Did Reagan’s Real Star Wars Bankrupt the Soviet Union ?

Did Reagan’s Real Star Wars Bankrupt the Soviet Union ?


In the 1980s science fact and science
fiction looked as though they may become one when the American president Ronald
Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative or Star Wars missile defense
system. The program was designed to break the nuclear deadlock between the u.s.
and the Soviets and move beyond the threat of M.A.D or Mutually Assured
Destruction but did the nuclear physicist Edward Teller over sell the
idea to Ronald Reagan and only tell him what he wanted to hear. Even as the world
reacted to America’s new defense plan Tellers theories remained decades away
from forming a working weapon. So how did just the threat of Star Wars change the
world without it actually being put into action. By 1980 both the USA and the USSR
had been stockpiling nuclear warheads for more than a quarter of a century, the
Soviets having more than 30,000 from the US having over 20,000. The U.S. stockpile
had actually decreased since the mid 1960s as new missiles were both more
effective and more versatile nevertheless the superpowers were more
than capable of obliterating each other many times over. It was President Ronald
Reagan’s dislike of the M.A.D policy which he called a “suicide pact” that
drove him at his advisors to seek a new defense strategy. Their solution had to
effectively remove the threat of total annihilation but also allow the holders
of the technology, in this case the U.S. to use their weapons without fear of a
devastating counter-attack Reagan. Had been searching for a new way forward for
decades. In 1967 before he was elected the Governor of California he attended a
lecture at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in which the
hungarian-born scientist Edward Teller proposed using nuclear weapons to defend
against a nuclear attack. Teller known as the “father of a h-bomb” was
passionate about the capabilities of nuclear technology his famous enthusiasm
even made it onto the big screen as one of the sources
for the ex-nazi character in Stanley Kubrick’s black comedy dr. Strangelove.
but it was Tellers ideas for harnessing the power of nuclear explosions that
would capture of reagan’s imagination and plant the idea for the Strategic
Defense Initiative. During a visit to NORAD in 1979 Reagan was told that whilst
the US could find and track individual missiles during attack they could do
nothing about it. Two years later Reagan was elected as
the American presence and immediately set his advisors the task of devising a
new concept initially a proposal called “High Frontier” was suggested a
combination of ground-based ABM’s or anti-ballistic missiles and a
space-based laser system to shoot down the incoming Soviet ICBMs but High
Frontier needed big advances in technology from a research project at
the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. This project codenamed
“Excalibur” aimed to channel a controlled nuclear detonation in low-earth orbit
into a battery of expendable x-ray lasers, these lasers had to be powerful
enough to destroy incoming missiles in mid-flight before the warheads separated
although testing in the 1970s have been unsuccessful, on November 14th 1980
scientists detonated a two kiloton nuclear device in a kilometer deep
underground shaft that the Nevada Test Site and project Excalibur scored a success and the x-ray laser show promise. In the meeting where “High Frontier” was
presented to Reagan he reportedly lit up with enthusiasm on hearing the details.
Decades earlier the actor term president had himself starred in a b-movie about
an airborne laser weapon in the wartime film “Murder in the air” On March 23rd
1983 President Reagan appeared before the world on television to announce the
launch of the Strategic Defense Initiative. His speech made clear that the
program aimed to be a technological game-changer. The Soviet reaction was
outrage and condemnation according to the thinking that has led both sides to
build up stockpiles of a offensive weapons, defensive initiatives were
destabilizing as they threatened to shatter the existing balance of power.
Reagan admitted as much in the words of his speech this was a bold move and a
gamble. The Star Wars program was announced at a time when the USSR was
already in turmoil at the top. Three Soviet leaders have died in less than
three years, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov
and Konstantin Chernenko. On hearing of Chernenko s death Reagan reportedly
remarked “how am I supposed to get any place with a Russians if they keep dying
on me”. On March the 11th 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev became the Soviet leader
chosen as part of a new generation keen to revive a stagnant economy. Once in
office Gorbachev filled his cabinet with political allies who like him where
reformists. The new Soviet administration inherited of raft of strained
diplomatic situations including a proxy war in Afghanistan and the U.S.
redeployment of medium-range missiles across Europe. In November 1983 Soviet
representatives had walked out of arms control negotiations that year and only
agreed to resume talks in 1984 if a treaty banning space weapons was on the
agenda Gorbachev came to the bargaining table at the reykjavik Iceland summit
in 1986 with an offer to shrink the Soviet offensive nuclear arsenal in
exchange for cancellation of the Star Wars program. To avoid a new arms race
and save his economy Gorbachev had to neutralize America’s new technological
initiative but even as he tried to negotiate a end to the arms race at home the
Soviet defense industry was milking the opportunity to pursue their most
ambitious programs. Priority was given to Buran, the equivalent of NASA’s space
shuttle and its launcher the giant Energia rocket. This launch system was
conceived as a way to loft a range of weapons that could neutralize the
American SDI satellites such as the carbon dioxide laser called SkiF.
like Buran skif was symbolically important as it tested the idea that the
Soviet Union could offer a symmetric response to Star Wars. Energia’s first
launch was scheduled to put skif into space from May 15th 1987 as part of the
Polyus payload. Polyus was officially a science mission loaded with 10
experiments to carry out any upper atmosphere. Gorbachev himself visited the Baikonur cosmodrome before the launch to expressly forbid any deployment of a
weapon that might be seen as an act of aggression by US surveillance. However in the end skif did even less when Gorbachev it expected. When the Energia
rocket was launched and released polyus, a software error caused the payload to
rotate too far facing backwards polyus fired its engines slowing to
fall and breakup in the atmosphere Shortly afterwards. Although the Soviet
space laser never made it into a stable orbit Reagan had successfully bluffed
his opponent into developing and testing a symmetric response to a phantom threat. As the Polyus crashed to earth a major review of the american technology found
that the space borne x-ray laser still faced huge challenges and remained out
of reach. However by this time the US had effectively outmaneuvered the Soviet
Union forcing them into an arms race they could not win. While the American
economy enjoyed strong growth throughout the mid to late 1980s, Soviet
productivity fell further and further behind. By 1989 the USSR was in a death
spiral Gorbachev’s reforms had resulted in a
domino effect, the policy of glasnost or freedom of speech had led to public
criticism of the fathers of a communist party, destabilizing the state’s
legitimacy. Gorbachev announcement of non-intervention in Eastern Europe
resulted in Warsaw Pact countries calling democratic elections, then in
1991 the Baltic states ceded from the Soviet Union.
In December of that year Gorbachev resigned and officially dissolved the
USSR and the superpower but it kicked off the space race with Sputnik and had
launched the first man into orbit was finished. So as always thanks for
watching but before I go I just like to remind you about the curious droid
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100 thoughts on “Did Reagan’s Real Star Wars Bankrupt the Soviet Union ?

  1. The alliance between Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II resulted in the promotion of the Polish Solidarity labor union into a movement that sparked discontent throughout the Soviet empire which brought about its collapse.

  2. The US taught the world you could eliminate a rival without firing a shot, and soon China will eliminate the US without firing a shot. China has to eliminate the US as a competitor for raw materials and energy if they are to continue to raise the standard of living of their citizens. America is 5% of the population and uses 25% of the world's energy. When the 750,000,000 Chinese workers can become the consumers for what China produces, they will no longer need the 150,000,000 workers of the US to buy them. On that day China will dump the US debt they own onto the world markets, the USD will drop faster than Bill Clinton's pants in an Arkansas trailer park, and the US will vanish within 72 hours because you can't operate a nation if you can't pay for anything.

  3. The Soviets had a referendum asking if they wanted to keep a strong military and economic union, or vote for a separation that would result in several weaker states. People voted for the latter, and so he announced the breakup.

  4. USA was surprised in 1990s to know what USSR had over 40K nuclear warheads. With those amount of warheads USA would bankrupt first with their Star Wars))))

  5. Ironic that the Soviet union collapsed as soon as it gave freedom and a sprinkle of capitalism to its people.

  6. SDI got most of the public's attention, but there were several other defense initiatives, each of which was produced in small numbers if at all, but would force the USSR to spend large amounts of money attempting to develop countermeasures. The Neutron Bomb was designed as a means to attack large formations of enemy armor and troops, AFTER those forces had crossed in to friendly territory, such as West Germany, or France. A neutron bomb could have wiped out the soldiers, but leave the countryside undamaged. Another proposed weapon was the binary bomb. These would have been chemical weapons designed to hold a pair of chemical components in separate compartments, that were benign until mixed together. A leak or a spill from any one compartment would have been easy to clean up. The B1-b Lancer was also a Reagan era program. The B1-a had been in development when Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976. Carter, after being briefed on the B2 project, cancelled the B1. Reagan, when he took office in 1980 found that the B2 was still years away from being operational, and restarted the B1 project.

  7. Let's not forget the combination of the effects described in the video with those of the Chernobyl accident which added another sky-high bill on top.

  8. People who think the west bankrupted the USSR obviously do not understand how the economy of soviet states worked…

  9. Aside from the fact that Communism/Marxism/Socialism are ALL doomed ideologies, and inevitably fail when you run out of OPM, the Chernobyl accident was probably a MUCH more significant factor in the collapse of the USSR than Reagan's SDI.

    The Soviet Union attempting to keep up with SDI was just "icing on the cake" for an experiment that was literally doomed to fail from the moment it began…

  10. Chernobyl was the real death blow, Gorbachev admitted that himself. The costs of dealing with that disaster bankrupted the union. It's a real shame, the Buran was badass, lot better than the shuttle, and was left in a collapsing hangar to waste away. The Buran and laser was a mouse fart compared to what Chernobyl costed.

  11. this was one of the more reckless things he did IMO. The soviet union fell not because of him, but because its economy was already pretty much a failure by the 80s.

  12. |o|….Star Wars….only ones that would have gone bankrupt would have been the USA. Put stuff up in space versus Overload it by building more rockets…It was a no brainer… only ones who were impressed were people who had no idea….

  13. The idea that the arms race "bankrupted" the USSR completely ignores half of the equation.

    You can spend a billion dollars per day, and NEVER go bankrupt, if you also earn a billion dollars per day.

    On the other hand, you can go bankrupt spending only one dollar per day, if you make less than that.

    The US went into massive debt over the 80s arms race as well. But it was less debt, and more importantly, the debt was MUCH lower when compared to the overall economy.

    No particular spending broke the USSR. They simply didn't produce enough of anything to sustain any type of spending. Communism/socialism fails every time, because it reduces productivity to below sustainable levels. Every. Single. Time.

  14. I think its good that reagen‘s Plans Never worked because i think that he would have User historische advantage for massive destruction in the soviet Union.

  15. And what has replaced the Soviet Union? Yet another totalitarian Russian regime with all the state infrastructure of the Soviet regime still in place. Putin is having more success disrupting the West than the Soviet regimes of the past could ever dream of. By merely calling himself rightwing, suddenly Putin is the hero of all the Western conservatives who now lap up the very same totalitarianism they once despised. It just goes to prove, The Right are all frauds.

  16. Having worked in the field, all I'll say is… yes, it was a poker game, but with a pretty good hand.

  17. What people don’t know is the Star Wars project never stopped. It did publicly however they us gov. Did succeed in creating the system.

  18. Nobody took Starwars program seriously with all the arguing going on at the time. The Soviet Union was already on the ropes financially and keeping up with previous weapons programs already did them in along with their war in Afghanistan.

  19. You have no idea the advanced weapons that are floating around up there. Thor ,rods of god, lasers , just a sample.

  20. It didn't bankrupt the Soviets on its own, but it didn't help their economic situation. I like to think it was the final push to a building about to collapse…it was going to fall anyway, but this quickened the process.

  21. Born in 1959 and as a product of USA anticommunist propaganda, I long for the time when we faced an enemy that we could understand. Rascally religious radicals, global warming (maybe/maybe not depending on who's taking) and plastic bags for f©©ks sake! It's just pathetic.

  22. The Soviet economy was spiralling down the toilet already due to decades of military expenditures and other factors including their misadventures in Afghanistan.

    Whatever Ronnie did or didn't do, their days were numbered and Gorbachev didn't wish to plunge Russians into complete civil disarray. Some said they were one more bad winter from total collapse so the Soviet empire was finished so Russia could try to save itself.

  23. I'm curious where Dr. Jerry Pournelle's group fits into all this. I've been repeatedly told that he and several other people came up with the basic SDI concept in Larry Niven's kitchen, worked out a detailed proposal, and then met with Reagan early on, probably overlapping with the Excalibur period. Is this true?

  24. Unfortunately we need to work together to stop astroid threats which I think we can do but sadly greed and hunger for power won't let it happen.

  25. Ronnie's star wars was a complete BLUFF. As arnold once said. Trust me…..After he misspoke said Iraq not Iran (a couple of stray bombs might hit them too) It scared the crsp out of LOTSA people. Since he actually flew a bomber in wwII and the movies were readily available and actually veiwed , several countries pulled back the rhetoric …. American warplanes will fill the skies of Iraq..I mean Iran…unfortunately the Iran-Iraq war started being supported by MANY INSANE GOVT'S.. Culminating in the first gulf war. Limited nuclear strikes were on the table since SADDAM had advanced huge arsenal weaponry donated by the WARMONGERS themselves. See wikapedia it's downright depressing.

  26. What crushed USSR is the combination of Tchernobyl, the war in Afghanistan and an economic crisis which began on the seventies

  27. I was under the impression it was a number of factors, mostly trying to create counters to American weapon systems like the XB-70, F-117, B-2, and projects like Copper Canyon, which would have been the X-30 national aerospace plane. Note that several of these projects were later canceled, and all of them were ludicrously expensive. I would assume that creating counters to these programs was equally expensive, add the losses in the Soviet Afghan war which was raging at the time, and it's not hard to see how the USSR'S command economy was gutted.

  28. Meh. What broke USSR was space shuttle heavy lifting body. When we made ours work in regular scheduled sojourns, Russia knew they couldn't keep up. They infiltrated our government with a black communist president and he did what they could not di: he destroyed America's vehicle program for lifting heavy bodies into space. No more space exploration, not to the moon; not to Mars. Dream on, but it's gone!

  29. Communism is a noble idea, but without power and fear it quickly eroded due to default human nature without religion. Capitalism is also held together by power and fear, just look at policing in USA. Cops are out on safari in bad neighborhoods. Once people have a chance spit on their leaders and there is no response, its game over as "Glasnost" proved. This is what people don't seem to appreciate about danger of Trump. He's rhetoric is undermining the contract between rulers and servants that in many ways is based on trust and respect.

  30. I'm sorry to say this but this is one of your less impressive videos. While the initial part of this is largely correct, the proposals for SDI did not hinge on any one single factor. The Soviet economy had been heavily strained by the crash program initiated under Brezhnev in the 1960s. By the late 70's CIA reports showed that the USSR was already reducing its spending on defence. Secondly, while Reagan's speech to initiate the SDI program in May 1983 was met with (understandable) outrage by the Soviet Union, Gorbachev, shown here in this video, was not the General Secretary. This is extremely important because his predecessors were not of the same mind. The General Secretary in 1983 was Yuri Andropov, former head of the KGB and a divisive figure in Soviet politics. By the end of 1983, the concepts of MAD and SDI were being seriously challenged and their proponents isolated. This was due to and incident called Operation Able Archer 1983, which almost descended into Armageddon. Back channel communications between Reagan and the Soviet leadership established beyond doubt the Soviet distrust and fear of the USA. While the US always protested that they would never have adopted a first strike posture, 1983 was a very difficult year, with the shooting down of KAL 007 and the Stanislav Petrov incident putting relations between the superpowers at an all-time low. Suggest you read Nate Jones' book "Able Archer 83: The Secret History of the NATO Exercise That Almost Triggered Nuclear War", which covers this whole scenario in all the detail which is currently available. Jones is a Cold War specialist at the US National Archives.

    Gorbachev's motives for revamping the Soviet economy had little to do with SDI. The American claim that "We won the Cold War by outspending the Russians (sic)_" was pure propaganda from George Bush'2 1992 Presidential campaign. Nobody who has studied the Cold War in any depth believes it. Recommended reading is _"A Failed Empire" by Vladislav Zubok and "The Cold War" by Robert J. McMahon. These references make it abundantly clear that among the USSR's biggest problems related to their ability to recoup debts from their client states. Looking at the two superpowers and the empires they oversaw, it's obvious that the American client states were wealthy and largely solvent while the Soviet Union tended to back emerging economies and the odd failed state which looked like it might turn to communism. They had serious problems with their Eastern European allies towards the end because they simply did not pay their oil debts, despite Moscow cutting them considerable amounts of slack.

    The changes in the 1980s had almost nothing to do with SDI and a lot more to do with late stage Soviet aims which centred around reforming the economy from the remnants of the revolution/industrialisation economy to a modern and internationally competitive one.

  31. When the Soviets saw Reagan could print money with little ramifications they decided it was better to let the satellites go and for Russia to go it alone. It was a smart decision. Russia now has a surplus economy and the west is on the verge of collapse from all that money printing. The final verdict is not in yet.

  32. Russia started their own SDI program in the late 1970s. The development of the Buran began in the early 1970s as a response to the U.S. Space Shuttle program. Soviet officials were concerned about a perceived military threat posed by the U.S. Space Shuttle. In their opinion, the Shuttle's 30-ton payload-to-orbit capacity and, more significantly, its 15-ton payload return capacity, were a clear indication that one of its main objectives would be to place massive experimental laser weapons into orbit that could destroy enemy missiles from a distance of several thousands of kilometers. Their reasoning was that such weapons could only be effectively tested in actual space conditions and that to cut their development time and save costs it would be necessary to regularly bring them back to Earth for modifications and fine-tuning.[8] Soviet officials were also concerned that the U.S. Space Shuttle could make a sudden dive into the atmosphere to drop bombs on Moscow.[9]

  33. The Soviets watched Delta Force starring Chuck Norris. Thats what caused the Soviet Union to break up. They knew that was and arms race they could not win.

  34. The Soviet Union was saddled with a lot of financial burdens as maintaining the surveillance state and military aid to their satellite states.
    But the killing blow probably was the Soviet Afghan war which lasted ten years and would have cost them many times more than their space weapons efforts.

  35. Just the entire Soviet economy .. couldn't last too longer…
    Even without arms rising.. the people dreamed to western cars and other technologies..
    Dreamed to quit Eastern Europe and go to West

  36. I saw Ronald Reagan in London in 1984, along with Margaret Thatcher, Pierre Trudeau and other world leaders. Thousands of Socialists and peacenics protested him in Trafalgar Square. Two days before thousands of Sihks protested against the storming of their golden temple by Indian forces in retaliation for the assassination of Indira Gandhi by two of her Sihks body guards. Back to Reagan. He smiled and waved to the crowd. I happened to be next to several soldiers in civilian clothes (so they told me). They were there to assist the police if trouble broke out. I would have hated to have been tackled by those lads.

  37. The Star Wars project didnt bankrupt the USSR – it was Chernobyl (even Gorbajov admiteded). Just think about it , Fukushima cosed Japan 400 bilion USD to clean up and it was smaller accsident. At the time this happened , the USSR econamy was already in a bad state, the sheer cost of the clean up just made making anything else impossible. You can state that the counter to Star Wars was the last knail on the coffin but it was not the cause.

  38. The key Star Wars program was the X-ray laser. But a mass launch of missiles would defeat even the most wildly successful system and the X-ray laser did work that well. If Reagan had never started Star Wars the Soviet Union probably would have fallen. The argument is much like the decision to the drop the bomb on Japan. The Japanese were just not that worried about the bomb- it was (ironically) the Russians declaring war that scared them into surrendering to the U.S. unconditionally.

  39. It was another Republican gift to the military industrial complex which has been shown to be a complete waste and environmental catastrophe. It set the stage for endless insane growth of Pentagon budget to where it's now $700 billion.

  40. Skif was not a "space laser", but rather a pile of prototype components. Instead of putting a dummy payload (spaceman, hah!) rocket engineers proposed to launch a 100 tons of stuff into space. Engineers of laser platform responded – that they are interested. Thus they put together whatever they had to test "something" in space vacuum.

  41. Chernobyl probably bankrupted the USSR. Gorbachev in hindsight said as much. It at least was the straw broke the camel's back. Apparently it cost something like 18 billion rubles to tidy up at a time when one ruble was worth one dollar. The loss in the perception of the USSR's power and competency worldwide with Chernobyl in 1986 and the Afghan withdrawal in 1988 was tremendous and worth even more measured in terms of money.

  42. Funny, the most terrible destructive weapon was made by USSR, which able to destroy whole country – it was Gorbachiov himself. And as real nuclear bomb, he even did not understood what he done. stupid idiot a great peacemaker!

  43. The ussr was near the edge to bankruptcy. The Reagan defense buildup, including Star Wars, put pressure on the ruskies to continue their ruinous level of defense spending. Then add the burden of Afghanistan then when they started taking helicopter losses. See Charlie Wilson’s war

  44. Short answer. No. The break up of the USSR was cause by internal political issues, not a lagging economy or an arms race.

  45. The media and liberals were in a panic to stop Star Wars technology by America. They did all they could to protect the USSR to the end.

  46. Bankruptcy is when you acknowledge your debt. America has rolling debt upwards of 22 trillions, never cares about it when it can rape murder & steal to get what it likes, including from it's own citizens.

  47. You have just heard the myth the Neocon's have been pushing for 40 years.

    That is close but the truth is the Soviets collapsed under the weight of a terrible economy and their wasting all of the money on weapons.

    America is doing the same thing to ourselves as we speak. Bush's war for his reelection is still draining our resources.

    It is time America gets out of our roll as super power.
    If we don't we will end up like Russia. A loud mouth with to many weapons and very little influence.

  48. I have not even watch this yet but there were several factors Chernobyl the fact that the US Navy went in that bay which name eludes me right now with a submarine and dropped monitoring equipment on their phone cable which carried every single call in the Soviet Union that is also how they caught Hansen because someone in the room listening to that recording recognized his voice and to show you how badass u.s. Navy submarines are that equipment did not transmit it had to be recovered and replaced with a new one go Navy seals and one hell of a submarine Commander

  49. Reagan is the president to do stupid things but because of how charismatic he was and how badass it sounded you did it anyway, case point star wars doesn’t that sound badass

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