The Nixon Doctrine was presented to the American public on 25th July, 1969 by the then President Richard Nixon. The doctrine had two important components to it – one pertaining to relationship with allies and the other regarding achieving world peace. Nixon stated in his address to the nation that the traditional allies of the United States should defend themselves without the latter’s military involvement. He also set an agenda for achieving world peace through a process of diplomacy. Later in the year Nixon’s explicated his doctrine thus:
“First, the United States will keep all of its treaty commitments. Second, we shall provide a shield if a nuclear power threatens the freedom of a nation allied with us or of a nation whose survival we consider vital to our security. Third, in cases involving other types of aggression, we shall furnish military and economic assistance when requested in accordance with our treaty commitments. But we shall look to the nation directly threatened to assume the primary responsibility of providing the manpower for its defence.”
This three point doctrine first saw its implementation during the crisis in Iran. Saudi Arabia, a long time ally of the U.S. benefited as a result of this change in American foreign policy. In the final analysis, the doctrine met with only partial success owing to the fact that American military and diplomatic assistance across the world (particularly in the middle-east) proved to aggravate the crisis in some cases.
Many believe Ronald Reagan alone didn’t win the Cold War but will say that his policy of peace through strength was most critical in addition to his superb leadership. The Soviet Union collapsed of its own weight, but Reagan’s initiatives accelerated their fall. Reagan described the Soviet Union as an evil empire. With the scare of the Soviets nuclear weapons, Reagan developed the “Star Wars” program which forced the Soviets into an expensive arms race they couldn’t afford. During Ronald Reagan’s eight year presidency, his determination to put an end to communism and the Soviet Union was the highlight of his term in office. While the collapse of the Soviet Union was inevitable, the role of Ronald Reagan in acceleration its fall is not insignificant. The rest of the essay will foray into the prevailing political circumstances and crucial diplomatic events that were initiated by the Reagan Administration, which eventually precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union and put an end to the Cold War.
To begin with, a short overview of the cold war is quite relevant here. History will show that the European nations after Second World War were divided geographically as well as ideologically as belonging to the western democratic bloc or the eastern communist bloc. Long-time partner and a trusted lieutenant of the United States, namely Great Britain, is the leading representative of this western coalition. Other nations that aligned with the United States were Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, etc. The countries of Eastern Europe were imposed with communist governments and hence came under the influence of the Soviet Union. Some of them were Poland, Czechoslovakia, Belarus, etc. Germany was deemed a key prize in the spoils of the Second Great War and so its reigns were bitterly contested. In the end both superpowers had to strike a compromise and divide Germany into their respective halves. This event was a key flashpoint in the years immediately following the end of the War. Appropriate to the strategic significance of Germany, history will mark the breaking of the Berlin wall as a landmark event in the establishment of a new world order, with the United States at the helm. And Ronald Reagan’s political manoeuvring in the days leading up to the breaking of Berlin Wall will be deemed by historians as legendary.
In Michael Gorbachev, the Soviet Union had a reformist and practical leader. He saw the folly of continuing the cold war efforts and drafted policies facilitating a transfer to more democratic and capitalistic forms of government. Reagan’s agenda for his meeting with Gorbachev is related to his vision of a nuclear defence mechanism. In other words, “Reagan’s vision of SDI—a shield that would render nuclear weapons obsolete—was scientifically preposterous but, by all accounts, genuine. Many of his hawkish aides (most notably the still-active Richard Perle) scoffed at it; they liked SDI because it would scare the Russians and, if it worked, might give us nuclear superiority. But Reagan believed what he said”.