The Emerging Europe: Power Configurations for the Next Century


© 1999 Michael G. Roskin

From Parameters, Winter 1999-2000, pp. 86-97.

What will be the power configuration of the Europe now emerging? The answer to this question will determine much of Europe's stability and prosperity as well as its prospects for peace or war. We shall first undertake a brief historical review of the several power systems that have operated in Europe for over a century in order to open our minds to the range of possibilities and glean some warnings.[1] Then we'll zero in on the most likely mid-term European futures and discuss their implications for Western security.

Europe's Historical Systems

Pre-World War I. The major European powers from the defeat of Napoleon until 1914 remained largely at peace. The worst conflicts--trivial in 20th-century terms--were Bismarck's wars of German unification and Russia's pushback of the Turks in the Balkans. In systems theory, this period exemplified a "balance-of-power" system, but by 1900 it had decayed.[2] In place of Bismarck's Kleindeutschland solution and flexible treaties for security insurance, Berlin developed world-power aspirations and tied itself rigidly to Vienna. Bismarck's famous statement that "the entire Balkans are not worth the bones of one Pomeranian grenadier" was forgotten as World War I ignited precisely in that area.

Why the collapse? How could the belle époque descend into the massacres of the trenches? Bismarck had dramatically altered Europe's power configuration. Where there had been many German principalities, rather suddenly there was one powerful and populous empire. In fear, France and Russia turned to each other in what George F. Kennan called "the fateful alliance" of 1894.[3] The confused Europeans of 1914 did not understand that their system had totally changed and would never be put back together.

The Unstable Interwar System. E. H. Carr called the interwar period (1919-39) "the twenty years' crisis."[4] It was inherently unstable and temporary. The European powers destroyed themselves from 1914 to 1945. With several major players refusing to respond to threats, there was no balanced distribution of power. We spend more time looking at this system because it may have considerable relevance to the post-Cold War system we will subsequently discuss.

World War I was the initial act in a century of system breakdowns and self-destruction. Some 15 million of Europe's finest young men died. Four empires--the German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Turkish--collapsed. From this wreckage flowered the twin evils of Nazism and communism. The "winners"--Britain and France--were so drained and bitter they were unable to enforce the provisions of the Versailles Treaty on the defeated parties. As Keynes foresaw, the international economy had been seriously wounded and collapsed a decade later.

Clearly, World War I led rather directly to World War II. The dissatisfied losers of the first war--Germany and Austria--joined with two dissatisfied winners--Italy and Japan (Japan had participated in a minor way in World War I by seizing German possessions in China and the Pacific)--while another loser, Russia, tried to stay on the sidelines.

What do we call this strange and short-lived system between the two world wars? It wasn't balance of power because the democracies refused to play. The dictators, sensing the vacuum, moved in to take what they could. We might, for want of a better term, call it an "antibalance-of-power system." Britain and France, weary from the Great War and putting utopian faith in the League of Nations and human reason, finally met force with force only when it was almost too late; Germany nearly beat them both.

Stalin's Soviet Union also refused to play. Here it was a case of ideological hatred against the capitalist powers and the conviction that the capitalist world was doomed anyway. Stalin beheld the rise of Hitler and instructed the German communists not to join with the socialists to oppose him. Then, at last seeing the threat of a rearmed Germany, Stalin frantically sought a "Popular Front" against fascism, but Britain and France wouldn't play. So Stalin pulled, arguably, the most cynical deal of all time in the 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact that gave Hitler the green light to conquer Poland. In 1941, of course, came the Soviet Union's turn to fall victim.

The United States also refused to play balance of power.[5] Isolationism plus verbal protests to Japan over the rape of China were thought to keep us at a safe distance from the conflagration. We didn't need much military might; we had two oceans. Actually, the oceans were the avenues that carried the war to us, first with the German U-boats in the North Atlantic, then with the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. On that Sunday afternoon of 7 December 1941, Americans learned that they could not hide from hostile power.

The Cold War. The collapse of the traditional European powers left the United States and the USSR dominant in a bipolar world and a divided Europe. But the superpowers exhausted themselves from the strain of confrontation from 1945 through the 1980s, and the bipolar system, too, decayed.

The Cold War started almost with the end of the World War II victors' self-congratulations, with Washington coming to realize that Stalin's Russia, intent on turning East Europe into a belt of communist-ruled satellites, could not possibly be a fit partner in Roosevelt's grand design for postwar cooperation. Many feared that Stalin was also getting ready to move beyond East Europe. By the spring of 1947 the Cold War was on, for that is when the United States openly stated its opposition to Soviet expansion and took steps to counter it.[6] Some of the more dramatic and tenser episodes of the Cold War happened in Berlin, namely, the 1948-49 Berlin blockade and 1961 wall crisis, which some consider to have been more dangerous than the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Bipolarity was a dangerous but in some ways comforting system. The dangerous part was that the two camps watched each other like hawks, constantly looking for opportunities to exploit in the other camp and guarding against possible attack. It was a tense world; fingers were too close to nuclear triggers. But conservatives on both sides still hearken back to those days when life was simpler because you knew exactly who your friends and enemies were. The weaker allies of the superpowers, East and West Europe, mostly shut up and obeyed their leading power. NATO and the Warsaw Pact looked firm. Most members of each alliance had superpower military bases on their soil and accepted them as a form of protection. The comforting part about bipolarity was that you knew where you stood. For many today, life is too confusing.

Was the bipolar world stable? It avoided nuclear war and lasted over a third of a century, a record comparable to Metternich's and Bismarck's balance-of-power systems of the 19th century. But it could not endure, for several reasons:

. The bipolar system locked the superpowers into frantic arms races that grew increasingly expensive, draining both of them. More and more dollars and rubles bought them less and less security, for the armies and weapons thus produced did not succeed in protecting the superpowers or in extending their power.

. Third World nationalism arose. Playing a zero-sum game (what I win, you lose), the two superpowers tried to get or keep peripheral areas in their camp. What the great European empires had abandoned, the superpowers tried to pick up in a replay of the contingent-necessity argument: "If we don't take it, the other side will." The superpowers pushed their claims into the Third World until they got burned--the Americans in Vietnam and the Soviets in Afghanistan. The bipolar system, by compelling the superpowers to reach ever farther, contained the logic of its own destruction.

. The two camps developed fissures. China got increasingly fed up with following the Soviet lead; Mao especially thought Khrushchev was weak, mistaken, and unfit to lead the communist world.[7] China dropped out of the Second World and joined the Third. Armed tension flared between China and the Soviet Union, requiring Moscow to tie down a quarter of its forces on the Chinese border. Even our camp developed some hairline fractures, as Charles de Gaulle staked out an independent role for France and withdrew from the NATO command structure.

. The economic growth of the Pacific Rim countries made both superpowers look like fools. While the military giants frittered away their resources in expensive, unusable weapons and counterproductive interventions, Japan and the Four Tigers made their region the globe's center of economic growth.

. The expensive arms race on top of an inherently defective economy led to the Soviet collapse in the early 1990s. America, by outlasting its antagonist, in effect "won" the Cold War. The world and the Europe that is emerging from the bipolar system, however, may also be quite difficult and unpredictable.

Europe's Future: The Determinative Variables

What kind of Europe is on tap now? Nothing is very clear; everything is still evolving.[8] But it is likely that Europe's future will be determined by the interactions of three basic shaping factors: the degree of European unification, the posture of Germany, and the posture of Russia. Let's take a look at each.

Whither European Unification? Successful unification of Europe could come to pass if the institutions of the European Union (EU) strengthen and democratize and turn the EU into a true federation. The culmination of such a system would be coherent, forceful foreign and security policies that are less and less dependent on US presence and leadership in Europe.

This will take some doing and, frankly, is not very likely. Some knotty problems will have to be solved. First, the EU must find a solution to its representation problem in the European Parliament in Strasbourg and European Central Bank in Frankfurt. Should each country be represented in proportion to its population? That would make Germany the biggest. Or should countries be represented on a weighted basis that gives small member countries disproportional voice?

Next, and related to this problem, is who should pay what. First Britain under Margaret Thatcher and now Germany under Gerhard Schröder rightfully protest that they are required to pay too much, most of it for the Common Agricultural Program, a multibillion-Euro fund that flows disproportionately to France. German taxpayers subsidize French farmers. The stakes are high and the debate gets quite nasty. If it is not settled, however, the EU will be weakened and undermined.

Third, the EU will have to develop a security system that is not simply a branch of NATO. The vehicle has been at hand for decades and has recently had a few puffs of life breathed into it: the West European Union (WEU), which was set up in 1948, the year before NATO came into being, and was then largely forgotten. It currently has nine West European members--all of whom are in NATO--who pledged to defend West Europe and promote its integration. Its small secretariat in London has none of NATO's integrated command structure, and the WEU has been used for little. Why then is the WEU now mentioned as a useful entity? Unlike NATO, the WEU has no prohibition on using military forces "out of area" should its members wish. The WEU served as West Europe's military coordinator in the Persian Gulf and in the initial "peacekeeping" in ex-Yugoslavia. In 1992, the EU designated the WEU as its defense arm. Could the WEU really become an effective, integrated force like NATO, but without US leadership? That is what some West Europeans want; but without the United States, who will lead the WEU? Germany? France? Few Europeans want either.

Would European unification mean a distancing from the United States? Already some estrangement is taking place, and at an accelerating rate. Trans-Atlantic trade disputes--over bananas and hormone-fed beef, for example--showed how nasty these things can become. The US presence in NATO is thin, and Congress does not want American ground troops used in risky situations such as Kosovo. But this distancing need not spell tragedy, as a well-united Europe should be able to look after itself. America could come home with the feeling of a job well done. Half a century of defending and encouraging Europe would have worked; a further American presence would not be necessary. Don't count on this course. The EU may not jell.

Europe could easily split over several questions (common currency, new members, farm subsidies), with its drive to unify stalling or even going backwards. Members would most likely not formally withdraw but distance themselves from Brussels, hollowing out the formal EU structures and leaving Europe in what de Gaulle desired, a Europe des patries. Much attention focuses on the new Euro currency as a fiscal straightjacket that might not work, but the EU's most difficult problem and biggest challenge likely will be forging a common and effective foreign and defense policy.

Ex-Yugoslavia is a chilling example of what can go wrong.[9] There were at least two horrors about ex-Yugoslavia. One was the war against civilians practiced there; the other was Western Europe's inability to stop it. With German encouragement, Slovenia and Croatia pulled out of Yugoslavia in 1991, and fighting started. The Serbian areas of Croatia, with weapons and troops from Belgrade, declared their independence and instituted "ethnic cleansing" to push out Croats. Their methods included concentration camps, rape, and outright murder. Serbs took 27 percent of Croatia, areas they claimed had a Serbian majority. In 1992, with Sarajevo's proclamation of independence, the same bloody process commenced in Bosnia until Serbs held some two-thirds of it. All together, over 200,000 people were killed, most of them civilians, and an additional two million were turned into refugees.

Even worse, Western Europe--proud, prosperous, and united--could not stop the fighting. In 1991, the leading European powers told Washington they would handle this problem in their own backyard. Most West European countries contributed at least a battalion of "peacekeepers," wearing the blue helmets and driving the white vehicles of the UN. They were given very limited mandates: oversee the latest cease-fire and get food and medicine to civilians. Very pointedly, their orders never included getting involved in a war. And that's why the UN Protective Force (UNPROFOR) proved to be mission impossible. There was no peace to keep; all sides were willing to fight for what they deemed justly theirs. French soldiers were arrested by Serbs and handcuffed to lampposts and fire hydrants, hostages against air strikes. A Dutch battalion meekly turned over thousands of Muslims in Srebrenica to Serbs who shot all the men into mass graves.

There was nothing wrong with French or Dutch soldiering skills or courage. What was wrong was their rules of engagement (ROEs), which limited them to returning fire only when directly fired upon. Their home governments ordered them to take no casualties, which, in the field, meant take no forceful actions. UNPROFOR quickly became a joke.

What turned things around was the US-supervised clandestine flow of heavy weapons (tanks and artillery) to the Croat and Bosnian armies and the training of those forces by recently retired US officers on "private" contract. The weapons came from everywhere, but many doubtless originated in the defunct East German army, likely via a triangle trade with Hungary, which skimmed off the best and sent its older inventory on to Zagreb. Thus trained and equipped, Croat and Bosnian forces pushed the weakened Serb forces back in 1995. NATO politicians soon forgot that the 1995 NATO airstrikes--the models for the 1999 effort to stem massacres and expulsions in Kosovo--came only after ground advances had pushed back the Serbs. By themselves, the air strikes did not change Milosevic's mind. At any rate, the ground offensives plus the bombing led to the Dayton Accord mediated by American diplomat Richard Holbrooke and Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

The European members of NATO then followed the US lead and formed the Implementation Force (IFOR), effective because it came after a firm cease-fire had been agreed to and because IFOR was a NATO operation with robust ROEs, that is, orders to shoot. Pointedly, the blue UN headgear came off and the white vehicles were repainted camouflage, announcing that this was now NATO talking.

Without the United States arming and training the Croats and Bosnians, arm-twisting the parties at Dayton, and sending a highly credible contingent to IFOR, the West Europeans would have had to beat an ignominious retreat. The effort in Kosovo would not have succeeded without US leadership. Is this the story with European security in general? Does nothing get done without US leadership?

US leadership may not always be forthcoming. Congress's doubts and hesitations over a US role in Kosovo underscore the reemergence of traditional isolationism in America at this time. The Administration, Congress, and Pentagon fear any mission with risk of casualties.[10] Curiously, the American people were less afraid than their leaders of using ground forces in Kosovo. Perhaps the leadership, still remembering Vietnam, is more cautious than it needs to be. It's an open question how public opinion would react if the body bags started coming back. But if the United States does not take the energizing and leading role in Europe, who will? This brings us to our next shaping factor.

Whither Germany? By dint of size, location, population, and wealth, Germany becomes the de facto leading power of Europe. Some say it already is (Paris's nightmare). Given the firmness of German democracy--as strong as any in Europe--there need be nothing sinister about this.

This system could either be a variant of Europe unified, with the institutions of the EU intact but with Berlin having a great deal of influence, especially in economic matters; or it could be a variant of European unity failing, in which, absent effective integrative institutions, power gravitates to the strongest entity on the continent. If Europe is not led by Brussels, it will be led by Berlin.

There are some difficulties with this scenario. The first is the question of whether Germany will be economically robust enough to lead. One speaks of the German "economic miracle" with nostalgia now. As in most of Europe, German economic growth is slow and unemployment high. And this is not due simply to the burdens of unification, which have indeed been more expensive than foreseen. The German economy which once served as Modell Deutschland is now plagued by the same structural defects found throughout Europe: an overly generous welfare state, high taxes, and labor-force rigidities. The supposedly energizing effects of the new common currency have not yet appeared. We simply don't know whether the Berlin republic will have the economy to lead the rest of Europe.

Let us assume for the moment that it will. Germany has already been more than generous, as we noted above, in funding the EU and its Common Agricultural Program. One may imagine a continuation of this after some trims. When money is needed, Europe turns almost instinctively to Berlin. But will money be enough? Given Germany's historical burdens, we could expect leadership only by economics, not by military means. The post-unification German army has been shrunk down to an unthreatening 370,000. Given Germany's declining birth rate, there are too few young German males to allow the Bundeswehr to expand rapidly. (True, an expanded Bundeswehr could solve the serious problem of youth unemployment.) Germany has forsworn atomic, bacteriological, and chemical weapons. Germany simply will not be a major military power for the foreseeable future. Of course, Germany could play constructive roles, as in contributing relief materials to refugees and generously taking in the victims of Balkan and other wars.

Whither Russia? Russia might collapse entirely into the hands of a Red-Brown dictatorship which behaves aggressively and attempts to recover by arms or threats the "near abroad" (the now-independent republics that were once part of the Soviet Union) and the satellites of its former empire in Eastern Europe. This scenario, Cold War II, would call back into life the original purpose of NATO, this time with NATO's borders shifted eastward with the addition of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.

This scenario is far from fanciful. Already, many observers have written off Russia's experiment with a market economy and democracy. Some speak of "Weimar Russia," a shaky republic ready to collapse into the hands of authoritarians. After the collapse of the ruble in 1998, even optimists have remained silent. Foreign loans and investment flow reluctantly, as other countries and corporations have already lost billions, much of it siphoned by private "oligarchs" into Swiss bank accounts. German banks have taken the biggest hits. Why throw good money after bad?

One must wonder how far an economy can collapse before the political system also collapses. Economic data from Russia are terribly unreliable--much of Russia's economic life is off the books, on the black market--but guesstimates suggest that Russia's per capita gross domestic product has shrunk by one-half to three-quarters since the 1980s. Russian economic privatization is better termed "piratization." Billions of dollars are stolen and stashed abroad. Once a middle-income country, Russia is now poorer than many Third World lands. Pensions, child care, and health and dietary standards have plunged as a result of national impoverishment. Many, including the Russian military, have been paid only late and desultorily.

Although both were uncritically celebrated in the West, Yeltsin has gone the way of Gorbachev, from ineffectual to unpopular. Yeltsin, perpetually in declining health, names one short-term prime minister after another, seemingly plucked from nowhere by whim. The current (as of this writing) prime minister, Vladimir Putin, a KGB veteran from the Soviet structure, may be deferential and loyal enough to stay in office but unable to reverse the system's slide to self-destruction. His predecessor, Sergei Stepashin, was the fourth prime minister cashiered by Yeltsin in less than two years.[11] The State Duma, badly fractionated among parties, already has a majority of undemocratic forces, namely, the Communists and Zhirinovsky's misnamed Liberal Democrats. Russia is essentially leaderless, although several strong leaders--in first place, former paratroop general Alexander Lebed--are ready to step forward and "save" Russia.

In former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov (who could be elected president in 2000), labeled by some a "pragmatic nationalist," we may glimpse Russia's emerging foreign policy: a nationalistic hardening and attempts to recover the near abroad, neutralize any Western threat, and regain allies and clients in the Third World.[12] Already at loggerheads with us over NATO expansion, Kosovo, and arms sales to Iraq and Iran, Moscow wants to play major power while begging for alms.

Belarus is already partially reintegrated back into Russia; some argue that it never really left. Ukraine, with several economic advantages, a few years ago dreamed of joining Europe. After catastrophic economic mismanagement, however, Kiev edges closer to Moscow. Although some once feared a Russian-Ukrainian war, Huntington was right: two Slavic/Orthodox kin-countries do not fight each other.[13] Indeed, the odds that the Slavic core countries of both the tsarist and communist empire will again come together are good. This should not bother us. All three have been reluctant to adopt Western models of economy and democracy. (Poland, in sharp contrast, has shown no such reluctance and has made a success of both.) At any rate, there is nothing the West can do to prevent the reintegration of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Some argue this was always the purpose of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), founded in late 1991 with uncertain powers and headquartered in Minsk, Belarus.

The reintegration of Central Asia (the five "-stans") and the Caucasus might bother us a bit more, but there is nothing we can do about that either. These republics are not the Slavic core of the Russian state but more recent conquests. Much of Central Asia (mostly Turkic-speaking) was added at roughly the time of the US Civil War. Many of these peoples have never been happy under rule by Russians, whether tsars or commissars. Even territories legally inside Russia present problems. The recent uprising of Chechens, answered by the leveling of Grozny by Russian artillery, is but the latest manifestation of revolt, which has now spilled over into Dagestan.

Central Asia (to the east of the Caspian Sea) and Azerbaijan (to its west) have one chance to escape Moscow's tutelage: run their oil and gas pipelines so as to escape Russia's control. Little noticed by Americans, the pipeline politics of the Caspian region concern not only trillions of dollars but the independent existence of several countries.[14] Building up the existing northern corridor through Russia means this bounty stays under Moscow's control. (It is also vulnerable to dissident Caucasian groups.) A western corridor, favored by Washington, leads through Turkey but must first traverse the Caucasus, through Azerbaijan (which recently fought Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh) and Georgia. This region is unstable and still under Moscow's sway. A southern corridor, through Iran, is the one that makes the most geographic, economic, and political sense but is precluded by a Tehran-Washington spat that serves no useful purpose. Without a US-Iranian reconciliation, the petroleum and natural gas of the region may flow largely through Russian hands to Europe, giving Moscow great leverage over both Europe and the Caspian region. Pipeline politics to some extent will determine whether Central Asia will be recemented back into the Russian empire.

The region that will not return to Russia without a fight is the Baltic republics of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. It is here that Cold War II could come to a head. Like Poland, the Baltic states look westward. Their people are, in the main, neither Slavic nor Orthodox. They enjoyed brief independence between the world wars until Stalin swallowed them up in 1940. Repressions were harsh, and the Baltics were the first to depart from the Soviet Union. They are the only ex-Soviet republics to never have joined the CIS. Russian pressure on them would be easy: shut off their petroleum and natural gas lines. Their only land connection to a NATO member is the 40-mile-wide Polish-Lithuanian border. Further west, the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad Oblast (the northern half of old East Prussia, seized by Stalin during the war) separates the Baltics from Poland.

The recent accession of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary to NATO was easy. Most Russians didn't like it, but so what? In contrast, Baltic accession to NATO would be an explosive issue, something that would start talk of war. But we may eventually have to make such a choice. A plausible scenario: An authoritarian leader takes over in Moscow dedicated to the recovery of the near abroad. He puts economic and military pressure on the Baltic republics to join the CIS, a first step to restoration of the Russian/Soviet empire. (A reluctant Georgia was earlier strong-armed into the CIS.) The Baltics cry out to the West for help. What do we do? That would be a very tough question.

The good news about a Cold War II is that we will know where we stand and approximately what we must do: reinvigorate NATO with more troops and higher defense spending. The United States would be encouraged to keep several divisions in Europe, now positioned farther east than before. The bad news is that the Europeans, burdened by their welfare states, are extremely reluctant to spend on defense, and the Americans are not at all sure they wish to play global leader.

In sum, the outlines of a hostile, expansionist Russia are already visible. Still, Russia is and for a long time will be terribly weak, both economically and militarily. Could history, as Karl Marx once proposed, repeat itself, "the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce"?

Possible Futures

Each of the three determinative variables discussed in the preceding section has two (highly simplified) alternatives: Europe could successfully unify or not; Germany could become a strong, benevolent, outward-looking country or a weak, selfish, inward-looking one; Russia could become hostile, igniting Cold War II, or it could remain relatively compliant and cooperative. Three variables, each with two alternatives, interact to produce eight possible combinations (23). (Actually, we could include a fourth variable based on the US role--internationalist or isolationist.) Let us glance at each of these eight possible futures:

(1) Unified Europe - Strong Germany - Compliant Russia. This is a shorthand way of saying Europe works, Germany is strong, and a new Cold War does not come about. It is obviously the most favorable scenario of all that could happen. Europe would not need much US presence. Now let's see what happens when we introduce some of the unhappy possibilities.

(2) Unified Europe - Strong Germany - Hostile Russia. Here we see a unified Europe with a strong Germany in the face of a hostile Russia. Though needing a few Americans, this scenario works since Europe's resources and manpower are ample to offset those of Russia.

(3) Disunified Europe - Strong Germany - Compliant Russia. Here power flows to a strong Germany inside a weak Europe but one that faces a non-hostile Russia, so there's nothing here to go terribly wrong.

(4) Disunified Europe - Weak Germany - Compliant Russia. Here we have both a weak Europe and a weak Germany, but the danger is manageable because Russia is not hostile. It would still mean a poorly structured Europe living under a potential cloud to its east.

(5) Unified Europe - Weak Germany - Compliant Russia. This too works, only it means that Brussels rather than Berlin dominates Europe, and Russia does not threaten.

(6) Unified Europe - Weak Germany - Hostile Russia. Here things get nastier but not terrible. Europe works, Germany is merely one member among many, but Russia has turned hostile.

(7) Disunified Europe - Strong Germany - Hostile Russia. This is quite dangerous. A strong Germany attempts to lead an uncertain Europe to stand off a hostile Russia. Germany would have to rearm. Moscow would charge German revanchism and a recrudescence of Nazism. War becomes possible.

(8) Disunified Europe - Weak Germany - Hostile Russia. This is the truly unhappy scenario. Europe does not jell, at least not enough to look after its own security; Germany is incapable of providing leadership; and a hostile Russia vows to settle some scores in the near abroad.

Plainly, the key variable is Russia. A weak, leaderless Europe can get by if Russia is no threat. Much of our attention must focus on Moscow's capabilities and intentions. Looking at the ruins of their economy, the Russian political class hates capitalism, democracy, and us. Some think we sent academic economists to finish them off with bad advice. At the theoretical level the advice may have been sound--it worked in Poland--but it failed to take into account the peculiar cultural, legal, and criminal characteristics of Russia. The question is whether Russia will reacquire its warmaking potential while still in this sour mood. Or will the hostility fade as the Russian economy improves?

Unfortunately, we had better give due consideration to the worst case. No one wishes to restart the Cold War, but a strengthening, hostile Russia facing a weak, disunited Europe would set up the same power imbalance as prevailed in the late 1940s, an imbalance that can be redressed only by major US participation in European security. At this point, the fourth variable becomes crucial: Would the United States again be willing to station considerable forces in Europe? In the present national political climate, such a likelihood appears doubtful, but historically the American nation has always responded to a leadership that sounds the tocsin when the threat demands it.


1. The pioneering work in international systems is Morton A. Kaplan, System and Process in International Politics (New York: Wiley, 1957).

2. The standard here is Edward V. Gullick, Europe's Classical Balance of Power (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1955).

3. George F. Kennan, The Fateful Alliance: France, Russia, and the Coming of the First World War (New York: Pantheon, 1984).

4. Edward Hallett Carr, The Twenty Years' Crisis, 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations (New York: HarperCollins, 1964).

5. To get a feel of how hard it was to overcome US interwar isolationism, see the angry warning of two journalists, Joseph Alsop and Robert Kintner, in American White Paper (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1940).

6. The Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan, and Kennan's "containment" article appeared nearly simultaneously in the spring of 1947. See Joseph M. Jones, The Fifteen Weeks (New York: Viking, 1955). Some believe Kennan authored them all.

7. By 1961 a Sino-Soviet rift was apparent to scholars, but the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, embroiled in Vietnam, were unable to act on it. See Donald S. Zagoria, The Sino-Soviet Conflict, 1956-1961 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1962). Grasping the opportunity took almost a decade, until Nixon took office in 1969.

8. For an excellent discussion, see Michael E. Brown, European Security: The Defining Debates (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999).

9. Well explicated by Steven L. Burg and Paul S. Shoup in The War in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Ethnic Conflict and International Intervention (Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1999). In the 1960s Shoup was perhaps the first scholar to document the fissile nature of Yugoslavia.

10. See James Burk, "Public Support for Peacekeeping in Lebanon and Somalia: Assessing the Casualties Hypothesis," Political Science Quarterly, 114 (Spring 1999), 53-78.

11. Daniel Williams, "Yeltsin Sacks Another Premier," The Washington Post, 10 August 1999, pp. A1, A16.

12. The term "pragmatic nationalist" was used to describe then-Foreign Minister Primakov by Robert H. Donaldson and Joseph L. Nogee in The Foreign Policy of Russia: Changing Systems, Enduring Interests (Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1998).

13. Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Touchstone, 1997), p. 167.

14. For a good review of the region's problems, see "A Caspian Gamble: A Survey of Central Asia," The Economist, 7 February 1998, especially pp. 7-12.

Dr. Michael G. Roskin is a professor of political science at Lycoming College (Pa.) and was a visiting professor of foreign policy in the Department of National Security and Strategy at the US Army War College from 1991 to 1994. He took his A.B. from the University of California (Berkeley), M.A. from the University of California (Los Angeles), and Ph.D. from American University. A former USIA Foreign Service officer, with postings in Munich and Bern, and a former AP world desk editor, Professor Roskin is the author of five books on international relations and comparative politics.

Reviewed 18 November 1999. Please send comments or corrections to