The postwar era collapsed in 1989. When the year began, relations among countries were essentially what they had been for forty years: a divided Europe, a Soviet Union that maintained an East European empire by force, and an America that assumed "superpower" responsibilities vis-à-vis its allies in NATO and in Asia. By the year's end the countries of Eastern Europe seem to have been liberated from the pressures of the Brezhnev Doctrine (though Soviet troops remained). Communist governments put in place and held there by force had collapsed. The division of Europe had been overcome symbolically with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and literally with the progressive opening of borders between Hungary and Austria, Czechoslovakia and Austria, East Germany and West Germany. More than 700,000 Soviet troops were still stationed throughout Eastern Europe, but the will to empire had apparently been replaced by a will to modernization.
Meanwhile the relative decline in U.S. economic power, the rising pressure of budget and trade deficits and the apparently declining Soviet military threat made defense costs and the "superpower" responsibilities of the United States seem less necessary to the defense of Europe and more difficult to justify or to finance. The cold war is over-nearly. The postwar era is finished-absolutely.
The structures through which international affairs have been conducted for the past forty years have been shaken to their foundations. Now comes the time of rebuilding. An American administration with an avowed aversion to "big think" (as one administration official called it) will likely be confronted with the most sweeping reorientation of U.S. foreign policy since 1947.
By 1989 four major processes of change were at work reshaping what had come to be called East-West relations: liberalization and reform inside the Soviet Union; the democratization of Eastern Europe; the determined move toward economic integration in Western Europe; and a new, apparently irresistible drive toward unification of East and West Germany. The conjunction and the cumulative impact of these ongoing changes promised to transform Europe-and
Loading, please wait...