How did Ronald Reagan's speech at the Brandenburg Gate reflect the end of the Cold War?

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Although Ronald Reagan’s line “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” from his 1987 speech at the Brandenburg Gate is now one of the most famous sound bites of its era, at the time of the speech his words were not covered as widely as might be thought, and the relationship of his famous line to the actual destruction of the Berlin Wall is disputed.

Nevertheless, his speech reflected the complex political landscape of the late Cold War, containing a mixture of optimism and uncertainty: the West’s optimism about thawing relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, but also the continuing uncertainty brought about by tension between the two superpowers over key issues, like denuclearization and proxy conflicts around the world.

The US had reasons to be optimistic: Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was pursuing a reform policy of perestroika, or “openness,” and significant blocs of the Soviet Union were pursuing independence. In 1986, the year before the Brandenburg...

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