Gorbachevs New Foreign Policy

The transformation in foreign policy thinking profoundly impacted policymaking and was based on the realization that the real security threat to Russia came from the deteriorating economy due to excessive military spending. Rather than applying the overt exhibition of military power, Gorbachev chose to apply political influence. The ‘New Thinking’ aided the Soviet Union in garnering wide approval of many nations. Its peace-making policy that released Soviet control over Eastern Europe ultimately led to the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War. Its success would entail radical changes not only in the way the economy functions, but in social and cultural policy, in Soviet political life, and ultimately, in the way in which the Soviet Union deals with the larger international community. By-products of the ‘New Thinking,’ perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness) initiated far-reaching governmental policy changes that affected virtually every aspect of Soviet life. These new concepts were a distant departure from previous Soviet practices.

Gorbachev’s foreign policy approach was a direct result of domestic concerns. Gorbachev viewed economic and political restructuring as not simply the basis of domestic revitalization, it was essential to sustain the Soviet Union’s position as an international power. Gorbachev described the connection between his domestic and foreign policy programs. “The success of efforts at internal reform will determine whether or not the Soviet Union will enter the twenty-first century in a manner worthy of great power.” (Juviler, 1988 p.1) New Soviet government leaders, led by Gorbachev, introduced radical changes to the Soviet system. He initiated perestroika, a series of economic reforms meant to eliminate ineffective administrative structures without fundamentally altering the state-run economy. Politically, Gorbachev introduced glasnost so as to decrease the control of the state and Communist Party interests, the obstacles to economic reform.