42 presidents. He ranked number nine in international relations.  Reagan's major achievement was that the USSR and Communism collapsed, causing the U.S. to become the world's only superpower. His admirers say he won the Cold War.  After 40 years of high tension, the USSR pulled back in the last years of Reagan's second term. In 1989, the Kremlin lost control of all its East European satellites. In 1991, Communism was overthrown in the USSR, and on December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. The resulting states were no threat to the United States. Reagan's exact role is debated, with many believing that Reagan's defense policies, economic policies, military policies and hard-line rhetoric against the Soviet Union and Communism—together with his summits with General Secretary Gorbachev—played a significant part in ending the Cold War.  He was the first president to reject containment and détente and to put into practice the concept that the Soviet Union could be defeated rather than simply negotiated with, a post-Détente strategy,  a conviction that was vindicated by Gennadi Gerasimov, the Foreign Ministry spokesman under Gorbachev, who said that the Strategic Defense Initiative was "very successful blackmail . ... The Soviet economy couldn't endure such competition."  Reagan's aggressive rhetoric toward the USSR had mixed effects; Jeffery W. Knopf observes that being labeled "evil" probably made no difference to the Soviets but gave encouragement to the East-European citizens opposed to communism.  General Secretary Gorbachev said of his former rival's Cold War role: "[He was] a man who was instrumental in bringing about the end of the Cold War,"  and deemed him "a great president."  Gorbachev does not acknowledge a win or loss in the war, but rather a peaceful end; he said he was not intimidated by Reagan's harsh rhetoric.  Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, said of Reagan, "he warned that the Soviet Union had an insatiable drive for military power ... but he also sensed it was being eaten away by systemic failures impossible to reform."  She later said, "Ronald Reagan had a higher claim than any other leader to have won the Cold War for liberty and he did it without a shot being fired."  Said Brian Mulroney, former Prime Minister of Canada: "He enters history as a strong and dramatic player [in the Cold War]."  Former President Lech Wałęsa of Poland acknowledged, "Reagan was one of the world leaders who made a major contribution to communism's collapse."  Professor Jeffrey Knopf has argued that Reagan's leadership was only one of several causes of the end of the Cold War.  President Harry S. Truman's policy of containment is also regarded as a force behind the fall of the USSR, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan undermined the Soviet system itself.
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- Fall '09