Washington was implementing the drastic policy of the currency reduction in the USSR through the covert operations at the oil market. The US authorities managed to convince the leadership of Saudi Arabia to lower the price of its crude oil in exchange for the delivery of modern weapons. It had a negative impact on the economic situation of the Soviet Union, improving economic indicators in the United States. For example, in November 1985, the price of oil was $30 per barrel, while in April of the following year it was estimated as $12. The Soviet Union had been forced to double the sale of gold in order to maintain the flow of currency. However, it did not prevent the emergence of the negative foreign trade balance in 1985. In addition, the United States also managed to block the second gas pipeline project aimed to assure the direct sell of natural gas from Siberia to Europe.

The military and political component of the US strategy included the sharp increase of military spending to put the pressure on the Soviet Union and provoke the crisis of its resources. It was a key element of the US strategic defense initiative. This increase caused huge economic costs of the Soviet Union aimed to improve its missile defense and nuclear forces. The leading US strategists developed the program aimed to retracting the Soviet Union in the arms race. However, its practical implementation was quite difficult for the United States due to huge costs and the questionable implementation as well as lack of sufficient scientific and technical solutions. The US economy could not withstand such loads. At the same time, the US started its active promotion. As a result, Gorbachev succumbed to this provocation and began to copy the program for the Soviet Union. At the 27th Congress of the CPSU in February 1986, Gorbachev stated the lag of the USSR in the field of armaments. As a result, there was $ 80 billion loan taken to improve the armed force of the USSR.

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the military expenditures of the USSR in the late 1980s were estimated at 17.6 percent of GDP. Meanwhile the United States spent 9.471 trillion dollars (5.6 percent of GDP) for military purposes. The US economy was based on the latest achievements of scientific and technical progress. To sustain the military and political confrontation with such a powerful opponent as the United States, the Soviet Union created a military based type of economy, keeping low living standards of its population. The arms race had led to the deformation of the entire economy of the USSR, where the percentage of the military-industrial complex included up to 80 percent of the total industrial production. The hypertrophied development of the military component of the economic development in the country contributed to strengthening the general economic backwardness of the USSR in the 1980s. It led to the deterioration of the Soviet military-technical potential, which, in its turn, caused the weakness of the international position of the state. In addition, the economic backwardness provided the negative impact onto the socio-economic development of the USSR.

The ideological component of the anti USSR strategy included the powerful information and psychological war, including the work of dissidents, support for the fifth column, and the complete discrimination of the Communist Party as the foundation of the Soviet Union. The USSR media was under the US influence and appealed to processing of the massive public opinion under the policy of transparency. In fact, it had played significant role in the growth of the public discontent and accelerated the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the socialist community.

Peter Schweitzer states that the role of information warfare and psychological operations against the Soviet Union sharply increased in the US national security after the coming of the Reagan administration into power. The latest information technologies were used and coordinated by the US intelligence agency. The United States had carried the large-scale and well-designed psychological warfare in order to instill fear and insecurity in the ranks of the top echelon of the Communist Party and among the population. Washington’s efforts were exerted to undermine the national spirit of unity among the Soviet people, to discredit the government, as well as the history and ideology of the state. The ideological component provoked anti-Russian sentiment among the nations inhabiting the Soviet Union. It had resulted in the attempts to the decentralization of power and promotion of the principle of the right of nations to self-determination, creating the conditions for the collapse of the USSR.

The abovementioned facts prove that the collapse of the USSR was the result of the deliberate, systematic and multilateral US strategy, including the military, political, economic, informational, psychological and ideological factors. In fact, it should be mentioned that the basic rate was made for subversive activities aimed to destroy the USSR from the inside. The CIA introduced the variety of sabotage operations aimed to assure the most powerful anti-communist propaganda. As a result of the purposeful policy of the United States, the economy of the USSR was undermined by the arms race as well as low prices for export and other resources.


Peter Schweitzer proves that the Soviet Union had collapsed not as a result of some accidental circumstances. The Soviet communism was not a body, capable of being destroyed as a result of any internal situations. Only the US policy could change its course of history; and, in fact, it did. Peter Schweitzer states that the operation devoted to the collapse of the USSR began in the spring of 1981 and had lasted until the end of 1986. It had been held in secret from the society. Only few high-ranking officials of the USA, including the president R. Reagan himself, were aware about this plan. Due to the pressure of the United States, the USSR could not resist the cumulative effect of geopolitical setbacks in Poland and Afghanistan, the loss of tens of billions of dollars in the hard currency received for exports of energy, and the limited access to technologies.

Thus, it becomes obvious that the crisis in the former Soviet Union and its collapse had been caused by the direct influence of the US global strategy. At the end of the 1980s, the Soviet Union was in the need for some large-scale reforms. However, most of its political actions were contrary to the public interest and resulted in serious consequences for the lives of the vast majority of the population.