Foreign Policy under Brezhnev

Era Gorbachev, 1985-1991

In 1985 MIKHAIL GORBACHEV was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party and his trusted friend EDVARD ZHEVARDNADZE became minister of foreign affairs. Gorbachev dramatically cut down Soviet investment in the arms industry, scaled down the USSR's involvement in the war in Afghanistan. He voiced his support for those groups in the satellite countries in Eastern Central Europe advocating reform.
US president Ronald Reagan at first was taken by surprise by Gorbachev's charm offensive. Gorbachev met Reagan on Iceland in 1986, his successor Bush on Malta in 1990.

In 1989 communist rule in Eastern Central Europe began to crumble. Hungary gradually democratized, starting a chain of events when Hungarian politicians symbolically cut a hole in the Iron Curtain. Within a few months, the hardline governments of East Germany and Czechoslovakia resigned in the face of massive demonstrations, while in Poland government had little authority and had to concede free elections, which were won by Solidarnosc. Even in Bulgaria and Rumania, communism crumbled.
Gorbachev was willing to let the Eastern Central European satellites go; yet when the BALTIC REPUBLICS (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania announced their claim for independence, things became more difficult. Yet, Soviet forces acted with restraint.
In Germany, Helmut Kohl announced his 10 point program for unification. This could only proceed with the approval of the 4 victorious allies - the US, Britain, France and the USSR. Gorbachev and Kohl met several times, Gorbachev in the end giving his approval to German unification if East Germany would remain outside of NATO and if Germany would accept its current eastern border. Both points were accepted; in addition, the USSR received loans guaranteed by the German government; on Oct. 3rd 1990, Germany formally was reunified. The same year, Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Soviet government observed with deep concern the development unfolding in Yugoslavia, regarding it as a possible scenario which might repeat itself in the USSR.

Biography of Mikhail Gorbachev, from Soviet Leaders
DOCUMENTS Transcripts From Malta Summit 1990, from CNN Cold War Page
Excerpts of Gorbachev-Reagan Reykjavik Talks 1986, from CNN Cold War Page
Vertrag über die abschliessende Regelung in bezug auf Deutschland, (Treaty on the Final Regulation concerning Germany, 2+4 Treaty), 1990, from Univ. Saarbrücken, in German
Time Magazine : Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, man of the year 1987 and 1989

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 8th 2004

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