In 1986, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev asked for a meeting with President Ronald Reagan. When they met in October of that year, Gorbachev surprised Reagan by offering what may have been the greatest gift in history. He proposed a realistic path that would lead to total nuclear disarmament. It would have resulted in the mutual destruction of all nuclear warheads over a period of 10 years and the elimination of all such weapons worldwide. It called for ongoing inspections to make certain that such weapons would never exist again. And it would have forever removed the very real threat of the annihilation of our species.
The offer was no trick. No attempt to gain military advantage over the United States. It was a sincere attempt to end the madness of the Cold War.
There was only one condition – that the US would agree to limit the testing of Reagan’s pet project, the Strategic Defense Initiative otherwise known as the “Star Wars” defense system. The US would be allowed to continue to develop SDI, but testing would be limited to laboratories and it could not be deployed. This was not an onerous condition since the project was still in the early days of development. It likely would never have been ready for deployment within the 10 year period. And after nuclear disarmament, it would no longer have been needed anyway.
Of course, Reagan refused.
Reagan’s neocon advisers, especially Richard Perle, convinced Reagan that Gorbachev was asking too much. They felt that restricting SDI to laboratory testing would not be accepted by the conservatives back home. They demanded atmospheric testing. As a result, we missed the best chance to rid the world of nuclear weapons in a lifetime – maybe forever. So the next time you hear someone like George W. Bush trying to create fear by pointing to the threat of nuclear weapons, remember who is truly responsible for the continuing threat.
Reagan is the man who was credited with ending the Cold War, but the real credit belongs to Gorbachev. It’s thanks to Reagan that we still live under the threat of nuclear weapons and the very real chance that they might fall into the hands of someone crazy enough to use them.
Source: The Untold History of the United States