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Gorbachev was a leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from 1985 to 1991. He instituted a range of reforms that led to the end of the Cold War and oversaw the transition of U.S.-Soviet relations from enemies to partners in the international system. Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was born near Stavropol and earned a degree in law from Moscow State University in 1952. As a youth, he was an active supporter of the Communist Party, and he joined the party after college. His first significant appointment was as the first secretary of the Communist Youth League in Stavropol (1955-1958). Gorbachev went on to serve in a variety of government positions. He became a member of the Central Committee in 1971 and the Politburo in 1979. In the Politburo, he attracted the attention of Soviet leader Yuri Andropov. The premier tasked Gorbachev to help reform the senior ranks of the Soviet administration. One result was that many leadership positions were filled by appointees with ties to Gorbachev. This was especially important following the death of Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko, when Gorbachev was selected to be general secretary of the Communist Party and, consequently, premier of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev launched a series of reforms, popularly known as perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness). The Soviet leader sought to improve the superpower's economy by redirecting resources from military spending to the economy. Therefore, he proposed a series of arms control measures to U.S. president Ronald W. Reagan. Gorbachev announced the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1988 and then negotiated a settlement with the United States to end military assistance to the country. He also endeavored to decrease expenditures by ending Soviet subsidies to allies such as Cuba and redeploying forces from countries in the Warsaw
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