ADDENDUM: It is amusing to be called a "kook" by a notorious right-wing smear merchant and simpleton like Taranto, who, true to form, also can't read, since no one here is "nostalgic" for the Soviet Union. Apparently discussion of counterfactual questions about the consequences of its demise is off-limits in his parochial universe.
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A couple of readers took me to task for being too generous to Reagan, in crediting him (as a side-effect of his Keynsian deficit-spending on the military) with helping bring about the economic and then political collapse of the Soviet Union. Longtime reader Roger Albin, for example, sends the following informative comments:
Reagan's anti-Communism and that of his supporters was deep, sincere, and wildly out of proportion to the actual threat. You're assuming that Reagan had a rational view of the Soviet Union. You're assuming also that Reagan was following a rational Keynesian macroeconomic approach. This is simply giving him too much credit; he really believed the supply side fantasy. As with Bush II, there was a complete disconnect between foreign policy goals and their financial consequences. His OMB Director, David Stockman, actually admitted that they essentially concealed the financial consequences of the military buildup from Reagan. Reagan, of course, was too cavalier to actually evaluate budgets.
The collapse of the Soviet Union was partly the cumulative effect of decades of great power competition with the USA, but not Reagan's spending specifically. If anyone deserves pride of place in terms of competing the Soviet Union into the ground, it would be the Truman administration, which inaugurated the containment policy. Reagan's considerable increment of military spending (which had already started to rise under Carter), probably made little difference.
I think the most thoughtful concise account is found at the end of Melvyn Leffler's For the Soul of Mankind. Leffler, a very distinguished historian of the Cold War (his book on the onset of the Cold War, A Preponderance of Power, won the Bancroft Prize and is superb) wrote this book with a broad audience in mind but it is based on his own research and a considered analysis of the secondary literature. If you want to wade through a very detailed analysis that is quite (and I think appropriately) critical of Reagan, I recommend Raymond Garthoff's The Great Transition. Even the relatively conservative John Lewis Gaddis accords Reagan and his policies a secondary role.
I should add, of course, that whether the collapse of the Soviet Union should be considered a good thing is a separate question. Certainly everyone (except the despots) welcomes the end of totalitarian regimes, though some of the former Soviet republics have remained thoroughly undemocratic, and Russia itself has moved strongly back in that direction. Then, of course, there was the enormous human cost to the collapse (increased mortality, a decline in longevity, and massive economic and thus human dislocation and suffering). Finally, certain other world-historic crimes, such as the U.S. war of aggression against Iraq, are unlikely to have occurred if the Soviet Union had remained intact.
ADDENDUM: And still more here.
ONE MORE: More on Reagan myth-making.