Gorbachev deserves as much credit as any head of state for the end of the Cold War. One of his first personnel changes was to replace the longtime Soviet foreign minister, Gromyko, with Eduard Shevardnadze, the CPSU first secretary of the Georgian SSR. Between 1985 and 1991, Gorbachev held a series of path-breaking summit conferences with U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. At his meeting with Reagan in Reykjavík, Iceland, in October 1986, the two leaders exchanged bold new arms reduction proposals, although negotiations foundered over the Soviet demand for limitations on the United States’ Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a military research program for developing an antiballistic missile (ABM) defense system. Gorbachev and Reagan signed an agreement in December 1987 to eliminate medium-range and certain shorter-range missiles in Europe. In May 1990 Gorbachev and Bush initialed a treaty to end production and reduce stockpiles of chemical weapons, and in July 1991 they signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) requiring substantial cuts in strategic nuclear weapons.
Gorbachev’s gambits in other areas of foreign policy were equally striking. He and Shevardnadze agreed in April 1988 to the complete withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. It was completed by February 1989; in October Soviet leaders acknowledged that the 1979 intervention had “violated the norms of proper behavior.” In December 1988, at the UN General Assembly, Gorbachev announced unilateral reductions in conventional forces, notably in Eastern Europe and along the China-USSR border.
During his visit to Beijing in May 1989, China and the USSR agreed to resume normal relations after a 30-year rift.
At a meeting with Pope John Paul II in Rome, Gorbachev promised that the Soviet Union would allow full religious freedom, and the USSR and the Vatican agreed to establish diplomatic ties. Relations with Israel also improved, as the Soviets relaxed restrictions on Jewish emigration. After August 1990, with tensions rising in the Persian Gulf, the USSR generally supported the U.S.-led effort to use economic and military pressure to force Iraq to give up its annexation of Kuwait. "USSR" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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