Mikhail Gorbachev's election as general secretary of the CPSU in March 1985 turned out to be the beginning of the end of the Cold War-and, as it turned out, the end of the Soviet Union itself. Gorbachev is reported to have said, just before taking over as general secretary, we can't go on living like this'. As the youngest and the first university-educated leader since Stalin to hold this position, it was unlikely that social and economic, political and foreign policies would remain the same. Gorbachev had ties to the Soviet military élite and had grown close to reform-minded few importance experts. These experts tended to stress the of local issues over global ideological consideration Part of Gorbachev's new approach thus involved rethinking Soviet priorities and removing "Marxist-Leninist' i as the main factor in determining Soviet foreign policy. According to one of his closest aides, Gorbachev changed his ideas about international relations early in 1986. Though the collapse of the USSR does not seem to have been Gorbachev's intention, he certainly did set out deliberately to end the Cold War. Gorbachev's main concern was to end the stagnation of the Soviet economy, then to revitalise it, and to ensure the security of the Soviet system. He realised that the financial burden of maintaining the military power of the USSR was too great, and that its effect on the Soviet economy and on the living standards of consumers would ultimately undermine Soviet security. He also calculated that the USA's huge budget deficit meant that it too could not maintain its increased defence expenditure for much longer. He thus calculated that it might be possible to prevent Reagan from developing his SDI project by initiating new round of arms-reduction talks.
What made Gorbachev different?
While Gorbachev's domestic policy was shaped by his three policies of glasnost and demokratizatsiya, he also applied another policy to foreign affairs, known as "Novoe Myshlenie',or NewThinking. Gorbachev's NewThinking argued that confrontation was counterproductive, and that continuing the arms race was pointless, as one side's advance was simply matched or even bettered by the other. He also believed that only political accommodation, not military power, would enable problems to be solved and real security achieved. part of this approach, he decided to state publicly what had, in fact, long been the reality of Soviet foreign policy: that the ideology and language of class war should not shape the Soviet Union's diplomacy. While New Thinking contained elements of traditional Soviet foreign policy such aiming peaceful coexistence and détente with the West, Gorbachev's new policy was also markedly different. In particular, he dropped the dual-track policy of peaceful coexistence as a way of ensuring Soviet security and the peaceful long-term victory of socialism across the world. Gorbachev's stated aim now was simply Soviet security Khrushchev's idea of a peaceful but competitive coexistence was clearly abandoned. Gorbachev's new approach was signalled by his appointment of Eduard Shevardnadze as foreign minister. At his first Central Committee meeting in April 1985, Gorbachev announced his wish to reopen talks and the need to withdraw Soviet troops from Afghanistan. He also spoke of what he called "reasonable sufficiency an early indication of his belief that the arms race need not continue, as all that was needed was the military capacity to threaten an effective counter In particular, unlike the previous Soviet leadership, he was prepared to consider seriously Reagan Zero proposal, which suggested the removal of all intermediate-range missiles from Europe. This was a clear rejection of the policy parity followed of by Brezhnev. However, while Gorbachev's ideas and approach made him extremely popular abroad, caused growing criticism from more conservative quarters within the Soviet Union itself.