The Shape of Things to Come
For more than forty years, the affairs of the world have been greatly troubled but also structured by the Soviet-Western antagonism. It was their fear of Soviet military strength that eventually induced Americans, Europeans, Japanese, and Chinese to join in a grand coalition with many lesser partners from Morocco to Korea; and it was their striving for the best-paying alignment between Moscow and Washington that shaped the foreign policies of the countries that called themselves nonaligned.
With the Soviet-Western antagonism now rapidly waning, the web of intersecting relations that we call “world politics” is therefore in a fluid state for the first time in two generations. New patterns have yet to emerge, but the old are already in dissolution: the grand coalition of Americans, Europeans, Japanese, and Chinese is no longer powerfully sustained against all divisive tendencies by a unifying threat; the Soviet Union has lost its European satellites and is seemingly abandoning its non-European clients (Angola, Cuba, Ethiopia, Laos, Vietnam—though not adjacent Afghanistan and Mongolia); and the tension between Washington and Moscow is now much too weak to offer any reward to those who would align themselves between the two for their own advantage.
About the Author
Edward N. Luttwak is senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.