News / Europe

    Gorbachev's Foreign Policy Changed Map of Europe

    Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev talking before the Congress of People's Deputies during a debate on his proposal to transform the Soviet Union into a confederation of sovereign states in Moscow, September. 4, 1991 (file photo).
    Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev talking before the Congress of People's Deputies during a debate on his proposal to transform the Soviet Union into a confederation of sovereign states in Moscow, September. 4, 1991 (file photo).

    Multimedia

    Audio

    This month marks the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was the foreign policy of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, that contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union.

    Mikhail Gorbachev was elected Soviet leader on March 11, 1985. At 54, he was the youngest member of the ruling Politburo that voted him into power. For the next six years, he instituted policies that drastically altered the course of history and ultimately brought about the demise of the Soviet Union.

    On the domestic front, those policies were known as glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). In foreign affairs, Gorbachev’s reforms were known as "new thinking."

    Experts say Gorbachev understood that the Soviet Union could no longer use its military force to increase its influence in the outside world. And in order to create a new foreign policy that could be sustained economically, Gorbachev realized that Moscow would have to - in some areas - retrench.

    Archie Brown, Russia expert and Professor Emeritus at the University of Oxford, says one of those areas was Afghanistan, where Soviet troops had been fighting mujahedeen guerrilla forces since December 1979.

    "Gorbachev in 1979, when the Soviet intervention took place, he met with [Eduard] Shevardnadze [the Georgian Communist Party leader] - at that time, they were both on the fringes of the top leadership and they were not involved in that decision," said Brown.  "And they both agreed that it was a disastrous mistake. Now they didn’t say so in Moscow at the time at meetings there, because if they had, that would put an immediate stop to their political careers."

    Shortly after becoming Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev named Shevardnadze foreign minister. And, says Archie Brown, Gorbachev wanted to get Soviet troops out of Afghanistan.

    "He didn’t want to do it in such a way to look like a defeat," added Brown.  "He had the same problems that leaders of other countries have had, when many lives of their own young men have been lost, how do you explain to the mothers or fathers, for that matter, of these boys, that their deaths had been in vain? So he was trying to get a negotiated retreat. Nevertheless, he took a firm decision that all Soviet troops would be out by February 1989, and they were.”

    John Parker, Russia expert with the National Defense University, says Gorbachev also embarked on a radical policy regarding the Soviet military.

    "He moved to cut the size of the Soviet army," Parker noted.  "That was another thing that people just couldn’t believe he would do. But before long, we saw the numbers start to come down."

    Gorbachev’s "new thinking" on foreign policy spread to Eastern Europe, where people were clamoring for an end to communist rule.

    In July 1989, the Soviet policy to intervene to prop up communism ("the Brezhnev doctrine") was replaced by what one Gorbachev adviser described as the "Sinatra Doctrine," based on the singer’s popular song, "My Way." In other words, the adviser said East European countries were now able to go their own way - politically and economically - without fear of invasion by Soviet troops.

    Archie Brown and others say Gorbachev’s non-interventionist policy ultimately led to the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989.

    "Because of the time difference, it happened while Gorbachev and other members of the Politburo were asleep in their beds in Moscow," recalled Brown.  "By the next day, Gorbachev told the East German ambassador they had done the right thing in not trying to stop them and not using force - and he accepted remarkably readily, the fall of the wall and subsequent unification of Germany."

    In October 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Fourteen months later, he resigned as Soviet leader, experts say a victim of forces he unleashed, but ultimately could not control.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora