The Soviets quickly learned not to underestimate Reagan. In 1986, Gorbachev tried to use the international pressure for successful arms reduction talks to get Reagan to abandon the countermissile program. At the end of what had been successful talks, Gorbachev surprisingly said that he would not agree to any of the terms unless President Reagan was willing to abandon the Strategic Defense Initiative, or SDI, known as “Star Wars.”
Reagan refused. He hated the doctrine of “mutually assured destruction,” saying once, it’s “like two cowboys in a frontier saloon aiming their guns at each other’s head – permanently.” He got up and walked out, to tremendous criticism.
A lesser man, a lesser President wouldhave stepped back in the face of thecriticism. But Reagan didn’t budge. Afew months later, Gorbachev came back, agreed to every one of the terms that Reagan had imposed on him and left outthe condition on SDI. And I believe inthat act alone the Cold War was won. Ittook us a few years to realize it was won,but it was won by Reagan’s willingness to stick to his principles.