Cold War info
When Jesse Helms was elected to the United States Senate in 1972, fighting communism and promoting democracy were his top priorities. He reached out to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the famed Russian author and freedom fighter, in 1974 and strongly supported President Reagan when he referred to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” on March 8, 1983.
On June 12, 1987, during a historic speech at the Brandenburg gate near the Berlin Wall in West Germany, President Reagan challenged the Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” Of course, he was referring to the Berlin Wall that separated East and West Berlin. Not long afterwards, on November 9, 1989, destruction of the wall began and by October 1990 East and West Berlin reunited. Finally, in December 1991 the Soviet Union disintegrated and divided into fifteen different countries.
Cuban Missle Crisis
On October 22, 1962, President John F. Kennedy delivered an historic speech to the American people. The President told the nation that there was “unmistakable evidence” of missile sites in Cuba and that the Soviet Union was responsible for military buildup in Cuba. The Cuban Missile Crisis began and had the country fearful of the outcome.
Typically, Helms disagreed with President Kennedy on his politics and beliefs. However, following the President’s speech Helms said, “His message earned a place history, not merely for what it said but for how it was said. Clearly, Mr. Kennedy was speaking for all Americans who believe in the preservation of liberty, not merely in their own land but around the world.”
The late U.S. Senator Jesse Helms (NC) and the late political exile, Russian writer, and Nobel Prize for Literature recipient Alexander Solzhenitsyn were men of principle, men of faith, and men who believed in a free world. Both boldly spoke out against the dangers of communism and in particular how the Soviet regime lived a cancerous existence at the expense of others—the Russian people.
On February 18-19, 1974, Senator Helms introduced the first of several Senate resolutions granting Solzhenitsyn honorary United States citizenship. Following the resolution, Helms fought hard to bring Solzhenitsyn to the United States and a long-lasting friendship formed. When Solzhenitsyn finally visited the United States in 1975, Helms welcomed him with open arms.
Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China, is a small island off the coast of China and has a long history of fighting for freedom. For over 30 years, Senator Helms supported Taiwan and their struggle for democracy. Senator Helms wrote that the people of Taiwan were, “close to my heart….and they could count on me to speak up on their behalf whenever I could.”
Through the 1980s and most of the 1990s the Taiwan Relations Act successfully provided protection for Taiwan and was unchanged. However, when Hong Kong was reunified with China, Senator Helms wanted to make sure Taiwan had access to weapons vital to their national defense. Senator Helms and Senator Bob Torricelli offered the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act to the Senate. The goal was to “ensure that Taiwan would have essential self-defense capabilities.” Unfortunately, the act never became law and only passed through the House of Representatives.
Remembering Korean Airline Flight 007
On September 1, 1983, Korean Air Lines Flight 007 (KAL 007) was tragically shot down by the former Soviet Union. All 269 passengers and crew members were killed, including Congressmen Larry McDonald.
Senator Helms arrived in Anchorage, Alaska aboard KAL 015 as part of the delegation on route to South Korea. KAL 007 was refueling in Anchorage and Helms suggested to Senator Steve Symms, also part of the delegation, that they switch flights to arrive earlier. Fortunately, Symms convinced Helms to wait for the later flight. Senator Helms spoke at Congressman Larry McDonald’s memorial service on September 11, 1983 and at other services held for the victims of KAL 007.
Cuba and the Helms-Burton ACt
Senator Helms “hostility” toward communism continued after the end of the Cold War. On March 12 1996, the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, or Libertad Act was signed into law. It not only strengthened the U.S. embargo against Cuba, but also said that the President should develop a plan to provide economic assistance to support a “transition government leading to a democratically elected government in Cuba.”
The bill was first introduced in early 1995 but was tabled by Democratic filibusters. However, after Cuban fighter jets shot down two private planes operated by Brothers to the Rescue (an anti-Castro group headquartered in Miami) the bill was reintroduced and quickly passed through both Houses of Congress.