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“Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall”

Tomorrow will mark the 20th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s famous speech given at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, one of the most important events in bringing an end to the Cold War. Revisiting Reagan’s remarks from this historic day and contrasting them with the current approach to solving problems with the Russian Federation shows that there is still so much work to be done to build a properly functioning relationship.

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Reagan:

And now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control. Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

These days it is difficult to imagine another world leader willing to reach such a level of direct rhetoric to express their concerns to Russia. But then again the Reagan administration didn’t have to worry about major multinational corporations and financial institutions defending the actions of the Kremlin to protect their investments and maintain their proximity to power. Just look at outgoing PM Tony Blair, who is being heavily criticized by UK businesses for questioning Russia’s democratic values (Even Peter Hambro and Tony Hayward have jumped on the bandwagon, despite directly experiencing Russia’s hostility and bullying). There cannot be much optimism for the development of a free society in Russia when so many Western firms are enthusiastically underwriting autocracy, and thereby inhibiting governments’ ability to stop Russia’s drift toward repression.