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Mikhail Gorbachev’s recent passing brought back many memories of the man, the Cold War and America’s eventual triumph over the Soviet Union in 1991.
Praised by many in the West and reviled by many more back home, Gorbachev led the USSR through unprecedented turmoil, eventually opening Russian society and embracing freedoms that Americans take for granted today. But I can’t think of Gorbachev without remembering a U.S. president whom I was honored to serve: Ronald Reagan.
In many ways, it’s impossible to mention Gorbachev without Reagan, who was friend in some cases and foe in others.
President Ronald Reagan stands with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the White House, Dec. 8, 1987. (Reuters/Gary Hershorn)
Both men were change agents, with Reagan ushering in a new wave of American conservatism and Gorbachev introducing Russians to “glasnost” (openness) and “perestroika” (restructuring). Both men wanted peace and were dismayed by the looming threat of nuclearization and determined to avoid a war that could not be won.
But the similarities stop there. In 2022, the legacies of Reagan and Gorbachev couldn’t be more different. Gorbachev’s death inevitably reminds