Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1983

Reagan refers to U.S.S.R. as “evil empire” again

Speaking to a convention of the National Association of Evangelicals in Florida on this day in 1983, President Ronald Reagan publicly refers to the Soviet Union as an evil empire for the second time in his career. He had first used the phrase in a 1982 speech at the British House of Commons. Some considered Reagan’s use of the Star Wars film-inspired terminology to be brilliant democratic rhetoric. Others, including many within the international diplomatic community, denounced it as irresponsible bombast.

Reagan’s aggressive stance toward the Soviet Union became known as the Reagan Doctrine. He warned against what he and his supporters saw as the dangerous trend of tolerating the Soviets’ build-up of nuclear weapons and attempts to infiltrate Third World countries in order to spread communism. Advocating a peace through strength policy, Reagan declared that the Soviets must be made to understand we will never compromise our principles and standards [nor] ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire. To do so would mean abandoning the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.

Reagan proposed a policy that went beyond the Truman Doctrine of containment, urging active intervention. He vowed to increase U.S. military spending and to use force if necessary to roll back communist expansion in Third World nations. His administration provided military aid to Nicaraguan groups fighting the leftist Sandinista government and gave material support to the Afghan mujahideen in their ongoing war against Soviets. At the same time, he reassured Americans that he would pursue an understanding with totalitarian powers and cited the United States’ effort to limit missile development as a step toward peace.

Reagan’s doctrine came at the same time as a surge in international and domestic protests against the U.S.-Soviet arms race. His opponents blamed the administration for causing the largest increase in American military spending since the beginning of the Cold War, a policy that swelled the nation’s budget deficit.

The Soviet economy ultimately collapsed in the late 1980s, ending decades of communist rule in Russia and Eastern Europe. Americans disagreed as to the cause: while economists and Reagan’s critics claimed the Soviet empire had buckled under the weight of its own bloated defense spending and a protracted war in Afghanistan, Reagan and his supporters credited his hard-line anti-communist policies for defeating Soviet communism.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Egypt opens the Suez Canal

Following Israel’s withdrawal from occupied Egyptian territory, the Suez Canal is reopened to international traffic. However, the canal was so littered with wreckage from the Suez Crisis that it took weeks of cleanup by Egyptian and United Nations workers before larger ships ...read more

U.S. Marines land at Da Nang

The USS Henrico, Union, and Vancouver, carrying the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade under Brig. Gen. Frederick J. Karch, take up stations 4,000 yards off Red Beach Two, north of Da Nang. First ashore was the Battalion Landing Team 3/9, which arrived on the beach at 8:15 a.m. ...read more

Mount Etna erupts

On this day in 1669, Mount Etna, on the island of Sicily in modern-day Italy, begins rumbling. Multiple eruptions over the next few weeks killed more than 20,000 people and left thousands more homeless. Most of the victims could have saved themselves by fleeing, but stayed, in ...read more

Dutch surrender on Java

On this day, Dutch forces surrender to the Japanese after two months of fighting. Java is an island of modern-day Indonesia, and it lies southeast of Malaysia and Sumatra, south of Borneo, and west of Bali. The Dutch had been in Java since 1596, establishing the Dutch East India ...read more