CDDRL Working Papers
Before the democracy promotion efforts of Iraq or Afghanistan in the early 21st century, there was the Soviet Union in the late 20th century. For much longer, and with much greater capacity than Saddam Hussein’s regime or the Taliban, the Soviet regime threatened the United States. The destruction of the Soviet regime and the construction of a pro-Western, democratic regime in its place, therefore, was a major objective of American foreign policy. Some presidents pursued this goal more vigorously than others: Nixon cared less, Reagan rather more. Yet, even during the height of Nixonian realism, Senator Jackson and Congressman Vanik made sure that the human rights of Soviet citizens were not ignored. Containment of Soviet power always remained a primary objective of U.S. policy, but democratic change inside the USSR survived as a hope, if not a policy goal for most of this period. Some administrations even devoted real resources and strategic thinking to the issue. Perhaps most boldly, President Reagan launched his strategic defense initiative in part to push the Soviet regime into bankruptcy.