Reagan Warned Europe Against Depending on Natural Gas From Russia

Today is Ronald Reagan’s birthday.

(p. B1)The language in the C.I.A. memo was unequivocal: The 3,500-mile gas pipeline from Siberia to Germany is a direct threat to the future of Western Europe, it said, creating “serious repercussions” from a dangerous reliance on Russian fuel.

The agency wasn’t briefing President Biden today. It was advising President Reagan more than four decades ago.

The memo was prescient. That Soviet-era pipeline, the subject of a bitter fight during the Reagan administration, marked the start of Europe’s heavy dependence on Russian natural gas to heat homes and fuel industry. However, those gas purchases now help fund Vladimir V. Putin’s war machine in Ukraine, despite worldwide condemnation of the attacks and global efforts to punish Russia financially.

In 1981, Reagan imposed sanctions to try to block the pipeline, a major Soviet initiative designed to carry huge amounts of fuel to America’s critical allies in Europe. But he swiftly faced stiff opposition — not just from the Kremlin and European nations eager for a cheap source of gas, but also from a powerful lobby close to home: oil and gas companies that stood to profit from access to Russia’s gargantuan gas reserves.

. . .

(p. B4) On a frigid Sunday morning in December 1981, millions of Poles woke up to find their country under a state of martial law. Global condemnation of the Polish authorities, and of their backers in the Kremlin, was swift.

Already wary of the Soviets’ plan to build a gas pipeline to Western Europe, the Reagan administration produced a list of economic sanctions that essentially banned American companies from helping to build it. “The fate of a proud and ancient nation hangs in the balance,” Reagan said in his Christmas address.

The measure drew immediate ire from America’s European allies, where the $25 billion pipeline promised a stable source of gas at a time nations were still reeling from the oil shocks of the 1970s. But within the United States, it was the oil and gas lobby that fought back.

The sanctions would “aggravate further our international reputation for commercial reliability,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represented major oil and gas companies and pipeline manufacturers among numerous other industries, warned in a letter to the White House. The pipeline would, in fact, give Western Europe “a degree of leverage over the Soviets rather than vice versa,” Richard Lesher, the group’s president, later told The Washington Post.

Following intense lobbying, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to lift the sanctions, despite a letter from Secretary of State George P. Shultz warning that such legislation would “severely cripple” the administration’s ability to deal with the Polish crisis.

For the full story, see:

Hiroko Tabuchi. “How Europe Got Hooked On Russian Natural Gas.” The New York Times (Thursday, March 24, 2022): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 23, 2022, and has the title “How Europe Got Hooked on Russian Gas Despite Reagan’s Warnings.”)

Voice of America Taught, by Example, “The Norms and Practices of Western Discourse”

(p. A15) Mention the Voice of America or Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to most Americans, and they will give you a blank look.

. . .

. . . it amuses Mark Pomar, an American scholar of Russia who between 1982 and 1986 was assistant director of Radio Liberty (the Russian service of RFE/RL) and director of VOA’s U.S.S.R. division.

In the preface to “Cold War Radio,” his insightful, absorbing account of the remarkable work of these services, Mr. Pomar recalls an incident from 1984, when he traveled to Cavendish, Vt., to interview the exiled author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Checking into his hotel, Mr. Pomar announced that he was from Voice of America, and the clerk asked if that was “a national singing group.”

Today it seems obvious that VOA would interview Solzhenitsyn. Yet in 1984 VOA was still keeping its distance from the famous dissident, because many in the American foreign policy establishment were still committed to détente, the policy that regarded open criticism of the Soviet leadership as a barrier to nuclear-arms control.

To President Ronald Reagan, détente was “a one-way street that the Soviet Union has used to achieve its own aims.” So in that spirit, Mr. Pomar spent three days recording 20 hours of Solzhenitsyn reading from “August 1914,” the first in a cycle of novels about the travails of modern Russia. Despite being nine parts polemic to one part literature, the edited on-air reading was a success, and Solzhenitsyn joined the list of distinguished émigrés whose bonds with Russia, ruptured by repression, were partially mended by America’s “Cold War radios.”

. . .

These people had all been erased (we would say “canceled”) by the regime, so their commentary was implicitly political. But the radios also held explicitly political debates on extremely divisive topics. And no matter how heated these exchanges, the hosts insisted on maintaining “the norms and practices of Western discourse.” Mr. Pomar reminds us (lest we forget) that these norms and practices, so crucial to democracy, were an essential part of the message.

For the full review, see:

Martha Bayles. “BOOKSHELF; Listen and You Shall Hear.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, October 24, 2022): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date October 23, 2022, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Cold War Radio’ Review: Listen and You Shall Hear.”)

The book under review is:

Pomar, Mark G. Cold War Radio: The Russian Broadcasts of the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Lincoln, NE: Potomac Books, 2022.

Ronald Reagan, a Cuban, a Mormon, Me, and the Deauville

I recently ran across a front-page story in the New York Times about the disrepair, and likely demolition, of Miami’s famous Deauville Hotel. It brought back memories.

Toastmasters International was going to have its annual convention in Miami immediately following the Republican Convention there in 1968. My father was an officer of Toastmasters, eventually the international president. We went down early since a friend of my father was able to get us tickets to a day of the Republican Convention. We heard a speech by Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois, a well-known orator.

My father was supporting Richard Nixon. In an act of minor rebellion, at age 16 I asked him if I could go to the Ronald Reagan headquarters at the Deauville Hotel and volunteer for a day. He said OK.

I reported to the head of Youth for Reagan, Dan Manion. My first job was to attend a rally to greet Reagan’s arrival at the Deauville. I remember Reagan smiling and waving as he exited his limo, while we chanted: “Give a yell, give a cheer, Ron-ald Rea-gan is here!”

For most of the day, Manion assigned me to work with a Cuban and a Mormon to haul cases of cheap wine from somewhere in Miami to the California delegation at the Deauville. (The Cuban had a pickup truck.) We were a diverse trio. I do not remember the details of our conversation, but I remember its warmth and camaraderie.

Reagan lost the nomination to Nixon, but he did not give up, and we did not give up either.

Over half a century later, I still smile when I remember that day. Dan Manion became a federal judge; I talked with him at my father’s funeral in April 2000. I never saw the Cuban or the Mormon again, and would not recognize them if I ran into them. But I hope that life has been good to them and that they remember that day as fondly as I do.

The article that I mentioned above on the decline of the Deauville Hotel is:

Patricia Mazzei. “A Historic Miami Beach Hotel Falls Prey to Neglect and Time.” The New York Times (Tuesday, January 19, 2022): A1 & A11.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Jan. 20, 2022, and has the title “A Grand Miami Beach Hotel, and Its History, Might Be Torn Down.”)

Mundell and Laffer Agreed High Taxes Hurt Poor

(p. A12) Robert A. Mundell began to make his name in the 1960s as a maverick economist eager to challenge his more orthodox colleagues. He ended up influencing mainstream economic policy in the U.S. and Europe in profound ways that few of his peers could have imagined.

. . .

Dr. Mundell’s influence on U.S. economic policy also dates to the 1960s. He was teaching at the University of Chicago when he met Arthur Laffer in 1967. Dr. Laffer, a Stanford-educated economist, later recalled their first meeting as a shock. “In walked a sallow, tousle-headed, pipe-smoking figure wearing a faded trench coat belted with a clothesline cord,” Dr. Laffer wrote.

The disheveled Dr. Mundell and the buttoned-down Dr. Laffer agreed that steeply progressive taxes were deterring investment and employment in ways that hurt the poor.

In the 1970s, Dr. Mundell argued that the U.S. should defy conventional economic wisdom by raising interest rates to protect the dollar’s value while reducing taxes to stimulate the economy. “I knew I was in the minority,” he said in an 1988 interview. “But I thought my vote should count much more than the others because I understood the subject.”

Dr. Laffer introduced Dr. Mundell and his ideas to Jude Wanniski and Robert Bartley of The Wall Street Journal editorial pages, whose work influenced Republican politicians including Jack Kemp and Mr. Reagan.

For the full obituary, see:

James R. Hagerty. “Canadian Economist Inspired U.S. Tax Cuts.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 6, 2021): A12.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date April 9, 2021, and has the title “Robert Mundell Helped Inspire U.S. Tax Cuts and the Euro.” In the last paragraph quoted above, the online version mentions Jack Kemp. The print version did not.)

Reagan’s Tribute to the Loyalty of Man’s Best Friend

The above clip is Ronald Reagan in an episode of Death Valley Days. (Today is Ronald Reagan’s birthday.)

(p. A15) George Graham Vest, a 39-year-old lawyer, . . . [on] Sept. 23, 1870, . . . delivered one of the most enduring arguments ever performed in a courtroom.

. . .

He told jurors that “the one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog. A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground . . . if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer.”

. . .

Ronald Reagan portrayed George Vest in a 1964 episode of “Death Valley Days” and delivered his famous summation. You’ll find it. Have a tissue ready. Vest’s oration, referred to as “Tribute to a Dog,” is revered by judges and lawyers.

. . .

Vest, . . ., concluded his speech by reminding the jurors that a dog remains loyal to the end. Even after his master’s funeral, and all others have left the cemetery, Vest said, “There by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness.”

For the full commentary, see:

Randy Maniloff. “Stand on Precedent. That’s a Good Boy!” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, September 23, 2020): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sep. 22, 2020, and has the same title as the print version.)

“Still a Beacon, Still a Magnet for All Who Must Have Freedom”

(p. A23) . . . Ronald Reagan believed in the possibilities of a country that was forever reinventing itself. He knew, too, that the nation had grown stronger the more widely it had opened its arms and the more generously it had interpreted Thomas Jefferson’s assertion of equality in the Declaration of Independence.

He was about hope, not fear. And that is another reason his farewell address should be more widely appreciated: It’s a kind of final testament of an American president who had a genuine faith in the future. Mr. Reagan was a practical man, and he knew, as he put it, that “because we’re a great nation, our challenges seem complex. It will always be this way. But as long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will be ours.”

Or so we can hope. His last words on that long-ago Wednesday bear hearing, and pondering. “And how stands the city on this winter night?” Mr. Reagan asked. “More prosperous, more secure and happier than it was eight years ago. She’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”

They hurtle through that darkness even now. Mr. Reagan would have us light the lamp and open our arms — for that’s what cities on a hill do.

For the full commentary, see:

Jon Meacham. “Ronald Reagan’s Hopeful Farewell.” The New York Times (Friday, Jan. 10, 2019): A23.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 10, 2019, and has the title “Warren Buffett’s Case for Capitalism.”)

“The Key Is Freedom”

(p. A17) . . . Ronald Reagan, in the last year of his presidency, delivered one of his most magnificent speeches . . . before a packed auditorium of students at Moscow State University.
. . .
Reagan’s ultimate aim was to plant the seed of freedom in the newly receptive furrows of a cracking totalitarianism.
. . .
Reagan delivered his Moscow speech standing before a gigantic scowling bust of Lenin and a mural of the Russian Revolution. He incorporated them as props in his address. “Standing here before a mural of your revolution,” he said, “I want to talk about a very different revolution,” a technological and “information revolution” that was transforming the world. How much progress had already been realized! But progress was not foreordained. “The key,” Reagan said, “is freedom–freedom of thought, freedom of information, freedom of communication.”

For the full commentary, see:
Roger Kimball. “‘When Reagan Met Lenin.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, May 31, 2018): A17.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 30, 2018.)

When 4% Economic Growth Was Routine

(p. R3) Starting in 1983, when Ronald Reagan was in the middle of his first presidential term, the American economy reeled off three straight years of 4% growth. The economy went on to hit that politically important target in nine of the next 17 years. In fact, even as Mr. Bush ran for re-election, the economy actually was revving up after a two-year lull, though the surge came too late for voters to realize it.
Then, at the turn into a new millennium, that streak stopped. In the last 15 years, the American economy hasn’t grown at a 4% annual rate even once.
But it isn’t just the U.S. In the last 15 years, according to International Monetary Fund data, exactly one of the traditional seven major industrialized nations achieved annual economic growth of 4%, one time: Japan in 2010.
In sum, the kind of economic growth that used to be relatively routine in the industrialized world has become virtually extinct.
This low-growth era leaves political leaders facing two unsavory tasks. The first is to explain to unhappy voters why growth is so anemic, and the second is to convince them that they know what to do about it.

For the full commentary, see:
Gerald F. Seib. “Politicians Pine for Elusive Solution to Voters’ Discontent: 4% Growth.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Jan. 17, 2017): R3.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 16, 2017.)

One Way to Defend Free Trade (in Honor of Reagan’s Birthday)

(p. A9) Baldrige also knew how to use humor to deflate tense moments, as when the U.S. toy balloon industry petitioned for protection against cheap Mexican imports. Baldrige was opposed, but after debate the entire cabinet favored sanctions. Sensing this was not where the president wanted to go, Baldrige pulled from his pocket a dozen toy balloons and tossed them on the cabinet table. As the room filled with laughter, he said, “This is what we are talking about.” Reagan denied the sanctions.

For the full review, see:
CLARK S. JUDGE. “BOOKSHELF; The Cowboy At Commerce; During tense talks over steel imports, Baldrige insisted the tired Europeans work through lunch. He’d hidden snacks for his team nearby.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Jan. 5, 2016): A9.
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Jan. 4, 2016, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; The Cowboy At Commerce; During tense talks over steel imports, Baldrige insisted the tired Europeans work through lunch. He’d hidden snacks for his team nearby.”)

The book under review, is:
Black, Chris, and B. Jay Cooper. Mac Baldrige: The Cowboy in Ronald Reagan’s Cabinet. Lanham, MD: Lyons Press, 2015.

Reagan’s “Failure” Helped End the Cold War

(p. 9) Failure is in fashion these days. We read about failing fast and failing well, about grit incubated by repeated failure in school and innovation by repeated failure in business. So it may be a good time to consider the hidden virtues of failure in foreign policy. And who better to demonstrate those virtues than one of modern America’s great optimists?
On a Sunday evening in October 1986, Ronald Reagan returned to the White House after what he called “one of the longest, most disappointing — and ultimately angriest — days of my presidency.” He had spent more than 10 hours in discussions with Mikhail Gorbachev, in Reykjavik, Iceland, coming gut-­wrenchingly close to a breakthrough in United States-Soviet nuclear talks before everything fell apart. He was, in his personal assistant’s judgment, “borderline distraught.” Network news pronounced “the magic of the Reagan persona gone,” Gorbachev called him a “feebleminded cave man,” and even his own generals told him that his ideas “pose high risks to the security of the nation.” Soon, the Democrats would retake Congress, and the revelations of Iran-contra would spur talk of impeachment.
. . .
. . . foreign policy “failure” turned out to be the foundation of future accomplishment.

For the full review, see:
DANIEL KURTZ-PHELAN. “A Thawing in Iceland.” The New York Times Book Review (Sun., Aug. 3, 2014): 9.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Aug. 1, 2014.)

The book being reviewed is:
Adelman, Ken. Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold War. New York: Broadside Books, 2014.

Reagan “Was Canny Enough to Take His Cues from Technicians, Who Would Be Candid with Him about What the Doctors Really Meant”

RawhideDownBK.jpg

Source of book image: http://www.dispatch.com/live/export-content/sites/dispatch/life/stories/2011/03/28/2-book-rawhide-art-ga9c3l3q-1rawhide-down-large.jpg

(p. C7) It has been nearly 30 years since President Ronald Reagan was shot outside the Washington Hilton Hotel on March 30, 1981. The attack is well remembered, but the details are not. One reason for the memory lapse, according to Del Quentin Wilber, the author of “Rawhide Down,” a newly revealing account of this potentially deadly attack, is that Reagan survived it so smoothly. Twelve days after being fired upon, he was back at the White House looking sensational. He ultimately enhanced his popularity by rebounding with such courage, resilience and even good cheer.
. . .
“Rawhide Down” is a fast-paced book that captures many points of view. Nurses and medical technicians have especially candid memories of the pressure they faced, the uncertainty about how to deal with such an important patient and the ad-hoc solutions they devised. They decided to call him Mr. Reagan rather than Mr. President; the situation would be less frightening that way. They were amazed by his joking, his courtesy and his general lack of V.I.P. attitude.
They were also impressed by his bravery. Throughout the incident the president had no clear idea of what had happened to him or what to expect. He struggled to breathe, brightened at any mention of the first lady and was canny enough to take his cues from technicians, who would be candid with him about what the doctors really meant. As he got ready to undergo chest surgery, one worker assured him that being taken from the E.R. to the operating room was a good thing. If he were really in peril, she said, doctors would never allow him to be moved.

For the full review, see:
JANET MASLIN. “Books of The Times; Reconstructing the Day Reagan Fell: Chaos After a President’s Shooting.” The New York Times (Thurs., March 10, 2011): C7.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review is dated March 9, 2011.)

The book under review is:
Wilber, Del Quentin. Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2011.