After a period of detente between the two great, the decade of the 1980s marks a relaunch of hostilities on the part of the United States with the return to power of the Americans.
With his slogan “America is back” and his Manichean speech on the Empire of Evil, explicitly targeting the Soviet Union, Reagan, elected President of the United States in 1980, undertakes a policy of firmness considered aggressive. During his presidency, Reagan thus repeats several times that the communist episode draws to an end. To weaken the enemy, the Reagan administration does not hesitate to finance anti-communist guerrillas, especially in Africa but also in Asia and Latin America. The CIA thus continued to arm the Afghan mujahedin during the 1980s, to fight the Red Army which invaded the country. In the Iran-Iraq conflict, when diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States are officially severed since the episode of the hostage-taking at the American embassy in Tehran, Reagan sided with Saddam Hussein and brought its support for Iraq. More directly, the United States decided to overthrow the Marxist regime on the island of Grenada in 1983. The same year, in the midst of the Euromissile crisis, the Soviet Union shot down a plane of the Korean Air Lines company containing 269 civilians, following a navigation error which caused the violation of Soviet territory: this attack provoked Reagan’s indignation and reinforced his Manichean view of the world. In 1985, Reagan also decreed an embargo against the Sandinista regime of Daniel Ortega and of Marxist obedience in Nicaragua. Finally, the bombardment of Libya by Gaddafi in 1986 only generated timid protests from the Soviets.
In addition, by setting up “reaganomics”, Ronald Reagan is pursuing a policy of revival of the military-Keynesian type, which allows the United States to return to strong growth. During his two terms, Reagan relaunched the arms race, somewhat attenuated until then. In particular, he initiated the Strategic Defense Initiative (IDS) project, which aimed to protect American territory by setting up an anti-ballistic shield using satellites capable of detecting any missiles. However, the realization of such a project would nullify the balance of terror and make the USSR vulnerable. Moscow, faced with such ambitions, does not have the financial means to counter this project, otherwise its economy, already severely weakened by spending in Afghanistan, would become weaker and weaker. Therefore, Gorbachev prefers to continue the talks with a view to the progressive disarmament of the two superpowers, leading to the abandonment by the United States of the IDS project in the early 1990s. Several conferences for disarmament are thus held during the second term. of Reagan, leading to the START I treaty signed in 1990. But the relaunch of the arms race by the United States contributed significantly to the Soviet exhaustion of the 1980s.