On March 23, 1983, U.S. President Ronald Reagan, in a televised address to the nation, announced a project to create a strategic missile defense system capable of protecting the United States from a nuclear strike by the USSR.

"I order comprehensive and intensive actions to formulate a long-term research and development program to begin moving towards our ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by strategic nuclear missiles. This could pave the way for arms control measures to destroy these weapons themselves," Reagan said.

He added that Washington allegedly "does not seek either military superiority or political advantage."

"Our only goal is the one that everyone shares: to look for ways to reduce the threat of nuclear war," the 40th head of the White House emphasized.

  • Reagan's speech, in which he announced SDI
  • Gettyimages.ru
  • © Corbis

Fantastic weapons

Later, this project was called the Strategic Defense Initiative. Within its framework, it was proposed to implement various far-reaching ideas to combat intercontinental ballistic missiles, which bordered on science fiction.

In particular, among the initiatives was the placement in Earth orbit of various types of weapons based on new physical principles. These could be, for example, nuclear-pumped lasers (the Excalibur program), chemical lasers, orbital mirrors that would redirect laser beams sent from Earth to enemy missiles, and "beam weapons" that would hit enemy missiles with a stream of neutral particles flying at almost the speed of light.

  • Laser beam from Earth reflected by a space mirror on an intercontinental rocket
  • AP

Other proposals include the use of nuclear explosion energy to disperse projectiles (the Prometheus program), the deployment in space of combat missile stations and railguns, as well as miniature satellites that would hit missiles in a collision (the Brilliant Pebbles project).

In addition, the SDI was supposed to use a large grouping of sensor satellites, which would quickly and accurately detect the beginning of a nuclear attack.

It is worth noting that the types of weapons that provided for the use of the energy of a nuclear explosion in outer space violated the 1967 Open Space Treaty signed by the United States. That agreement expressly prohibited the deployment in outer space of any type of weapon of mass destruction. Another document that violated the SDI was the Soviet-American Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems of 1972.

Such advanced ideas in the field of protection against missile attack attracted public attention to SDI, and also caused criticism from opponents of the Reagan administration inside the United States. Thus, Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy called the president's ideas "reckless star wars projects," after which this name was firmly entrenched in SDI.

For his part, Senator Bennett Johnston described the SDI program as "utter nonsense."

In 1987, the American Physical Society published a report assessing the prospects for SDI and the implementation of the various weapons offered under the program.

The report stated that none of the proposed systems, which were under study or development, were even remotely close to practical application.

American scientists noted that in order to ensure the efficiency of each system under consideration, it was necessary to increase its energy efficiency by at least 100 times, and in some cases by 1 million times, which, of course, was impossible.

The American and Russian expert community has grown convinced that SDI was originally conceived in order to mislead the Soviet Union and force it to enter into a costly arms race.

However, according to the American media, the ultimate goal of this deception was not only the USSR, but also the US Congress and American taxpayers. For example, in 1993, The New York Times, in its article "The Star Wars Hoax," reported that the Pentagon had rigged test results and falsified other data in order for Congress to approve funding for SDI.

"The Pentagon falsified the tests and manipulated other data to make the $30 billion program seem more successful than it actually is. The tests were rigged with diabolical cunning. After three unsuccessful attempts to shoot down a target missile using an interceptor on the target and an interceptor, electronic devices were installed, which made a direct hit almost inevitable, "the NYT investigation said.

  • Prometheus satellite with a nuclear reactor
  • AP

As a result, the Star Wars program was curtailed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. At the same time, the Organization for strategic defense initiative, which was engaged in its implementation, continued to exist and was renamed the Organization for Defense against Ballistic Missiles, on the basis of which in 2002 the existing Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense Agency was formed.


In an interview with RT, the head of the Center for Military-Political Studies of the Institute of the USA and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Batyuk, expressed the opinion that the SDI program was obviously impossible.

"It was supposed to deploy anti-missiles and laser installations in space to destroy missile warheads. From today's perspective, it's pretty obvious that it was a bluff. In Washington, you could count on your fingers the true believers in the Strategic Defense Initiative - it was President Reagan himself and a few other people from his administration. For every such adept of SDI, there were a dozen, or even a hundred, pragmatists who did not believe in this initiative, but at the same time believed that this program should be promoted, because it allegedly frightened the Soviet leaders. The Americans were able to really get from the then Soviet leadership in the person of, first of all, Mikhail Gorbachev, serious concessions in the negotiations, "the expert said.

  • General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan at the signing of the INF Treaty
  • RIA Novosti
  • © Yuriy Abramochkin

At the same time, Batyuk believes that SDI was not originally conceived only as an operation of psychological influence on the authorities of the USSR.

"Reagan had completely sincere intentions, but specialists, among whom the 40th American president did not belong, it was clear that the technology to create an impenetrable missile shield simply does not exist. Obviously, they are not even now, although 40 years have passed since then. But nevertheless, all this had the desired effect on the Soviet leaders," Batyuk stressed.

He recalled that in a historical retrospective, SDI influenced the negotiating position of the USSR when signing the Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START-1), and also forced Moscow to spend money to counter the American initiative.

In turn, American political scientist Mikhail Sinelnikov-Orishak calls SDI "a magnificent bluff."

"He was very successful in many ways, although initially, perhaps, he was not a bluff. After all the calculations and assessments of real technical capabilities, it became clear that this program could not be implemented. And even if they tried to implement it, it would be ineffective. But, unfortunately, in the USSR all this was taken quite seriously, "the political scientist said in a conversation with RT.

Despite the fact that scientists in the USSR initially stated that SDI could not be performed at the then existing technological level, the Soviet authorities began to take some steps, spurring an arms race, Sinelnikov-Orishak recalls.

"In fact, there was no technological groundwork for the SDI program itself, lasers that would shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles in space. Everything was limited to intentions, "the analyst concluded.