Skip to comments.Phantom Menace: How unproven, widely-mocked technology scared the Soviets into ending the Cold War
Posted on 05/12/2014 2:59:48 AM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
For decades, Ronald Reagans Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)an ambitious ground- and space-based shield to protect the United States from nuclear ballistic missileshas been mocked and criticized. First proposed by the president in 1983, it was immediately dubbed Star Wars by the mainstream media and dismissed as unscientific, infeasible and even counter-productive. The Union of Concerned Scientists, 100,000 members strong, was fierce in its opposition. The Arms Control Association declared that SDI would end arms control, while some Soviets felt SDI would end the world. Domestic critics became furious, and the Kremlin went ballistic.
But while Reagans critics might not have taken his pet technology seriously, the Russians certainly did. Even though SDI was decades away from being implemented, if not beyond the reach of technology altogether, the threat the shield presentedalong with Reagans dogged commitment to itwas enough to scare Soviet leader Mikhael Gorbachev into reforms that would eventually bring down the Soviet Union. In short: Star Wars never worked as Reagan wished. It worked even better. And I should know, because I saw it happen.
It all began in October 1986, when the two cold-warring powers convened in Reykjavik, Iceland, to discuss the agenda for the real summit scheduled for December. To me, accompanying the delegation as U.S. director of arms control, the weekend in Reykjavik felt less like a typical superpower summit than it did an Agatha Christie thriller: The two principal charactersReagan and Gorbachevwere vivid; the plot was full of cliffhangers; and the settinga creaky old house, desolate, reputedly haunted, rain lashing against its windowpanesominous...
(Excerpt) Read more at politico.com ...
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
It also was because we knew where their subs were from the time they left port until they returned.
You’re right it is “old news” but it’s so extremely relevant today, especially in light of Putin’s quest to rebuild the Soviet Union.
Besides that, the Cold War-era thriller “The Americans” on FX has become a fav of mine. I was only a child during the 80s, so it’s intriguing to watch what was going on all around me back then. Amazing stuff.
The operative element here is Reagan was credible, a man of his word, to be respected and feared, according to one’s own actions. Today’s American leaders are silly putty.
Adelman's view aside, Star Wars worked exceptionally well in limited tests, and even somewhat in Jerry-rigged Patriot missiles in the Gulf. What Gorby knew was that we COULD do it and if we made it any kind of priority at all, we could do it in a matter of years. He knew in WW II we went from nothing to 95,000 tanks in 4 years, and made Liberty Ships in FOUR DAYS!
He knew if we got serios we could render their whole missile fleet junk.
But here is something Adelman's didn't mention: I did an article in 1988 showing that NO ONE properly accounted for Soviet missile/warhead failure rates! When those were taken into account, Soviet threat levels in missiles fell 20% at launch! at separation! and at impact. That's one hell of an attrition. Multiply that by a Star Wars only 80% effective? . . . They were screwed
The primary reason “Star Wars” won the Cold War was the inability of the USSR to compete financially. They didn’t have the funds for this new arms race, and when Reagan wouldn’t abandon it they were doomed.
-——the number was actually between 30 and 40 percent-——
There you have it....... Putin’s legacy.
He has a nation that can’t do anything. All he can produce is weapons. Russia has to scrape around the dictatorial scum of the world for customers of his weapons, the only thing he can produce.
He can’t make I Phones nor ibuprofen nor panty hose, but he can make fighter jets and radar systems.
The legacy of the soviet union is no ability to make mush of anything worth a damn and alcoholic men and women working so hard they have o time nor inclination for kids.
It was called Star Wars, but I liked “Ronald’s Ray Gun” best.
Now that the Israelis have Iron Dome, Reagen has to be smiling.
They had decent spies... they KNEW we could DO IT.
Very good article.
Hell must be frozen over, I know it’s even snowing here where I live, at 24 degrees.
The story goes something like this. Soviets were played by the simple trick aiming at the paranoia of octogenarians running USSR even before Gorbachev came to power. An American "science" (i.e. top intel professionals) delegation was sent to Moscow to share all American know-how with Soviets, in return of Soviet technology secrets, to foster mutual understanding and diminish the risk of mutual destruction.
Soviets were flabbergasted with what they saw. In their paranoid mind they thought "if they share this with us, who knows what they really have ".
Their paranoid mindset was telling them U.S. has Star War technology.
After this event, USSR changed leadership (first Andropov, then Gorbachev) in hope to tighten up economy and find the money for scientific research to match U.S. That what Perestroika was all about - to allow lower ranks control economy without the fear of the octogenarians in Kremlin.
The plan was one of the best deceptions in the world history, and it worked like a charm.
Ronald Reagan was a genius because he played the role with aplomb. He also knew, coming from California that American economy was on a brink of collapse and could not sustain arms race if USSR wakes up and tighten economy.
Can anyone direct me to the material about this deception?
So what was Star Wars? IMHO it was a multiple threat attack against the Soviet Union without the use of direct military power. It was economic. It was societal. And, if successful , it was military. The final thrust was way down the road; the other two were immediate.
I have said multiple times since my retirement from the AF in 1990 that you can not understand war until you understand economics. This has been true at least as far back as the Napoleonic era (early 1800s). Then a Maritime Power (England) eventually defeated a Continental Power (France) through subsidized alliances.
Regan knew (understood? guessed?) that the Soviet Union could not follow the US into a Star Wars based military posture. The Russians had us beat when it came to conventional indices of military power (men, guns, ships, aircraft, missiles) and could easily maintain or extend their leads - we couldn’t catch up. So, by jumping into Star Wars Regan forced the Russians to start building a new technological base while maintaining their old ones. This was economically impossible no matter how much the Russians spent.
Additionally, Star Wars posed an indirect attack on the Soviet System. To rapidly develop the new technological base they had to abandon one of their political triads - the powerful secret police that kept their political system functioning. Since the 19th century Russian society has been built on three pillars - the elite, the Army, and the Secret Police. To do things rapidly you have to allow rapid and free communications across multiple levels of a society; but, that was against a pillar of Russian societal norms.
Oh, BTW, the Russians are equally scared of Star War’s little brother - the ground based Patriot Batteries with their limited anti-ballistic missile capabilities.
The comments by the radical leftists there are amusing. After all these years, they are STILL unhinged about Reagan.
We had been “losing” technology to the Ruskies for years just to keep them competitive enough to justify our military/industrial “Merchants of Death” spending. It was the biggest scam in history. Reagan’s defeat of the Soviet Union (and China) pissed off a lot of Cold Warriors.
The computer capability we generated to guide the various Star Wars bits allowed us to decode their tactical battlefield traffic in real time. They knew that any ground attack on Europe would be suicidal. Then too, MTV, etc. was pulling the cultural rug out from under them...
“The Americans” is a great show. Did you see that Oliver North was a co-writer of the April 23rd episode?
Yes!! I noticed that! Amazing episode, too!
The show is extremely well-written and has really made me want to explore that period in world history. This is a great thread....I’m learning so much!