The changes unleashed
the Soviet Union by Mikhail Gorbachev
during his years of leadership, from
are uni-
versally recognized as revolutionary in the fullest sense of that
term. Few observers are willing to prophesy the end results, but
all agree that the fundamental bases of Soviet society were vio-
lently uprooted and refashioned by the destructive yet creative
forces of
Thus shaken from its foundations, the Soviet
Union itself had already ceased to exist when, on December
Gorbachev officially ended his presidency.
In the area of foreign relations, Gorbachev's policies brought
about transformations that would have seemed the stuff of
dreams just a few months earlier-the intensive cultivation of ties
with the United States and other nations in the West, significant
advances in arms control agreements, freedom for indigenous
political reform in Eastern Europe, and the unification of Ger-
many. And these changes were accompanied by the Soviet
leader's emphatic declarations of his nation's desire, in an interde-
pendent world, to end its self-imposed political and economic
isolation, to join with other nations around the world for the
preservation of peace, to cooperate in resolving such matters of
general significance as ecological problems and the proliferation
of nuclear weapons, and to replace ideological conflicts with dia-
logue and negotiation.
The foreign policy principles enunciated by Gorbachev and his
supporters and the actual policies put into practice had worldwide
impact, touching the political, social, and ideological interests and
aspirations of governments and political movements everywhere.
Their impact was felt by the Western powers great and small, as
well as by communist regimes, Third World nations, and revolu-
tionary groups around the globe that for decades had looked to
the Soviet Union for advice and concrete support. Observers and
actors alike were challenged to adapt to a new world of radically
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