U.S. Leaders From 1969 To 1993
Since the USA has been among the most powerful and influential countries on the international geopolitical arena for many decades, its leaders have undeniably had a significant impact on the world affairs, including both for good and for ill. In fact, the USA was frequently called one of the two international superpowers along with the Soviet Union until the latter’s collapse in the early 1990s. Afterwards, the USA has been considered the only world hegemon. Recently, there have been claims that the country has lost its previous superpower status as new countries like China have been on the rise, taking prominent positions in the world. Nevertheless, it is evident that the USA and its leaders have been active participants of the world affairs throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Moreover, Ronald Reagan may be considered as the US leader from 1969 to 1993 who had the greatest impact on world affairs even though it is impossible to determine for sure whether this impact was more for good or for bad. Of course, some other contenders like Jimmy Carter or Richard Nixon have also played a prominent role in the world affairs, but their impact was not as lasting and large in scope as that of Raegan. The matter is that President Reagan was the US leader, under whom the Cold War had reached its peak and subsequently ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. At the same time, the USA under his presidency actively encouraged the mujahedeen in Afghanistan and virtually stood at the origin of Al-Qaeda, the organization that was created by the veterans of the Afghan war.
As mentioned above, virtually all US presidents have left their mark in the world history by making peculiar decisions in the domain of international affairs, which makes all of them the contenders for the status of the US leader who had the greatest impact. Thus, for instance, President Nixon is well-known for his role in ending the US involvement in the Vietnam War and contributing to the establishment of diplomatic relations with China. Similarly, President Carter was an active participant of international diplomatic relations and he even was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. However, Ronald Raegan wins over the above contenders and all other potential contenders from the period of 1969-1993 primarily due to two factors, including the Cold War and the US involvement in the war in Afghanistan. George Bush is also a contender for the status of the US leader with a significant impact on the world affairs. Thus, he was the one who declared victory of the USA in the Cold War in 1990, yet he was the president for only one year at the time, which means that his efforts contributed little to the end of the Cold War. It does not mean that his impact on the world affairs has been negligent, but it can hardly be deemed as profound as that of his predecessor.
Hence, Raegan’s presidency coincided with the time of the difficult decisions relating to the ideological opposition of two superpowers - the USA and the Soviet Union, which resulted in the lasting Cold War with significant impacts not only on the two countries involved but also on the rest of the world. Raegan’s attitude to the Soviet Union varied over the years considering the changes in the international geopolitical arena and the shifts in local and world moods of the public, diplomats, and leaders. Initially, in 1983, he declared a rather confrontational style in the relations of the USA with the Soviet Union by calling the latter “an evil empire” and “the focus of evil in the modern world”. As the result of such new policy, the Cold War received a new turn, while the arms race was reinvigorated. For instance, the USA focused on a long-term research program aimed at developing defense against strategic missiles so that nuclear weapons would no longer pose a threat to the national security of the country. This move initiated by President Reagan was not accepted with much enthusiasm at the time, but it proved to be essential for the future defense and the acquisition of the sense of safety in the country.
Nevertheless, the launch of the Strategic Defense Initiative and declarations about the evil nature of the Soviet Union, which were caused by the ideological opposition between the two superpowers, did not mean that Raegan was completely hostile to the other country and he could not establish working diplomatic relations. On the contrary, President Raegan and his administration played an instrumental role in establishing relations with the leadership of the USSR, in particular Mr. Gorbachev, which subsequently contributed to the international negotiations on arms control and, possibly, the fall of the communist empire. President Raegan had such a tremendous impact on the world affairs thanks to his masterful diplomatic skills and knowledge of how to build and implement foreign policy that would benefit the USA. As Merrill and Patterson state, “President Raegan appears to have understood – or to have quickly learned – the dangers of basing foreign policy solely on ideology: he combined militancy with a surprising degree of operational pragmatism and a shrewd sense of timing.” These qualities allowed him to build effective and efficient relations with all countries of the world vital for the US national interests, including both allies and enemies, which contributed to the promotion of world peace and further rise of the USA on the international geopolitical arena.
Raegan’s role in the collapse of the Soviet Union seems to have been for the good of the world, which makes this particular impact of the U.S. leader under consideration on world affairs positive, at least from the Western democratic perspective. However, one of the methods of this collapse promotion is ambiguous by nature, especially considering its long-term impact. Thus, it is commonly supposed that the collapse of the Soviet Union was sped up by its lasting and detrimental participation in the Afghan war. The Soviet Union’s enemies in this war, the local mujahedeens, were indirectly supported by the USA. During the Raegan presidency, the CIA chief convinced US Congress to provide the Afghan local fighters with Stinger anti-aircraft missiles as well as to send the US advisers and trainers to Afghanistan to train the mujahedeen. More to say, the USA approved of a plan to launch guerilla attacks on such Soviet republics as Uzbekistan and Tajikistan that served as points, from which the Soviet troops in Afghanistan received supplies. As the result of all these actions, which must have been approved by Raegan, thousands of radical Islamists underwent military training in various training camps under the supervision of the US advisers and militarists. One of these radicals was Osama bin Laden, the mastermind and leader of Al-Qaeda that declared a war against the USA in the 1990s. Even though Raegan did not provoke Bin Laden’s hatred by sending troops to the Middle East in response to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, Raegan had approved the US assistance to the mujahedeen who later became the core of the largest international terrorist organization. Perhaps, this impact on the world affairs is among the most significant and long lasting in the modern history as Al-Qaeda and other Middle Eastern terroristic organizations emerging from the midst of the Afghan war have been plaguing the Western world for years.
Withal, President Raegan played an extremely prominent role in the world history in the 1980s and he had left a significant and lasting impact on the world affairs, which is felt even nowadays. Thanks to his foreign policy, the country managed to establish and maintain beneficial relations with the world, as well as contributing to the collapse of the Soviet Union. This way, the USA won the Cold War and acquired the status of the only world superpower in the early 1990s, primarily thanks to the policy of Raegan. However, this US leader’s impact cannot be considered as purely positive since he approved of the US indirect involvement in the Afghan war and promoted the radicalization of thousands of Islamists that then united into international terrorist organizations, including Al-Qaeda under the rule of Osama bin Laden. Hence, this particular impact on the world affairs has been felt for decades and it is still present in the world long after the end of Raegan’s presidency. Regardless of the nature of the impact, this outstanding personality may be regarded as the most influential US leader of the period from 1969 to 1993.