Gromyko, Andrei Andreyevich (Russia)
Soviet foreign minister from 1957–85, Andrei Gromyko served under the successive leaderships of Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Gorbachev before being made president of the Supreme Soviet. During his long tenure he was involved in many of the key events of Soviet history. A powerful negotiator and leading Soviet diplomat, he helped calm the Cuban Missile Crisis, implemented the policy of détente with the West and was significant in setting up the SALT treaties.
Gromyko was born on 18 July 1909 in Starye Gromyki, Belarus (then part of the Tsarist Russian Empire). After studying agriculture at the Institute of Economics in Minsk, during which time he joined the Communist Party, he continued to work at the Institute from 1936–39. He began his diplomatic career in 1939 joining the Soviet Embassy in Washington, DC. In 1943 he became the Soviet ambassador to the US, attending the Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam conferences at the end of World War II.
In 1946 he was made deputy foreign minister and deputy of the Supreme Soviet. At the same time he became a UN representative, going on to use his power of veto 25 times. From 1952–53 he had a short spell as ambassador to Britain before being made Soviet foreign minister in 1957.
Over the next three decades Gromyko was involved in all aspects of Soviet diplomacy, representing the governments of Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko and Mikhail Gorbachev. Under Khrushchev he was a key negotiator in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, offering assurance to US president Kennedy of the defensive nature of the Soviet missiles and securing Khrushchev’s agreement to remove nuclear missiles in exchange for America’s non-aggression towards Cuba. As part of Brezhnev’s government he joined the Politburo in 1973. During the 1970s he pursued the policy of détente, facilitating a rapprochement with the West. This included a non-aggression pact with West Germany and the meeting between Brezhnev and Richard Nixon which resulted in the SALT I treaty that curbed the development of certain nuclear projects. Although US–Russian relations soured towards the end of the decade with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the failure of either side to ratify SALT II.
Gromyko retained his position throughout the short tenures of Andropov and Chernenko and was made first deputy chairman of the council of ministers in 1983. When Gorbachev came to power in 1985, Gromyko was appointed to the largely ceremonial role of chairman of the presidium. He was replaced as foreign minister by Eduard Shevardnadze, later the president of Georgia.
Gromyko was part of a dying breed of Soviet politicians. During his 3 years as chairman Gorbachev was implementing his policies of glasnost and perestroika paving the way for the break up of the Soviet Union. 3 years later Gromyko was a victim of Gorbachev’s regime overhaul and ousted along with many old members. He was forced to tender his resignation and his Politburo seat. Gorbachev replaced him as chairman. The following year Gromyko was expelled from the Central Committee. He died on 2 July 1989 in Moscow.