Ronald Reagan said:
This is the “evil empire” speech that was so often quoted as defining my attitude toward the Soviets. At the time it was portrayed as some kind of know-nothing, archconservative statement that could only drive the Soviets to further heights of paranoia and insecurity.
For too long our leaders were unable to describe the Soviet Union as it actually was. The keepers of our foreign-policy knowledge – in other words, most liberal foreign-affairs scholars, the State Department, and various columnists – found it illiberal and provocative to be so honest. I’ve always believed, however, that it’s important to define differences, because there are choices and decisions to be made in life and history.
The Soviet system over the years has purposely starved, murdered, and brutalized its own people. Millions were killed; it’s all right there in the history books. It put other citizens it disagreed with into psychiatric hospitals, sometimes drugging them into oblivion. Is the system that allowed this not evil? Then why shouldn’t we say so? Even the Soviets themselves are now admitting to annihilating their own people during Stalin’s era.
I could not in good conscience today call the Soviet Union an evil empire. As I write this, the Soviets have just conducted the most democratic elections since their revolution. Remarkable things are happening under Mikhail Gorbachev.
In addition to taking a hard line on the morality of the Soviet Union, this speech also outlines my opinions on a number of other moral issues.
If Ronald Reagan were alive today, I believe he would say that Putin has undone all of Mikhail Gorbachev’s positive changes, and Putin has returned Russia to its Lenin/Stalin/Khrushchev/Brezhnev ways.
The full text of Reagan’s speech, along with audio recordings, can be found here.
The explanatory quote shown above can be found here.
Reagan’s words are as relevant today as they were 25 years ago.