My brother lives in …
My brother lives in Russia and my dad has asked him what the Russians thought of Reagan. He talked with one of his co-workers, and this is what he sent back. (Names expunged for privacy reasons.)

I spoke with one person named ***. He’s Georgian. I asked him, point blank, what did you think of Reagan.

He responded that Russians really liked Reagan for two main reasons 1) He was funny (you have to hear that comment in the light of the personality of former Soviet leaders) and 2) Reagan respected Russia.

I could see the first reason but I had to probe about the second. How could the “evil-empire” man be someone whom Russians perceived as respecting Russia? The “Mr.-Gorbachev,-tear-down-this-wall” guy still was understood as a man who treated Russia with dignity. While his limited English prevented him from articulating this in depth, [he] only emphasized it.

Even with all my years here, I was not ready for that answer and am still, this morning, trying to make sense of it. Did they see him as a tough-love president (the way a teenager sees his parents later on)? I’m not sure. But something about President Reagan connected with Russians. Did they see him as their only hope? Certainly they did NOT see him as an enemy.

The frustrated Reagan who walked away from the talks in Iceland then came home and made a scathing address to the people about the continuing world-domination intentions of the Soviet Empire, “respected Russia”.

Can anyone make sense of this?

Now, this was just one guy in a big country, but I think I could explain this attitude in any Russian. Reagan made a clear distinction between his disdain for communism and his love for the people that were being oppressed by it. He didn’t ask the Russian people to “tear down this wall”, he asked the Russian government in general, and Gorbachev specifically. And for what reason? Not for our benefit, but for the benefit of the people living under communism.

And I have a feeling that the Russian people weren’t entirely fooled by the lies told to them by their government. In that way, they could see that Reagan had their best interests in mind, and respected him for it. Again, this is one guy in a country with opinions that run the gamut, but I think you will find a good number of them who did respect Reagan, and all the more so when, due in large part to his actions, the wall came tumbling down.

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