The 20th anniversary of the fall of the USSR offers an opportunity both to remember and to look ahead. The reasons for the USSR’s collapse are many, ranging from its mania for top-down economic control, to its oppression of its own people, to its efforts to hold an empire in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, to the courage and leadership of Russian dissidents and Western leaders. But standing above all of these causes was a truth that Ronald Reagan recognized clearly: while the Soviet Union looked strong, it was in reality weak. If the West stood up to it, and forced it to confront its own inability to feed and listen to its people, the flaws inherent in its tyrannical regime would be revealed.
The truth of Reagan’s vision became apparent in 1991. Since then, we have witnessed other tyrannies, seemingly solid, collapse in a matter of days: the sudden failure of the dictatorships of North Africa is only the most recent evidence that these regimes have no enduring strength. But in spite of this, the United States and the West are today enduring another of their periodic moments of concern about their future and worries about decline. The anniversary of the fall of the USSR gives us reason to look back at this triumph for American and Western leadership, and for the now-free peoples of the former Soviet Union. But it also gives us an opportunity to look at the victories of 1991 that have not yet been secured, and which are under threat as the U.S. pursues its ‘reset’ policy with Russia that is back-sliding rapidly into autocracy.
More About the Speakers
Baird Professor Emeritus of History, Harvard University
Senior Fellow, The Hudson Institute
Vice President of Communications, The Heritage Foundation
Senior Fellow for Russian and European Studies, The Heritage Foundation
Lee Edwards, Ph.D.
Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought, B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics