Political map of Russia & the former Soviet Union 23 December 1989 (Glasnost): By the late 1980s, the Soviet Union was surrounded by hostile states (Evil empire), while having to cope with economic woes (Brezhnev stagnation), discontent in Poland (Solidarity (Polish trade union)), and a high tech arms race (Strategic Defense Initiative) with the United States. Mikhail Gorbachev (Mikhail Gorbachev), the new Soviet leader, responded with huge political (Glasnost) and economic reforms (perestroika). In 1989, he allowed (Sinatra Doctrine) elections and revolutions to overthrow the communist regimes in eastern Europe (Revolutions of 1989).