Gromyko Had Surgery, Moscow Says
Former Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko, who guided Soviet foreign policy for almost three decades until 1985, recently underwent surgery for vascular disease and is recuperating in a hospital, a government official revealed Friday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yuri A. Gremitskikh told a news conference that the 79-year-old retired diplomat had surgery “quite recently” after having suffered a “fit of vascular pathology.”
“Taking into account the nature of his disease and the age of the patient, his condition is saticfactory,” Gremitskikh said when asked if Gromyko’s life was in danger.
He declined to give details of the condition of Gromyko, who was the world’s longest-serving foreign minister until Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev moved him to the then-largely ceremonial post of president in July, 1985.
It was unclear when Gromyko would leave the special Kremlin hospital where he is believed to be undergoing treatment.
The English service of the official news agency Tass, reporting the spokesman’s remarks, said initially that Gromyko had suffered a heart attack, but it corrected the ailment to “a fit of vascular pathology.” This phrasing appeared to suggest he suffered a stroke.
Foreign analysts had long taken Gromyko’s characteristic, brief, lopsided grin as a sign that he may have already suffered a minor stroke.
Gromyko was moved gradually into retirement after apparently playing a key role in the promotion of the youthful Gorbachev to party leader in March, 1985.
With Gorbachev eager to bring a new, less confrontational flavor to Soviet foreign policy, Gromyko was replaced by the new Kremlin leader’s protege, Eduard A. Shevardnadze, in July of the same year and given the post of president.
Last September, when Gorbachev decided to add the presidency to his own leadership of the Communist Party, Gromyko was removed from that post, too, and lost his seat in the ruling Politburo.
He was dropped from the policy-making Central Committee in April along with 100 or so other members of the old guard dating rack to former leader Leonid I. Brezhnev.
Gromyko, a master of the art of diplomacy and a firm adherent to the Soviet line, was always a tough opponent for Western diplomats and won a reputation as “Mr. Nyet” after casting 25 vetoes in the U.N. Security Council in the 1950s.