“Especially frightening to Soviet officials was Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI ), a plan to develop a system to defend against ballistic missiles, which he announced in a nationally televised address two weeks after the “evil empire” speech… He had faith (not shared by many scientists) that the formidable technical challenges to stopping incoming missiles could be overcome. The Soviets saw SDI not as a defensive measure but as a prelude to an attack.”
Reagan’s SDI was clearly received as a threat to the Soviet Union. The SDI, which was created to bring resolution to an issue, became a catalyst for chaos. The paranoia triggered by the SDI led to the shooting down of the South Korean jet. That then led to Reagan labeling the act as one of “barbarism.” Though Reagan did not initially intend for a direct confrontation with the Soviet Union, the SDI catalyzed conflict on both sides.