Among Cold War presidents, from Truman to Bush I, there was an unwritten rule: Do not challenge Moscow in its Central and Eastern Europe sphere of influence.
In crises over Berlin in 1948 and 1961, the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and the Warsaw Pact invasion of Prague in 1968, U.S. forces in Europe stayed in their barracks.
We saw the Elbe as Moscow’s red line, and they saw it as ours.
While Reagan sent weapons to anti-Communist rebels in Angola, Nicaragua and Afghanistan, to the heroic Poles of Gdansk he sent only mimeograph machines.
That Cold War caution and prudence may be at an end.