Ronald Reagan, one of the most important presidents in American history, advanced a defense policy based on “peace through strength,” and “reducing nuclear dangers.” In so doing, he dramatically altered the United States’ approach to dealing with the Soviet nuclear threat.
President Reagan’s successful policies involved not the elimination of all nuclear weapons, but the simultaneous modernization of all legs of America’s nuclear Triad in a manner that enhanced national security and strategic stability, while significantly reducing the size of the strategic nuclear arsenals of both the U.S. and the Soviet Union. He further enhanced America’s deterrent by deploying nuclear cruise missiles (SLCMs) on naval ships, and medium-range nuclear missiles and new nuclear artillery in Europe.
Reagan also fundamentally changed the way in which the U.S. negotiates and enforces arms-control agreements. In 1988, his Department of Defense (DoD) submitted a “Report to the Congress on the Analysis of Alternative Nuclear Force Postures for the United States (Unclassified Version),” which contained four possible START treaty force postures, all of which involved having 4,900 ballistic missile warheads and 1,099 accountable bomber weapons. This number of warheads was roughly half of the amount deployed by the U.S. at the time, and those stabilizing reductions were at the heart of the Reagan arms-control revolution. [This report is not available online, but is available from the authors upon request.]