Andrei Gromyko, the Soviet Union Foreign Affairs Minister, has been in top-level diplomacy for more than three decades.
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Background: Andrei Gromyko, the Soviet Union Foreign Affairs Minister, has been in top-level diplomacy for more than three decades. He has remained a key politician in foreign affairs throughout the changes in leadership in the Soviet Union since World War Two, and he has had the task of implementing Soviet Foreign policy through a difficult period of tense confrontations and situations.
Mr. Gromyko has earned much respect from Western diplomats for his work as the Soviet Union representative to the United Nations Security Council. His links with the UN date back to its inception in 1945 when he represented the Soviet Union at the preparatory commission in London.
Although he has been Foreign Secretary since February 1957, his service with the Ministry dates back to 1939, the year World War Two erupted with the German advance on Poland. Mr. Gromyko was with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin at the Yalta, Teheran and Potsdam conference, which determined the post-war frontiers of Europe. Now, 25 years later, it is Mr. Gromyko himself who has had the task of inducing a thaw into the cool relations which have existed since then between West and East Europe.
Soon after the death of Stalin, Mr. Gromyko took over the Foreign Ministry from the disgraced Dmitri Shepilov. He accompanied the new Kremlin leader, Nikita Khrushchev, on most of his foreign tours, including a visit to the White House for talks with President Eisenhower.
As the head of the Foreign Ministry, Mr. Gromyko has been involved in the many post-war crises....the Berlin Wall, the Cuban missiles, the Sino-Soviet dispute, the war in Indo-China, the Middle East conflict....
The Berlin Wall, dividing the Soviet sector of the city from the Western Allies' sectors was built in August 1961 and remains a constant irritant in the way of better East-West European relations. It is still there today and is under discussion at the Four Power talks on Berlin.
The building of the wall came at a time of increasing deteriorations between the Soviet Union and the United States, deterioration which culminated in 1962 with the Cuban Missiles crisis. The presence of the missiles in Cuba -- and the emphatic reaction to them by the United States -- precipitated one of the major crises in World history and the first of the nuclear age. The talks between Mr. Gromyko and President Kennedy failed to ease the critical situation and the world watched a frightening confrontation between the two nuclear super-powers.
These two crises were major setbacks in East-West relations; earlier -- in 1962 -- the major powers were coming together in an attempt to smooth out some of the world problems. Mr. Gromyko was Soviet representatives at the Geneva Disarmament talks and is co-chairman of then 1954 Geneva Indo-China Armistice Commission. In 1962 he signed the Laos neutralist pact - the first major international agreement between East and West since the Austrian Treaty of 1955. Despite the pact, Laos is now embroiled in the current war in Indo-China.
In 1968, the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact Countries, moved troops and tanks into Czechoslovakia. This action received hostile criticism from the world and distinctly cooled relations between West and East. However, just two years later, Mr. Gromyko managed to overcome this and achieve an important rapprochement with many West European Countries, in particular West Germany. The initialling of a treaty between the Soviet Union and West Germany was a particularly important event. The treaty -- later signed by the German Chancellor Willy Brandt -- renounced the use of force in mutual relations and obtained Bonn's tacit recognition of existing European frontiers.
One of Mr. Gromyko's major tasks now is the securing of better relations with the countries of the European Economic Community. His meeting with President Pompidou in Paris last month was a prelude to the French President's visit to Moscow at which a protocol was signed. A joint declaration promised greater co-operation between the two countries at economic and diplomatic levels.
Mr. Gromyko has been very much involved in the continuing conflict in the Middle East both in the Four Power negotiations attempting to reach a settlement and in the Soviet Union's close relationship with the United Arab Republic. Although the late President Nasser relied heavily on the Soviet Union for arms, aircraft and missiles he nevertheless still managed to maintain an independent policy line.
Indo-China, the Middle East and Berlin still remain important issues yet to solved. Their settlement will depend largely on co-operation between the United States and the Soviet Union. But perhaps the hardest task facing Mr. Gromyko will have to settled alone; a reconciliation with or containment of, the People's Republic of China. Ever since Peking took an independent line from Moscow in the early sixties, relations between the two countries have steadily deteriorated, to the point event of military clashes along some disputed border territories. The era of confrontations -- for Mr. Gromyko -- is by no mean over.