President Reagan said Saturday that the Soviet Union and its allies appear to be on the decline and that the world is entering a new “age of freedom” because of American firmness in Western Europe, Afghanistan, Angola and Nicaragua.
Accepting an honorary degree from Georgetown University, Reagan recalled the agreement at Munich in 1938 when Western nations tried but failed to appease Nazi Germany to avoid World War II.
“We learned the lesson of Munich,” Reagan said. “When we were told that the time had come to accept Soviet nuclear superiority in Europe, we said we would never accept it.
“When we were told the time had come to accept Soviet dominion over Afghanistan, we said we would never accept it. When we were told that we had no chance to dislodge Soviet proxies in Angola and Nicaragua, we said we would never accept it. . . .
“At every point on the map that the Soviets have applied pressure, we’ve done all we can to apply pressure against them. And now, we are seeing a sight many believed they would never see in our lifetime: the receding of the tide of totalitarianism.”
Apparently alluding to Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s acknowledgment of national stagnation in the past and declaration of a new policy of restructuring Soviet society, Reagan added:
“There are signs--and they are only signs--that suggest the rulers who enslave and victimize the people of the Earth are on the ideological defensive. Their claims for the superiority of failed and terrible philosophies are sounding ever more hollow.
“To save themselves, those rulers are beginning to cast their eyes toward the democratic societies they used to revile,” the President said. “There are signs--only signs--that these rulers are beginning to understand the secret to our prosperity: We prosper economically only because people are free. . . .”
Earlier in the day, Reagan signed the last of the appropriations bills approved by Congress late Friday, marking the first time in decades that the government started a new fiscal year with its finances in order.
Acting with only minutes to spare before a midnight deadline, the House and Senate rushed through a series of money bills, including a $299.6-billion measure for the Pentagon.
In his weekly radio talk Saturday, Reagan claimed victory on that legislation, saying that only his veto of an earlier defense bill led to the removal of congressional spending restrictions that hampered his “Star Wars” program.
Rep. Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.), responding for the Democrats to Reagan’s radio talk, said the Democratic-controlled 100th Congress has been the most productive in decades in terms of important new legislation.
He listed a clean-water bill, a highway bill, a trade bill, a plant-closing notification bill, a Medicare bill to cover costs of catastrophic illness, a homeless aid bill and a drought relief bill to help farmers.
Before adjournment, Foley said, Congress expects to approve an anti-drug bill to provide the government with new tools to carry out its campaign against narcotics addiction.