The dialog that ended the Soviet threat
President Ronald Reagan, His Holiness John Paul II and their close foreign policy aides understood the nature of the Soviet philosophy. They understood the Kremlin’s way of thinking that is why also their battle with the communist threat was successful.
On January 29th, 1981 during the press conference president Reagan was asked what he thought about the long-range intentions of the Soviet Union. President answered: “so far detente has been a one-way street that the Soviet Union used to pursue its own aims“. And he added: “their goal must be the promotion of world revolution and one-world Socialist or Communist state“. President elaborated on the essence of the Soviet goal. Reagan said: “Now, as long as they do that, and as long as they at the same time, have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that, and that is moral, not immoral, and we operate on different set of standards, I think when you do the business with them, even at a detente, you keep that in mind“. Obviously, as Reagan’s diplomat James Matlock, emphasized president never meant to attack ad hominem anyone in the Soviet Union regime. Other sources prove that Reagan prayed for them as it was, for instance, during the meeting with the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida in 1983. He also tried to reach Soviet leaders, as early as three months after his inauguration, writing letter to Brezhnev the First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party . However whether it was 1981 or 1987 President Reagan always had in mind that his political opponent represents communism, the ideology with unlimited goal.
By God’s plan there was something unique about the Vatican in 1980s. Cardinal Karol Wojtyla who was installed as John Paul II, had the best understanding of Marxism-Leninism not only theoretically but also practically among all of the most important diplomats of that century. Former Reagan’s Ambassador to the Vatican state Frank Shakespeare is strongly convinced about that. He also adds that this type of knowledge pope shared with the Western diplomats who never lived under the communist yoke: “John Paul did not avoid private talks to leaders during his pilgrimages. One has to imagine that he discussed also political issues with these leaders”. In his memoirs former president of the United States Jimmy Carter reveals that John Paul II was open to help make contact or mediate with the most difficult partners around the world. But most of all on every occasion John Paul II urged believers to pray for peaceful conclusion of the international conflicts. (I elaborate on this in my book “God’s Army vs Evil Empire”).
Both president Ronald Reagan and pope John Paul II saw in prayer key to the collapse of the Soviet Empire. In the same time they both were looking for possibilities to have dialog with political opponents. Reagan however made this dialog different from negotiations pursued by his predecessors. His first words during his first meeting with the Soviet First Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev were very strong. As former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher emphasized in her eulogy to president Reagan:
I cannot imagine how any diplomat, or any dramatist, could improve on his words to Mikhail Gorbachev at the Geneva summit: “Let me tell you why it is we distrust you.” Those words are candid and tough, and they cannot have been easy to hear. But they are also a clear invitation to a new beginning and a new relationship that would be rooted in trust.
There was probably noone in the world who understood better than John Paul II that truth-telling is the most effective weapon against the Communist system built on fundamental lies. During first years of his pontificate John Paul’s II Vatican published the document exposing Liberation Theology as a Marxist ideology in the religious robes. Probably the most important part of that documents was the condemnation of the Soviet system as the author of the Archipelago Gulag, the concentration camp which imprisoned over 1, 500, 000, 000 people. The Vatican document called it: “the shame of our time”.
It is undeniable that President Ronald Reagan and His Holiness John Paul II set the standards for authentic dialog with aggressive opponent. They were: vigilance and truth.