Andrei Gromyko, the Soviet Union's foreign minister for 28 years, was known as "Mr Nyet". Yet, in 1985, the old Cold Warrior recommended a 54-year-old youngster to the Politburo as the next secretary general of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. "Comrades," he said of Mikhail Gorbachev, "this man has a nice smile but he has teeth of iron." Mr Gorbachev launched a series of sweeping reforms. Old-timers such as Mr Gromyko were on the way out. But by 1991 Mr Gorbachev's leadership collapsed, and the Soviet Union with it.
The elder statesman talks to >The National today. Mr Gorbachev, who worked on a collective farm as a boy, is now selling designer bags. Along with Catherine Deneuve and Steffi Graf, he is a photographic model for Louis Vuitton. The new role reveals just how far he has come from the days of his leadership in the Kremlin. We only hope that those who buy the bags Mr Gorbachev is pitching don't discover that they were really made in China.