Reagan first used the phrase ‘evil empire’ referring to the Soviet Union, in March, 1983. Many though agree that the phrase was first used in 1982 when Reagan criticized totalitarianism, highlighting the ultimate fate of communism as a failure. Many took an aggressive stance against the Soviet Union, including Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, challenging their military and armed forces. In fact the Reagan era was initially marked by an arms race with the USSR.
The international response to Reagan’s controversial speeches, and his rigid stance towards the Soviet empire was huge. Most in the West supported him, citing several instances which demonstrated the ‘evil’ tendency of the Soviet Union, but at the same time were acutely aware of the precarious situation. Reagan’s Chief of Staff, James Baker said “There’s that ignorant cowboy actor, whom we’ve elected president, making all these undiplomatic statements about the Soviet Union.’ Well, it turned out he was right.”
The Soviet Union itself though criticized Reagan’s remarks heavily, labeling them “lunatic anti-Communism” tactics. But Reagan then went on to make possibly the most successful negotiations with the Soviet empire. One of the most important of these was the INF Treaty, decreasing the nuclear arms of both the countries.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty was signed in 1987, during Reagan’s second term in office, by Reagan and the Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. It was aimed at the military assets of the two nations, and resulted in elimination of a number of weapons, and both were allowed to inspect each others military equipment. But the most important negotiation with the USSR remains the ending of the Cold War. Under the leadership of Gorbachev, the United States shifted its policy more towards diplomacy.
Reagan in fact believed that with the aid of diplomacy, communism could be could eventually give way to fair democracy. Gorbachev and Reagan met at four summits in different places, in fact, during the fourth summit at Moscow; Reagan was treated more like a celebrity rather than a president. A journalist asked if he still though the USSR was an ‘evil empire.’ Reagan replied, saying ‘that was another era.’ Several arms agreements were pursued. Later, after leaving office, Reagan wrote his autobiography in which he described his hope for a newer and more democratic future.
- Battling the Evil Empire. The Reagan Years. CNN.com In-depth Specials. Retrieved from (http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2001/reagan.years/whitehouse/evilempire.html)