Everyone has an opinion on this issue but here is mine, like it or lump it. Gorbachev would have loved nothing more than to get rid of ballistic missile research because Reagan had escalated the war machine to the extent that the Soviet Union couldn’t keep up. The one thing Russia (the bear in the Union) had always been able to do since its inception was bull over any other army by brute force, and the elimination of foreign weapon superiority would almost immediately tip the balance back to them. Reagan pushed the social issues within the Soviet Union to hedge the debate and give him ample opportunity to simply leave the table. This is what he inevitably did.
Being alive and old enough to pay attention when this was going on there were two distinct things that started happening in the news media. The first was the talk that Reagan finally got us all killed and a sensible leader like Gorbachev should have been worked with. Yes that is a total pile of crap, but the news media is what it is. The second and perhaps the most accidental on the news media’s behalf was their need to explain the Strategic Defense Initiative, which they had code named “Star Wars” because of an off the cuff remark by Reagan about having satellites that could destroy nuclear missiles when they leave the atmosphere with lasers. It gets really silly from here though.
The media, in need of something to report, especially with the oncoming of cable news, and alternative news sources broke into their war chests to create computer animations of what “Star Wars” would look like. The complex CGI and the graphics involved weren’t even considered by the Reagan administration, but what initially was something the news people took to with passion to somehow embarrass Reagan as a war monger had the exact opposite effect. It scared the living hell out of a failing Soviet system. You see even if the Reagan administration hadn’t gone this far with the idea of SDI, the Soviet government were defeated in the fact that they knew America could do this if they wanted to. It was time for them to throw in the towel.
Later down the road the Soviet economy was collapsing and Gorbachev, who was a true kool aid drinking communist, was forced to ease some of the restrictions on the Soviet people. Most important was the ability to travel freely. Once the people who had never lived under any sort of freedom were allowed to move about freely, the genie was out of the bottle. Worse than that the people within the Soviet Union were learning at a faster clip through the encroachment of capitalism, that everything they had learned about the poor and disheveled in America, didn’t pan out when they saw that the poverty stricken Americans had televisions, automobiles and all of the other things that most people in the Soviet Union did not.
Despite the general vibe that most people grew up with under the “cold war” it is important to take a moment and look back on some of the things that actually happened. The world didn’t end, and there was never a nuclear Armageddon. There were plenty of conflicts in the entire Freedom vs Communism battle that was the cold war, whether it was Korea, Vietnam, Central America or even Grenada. It still took sunlight to disinfect the disease that was Bolshevism. I pray to God that the people of the world remember these things before they so easily accept that way of life back into society, or worse yet welcome it.