Evil empire

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The phrase evil empire was applied especially to the Soviet Union and its "empire" by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who took an aggressive, hard-line stance that favored matching and exceeding the Soviet Union's strategic and global military capabilities, in calling for a rollback strategy that would, in his words, write the final pages of the history of the Soviet Union. The characterization demeaned the Soviet Union and angered Soviet leaders; it represented the rhetorical side of the escalation of the Cold War.


British House of Commons speech

Reagan's chief speechwriter at the time, Anthony R. Dolan, reportedly coined the phrase for Reagan's use.[1] Some sources[2] incorrectly refer to the June 1982 speech before the British House of Commons as the "Evil Empire" speech, but while Reagan referred twice to totalitarianism in his London speech, the exact phrase "evil empire" did not appear in any speech until later in his Presidency. Rather, the phrase "ash heap of history" appeared in this speech, used by Reagan to predict what he saw as the inevitable failure and collapse of global communism. Ironically, this latter phrase was coined by Bolshevik revolutionary Leon Trotsky in November 1917, using it against his opponents (the Mensheviks) and suggesting that communism was the future; the irony may not have been lost on Reagan's speech writers.[3]

First recorded use

Reagan's March 8, 1983 speech to the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida is his first recorded use of the phrase "evil empire." Reagan said:

So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.[4]

In the "evil empire" speech, which also dealt with domestic issues, Reagan made the case for deploying NATO nuclear armed missiles in Western Europe as a response to the Soviets installing new nuclear armed missiles in Eastern Europe. Eventually, the NATO missiles were set up and used as bargaining chips in arms talks with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who took office in 1985. In 1987, Reagan and Gorbachev agreed to go farther than a nuclear freeze. In an atomic age first, they agreed to reduce nuclear arsenals. Intermediate- and shorter-range nuclear missiles were eliminated.

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