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Institutionalisation of the New Thinking


The process of the institutionalisation of "new thinking" proceeded along a number of directions, each discussed in a separate section of this chapter. These main directions were: (1) a major restructuring of the Soviet foreign policy institutions and personnel; (2) the elevation of functional groups associated with the new ideas; (3) the breaking of the military's monopoly on security and defence issues; and (4) increasing the powers of the legislature in order to create a mechanism of checks and balances in foreign-policy decision-making.

Cartoon: Nicholas Garland, 13 June 1985

Restructuring the Foreign Policy Establishment

In order to gain greater personal control over the formation and execution of Soviet policy, Gorbachev started by carrying out a major restructuring of Soviet foreign-policy personnel and institutions. The most important change was the July 1985 replacement of Andrei Gromyko. In his 28-year tenure as foreign minister, Gromyko had acquired a unique and unparalleled grasp of world affairs. But when the frail health of the late Soviet leader Yuri Andropov and the foreign policy inexperience of his successor, Konstantin Chernenko, enhanced Gromyko's power, Soviet policy began to display increasing rigidity, particularly after the INF walkout.

Gromyko's nominal promotion to Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet ended his day-to-day control of Soviet foreign policy, but as a powerful Politburo member he still had to be handled with care. With the exception of the Shevardnadze appointment as Foreign Minister in 1985, Gorbachev made no personnel changes in the foreign policy realm that would have offended Gromyko, even though large numbers of officials in other ministries were being replaced /Hough 1987; 32/. The 75-year-old minister of foreign trade, Nikolay Patolichev, was retired in November and replaced by Gromyko's deputy minister for Eastern Europe. A new deputy minister of foreign affairs for personnel was also appointed. But that was all. At the beginning of 1986, Andrey Aleksandrov-Agentov - the old foreign policy assistant of Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko - remained in his post, as did the Central Committee secretary who headed the International Department (the 80-year-old Boris Ponomarev) and the Central Committee secretary who headed the Department for Liaison with Communist and Workers' Parties of Socialist Countries (the 76year-old Konstantin Rusakov). Even more surprising, none of the nine deputy heads of these two departments had been replaced /Ibid/.

In the aftermath of the 27th Congress Gorbachev began to move more confidently in changing foreign policy officials. At the end of January 1986, Aleksandrov-Agentov retired, and then in February and March, Rusakov and Ponomarev were replaced as Central Committee secretaries. By August, only one of Gromyko's eight deputy ministers remained, and nine new deputy ministers had been appointed.

Along with these removals of high-level officials came wholesale changes in the Soviet diplomatic corps; in just the first two years Gorbachev was in power, Soviet ambassadors were replaced in 60% (74 of 124) of the countries maintaining full diplomatic relations with the USSR, including nine of the 16 members of NATO. Ambassadorial replacements continued at a breakneck pace during Gorbachev's next two years in office; as a result, only 15% (19 of 128) of the pre-1985 ambassadors remained in their posts by March 1989,  including just two in NATO countries /Kramer 1991; 450/.

Such sweeping changes in personnel became possible as a result of Gorbachev's firm control over the foreign policy establishment, which he was able to exercise through the appointments of Eduard Shevardnadze and Anatoly Dobrynin to head the Foreign Ministry and the International Department, respectively. Dobrynin, who, prior to his new job, had been Ambassador to USA since 1962, was a prominent advocate of new thinking. Shevardnadze, who had known Gorbachev since the late 1950s when they worked as top Komsomol officials in two neibouring regions, was a politician prepared to listen and accept new formulae and approaches. Gorbachev undoubtedly intended Dobrynin to serve long enough to provide needed advice (especially about US-Soviet relations) and maintain stronger party control over foreign policy while enabling Shevardnadze to gain greater experience and establish a solid presence as foreign minister.

Dobrynin's potential influence in the Foreign Ministry was enhanced by the appointment of the new first deputy foreign minister, Yuly Vorontsov, who had been one of Dobrynin's closest aides in Washington for 11 years in the 1960s and 1970s. Three of the new deputy ministers - Aleksandr Bessmertnykh, Vadim Loginov and Igor Rogachev - also had close ties to Dobrynin from earlier stints in Washington. The International Department was further strengthened by the appointment of Anatoly Chernyaev, who had been deputy head of the ID, to be a special foreign policy assistant to Gorbachev /Kramer 1991; 450/. Thus, Dobrynin's position in the bureaucracy was solidified by an interlocking network of high-level officials in the International Department and the Foreign Ministry.

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Chapter 3

"New Thinking"

Title Page
Chapter 1.
  General Principles of
  "New Thinking"
Chapter 2.
  Origins & Sources of
  "New Thinking"
Chapter 3.
  Institutionalisation of
  "New Thinking"
Chapter 4.
  The Final Phase of
  Perestroika 1990-91

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