Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Gromyko, Andrey (1909–1989)

Soviet diplomat, foreign minister (1957–1985), and president (1985–1988). Born on 18 July 1909 to a peasant family in Starye Gromyki, Belorussia, Andrey Andreyevich Gromyko studied agricultural economics at the Minsk School of Agricultural Technology, earning a degree in 1936. He also became active as a Komsomol (Communist Youth) official. After working as a research associate and economist at the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow, he entered the Foreign Affairs Ministry, where he was named chief of the U.S. division of the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs in 1939. That same year he began working at the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C. In 1943 Soviet leader Josef Stalin appointed Gromyko as Moscow's youngest-ever ambassador to the United States.

Gromyko played an important role in coordinating the wartime alliance between the Americans and Soviets and played a fairly prominent role at diplomatic events such as the February 1945 Yalta Conference and the July–August 1945 Potsdam Conference. He also attended the conference establishing the United Nations (UN) in October 1945 and became Moscow's UN representative in 1946. He served briefly as the ambassador to the United Kingdom during 1952–1953 and then returned to the Soviet Union.

In 1956 Gromyko attained full membership on the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In 1957 he began his twenty-eight-year tenure as foreign minister. In 1973 he ascended to the Politburo.

During his long career, Gromyko became known as an expert and cunning negotiator. In the West he was dubbed "Mr. Nyet" (Mr. No) because of his hard bargaining and staunch communist views. At home, he exhibited a great talent for adjusting to the ruling leaders. Thus, he did not develop a characteristic line of politics of his own. Under Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Gromyko readily adapted to the leader's erratic whims and played a key role in the Berlin and Cuban missile crises. Under Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, Gromyko reached the apogee of his powers. Brezhnev believed in a system of loyalty combined with freedom to rule one's own destiny. Therefore, he gave Gromyko virtual free rein in setting Soviet foreign policy.

During 1973–1975 Gromyko negotiated on behalf of the Soviet Union during the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which led to the landmark 1975 Helsinki Final Act. This act recognized Europe's postwar borders and set a political template for further negotiations concerning human rights, science, economics, and cultural exchanges. The Helsinki Final Act marked the full flowering of East-West détente, but because it did not match expectations about liberalization in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, it precipitated mounting dissent at home and protest abroad.

In 1985 Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev appointed his own protégé, Eduard Shevardnadze, as foreign minister and named Gromyko president of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, by then a purely symbolic position. He remained in this post until 1988. Gromyko died on 2 July 1989 in Moscow.

Beatrice de Graaf


Further Reading
Gromyko, Anatoli. Memories. New York: Arrow Books, 1989.
 

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