Presidential doctrines and foreign policy

Posted: October 17th, 2013

Presidential doctrines and foreign policy




Presidential doctrines and foreign policy

Presidential doctrines are declarations that summarize the attitudes, stances and goals for the United States foreign relations that are normally outlined by the president himself (Nieto, 2003). The tradition of launching presidential doctrines was started during the Cold War when most heads of states made declarations concerning the handling of foreign policy. Most doctrines do not carry the force of law, but customarily bear enormous influence and are typically considered by subsequent administrations. The Reagan Doctrine was an approach coordinated and put into operation by the United States under the Reagan government to go up against the international influence of the Soviet Union during the concluding years of the Cold War. The period that the doctrine was in place was less than ten years, but it was the center of United States foreign policy from the 1980s until the Cold War ended. Basing their actions on the Reagan Doctrine, the U.S. government provided explicit and clandestine support to anti-communist groups and movements in a plan to reverse Soviet efforts in Asia Africa and Latin America (Blum, 2003). The doctrine was planned to weaken Soviet influence in those continents as part of the government’s general Cold War policy.

Cold War Relations between USA and Soviet Union

            During World War II at around 1945, the two states were briefly allies. However after the war, the earlier divisions between the two countries resurfaced. The increase in Soviet influence within Eastern Europe caught the concern of the United States that had established practical political and economic dominance in Western Europe. The two states became caught up in economic and political wrangles that were fuelled by opposing ideologies that eventually pulled in other allied nations in Africa and the rest of the world. This struggle between the two countries is what was known as the Cold War.

Effect of Reagan Doctrine on USA-Soviet Union relations

In the original years of the Cold War, the United States’ foreign policy towards communism was controlling the whole conflict. With the development of the Reagan Doctrine, the concentration shifted from containing communism from dispersion to eradicating the present communist administrations. Besides reversing the effect of the Soviet governments, the United States also had the interest of promoting capitalism and democracy in those countries. The Reagan Doctrine was particularly significant because it represented a significant swing in the post–World War II foreign guidelines for United States (Blum, 2003). Before the Reagan Doctrine was formulated, the American foreign policy concerning the Cold War was entrenched in containing the situation as was initially defined by World War II American. Foreign policy experts such as John Foster Dulles, and others. With the adoption of the Reagan Doctrine, fears of Russian attacks and other forms of aggression were forgotten and the America began to deal with Soviet-funded governments explicitly through supporting rebel pressure groups in the doctrine’s besieged states (Nieto, 2003).

Current relations between USA and Soviet Union (Russia)

            The conclusion of the Cold War presented Russia and the United States new occasions to cooperate. In the United Nations Security Council, Russia took up the permanent seat having veto power, a seat that was previously occupied by the Soviet Union. The Cold War had created a stalemate in the Security Council, but the new understanding between the states meant a renewal in American action. The United States also invited Russia to join the unofficial G-7 assembly of the world’s largest economic powers and thus creating the famous G-8. The United States and Russia also recently negotiated on cooperation mechanisms to secure the nuclear crisis in former Soviet regions. However, the two countries still experience conflict over several global decisions. The United States has championed for increased political and economic reorganization in Russia while Russia resisted most of the efforts and termed them as “meddling in internal affairs”. The United States, NATO and allied countries have also welcomed newly formed, former Soviet states to take part in European alliances despite Russian opposition. Russia and the United States have also disagreed on Kosovo’s status and Iran’s nuclear issues. Most recently, Russia’s military action in Georgia highlighted the rift in U.S.-Russian relations (Gareau, 2004).

Effectiveness of the Reagan Doctrine

The Reagan Doctrine has been credited by its proponents as being influential in ending the Cold War by limiting the expansion of the communist ideology over important states in the world. The doctrine’s philosophical validations were to do away with dictatorial governments and endorse personal freedom, liberties, and democracy (Nieto, 2003). The strategy was largely successful because the United States sponsored these resistance factions with relatively small budgets while the Soviet Union suffered a colossal loss as they used many resources on their military. While most analysts attributed the end of the Cold War to Reagan’s efforts, equal groups of critics have argued that foreign policy approach was unsuccessful (Chang, 2011). The U.S.-supported opposition in Nicaragua was found to have indulged in illegal behavior, such as drug trafficking and violating fundamental human rights of the people. Supporting the opposition in Nicaragua also attracted criticism because the same country was targeted by the Soviet Union. Other analysts argued that the Reagan Doctrine was too extensive as the resources depleted on promoting the ousting of these governments surpassed the benefits achieved.



Blum W. (2003). Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II. Noida, India: Zed Books. p. 290. ISBN 1-84277-369-0.

Chang F. (2011). Reagan Turns One Hundred: Foreign Policy Lessons. The National Interest. Retrieved from

Gareau F. H. (2004). State Terrorism and the United States. London: Zed Books. pp. 16 & 166. ISBN 1-84277-535-9.

Nieto C. (2003). Masters of War: Latin America and United States Aggression from the Cuban Revolution Through the Clinton Years. New York: Seven Stories Press. pp. 343–345. ISBN 1-58322-545-5.

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