End of the Cold War Is Also Over, The

The end of the Cold War has fundamentally altered the international system, as well as the major threats to global peace and security. The ideologically driven competition between the superpowers which was the defining feature of the Cold War, with its attendant dangers of nuclear confrontation, has been replaced with a whole array of new challenges. Among the most critical is the challenge of dealing with the consequences of the collapse of the USSR.

The emergence of fifteen independent states with uncertain identities, contested boundaries, weak institutions, and enormous political and economic problems carries with it considerable potential for future instability. Although the level of both inter-state and interethnic conflict in this vast region has thus far remained relatively low, and its scope contained, the tragic conflicts in Tajikistan, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Chechnya, among others, are a reminder, if any is needed, that the dangers of serious escalation are very real. Moreover, the political, economic, and security environment of the entire region is critically dependent on the future evolution of Russia itself.

The rapid and unexpected demise of the Soviet system gave rise to overly optimistic expectations of Russia's rapid transition to a democratic polity, market economy, and constructive partnership with its new neighbors and with the West. It is now abundantly clear that the formulation of effective policies for dealing with this region requires a serious reassessment of these initial premises as well as the elaboration of new institutional arrangements, norms, incentives, and constraints capable of contributing to conflict prevention as well as to the more effective management of those conflicts which have already erupted in the region.

This essay by Ambassdor Maresca, presented at the Center for International Security and Arms Control in January 1995, and the varied responses it invited, are intended to stimulate further discussion of these central issues by the larger academic and policy community.