James Mann discusses his book, The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan.
“How far off the reservation did Reagan wander during Reykjavik?” Walter Isaacson asked James Mann as they discussed Mann’s latest book, The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War. The former Los Angeles Times reporter and author of the bestselling Rise of the Vulcans explained that the Reykjavik summit between President Reagan and then-Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev was actually only supposed to lay the groundwork for the next summit. But, after a private discussion with Gorbachev, Reagan was suddenly talking about “cutting back drastically or eliminating nuclear weapons altogether.”
It was not the approach the conservative movement endorsed or expected of the president, and indeed, after years of tensions with the Soviet Union, many Americans feared dropping our nuclear arsenal altogether, too. But Reagan’s willingness to negotiate with the Soviets went a long way toward establishing a peaceful resolution to the Cold War. According to Mann, “Reagan was convinced that Gorbachev was a different kind of leader,” one with whom Reagan could work. In fact, whether Reagan was always secretly a nuclear abolitionist or came to be once in office, Mann says the iconic president was “tickled pink” when negotiations led to arms reductions.
While in many ways Reagan’s motivations remain a mystery, there is no doubt he played a crucial and decisive part in ending the decades-long Cold War.