Beginning in late 1981, the Reagan administration imposed sanctions that prohibited American companies from exporting technologies and material to the Soviet Union that were needed to construct the pipeline. Sanctions were next expanded to enforce these restrictions upon American corporate subsidiaries located in Europe. Ultimately, it took the imposition of U.S. import controls to effect dramatic change; America would close its market to European companies that continued to supply the USSR with equipment based on American designs.
President Reagan understood—as we must today—that unrestrained greed begets crime and subverts America’s central security interests. The cessation of the Trans-Siberian pipeline was part of the most successful implementation of a strategy to achieve geopolitical objectives in modern history. This strategy constituted an operational plan that helped cause the Soviet Union to collapse.
Measures by the Soviet regime to free its society from insularity, destitution, and rampant corruption, precipitated a cascade of incriminating responses that hobbled its ruling class, marking the USSR as a pariah among nations. Internal forces were thus unleashed within the Soviet Union that could not be repressed or mitigated due to their immensity.
Such a strategy must evolve from a comprehensive understanding of purposes, objectives, and means. In the case of the Soviet Union, an operational plan was enacted by America and its allies that achieved strategic objectives without the resort to war. What was done to the Soviet economy by the resolute actions of the Reagan administration defines the essence of strategy, for strategy is the formulation of plans to influence the outcome of events. The genius was to achieve these aims through non-military actions, though both powers possessed massive nuclear arsenals.
The Cold War was waged by nine presidential administrations, but it was won by Ronald Reagan. President Reagan understood that the individual must remain superior to the will of the collective.
In our enforcement of economic security today and in our future relations with China, we must not forget the timeless lessons this giant taught the world. We must act without delay, for Beijing is an aggressor of similar malevolence to that which Ronald Reagan vanquished, but of greater might across the spectrum of power. Observance and concrete actions are demanded.
Michael R. Pompeo served as Secretary of State and as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Donald Trump. He is currently a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute.