Armageddon: 1983, Reagan and the Strategy of Psychological Warfare Part One


By the 1980s, after a decade of détente with the Soviet Union during the Nixon and Carter administrations, the incoming administration under Republican President Ronald Reagan dramatically overhauled the foreign policy strategies of its predecessors and ushered in a new foreign policy initiative of containment to thwart the military influence of Moscow being exercised in the ongoing threat to the NATO allies in Western Europe as well as their growing presence in the Middle East and the Caribbean. The Soviet Union had been a consistent threat to Western Europe for at least 29 years since the end of WWII and the partitioning of the spheres of influence between the Warsaw and NATO powers in East and Western Europe post-1949.  According to a 1990 declassified report by the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board on the Soviet arms buildup that was being drastically stimulated during this time-period, “From the late 1970’s to the mid-1980’s, the military forces and intelligence services of the Soviet Union were redirected in ways that suggested that the Soviet leadership was seriously concerned about the possibility of a sudden strike launched by the United states and its NATO allies.”

There was perhaps significant reason for the Soviet Union to be concerned, as Reagan’s foreign policy was geared towards directly peeling back Soviet influence in Europe instead of merely containing it. The most crucial step that Reagan took to push back against the Soviet SS-20 apparatus aimed towards the West, was the deployment of Pershing II missiles in Europe. In the late 1970s, the Soviet Union deployed intermediate range missiles (SS-20s) in Eastern Europe, which increased to 225 SS-20s by 1981with three warheads each. It is apparent that Reagan’s original connotation of the Soviet Union as an “Evil Empire” and forming his containment strategy around that generic theme was enough to send the Moscow regime into a panic. By the time of the Able Archer 83 NATO command-post exercise in November 1983, the world was on the precipice of another nuclear threat arguably worse than the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Careful analysis shows that it was the Reagan administration’s brilliant utilization of a carefully crafted psychological warfare strategy reflected in exceptional manipulation of world politics, presidential directives, key events and strategic weapons strategies culminating in 1983 that dramatically shifted the balance of power away from Moscow towards Washington to the Soviets’ chagrin and paranoia. What transpired during the Able Archer incident was a direct result of President Reagan’s victory in the West German Election outcome, the Soviet’s massive Operation RYAN intelligence program to surveil U.S. policy, Reagan’s passing of NSDD-75 and NSDD-85 which dramatically shifted U.S. foreign policy away from decades of containment towards rolling back Soviet influence in the world, Reagan’s political manipulation of the KAL007 crisis and Reagan’s strategic weapons, military and naval deployments all within 1983. These strategies effectively crippled Moscow’s leadership’s stability to the brink of war. But these strings of events would also serve as a major testament to the brilliance of President Reagan’s foreign policy strategy, a strategy that would separate him from all of his predecessors.

To be continued…


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