Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Robert K. Barney


Upon becoming President of the United States in 1981, Ronald Reagan faced a rapidly deteriorating relationship with the Soviet Union in the midst of the ongoing Cold War, exacerbated by the events of the 1980s, including the 1980 Olympic boycott and President Jimmy Carter’s administration. President Reagan’s bellicose statements and staunch anti-communism stance further aggravated the situation, reasserting and deepening Cold War anxieties in the Soviet Union. Compared to his predecessors, Reagan was a war hawk determined to bring an absolute end to the Soviet Union and the socialist world. This was no more apparent than in his foreign policy towards the Soviet Union during his first four years in office when he initiated his desire for the strategic defense initiative, his massive American military buildup, and his decision to invade the Caribbean island of Grenada to stave off Soviet influence in the Third World. Each and every action taken by President Reagan was constructed in order to bring the Soviet Union to its knees via political and economic pressure. However, Reagan seemingly had a sudden change of stance when Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Olympic Summer Games. The Kremlin, in turn for Soviet Bloc attendance at the Olympics, requested several demands that had to be met – for example, the right for Soviet Aeroflot flights to land at Los Angeles International Airport and an unprecedented amount of security to protect Soviet athletes and interest. Reagan’s decisions concerning the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Summer Games were a glaring anomaly when compared to the previous three years of Reagan’s harsh anti-communism and “hawkish” actions and opinion regarding the Soviet Union. Drawing from declassified documents from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, this research examines how and why the Olympic Movement was able to transcend Cold War politics in regards to President Reagan meeting each and every one of the Soviet demands despite numerous outside pressures and occurrences making it increasingly difficult for him to do so.