Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, was known for his significant impact on the country’s economic standing, known as Reaganomics. But did you know that he was a big science fiction fan? How did his interest in science fiction affect his presidency?
During the Cold War in 1985, US President Ronald Reagan met with USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev. They agreed to join military forces should an alien invasion happen, setting their war agendas aside.
The 1985 Geneva Summit
On November 19 and 20, 1985, the leaders of the US and USSR met to discuss the Cold War-era arms race. Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met and aimed to reduce the number of nuclear weapons of both nations.
The meeting was centered on the idea of common security. The principle of common security is that countries will only be able to find security with cooperation with other nations, not against them.
Both leaders embraced this principle and disputed the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, MAD, in short. The philosophy assumes that there are two nations with heavy nuclear capabilities. If one country launched the first strike, the opposing nation would retaliate, leading to total destruction for both nations.
The doctrine further implied the danger of defensively equipped nations to survive a nuclear war since these nations can launch the first strike without fear of retaliation.
Despite their differences in views and opinions of how it would be completed, both leaders agreed that their common goal was to reduce their nuclear arms and champion cooperation and common security among the two nations.
The summit could not concretely identify processes to take to reduce the nations’ nuclear arms. Still, it did serve as a change in the relationship between the US and USSR, thanks to the personal connection built by Reagan and Gorbachev. (Source: Atomic Heritage)
The Star Wars Defense Plan
Reagan’s fascination with science fiction was apparent in some of his decisions during his presidency. It was made even more evident during the 1985 Geneva summit.
Reagan and Gorbachev took a break from the summit to take a walk. Reagan blatantly asked Gorbachev if the USSR would help the US, should someone from outer space attack them during this break. Gorbachev answered positively and was reciprocated by Reagan.
At this summit, Reagan also brought up the Strategic Defense Initiative, SDI, in short. SDI was Reagan’s program in developing defensive measures against attacks coming from outer space. SDI, better known as the Star Wars Defense Plan, would be a defensive system based in outer space. (Source: Smithsonian Magazine)
The proposed system’s main components would be earth-based and space-based laser battle stations, which were yet to be developed. The Star Wars Defense Plan was initially thought to deter any nuclear strike coming from the USSR, but Reagan presented it at the summit as a standard security measure for both nations.
The plan was initially approved by Congress in the mid-1980s but was soon abandoned due to its military and political implications and its technical feasibility. Though some proponents continued to be developed and tested, it was ultimately stopped with the breakup of the USSR in 1991. (Source: Britannica)