Quotations: Reagan and the 1980s

This page contains a collection of Cold War quotations, made by political leaders, notable figures and historians, pertaining to Ronald Reagan, the 1980s and resolution of the Cold War. These quotations have been researched and compiled by Alpha History authors. We welcome contributions and suggestions for these pages. If you would like to submit a quote, please contact Alpha History.

“The West will not contain communism; it will transcend communism. We will not bother to renounce it, we’ll dismiss it as a bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written.”
Ronald Reagan, US president, 1981

“The war economy provides comfortable niches for tens of thousands of bureaucrats in and out of military uniform, who go to the office every day to build nuclear weapons or to plan nuclear war; millions of workers whose jobs depend on the system of nuclear terrorism; scientists and engineers designed to look out for that final technological breakthrough that can provide total security; contractors unwilling to give up easy profits; warrior intellectuals who sell threats and bless wars.”
Richard Barnet, American peace activist, 1981

“This is the moment of your defeat. You have just put the last nails into the coffin of communism.”
Lech Walesa, Polish unionist and activist after his arrest, December 1981

“Peace is not the absence of conflict but the ability to cope with conflict by peaceful means.”
Ronald Reagan, May 1982

“Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root.”
Ronald Reagan, June 1982

“Let us now begin… a crusade for freedom that will engage the faith and fortitude of the next generation. For the sake of peace and justice, let us move toward a world in which all people are at last free to determine their own destiny.”
Ronald Reagan, June 1982

“[The Soviets] preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the earth; they are the focus of evil in the modern world.”
Ronald Reagan, March 1983

“For 20 years, the Soviet Union has been accumulating enormous military might. They didn’t stop when their forces exceeded all requirements of a legitimate defensive capability. And they haven’t stopped now.”
Ronald Reagan, March 1983

“I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering those nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.”
Ronald Reagan on the SDI program, March 1983

“Make no mistake about it, this attack was not just against ourselves or the Republic of Korea. This was the Soviet Union against the world and the moral precepts which guide human relations among people everywhere. It was an act of barbarism born of a society which wantonly disregards individual rights and the value of human life… They deny the deed, but in their conflicting and misleading protestations the Soviets reveal that, yes, shooting down a plane, even one with hundreds of innocent men, women, children and babies, is a part of their normal procedure if that plane is in what they claim as their airspace.”
Ronald Reagan on the Korean Air disaster, September 1983

“My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
Ronald Reagan, joking before a radio address, August 1984

“Washington’s adventuristic policy, whipping up international tension to the utmost, is pushing mankind towards nuclear catastrophe.”
Konstantin Chernenko, Soviet leader, 1984

“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
Ronald Reagan jokes before a televised speech, 1984

“I like Mr Gorbachev. We can do business together.”
Margaret Thatcher, British prime minister, December 1984

“[Soviet leader Yuri Andropov] criticised the received wisdom of the last decade of the Brezhnev years which maintained that the Soviet Union had entered the period of ‘mature socialism’… [Instead he] contrasted the fiction of a Soviet system capable of generating growth and technological progress, with the reality of an economy which was still relatively backward, of workers who lacked discipline, of bureaucrats who were corrupt and of party managers who were complacent.”
S. R. Ashton, British historian, 1989

Perestroika was born out of the realisation that problems of internal development in our country were ripe, even overripe, for a solution. New approaches and types of action were needed to escape the downward spiral of crisis, to normalise life, and to make a breakthrough to new frontiers. It can be said that to a certain extent perestroika was a result of a rethinking of the Soviet experience.”
Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet leader, reflecting on his economic reforms of the 1980s

“Like perestroika itself, glasnost made its way with considerable difficulty. [Party officials] on all levels regarded the strictest secrecy and protection of authorities from criticism from below as the holy of holies… they opposed glasnost in every way they could, both openly and secretly, trampling its first shoots in the local press… [But] glasnost awakened people from their social slumber, helped them overcome indifference and passivity and become aware of the stake they had in change and of its important implications for their lives. Glasnost helped us to explain and promote awareness of the new realities of our new political course. In short, without glasnost there would have been no perestroika.”
Mikhail Gorbachev on the importance of glasnost

“The Gorbachev Doctrine represented a shift of policy and performance, disengaging by choice from a whole global confrontation with the United States, to a policy predicated on cooperative security and normalised relations with other countries.”
Raymond L. Garthoff, US diplomat, 1994

“How do you tell a communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.”
Ronald Reagan, September 1987

“If the Soviet Union were to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.”
George Kennan, US diplomat and historian, 1987

“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Ronald Reagan, 1987

“When he saw injustice, he wanted to do away with it. He saw communism, and he wanted to put an end to it.”
Lech Walesa on Ronald Reagan

“A world without nuclear weapons may be a dream but you cannot base a sure defence on dreams. Without far greater trust and confidence between East and West than exists at present, a world without nuclear weapons would be less stable and more dangerous for all of us.”
Margaret Thatcher, 1987

“Our rockets can find Halley’s comet, and fly to Venus with amazing accuracy, but side by side with these scientific and technical triumphs is an obvious lack of efficiency in using scientific achievements for economic needs… many Soviet household appliances are of poor quality.”
Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet leader, 1987

“Here’s my strategy on the Cold War – we win, they lose.”
Ronald Reagan, June 1988