The last leader of the former soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev praised the late Margaret Thatcher as a “great politician and an exceptional person”. Thatcher also helped to end the cold war according to Gorbachev. At the time, the Reagan Administration had an aggressive military and foreign policy that was leading the two nations on a path to nuclear war. But, Margaret Thatcher had correctly viewed Gorbachev as a reformer who was seeking to make his country more open, restructure the Soviet economy, and to allow citizens more freedoms like enjoyed in the West. Thatcher was quick to proclaim that Gorbachev was someone that the West “could do business with”, although the first meeting with Thatcher and Gorbachev in 1984 was a little bit rocky, but largely because of the aggressive military policies of the Reagan Administration.
While Reagan is held in high esteem by most Americans, his administration had many serious failures including a deeply flawed foreign policy that armed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with many arms to counter Iran, later leading to two wars with Iraq after Reagan left office. Another serious flaw was the Carter and Reagan Administration efforts to arm the Mujahadeen rebels fighting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. This not only helped to arm and put the Taliban into power, but helped to create the al Qaeda terrorist threat that led to the 9/11 attack in the United States. The Reagan Administration also had a major scandal with the Iran-Contra Arms Scandal, in which arms were funneled to U.S. backed terrorists in Nicaragua to fight a democratically elected leftist government. But, this government was so poor, that a coalition of parties which included Communists all the way to right wing leaning parties united behind a common candidate to vote this economy destroying leftist government out of power in an open election. And the Reagan Administration’s policy toward the Soviet Union was perhaps the most flawed and dangerous of all. The Reagan Administration claimed that the Soviets were such a threat that the U.S. intended to spend them out of existence with a huge arms buildup. But, instead this only seemed to put both countries on an arms race path to war until Margaret Thatcher cooled both the Soviets and her conservative friend in Washington, Ronald Reagan. Defense contractors loved this policy because it made them wealthy, but it was a reckless and dangerous politician that nearly resulted in war, besides hurting many social safety net programs as the country was trying to lift itself toward economy recovery from the Carter and Reagan recessions.
Dr. Armand Hammer also had a lot of influence on Gorbachev to cool relations between the Soviets and Washington. His father was respected by the Communists, although he tended to be a conservative industrialist capitalist himself. When he talked to Gorbachev, Gorbachev feared Reagan because he said that Reagan wanted war with his country and was building up U.S. defenses to attack Russia. But, Dr. Armand Hammer was also able to cool these nerves and brought the two leaders together in Iceland at a summit to cool the war nerves of the two countries. This led to new trust between Gorbachev and Reagan, allowing Gorbachev enough confidence at home to start to restructure the Soviet economy and to enact reforms as well. After a failed coup by hardline Communists to depose Gorbachev from power after he allowed Eastern European countries to break free from Soviet domination, Gorbachev later restricted the Communist Party and yielded power to democratic reformer Boris Yeltsin, who moved even more quickly toward free elections and reforms in Russia.
Gorbachev has publicly stated that he moved too slowly to reform his country, and wanted both economic and democratic reforms to move much faster than they did, but had difficulty because of Communist hardliners. But, Gorbachev is a widely admired moderate democrat who was instrumental at changing the Communist world. He was happy to be a peace partner with both Margaret Thatcher as well as his former adversary, Ronald Reagan.