There is a pervasive sense that the world is on the threshold of a new era. The dilemmas, passions and especially utopias of the recent past have suddenly become irrelevant. Yet before a new world order is proudly proclaimed and majestically inaugurated, some serious geostrategic rethinking is necessary, lest global disorder comes to dominate the onset of the post-Cold War era.

The end of the Cold War marks this century's third grand transformation of the organizing structure and motivating spirit of global politics. The first two great transformations did not enhance international security. The question now is, will the third?

The catalyst for the third transformation is the success of the West and, specifically, the United States in the outcome of the Cold War. Much therefore depends on the geostrategic implications drawn from the conclusion of that era, especially by America and those nations that were its principal partners in that prolonged engagement.


The first transformation was generated by the collapse of Europe's balance of power and thus its decisive position in the world. That balance was sustained by several European-centered but global empires. Dominant worldwide and conservative in spirit, the European system-in existence since 1815-eventually came undone because it was able neither to assimilate the rise of German national power nor contain the centrifugal forces of rising chauvinism. The first "world" war was in reality the last European war fought by globally significant European powers.

That war gave rise to an abortive attempt to reorganize Europe and thus, indirectly, the international system as a whole on the basis of a new principle: the supreme primacy of the nation-state, with nationalism fueling political emotions. The attainment-or enhancement-of national independence became the sacred goal of politics, and the protection-or expansion-of national frontiers was viewed as the key measure of success.

The result was massive failure. That new European order was too precarious to survive for long. With the territorial imperative igniting interstate conflicts and with weak nation-states dotting the map of the new Europe, it was only a question of time before a new eruption occurred. Germany was again the precipitator, though not entirely the root cause, of the resulting explosion.

The Second World War, in reality the first truly global war, completed Europe's historical suicide. In the course of that war Europe ceased to be the effective center of world politics and became instead the critical theater of a global competition waged by two powerful extra-European states. Both realized that geostrategic control over Europe would be tantamount to eventual control of Eurasia, and that control of Eurasia would yield global preponderance. Accordingly, throughout the resulting Cold War, Europe was for each of them the central stake.

World politics were again transformed, but for the first time in almost half a millennium they were no longer decisively affected by either the competition or the decisions of the principal European powers. Europe, instead of being the subject, now became the object of global contest.

The competition of the two superpowers was fueled not only by traditional nationalism but by a powerful new ingredient: ideology. This doctrinal imperative infused an unprecedented degree of intellectual self-righteousness into the conflict. The struggle between America and Russia thus quickly acquired a Manichaean character, with two colliding concepts, not only of social organization but ultimately even of the nature of the human being itself. Each superpower saw itself as the carrier of universalist values, and the opponent as the embodiment of evil.

This century's second great transformation of world politics-like the first-also failed to enhance genuine international security. The 45-year-long conflict between the two superpowers entailed, first of all, enormous risks. With ideological hostility intensifying their arms race, and with their arms possessing for the first time a lethal capacity on a globally devastating scale, the superpower rivalry was enormously costly in economic terms and potentially devastating beyond comprehension.

Ultimately the United States was successful, first, in deterring the Soviet Union from dominating Eurasia and, second, in discrediting its ideology and exhausting its economy. Belated efforts by the Soviet leadership to set in motion a process of domestic renewal created openings for intensified challenges to its control of vassal states. These challenges were fed by both nationalist resentments and an ideologically significant perception of the failure of the Soviet-style socioeconomic system to match the performance of the American-sponsored recovery of the western and eastern extremities of Eurasia. The crisis of power in the Kremlin and the sense of the historical failure of communism eventually caused the Soviet empire to disintegrate.

The Cold War thus ended without a hot war. In so doing it generated fundamental changes in two critical dimensions of world affairs: the geostrategic and the philosophical. In Eurasia Soviet power shrunk back not only to its 1940 frontiers, but it is now being challenged even within the Soviet Union. Indeed, the future survival of the Soviet system itself is now in doubt. Moreover a united Germany is now in NATO, noncommunist east European governments are craving membership not only in the European Community (EC) but in NATO as well, while a politically independent China is making steady progress in its pragmatic economic modernization. Geostrategically, far from subjugating Eurasia, the Soviet Union is now on the defensive within it.

The philosophical tenor of our time is now dominated by Western concepts of democracy and the free market. This is not to say that such concepts are being successfully implemented in the postcommunist states, but to assert that they represent today's prevailing wisdom. The competing notions of Marxism, not to speak of its Leninist-Stalinist offshoot, once so intellectually dominant, are generally discredited.


The end of the Cold War-and particularly its rather one-sided geostrategic and philosophical outcomes-has direct consequences for this century's third grand transformation of world politics.1 The first transformation can be said to have been fueled by nationalist aspirations within a Europe no longer capable of dominating the world but still capable of disrupting it. The second involved an ideologically intensified global contest between two non-European superpowers. The structure and the spirit of the third are increasingly being shaped under the political and philosophical influence of the West's successful Cold War coalition.

In the course of the Cold War that coalition acquired a comprehensive institutional character, embracing not only America and western Europe but increasingly Japan as well. Considerations of security, a shared interest in economic growth based on global free trade, a commitment to democratic policymaking, and the impact of modern communications drove that coalition toward institutionalized cooperation. As a result its internal relations came to manifest a pattern of conduct motivated by what might be described broadly (if somewhat clumsily) as functionally pragmatic transnationalism.

Important residues, both of nationalism and ideology, undoubtedly continue to surface in the conduct of affairs even within the coalition, and much more so in the world at large. But these impulses tend to be constrained by at least two pragmatic considerations: maximizing collective security and promoting an open international trading system. The quest for collective security stems from the realization of the vulnerability of even the major powers to weaponry of mass destruction as well as from the prohibitive cost of modern weaponry. At the same time the wealth of nations is increasingly a function of their capacity to trade without external restraints. Traditional nationalist notions of military self-sufficiency and economic autarky are thereby being rendered obsolete.

The revolution in behavior among the most advanced countries is reinforced not only by the growing interaction and personal familiarity among their governing elites, but also by a profound alteration in public values. For the average citizen the imperatives of consumption are now more important than those of territory or ideology. Neither the desire for complete national independence nor ideological self-righteousness are the overriding motivations shaping the coalition's public opinion.

It is difficult to find an average German who is politically driven by the passion to repossess Alsace-Lorraine, a Frenchman dreaming of a reconstituted empire or even an American desperately fearful of worldwide communist takeover. As a result, functional pragmatism as well as transnational institution-building generally tend to dominate policymaking in the democratic West.

In the process the successful Western coalition-symbolized by the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations-is beginning to transform international politics into a more organic global process. This process tends to blur the distinction between domestic and foreign priorities. It also enhances the importance of internal economic and political well-being in determining the conduct and relative international importance of individual states. With nuclear weapons inhibiting the recourse to war among the leading powers, global politics are becoming in some ways similar to American urban centers: a mixture of interdependence and inequality, with violence concentrated in the poorer segments of society. Today, on a global scale, war has become a luxury that only poor nations can afford.

While morally unpalatable this reality nonetheless does somewhat enhance global security. So does the spread of democracy. This fact has even been recognized by once-hostile Moscow. As the thoughtful and iconoclastic minister of foreign affairs of the Russian republic, Andrei Kozyrev, has observed: "The main thing is that the Western countries are pluralistic democracies. Their governments are under the control of legal public institutions, and this practically rules out the pursuance of an aggressive foreign policy. In the system of Western states . . . the problem of war has essentially been removed."2


Threats to international security have traditionally been defined in terms of state-to-state relations. That was especially the case in an age in which the nation-state was the principal vessel of decisive political action. But in the emerging age of organic global politics, it is just as likely that major threats could originate from within states, either through civil conflicts or because of the increased technological sophistication of terrorist acts.

The character of the security challenges now facing the global community was dramatically defined by EC Commission President Jacques Delors in his important March 1991 address to the International Institute for Strategic Studies: "All around us, naked ambition, lust for power, national uprisings and underdevelopment are combining to create potentially dangerous situations, containing the seeds of destabilization and conflict, aggravated by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

This general description could be amplified by a long list of specific problems, some due to the end of the Cold War, some long-lasting regional conflicts or legacies of imperialism, others likely to arise because of the emergence of new regional powers, and still others inherent in the inequality and poverty of the human condition-exacerbated by the population explosion. But all will be made potentially more lethal because of the inevitable further diffusion of weapons of mass destruction.

Accordingly, in determining when and how to address such problems the international community may have to be guided less by traditional notions of sovereignty (i.e., is one state violating the sovereignty of another?) and more by the scope of the threat itself. In other words, there may develop situations in which external intervention in the seemingly internal affairs of a state-as in Yugoslavia yesterday and perhaps elsewhere tomorrow-may be necessary and justified by the potential consequences of activities that are otherwise of internal character and that do not, of themselves, involve interstate collision.

In these complex and dynamic circumstances, much depends on whether pragmatic transnationalism becomes not only the defining but also the enduring substance of this century's third transformation of global politics. A great deal thus hinges on the eventual resolution of four large structural dilemmas-each central to international security and a consequence of the Cold War's end.

First, how will Europe define itself? Will it be a truly European Europe with a supranational basis, emphasizing deeper cooperation before wider participation; or will it be a Europe of closely cooperating states, perhaps wider before deeper? Which is more likely to enhance global security, and which should America favor?

Second, how will the Soviet Union be transformed? Is its preservation in a reformed mode-for the sake of "stability"-desirable from the standpoint of international security; or is its progressive but fundamental transformation ultimately the safest path toward enhanced international security?

Third, how will the Pacific region organize itself? Should the United States remain decisively involved in the security arrangements of that region, or should Japan be encouraged to assume a preeminent role consistent with its economic power; if so, how will this impact on regional security and, notably, on China's likely posture?

Finally, how will the Middle East be pacified? Can the United States, now so deeply absorbed in the Middle East's complex problems, afford not to promote energetically a framework of security and accommodation; or are the region's problems so intractable that the wiser course dictates a policy of cautious diplomacy? Which is preferable from the standpoint of international security and America's capacity to contribute to it?

The answers to these questions will go a long way either in defining a system capable of containing and mitigating future threats to global security or in yielding to a condition of intensifying global disorder. Each area involves a series of critical and complex policy dilemmas. The positive development of each case-or at least three of the four-would represent a major contribution to the emergence of politically and economically stabilizing zones of international cooperation. This would enhance in an ink-blot fashion the scope of international security and reduce to tolerable levels the inevitable presence on the world scene of some degree of violence and conflict.


The distribution of global power is being significantly altered by the acceleration of Europe's unification. The end of the division of Germany-clearly the most significant geopolitical change produced by the Cold War's end-has had the somewhat unexpected effect of actually spurring west Europeans (save for the British) to adopt a more ambitious timetable for not only economic but also political and, eventually, military integration. The Germans themselves wisely took the lead in this acceleration, strongly supported by the French. Their hope is that by the end of the decade, western Europe will emerge as an increasingly single-minded and purposeful international player.

The precise form and scope of this new global participant will probably remain unclear for some time. Difficult debates regarding internal organization and external boundaries are likely to dominate Europe's outlook for much of the decade. Both the American input to this European debate and the impact of the Soviet Union's crisis are bound to complicate the process of Europe's self-definition and self-assertion. These constraints may affect Europe's capacity to impact directly on the state of international security.

Two major visions of Europe's future are currently colliding, and America will at some point have to make a clear choice. One vision was again eloquently articulated by Jacques Delors. In his same March 1991 address, he posed this central question: "What destiny are we proposing to the people of Europe? What destiny and what ambition?"

His answer was clearcut. It should be an integrated Europe, "a community based on the union of peoples and the association of nation-states pursuing common objectives and developing a European identity." Such a Europe should therefore have its own defense policy, a policy that would represent "the second pillar of the Atlantic alliance" with the United States. The European Community would thus be the political as well as economic framework for the expression of a European identity that is comprehensive and increasingly organic.

The alternative vision was forcefully defined by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in her March 8, 1991, speech to the Heritage Foundation in Washington. She warned: "If a European superstate were to be forged, it would almost certainly develop interests and attitudes at variance with those of America. We would thereby move from a stable international order with the United States in the lead to a more dangerous world of new competing power blocs. This would be in no one's interest, least of all America's."

She expressed an explicit preference for "a Europe of nation-states, a Europe that is open as soon as possible to participation of those European states currently outside of the European Community, notably the democratizing states of postcommunist east Europe."

Inherent in these competing visions are two outstanding, sensitive security issues: What is the scope of the West's security perimeter in Europe; what is the proper American role in European security?

As eastern Europe democratizes itself, at first in the more promising Polish-Czechoslovak-Hungarian triangle, NATO's security perimeter is already implicitly beginning to include these countries. The West's attitude is thus reminiscent of its informal Cold War concerns for the security and independence of such democratic but neutral states as Finland and Sweden. Though neither was included in any formal alliance, both the West and the Soviet Union understood that a Soviet invasion of these democratic states, especially if resisted by them, would not leave the West indifferent. That posture in itself constituted some degree of deterrence.

As the European security perimeter moves eastward, and west European integration forward, further dynamics in favor of political and military integration are likely to be generated. Europe will certainly need political cohesion and a joint security policy to deal with its potential ethnic and regional problems. It may even choose to adopt a European equivalent of the Monroe Doctrine and, in that regard, the energetic response of the EC to the Yugoslav crisis represents an important and positive precedent.

Such a development would be consistent with the American desire for a genuinely pluralistic and self-governing world. A Europe with a defined military and political identity would certainly continue to have an interest in a strategic alliance with the United States. That alliance would guarantee against any potential revival of the Soviet military threat and serve as the basis for joint responses-if joint interests are involved-to out-of-theater threats as well.

It is, therefore, historically unwise for America to oppose greater European military integration, especially through linkage of the EC and the West European Union (WEU). Economic unity cannot be insulated from eventual political-military unity. Official U.S. insistence on preserving NATO as the central military decision-making forum smacks too much of an American preference for a Europe that, in the final analysis and contrary to American rhetoric, still remains a Europe of nation-states.

There is another negative aspect to the troubling inconsistency between the American desire that Europe be more active, not only in safeguarding itself but also in assuming out-of-theater roles, and the American insistence that the EC refrain from becoming the mechanism for defining Europe's security policy. This is that it ignores the historically significant reality that a more united Europe would be also a Europe more capable of absorbing and assimilating Germany. That would make unlikely any potential German-Russian maneuvers that in turn could revive old European insecurities. One cannot dismiss the possibility, however remote today, that in a fluid Europe and messy Soviet Union both Berlin and Moscow could again someday be tempted.


A more self-reliant and reliable Europe, in which America maintains only limited ground forces but which it backs with its strategic deterrent, would be also less vulnerable to the negative spillover effects-both social and political-of the deepening Soviet crisis. The implosion of the Soviet Union is almost certain to continue. A long-term decomposition of the Soviet political and economic system is under way. The national crisis in the Soviet Union introduces a particularly emotional complication, making it all the more difficult to construct an all-union framework conducive to political compromise and congenial to rapid economic recovery. A protracted period of uncertainty is likely as the Soviet Union is transformed-both through evolution and periodic turbulence-into something eventually quite different.

During this period of change the Soviet geopolitical relationship with eastern Europe may be quite unstable, with fears and anxieties on both sides. The east Europeans fear both Soviet power and Soviet weakness. They know that not all Soviet leaders have become reconciled to the geopolitical loss of eastern Europe. They are concerned that the continuing security vacuum in the region could again at some point be filled by Soviet power. They follow carefully Soviet internal debates about policy toward the region, and they are not reassured by all that they read.

Two basic lines of thought have emerged in Moscow regarding eastern Europe. Some commentators urge a foreign policy consistent with the "new thinking" that is said to characterize Mikhail Gorbachev, viewing eastern Europe-and especially Poland-"as the doorstep to the West. . . . Moscow must avoid using force and seek compromises as it does in Washington, Bonn and Paris."3 In the same vein, another expert asserted that "there is much that is attractive in the Soviet-Finnish model of bilateral relations" and urged that it be applied constructively in regard to eastern Europe.4

More frequent, however, have been charges that "Soviet policy in East Europe is operating without a precise strategic concept, without a clear definition of aims." This, it is said, is not only facilitating the spread of Western influence but even permitting the new east European leaders to engage in activities aimed at "the U.S.S.R.'s socialist perspective and existence as an integral state." The east European states are seen as drifting toward closer ties with NATO, with potentially serious consequences for Soviet security. The Polish-Czechoslovak-Hungarian consultations are perceived as a renewal of the old cordon sanitaire, leading to the ominous conclusion that "we must make every effort to neutralize or at least weaken the anti-Soviet tendencies in these countries."5

These public debates reflect more serious disagreements in the Soviet leadership regarding its relations with eastern Europe. The Soviet Foreign Ministry, by and large, housed the more benign attitude toward changes in eastern Europe. In contrast, a directive issued in January 1991, by the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, urged the use of political and economic leverage ("energy exports to eastern Europe must be viewed as an important instrument of our strategy in the region") to restore some degree of Soviet influence. In the words of the Soviet scholar who first drew the world's attention to the directive:

This document draws the conclusion that it was necessary to restore the Soviet positions and Soviet influence in eastern Europe, to restrict the sovereignty of the countries in this region and to prevent them joining any alliance, including NATO and the EC. . . . At stake is the question of whether the defining momentum of the 1989-90 revolution will lead to a European order or another wrestling match over who controls the countries along the Vistula, the Moldau and the Danube.6

Even a cursory glance at a map suggests that the main thrust of any Soviet effort to redress the geopolitical situation is likely to be directed at Poland. From the Soviet point of view, the restoration of some degree of control over Poland would greatly reduce the momentum of the centrifugal forces now at work in Lithuania, Byelorussia and the Ukraine. This consideration may have in part prompted some of the economic pressures that Moscow applied against Warsaw in 1991, perhaps in hope of destabilizing the new government led by Lech Walesa. It has doubtless contributed to Soviet reluctance to compromise with the Poles on the question of Soviet troop withdrawals as well as to Soviet demands that the Poles sign a new friendship treaty with clauses that the Poles interpreted as limiting their sovereignty.

But it is not only the reapplication of Soviet power that worries east Europeans. Soviet weakness is also a source of concern. Existing trade patterns have already been unilaterally severed by the Soviets, with very adverse impact on the east European economies. The east Europeans fear that catastrophe in the Soviet Union could precipitate massive migration to the west, perhaps on a scale of even as much as several million refugees. The fragile east European states could not handle such a situation.

One must therefore expect considerable uncertainty in the Soviet relationship with eastern Europe. That is why east European governments have largely favored some Western aid for the Soviet Union, but aid that would deliberately facilitate the restoration of the disrupted trade flows. That is also why, until some alternative emerges, NATO, with its American presence, has come to be viewed by east Europeans as the primary source of their security. For east Europeans, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, given its rule of unanimity, which places on the same level such entities as the Soviet Union and Monaco, could become an effective security system only when insecurity no longer exists.

Soviet concerns over the east European view of NATO have doubtless been intensified by the realization that growing national self-assertion in not only the Baltic republics but also the Ukraine and Moldavia poses the prospect that the Western security perimeter may someday move even farther east. The dismemberment of the Soviet Union is becoming an increasingly serious Soviet concern.7 Soviet theorists have therefore become increasingly anxious to formulate some alternative notion of European security. Some have even been returning to the old theme that the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact ought to be followed by the termination or replacement of NATO.

The foregoing underlines the shared stake of both East and West in the peaceful and stable transformation-and not just reform-of the Soviet Union. It is in the collective interest of the West, and international security more generally, that Western policy have as its strategic objective the progressive strengthening of the political and economic power of the various Soviet national republics, thereby generating a dynamic process that would eventually replicate the pluralism that already characterizes the West. The Soviet Union might thus eventually evolve into a looser confederation-or a league of sovereign states-with associate status in specific security and economic matters for those Soviet republics that opt for complete independence.

In a Soviet confederation the existing Soviet army, a huge multinational establishment based on compulsory military service, might gradually be transformed into a professional and smaller military formation, presumably subject to the confederal government. Some Soviet republics have indicated, however, that they might also choose to maintain separate national conventional forces, perhaps similar to the U.S. National Guard.8 The confederal government would likely exercise control over existing Soviet strategic forces, probably staffed mostly by Russian nationals, but there could be an arrangement-perhaps as in NATO-for a republican decision-making role regarding the use of such forces. In this fashion the enormous Soviet nuclear arsenal would eventually be decoupled from the world's single most powerful conventional army, thereby somewhat mitigating the threat that Soviet military power still poses to the West.

Clearly any such prospect is still far off. Movement in that direction could be derailed by a sudden reversal in internal Soviet politics, including some belated attempt at centralized dictatorship. Moreover even sustained movement is likely to be subject to periodic halts, some reversals and much friction and turbulence. Nonetheless the benign scenario outlined above-which can no longer be relegated to the realm of political science fiction-is already being discussed in the Soviet Union. Such discussion reinforces the proposition that the vision of a transformed Soviet Union should serve as the strategic beacon for Western policy.

A politically united Europe, together with America, can assist such a peaceful transformation more deliberately than a Europe that itself remains susceptible to internal national rivalries.


The post-Cold War era's third structural challenge to global security involves the Far East. Irrespective of future events in the Soviet Union, shared American-Japanese security concerns are now less likely to mitigate their intensifying economic rivalry. A more deliberate effort therefore will be needed to define the substance of genuine Japanese-American partnership. Fortunately on both sides of the Pacific there is growing recognition of the emerging economic-financial interdependence and interpenetration of the two economies. In time one might even envisage the expansion of the emerging North American Free Trade Agreement across the Pacific, thereby creating a larger framework for a cooperative American-Japanese relationship.

In the meantime the security question will have to be addressed within a strategic perspective that is sensitive to broader regional dynamics. The Pacific region, though economically the most vital sector of the global economy, lacks any viable security structure. That absence was not a major problem as long as the central security issue was the American-Soviet rivalry. But in the foreseeable future, China, given its relatively successful economic transformation, is likely to emerge as a geopolitical contender in the Pacific region. This alone is bound to have a major regional impact, potentially prompting a significant shift in the Asian power balance away from U.S. and Japanese preponderance.

It is quite likely that within a decade or two Far Eastern security will be as dramatically transformed by the emergence of a more powerful China as European security has been transformed by the fading power of the Soviet Union. If present trends continue, by 2010 China will join the United States, the EC and Japan as one of the world's four leading economic powers. It may make its political and military weight in world affairs felt even earlier. That prospect has to be taken into account.

In any case a more complex interplay involving not only Japan and China but also other regional players is already in the process of gestation. A unified Korea, for example, could even be a nuclear power. Indonesia is likely to be more assertive in southeast Asia. India clearly is already a regional hegemon in south Asia as well as a nuclear power. It is unclear whether in the years to come India might suffer from significant internal insecurity or seek to play a more assertive role in a wider Asian context. Moreover Asia's list of possible interstate as well as internal conflicts certainly far exceeds that of Europe.

The United States is determined to remain a Pacific power, with its forces projected to the edges of the Asian mainland. Yet at the same time it wants Japan to assume a larger military role on the grounds that it behooves Japanese standing as an economic giant and emerging global power. The long-term danger of such pressures is that, at some point, either a serious clash may develop between America and Japan over U.S. geostrategic perspectives, or that Japan, forced for the first time since World War II to define its own geopolitical priorities, will plunge into a security role that far exceeds anything America actually desired.

For example, an ominous reaction to American demands for greater Japanese military participation came from a leading Japanese businessman in a commentary entitled "Learning from the Gulf War," which proposed that Japan "should revise the Japanese-U.S. security treaty and replace American units stationed here with our own self-defense forces. The constitution's war-renouncing Article 9 must be overhauled. Tokyo should also cooperate with Seoul and Beijing to create an Asian security system independent of the superpowers."9

Symptomatic also in this regard were U.S.-Japanese frictions over the Persian Gulf War. American insistence that Japan finance a significant portion of the gulf effort and participate in some multinational peacekeeping forces produced an outpouring of public criticism directed at America. The Japanese felt that the American position, in effect, amounted to "taxation without representation," with America making the critical decisions and Japan expected to pay for them. The war itself was denounced as foolish and American demands on Japan as effectively amounting to blackmail. The fact that America had to finance the war through international contributions was interpreted as signaling that "there is a limit to America's ability to unilaterally lead the world" and that "America should humbly recognize this and behave accordingly."10

It is therefore far from clear that it is truly in the American interest to press Japan to assume larger military responsibilities. The problem is likely to be compounded by increased Chinese resentment of the American strategy. Chinese commentaries on the "world's strategic pattern" make it clear that in the Chinese view, "Europe is no longer the focus of the world strategic pattern, while the strategic position of the Asia-Pacific region is rising."11 This makes the Chinese even more concerned that the Asian region as yet has no regional security structure similar to that of Europe, which could assimilate Japan in the manner that Germany is being contained.

The answer to the region's long-term security dilemmas is thus not likely to be derived from a more militarily powerful Japan, nor from an America permanently perched on the edge of the Asian mainland. It certainly is not desirable to generate a dynamic and destabilizing interplay between a more militaristic Japan, an antagonistically assertive China and a beleaguered Russia. Instead, in the wake of the Cold War, the opportunity should be exploited to shape an Asian security structure that gradually embraces its major powers and interested states, especially China.

Perhaps two sets of negotiations will be needed at some point: one pertaining to northeast Asia, the other to southeast. The first might focus particularly on the need to generate a four-power consensus on the reunification of Korea. The second might build on the agreements regarding Cambodia to create some standing consultative machinery for the resolution of territorial and political conflicts.

In both cases the point of departure should be close consultations and coordination between America and Japan. An enduring alliance between the two-but neither a U.S. military protectorate nor a regional Japanese military role-is the essential foundation for Asian security. Progress along these lines should permit the progressive pullback of American forces from forward bases in the Philippines, Korea and eventually perhaps even Japan. American troop withdrawal should be viewed not as a symptom of isolationism but as consistent with the gradual emergence on the world scene of new and wider security structures based on regional self-reliance.


The fourth major consequence of the Cold War's end was the freedom of action the United States enjoyed in conducting the war against Iraq. The Soviet Union had little real choice but to play the role of a benevolent-even if increasingly frustrated-spectator. It was no longer America's competitor for regional influence. That military victory, however, has plunged America into a deep, probably protracted, political and military absorption in the Middle East's various crises.

Regional power is now concentrated at two extremes: Iran is the gulf's only self-reliant military power, and Israel has no Arab military match. The United States will thus have to be the principal source of security in the gulf. Perhaps over time a new political relationship with Iran can be structured, but that surely remains an uncertain prospect. In the meantime the very weakness of the gulf's Arab states, their continued vital economic importance to the West and the unresolved legacies of the Gulf War's militarily decisive but politically inconclusive outcome dictate the necessity of continued American military presence.

It had been argued that the successful destruction of Iraq by a Western-Arab coalition, which enjoyed Israel's benign self-restraint, would create the preconditions for movement toward a solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Relieved of the potential threat from Iraq, the Israelis are more inclined to insist on their maximum objective: permanent retention of the West Bank. The Arabs, reeling from Iraq's defeat by a massive display of American power, are in no position either to make war or to settle with Israel largely on Israeli terms.

The danger is thus of gridlock, but one that runs the risk of absorbing American attention, diverting American resources and perhaps even stalemating American diplomacy. Even though the Middle East is now unambiguously an American sphere of influence, the paradoxical result of America's military victory over Iraq might be the reduction of America's capacity to capitalize more broadly and constructively on the end of the Cold War and make a substantial contribution to international security writ large.

The issue is ultimately that of American political will to sustain and push forward the needed peace process. The international community basically knows that the interrelated agenda of peace in the Middle East involves the following: shaping a viable security framework that also constrains the inflow of arms; implementing U.N. resolutions 242 and 338 regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict, including some transitional political status for the Palestinian nation; progress toward a regional partnership in economic development.

An assertive American effort to shape such a genuine framework of political compromise and regional security would doubtless enjoy the support of the major countries in Europe and Asia. It would be seen as in keeping with progress toward genuinely enhanced international security.


In sum, international security in the post-Cold War era is likely to depend on the following:

-the degree to which Europe succeeds in both deepening its political and military unity and-without too much delay-widening its scope;

-the transformation of the Soviet Union into a loose and voluntary confederation, a transformation that is neither halted by a sudden throwback to central dictatorship nor that produces violent explosions;

-movement in the Far East toward a regional security accommodation that constructively engages Japan, China, the United States and perhaps also the Soviet Union and other pertinent states;

-efforts by the United States, as the decisive arbiter of Middle East security, to set in motion a regional peace process.

The future American role in each of these areas will be centrally important. How Europe evolves will be influenced to some degree by American policies and presence. How the Soviet Union copes will be affected by the strategic design ultimately adopted by the successful Cold War coalition. How the Far East organizes itself will be conditioned by the role the United States insists on playing. And how the Middle East evolves depends very heavily on the degree to which America chooses to play a passive or active role. Indeed, the American role in helping to shape these answers will be critical simply because today's global politics include only one superpower, the United States. No other power currently possesses the attributes needed for effective global leverage: military reach, political clout, economic impact as well as social and cultural appeal.12

America's special status, however, is threatened by its own domestic shortcomings. To be sure it would be rash to underestimate the innate capacity of American society for rapid renovation. A burst of economic and technological renewal could well be sparked in America, drastically reversing even in the 1990s some of the downward trends in the country's economic indices. Unless America pays more attention to its domestic weaknesses a new global pecking order could emerge early in the next century, in the event that a unifying Europe and an economically dynamic Japan were to assume large political and military responsibilities.

Accordingly, U.S. policy will have to strike a more deliberate balance among global needs for continued American commitment, the desirability of some devolution of U.S. regional security responsibilities and the imperatives of America's domestic renewal. This will require a more subtle American contribution to sustaining global security than was the case during the Cold War. More emphasis will have to be placed on cooperation with genuine partners, including shared decision-making in world security issues. American influence is in fact likely to be higher if the homeward redeployment of some of its forces precedes-not follows-the host country's demand.

The emerging global system thus is likely neither to be based on American hegemony nor derived from genuine international harmony. Though America is today admittedly the world's only superpower, global conditions are too complex and America's domestic health too precarious to sustain a worldwide Pax Americana. A truly new world order, based on consensus, rule of law and peaceful adjudication of disputes, may eventually become a reality. But that day is still far off. As of now, the phrase is a slogan in search of substantive meaning.

Isolationism, given the emergence of the global economy and the impact of modern communications, is also not a practical option. Thus the real alternatives are these: either a world of intensifying disorder-with a divided Europe, a Soviet Union plunging into violent chaos, a Far East destabilized by new power shifts and a Middle East marked by continued conflict-cumulatively producing a catastrophic breakdown in global security; or an incipient global security structure, derived from widening and increasingly self-reliant regional cooperation, backed by selective and proportionate American commitments.

In such a global security structure America-even with a diminished military presence abroad-will remain the principal source of nuclear deterrence and the ultimate guarantor of the proposition that any disrupter of security will be faced by a dominant coalition. At the same time America will be able to focus more on the imperatives of its domestic renewal, thereby buttressing its long-term capacity to sustain a policy of continued, but also more selective and proportionate, global commitment.

1 The author wishes to acknowledge arguments developed along these lines by others, notably Samuel P. Huntington, "America's Changing Strategic Interests," Survival, January/ February 1991; and Paul H. Nitze, "America: An Honest Broker," Foreign Affairs, Fall 1990.

2 Kozyrev also boldly asserts that in contrast the totalitarian systems-among which he includes the Leninist-Stalinist-are inherently aggressive, automatically viewing any democratic system as a "mortal enemy." A. Kozyrev, "Building a Bridge-Along or Across a River: The Parameters of Our Security," New Times, Moscow, Oct. 23-29, 1990.

3 V. Razuvayev, "The West Begins in Poland," New Times, Moscow, Feb. 12-18, 1991.

4 V. Mustatov, "East Europe: Typhoon of Change," Pravda, March 13, 1991.

5 A. Kaznacheyev, "U.S.S.R.-East Europe: Hopes and Illusions," Sovetskaia Rossiia, April 17, 1991.

6 Interview with Vyacheslav Dashichev, ADN, June 13, 1991.

7 "Even superficial familiarization with the nature of statements by Western politicians indicates that they welcome trends which bring about deepening political anarchy, growing nationalism and separatism, and a breakup of statehood," M. Aleksandrov, "Security of the U.S.S.R.: Two Views of the Philosophy of Foreign Policy," Literaturnaia Rossiia, Feb. 22, 1991.

8 V. Semivolos, "Should the Ukraine Have Its Own Army?" Novoye Vremya, no. 26, June 1991, discusses in detail the problems of future Ukrainian armed forces, and reaches the conclusion that "taking into consideration the future professionalization of the army and the renunciation of nuclear weapons and the corresponding maintenance, backup and delivery systems, the numerical strength of the army will drop to 200,000-300,000" from the approximately 700,000 Ukrainians who currently serve in the Soviet army.

9 J. Itoh, chairman, Kanebo, Ltd., Yomiuri Shimbun, May 20,1991.

10 Professor Fuji Kamiya, "Can We Still Love America," Shokun Magazine, translated in Japanese Digest Forum, May 9, 1991.

12 This proposition is no longer disputed even by Soviet advisers. See V. Lukashevich, "Farewell, Superpower-The Soviet Union?" Krasnaia Zvezda, May 25, 1991. He noted that "for many decades the Soviet Union held its rightful place as a superpower. It was a force to be reckoned with in the world. . . . But in the space of a few years we have hurled our country from this world pedestal with our own hands."

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  • Zbigniew Brzezinski was National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter, 1977-81. He is now Counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and a professor of American Foreign Policy at The Johns Hopkins University. This article is adapted from an address to the 1991 annual conference of the International Institute for Strategic Studies held in Zurich.
  • More By Zbigniew Brzezinski