May 27, 2019
AFTER the Chernobyl nuclear accident in April 1986, the Soviets initially tried to cover up the extent of the disaster – but when the US found out their furious reaction “forced change upon the Soviet government”.

President Ronald Reagan attacked the USSR’s secrecy around an issue that had international implications. He called on the Soviet Union’s president Mikhail Gorbachev to provide information about the disaster and continue his policy of Glasnost – openness to the West. President Reagan also offered aid and assistance in dealing with the nuclear fallout of the incident.On the eve of a three-day economic summit in Japan, he delivered the strong message in his weekly radio address.
Mr Reagan said: “The contrast between the leaders of free nations meeting at the summit to deal openly with common concerns and the Soviet government, with its secrecy and stubborn refusal to inform the international community of the common danger from this disaster, is stark and clear.”
The explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine led to radioactive contamination of the surrounding area and evidence of ionisation was measured in places as far away as the UK.
However, the Soviet Union only acknowledged the disaster after the radiation source was traced back to Ukraine.
Chernobyl: US Presidents FURIOUS reaction to nuclear disaster forced Soviets to change
Chernobyl: US Presidents FURIOUS reaction to nuclear disaster forced Soviets to change
As it was then not possible to disguise the damage, increasing pressure was laid onto the Soviet Union to come clean about what happened and how it was handled in order to allow the potential health and safety hazards to be assessed.
Mr Reagan said: “A nuclear accident that results in contaminating a number of countries with radioactive material is simply not an internal matter.
“The Soviets owe the world an explanation.
“A full accounting of what happened at Chernobyl and what is happening now is the least the world community has a right to expect.”
Chernobyl: US Presidents FURIOUS reaction to nuclear disaster forced Soviets to change
In this way, Chernobyl sparked increasing pressure for the USSR to open up to the West
According to the Roy Rosenzweig Centre for History and New Media, the Chernobyl disaster “forced change on the Soviet government”.
It was just a year later that Mr Reagan delivered a speech in West Berlin during which he implored people to “tear down this wall”, referring to the Berlin Wall separating the East from the West.
Again, he was calling on Mr Gorbachev to open up the barriers that divide East and West that had characterised the Cold War.
The fourth episode of ‘Chernobyl’ – a historical drama mini series – will air tonight on Sky Atlantic at 9pm in the UK.
It is available to watch on HBO in the US.
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