President Reagan, Secretary of State George Shultz, and James Baker, Reagan’s chief-of-staff, in a meeting on the Strategic Defense Initiative. SDI was a announced by President Reagan on March 23, 1983, before a national TV audience. It wanted to use ground and space-based systems to protect the U.S. from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic offense doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD).

President Reagan, Secretary of State George Shultz, and James Baker, Reagan’s chief-of-staff, in a meeting on the Strategic Defense Initiative. SDI was a announced by President Reagan on March 23, 1983, before a national TV audience. It wanted to use ground and space-based systems to protect the U.S. from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic offense doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD).

President Reagan was elected in November 1980 with the burgeoning strength of the Christian Right, defeating incumbent President Jimmy Carter. Reagan’s message was to rebuild American military strength after the Vietnam fiasco and the Iranian hostage crisis fiascos. His “evil empire” rhetoric increased tensions with the Soviet Union. Reagan initiated covert operations in support of the mujahideen in Afghanistan and the “Contras” in Nicaragua.

With the invasion of Grenada and his surprising announce- ment of the “Strategic Defense Initiative” (critics dubbed it “Star Wars”) in 1983, he seemed to be prepared to embark on a new arms race. Yet  at the same time he began to prepare an agenda for improving relations with the Soviet Union, including nuclear disarmament (spelled out in the National Security Decision Directive #75).  

National Security Decision Memorandum NSDD 75 “U.S. Relations with the USSR” of January 17, 1983, wants to “promote change” in the Soviet Union and improve relations with the Kremlin.

National Security Decision Memorandum NSDD 75 “U.S. Relations with the USSR” of January 17, 1983, wants to “promote change” in the Soviet Union and improve relations with the Kremlin.

President and Mrs. Reagan visit Pope John Paul II in the Vatican on June 7, 1982. Reagan’s CIA Director William Casey worked with the Vatican  in secretly supporting the Solidarity movement.

President and Mrs. Reagan visit Pope John Paul II in the Vatican on June 7, 1982. Reagan’s CIA Director William Casey worked with the Vatican  in secretly supporting the Solidarity movement.

An artist’s concept of a Space Laser Satellite Defense System, 1984. (Not any one system specifically, just generalized concept artwork).