Louis Sell is a retired Foreign Service officer who served twentyseven years with the US Department of State, specializing in Soviet and Balkan affairs. He is the author of
New Kid on the Block: Gorbachev Emerges in US-Soviet Relations
This chapter describes the origins and early steps of Gorbachev’s “new thinking” in foreign policy, including the role of his leading liberal adviser, Aleksandr Yakovlev, and the author’s personal contacts with Yakovlev. It shows the unexpected elevation of Eduard Shevardnadze to foreign minister as a sign Gorbachev intended to conduct his own international policy. It describes Gorbachev’s first meeting with Reagan at the 1985 Geneva summit. The Soviet military used a seemingly forthcoming January 1986 arms control proposal to try to delay nuclear reductions. The second half of the chapter discusses the conduct of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Reagan administration aid to Afghan rebels, and Gorbachev’s slow but eventually successful efforts to withdraw Soviet forces. It concludes with a brief discussion of missed opportunities to achieve an agreement among all Afghan parties after the Soviet withdrawal.