Accepting “Untidiness”: The Reagan Administration’s Approach to the Atlantic Alliance

  • Larkin Building, Room 200 15 Devonshire Place Toronto, ON


In May of 1981, US President Ronald Reagan assured his audience at the University of Notre Dame that “the West won’t contain communism, it will transcend communism.” Reagan, like his predecessors, portrayed the Cold War as a competition between East and West, not simply the Soviet Union and the United States. This paper considers how Reagan and his administration viewed the Western nations’ role in waging the Cold War, exploring how US policy towards the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) evolved over Reagan’s two terms in office. It focuses, in particular, on US perceptions of the Cold War, the United States’ evolving view of “Western strength” over the course of the 1980s, and American frustration with the often cumbersome multilateral process of NATO decision-making. Despite the administration’s myriad frustrations with the Western allies, however, it highlights how Reagan’s rhetoric contributed to and strengthened the transatlantic partnership for the future by championing the alliance’s most valuable asset: the acceptance of disagreement as part of the democratic tradition.

Speaker: Susan Colbourn, PhD Candidate, Department of History, University of Toronto

Where: Larkin Building, Room 200, Trinity College

Sponsored by the Graham Centre’s Graduate Student Forum.