The beginning of the end
Arvamus 13 Nov 2009  EWR
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Looking back at the era of a cold warrior
Europe.view column, Economist.com


“MR GORBACHEV, tear down this wall”. Ronald Reagan’s stirring speech at the Berlin Wall on June 12th 1987 was not the death blow to communism, but it did highlight the West’s renewed confidence in demanding what had previously been impossible. Though the president’s advisers egged him on, American diplomats were horrified at what they felt was provocative behaviour: they saw their job as managing relations with communism, not trying to overturn it.

Those glory days were the subject of a day-long conference at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley California on November 6th. A motley collection of heroes from east and west (with your columnist tagging along as a moderator) gathered to discuss the great communicator’s role in the collapse of communism and what his approach could still offer today. Nancy Reagan, frail but immaculate, presided. Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev sent messages of congratulation. Freedom fighters such as Mart Laar from Estonia, Leszek Balcerowicz from Poland and Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic recalled how Reagan’s approach had inspired them and demoralised their captors.

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