Battling the 'Evil Empire'
Ronald Reagan took a tough, undiplomatic stance against communism. His inflammatory remarks alarmed those who thought he did not understand the complexity of the Cold War.
Former Reagan Chief of Staff James Baker:
"We were acutely aware of the argument that was made that he was a shoot-from-the-hip cowboy who might get us into a war. He talked about the Soviet Union as an 'Evil Empire' and all the intellectual elite on the East Coast said, 'Oh, tuch, tuch, tuch, lookey there. There's that ignorant cowboy actor, whom we've elected president, making all these undiplomatic statements about the Soviet Union.' Well, it turned out he was right."
Also of concern to many was Reagan's preoccupation with the military. He presided over an unprecedented defense buildup.
Former Reagan Deputy Chief of Staff Mike Deaver:
"Probably some of the most moving visuals of Reagan had to do with foreign policy and national security. When Reagan went to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) in Korea, and he was in a fatigue jacket ... it was a very presidential visit. Reagan relished that role of commander in chief. It was something he was very proud of. Probably if he'd had his way he would have had some kind of military event on his schedule every day."
Despite his undiplomatic remarks, Reagan eventually established a relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. A summit between the two leaders in Europe was followed up later when Gorbachev came to Washington.
Former Reagan Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein:
"When Gorbachev arrived in the Oval Office, Reagan suggested to him that he wanted to have a minute privately with him. Reagan showed ... the baseball that was autographed by Joe DiMaggio and Reagan said he wanted to explain an American idiom to Gorbachev. 'Either we can keep our firm ideological positions or we can play ball. Mr. Gorbachev, don't you want to play ball?' And Gorbachev, according to Reagan, said, 'Yes, da, let's play ball.'"
The result of the meeting was the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty -- the first agreement to eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons.