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When Ronald Reagan became president, he wanted to reduce the size of government, reduce taxes, take a strong stand against communism around the world, and renew American patriotism. These ideas influenced his actions during his presidency. He found many smart and talented people to help him accomplish his goals. He also worked with members of Congress.


What was the idea of "peace through strength?"

Many Americans felt threatened by a communist country called the Soviet Union. Soviet leaders wanted to spread communism to all parts of the world. They would use military power, if necessary, to achieve their goal. For more than thirty years, the United States and the Soviet Union competed against each other in what was called the Cold War. Both sides built up their militaries. Each side tried to gain the advantage. Both countries had many nuclear weapons. This created a dangerous situation in the world. People did not feel safe. They felt that war could break out at any minute.

Ronald Reagan thought that the Soviet Union was the greatest danger to the United States. But he believed that the United States would win the Cold War because it was a free nation. He also thought that in order to remain free, the United States would need to have a strong military. This was called peace through strength.

The Soviet Union was not a free nation. Its system of government was called communism. This meant that the government controlled everything, and even owned most of the property in the country. The people of the Soviet Union were not free. The government told the people what to do and how to live. They could not speak out against the government.

reagan and gorbachev

How did Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev work together to reduce the risk of war?

People who tried were arrested and sent to prison.

During President Reagan’s two terms in office, the United States spent large amounts of money to increase the size and strength of America’s armed forces. National defense was very important to President Reagan. He wanted to challenge the Soviet Union. And he believed that America needed military power in order to win.

President Reagan thought that the Soviet Union was not as strong as it appeared to be. And he predicted that the Soviet Union would collapse if it were challenged by America. So, he increased the size of America’s military and dared the Soviets to match it. The president expected that the Soviet Union would run out of money.

President Reagan was right: the Soviet Union could not keep up with America’s military spending. The Soviet Union began to decline and its influence grew weaker.

Terms to Know
values Things that are important to a person.
leader A person who people listen to and follow.
compassion Sensitivity to the needs of others.

Cold War The global struggle between democracy, led by the United States, and communism, which was promoted by the Soviet Union. It was called the ColdWar because both sides rarely fought against each other in direct combat.

nuclear weapons Bombs and missiles that are so powerful they can destroy entire cities.

peace through strength The idea that in order to remain free, the United States would need to have a strong military.

communism Under communism, the government owns the nation’s land, factories, farms, and businesses. In the Soviet Union, the Communist Party totally controlled the government and the people. No one was allowed to oppose its rule. The people were not free to make important choices about the way they lived or how they were governed.

Early in President Reagan’s second term, Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union. The two leaders met a number of times.

President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev agreed that the United States and the Soviet Union should get rid of thousands of their nuclear weapons. This agreement made it much less likely that a world war would happen.

Meanwhile, people in places under Soviet control, like Central and Eastern Europe, did not want to live under the control of communist governments. They demanded their freedom. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, they took to the streets to protest their governments. The Soviet-backed governments fell apart. This brought freedom, democracy, and the end of Soviet control.

The revolt against communism in Central and Eastern Europe led to protests and reforms in the Soviet Union, too. But the Soviet system was falling apart as the people demanded more freedom.

The Cold War ended in December of 1991 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. President Reagan had been out of office for two years, but his prediction had come true. The Soviet Union had collapsed.








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