Eduard A. Shevardnadze, who as Mikhail Gorbachev's foreign minister helped hone the "new thinking," foreign and domestic, that transformed and ultimately rent the Soviet Union, then led his native Georgia through its turbulent start as an independent state, died Monday. He was 86.
Mr. Shevardnadze was forced from office in 2003 in what was called the Rose Revolution, in which Georgians vented their frustration with the corrupt post-Soviet system that he had presided over and under which he had grown wealthy.
He had spent his working life as a Communist official when Gorbachev called him on June 30, 1985, with a proposition that startled him: Would he manage the foreign policy of one of the two most powerful countries in the world?
As he recounted the call in his memoirs, The Future Belongs to Freedom, Mr. Shevardnadze stammered that he had no experience in diplomacy, other than hosting foreign delegations as the top Communist official in the Soviet republic of Georgia.
"The issue is already decided," said Gorbachev, whose title was general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Over the next six years, the two men revolutionized Soviet foreign policy. They withdrew troops from Afghanistan; negotiated treaties on medium-range and strategic nuclear arms; took military forces out of Europe and away from the China border; allowed the reunification of Germany; and accepted human rights as part of policy discussions.