Cold War Termination - Gorbachev and the cold war




The Soviet response confirmed their expectations as the Kremlin struggled with a series of elderly, incapacitated leaders: Brezhnev died in November 1982, followed by Yuri Andropov, who had a reform agenda but became ill within a year, and then Konstantin Chernenko, who was also ill. Even if Reagan had pursued more quiet diplomacy, it is very unlikely that he would have accomplished much before the arrival of Gorbachev in March 1985.

Gorbachev came to power as a new-generation leader who had both practical experience in the Soviet system as a party official and substantial exposure to "new thinking" within the Soviet intellectual elite. As Robert English persuasively demonstrates in Russia and the Idea of the West, Gorbachev had had long-term exposure to "new thinking" at Moscow State University (which produced many of the leading reformers), in Czechoslovakia in 1968, in travel to the West in the 1970s, in the reading of restricted works on socialism and the West, and in the development of close relations with Eduard Shevardnadze in the neighboring Georgian Republic.

After his return to Moscow in 1979, Gorbachev significantly expanded his quest for new ideas with reform economists and foreign policy specialists, surprising many of them with the extent of his reading and interest in reforms of Soviet relations with the West and with eastern European socialist countries. As head of the international affairs committee in 1983, Gorbachev interacted with new thinkers in foreign policy such as Yevgeny Velikhov, Georgy Arbatov, and Alexander Yakovlev. When Andropov appointed Gorbachev to direct a plenum on economic issues, Gorbachev brought in new thinking advisers and ideas for shaping a domestic reform agenda with some veiled international implications.

Gorbachev confirmed the suspicions of the old guard in the politburo, which had tried to deny him the chairmanship of the party. His bold ideas on domestic-economic reform, military cutbacks, and foreign policy with respect to Afghanistan and eastern Europe stimulated significant opposition. (He informed party leaders in eastern Europe, for example, that the Brezhnev Doctrine of 1968, which insisted that a state that had joined the socialist camp could not leave, was dead.) Gorbachev, however, demonstrated superior leadership skills in outmaneuvering his critics through use of the prestige of the general secretary office and the politburo tradition of consensus behind the general secretary, as well as his personal skills at manipulating the agenda, persuading his critics, and replacing his adversaries with new thinking allies. In July 1985, Gorbachev replaced longtime foreign minister Andrei Gromyko with a colleague and confidant, Eduard Shevardnadze, who shared Gorbachev's belief in the need for economic and foreign policy reform. When resistance to his policies picked up in 1986, Gorbachev promoted Yakovlev as Central Committee secretary for ideology and replaced many Brezhnev supporters with new thinking advisers such as Anatoly Chernyaev as his personal foreign policy aide.

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