I started my Monday by reading this excellent piece by my friend and former National Review colleague Jay Nordlinger. The purpose was to celebrate Ronald Reagan’s birthday and to defend the continued relevance of both his politics and his character. There is a tendency on the new right to sneer at any hint of continued Reaganism in American conservatism. “Times have changed,” they say. Reagan is no longer relevant.
They have a limited point, one that’s rooted in basic common sense. Of course times change. Of course our economic and geopolitical challenges evolve. So does our culture. Let’s just take one example—the almost unthinkably high stake of the Cold War. To give younger readers an idea of what these days were like, I pulled up NATO’s analysis of the balance of forces in Europe in 1984.
As we rightly worry about roughly 150,000 Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s borders, consider that at the height of the Cold War, the Warsaw Pact massed up to 4 million troops in Europe. They were forward-deployed for offensive operations. This massive force included a staggering 61,000 main battle tanks and more than 13,000 aircraft. In total, the Soviets and their allies commanded 246 divisions, a force every bit as vast as the great armies of World War II.
NATO opposed this force with 2.6 million troops arrayed in defensive positions, with 2 million more stationed in the U.S. and other NATO nations outside Europe. This force of 82 divisions and 180 independent brigades included 25,000 main battle tanks and more than 11,000 aircraft. Collectively, the two forces represented the most destructive and powerful military force the world had ever seen, and they stared at each other, on varying levels of alert, for almost 50 years.