The Future of the Soviet Union
What is the Western Interest?
Following the Persian Gulf crisis, the West's attention has shifted to the ongoing crises in the Soviet Union. Uncertainty about the shape and character of the post-Cold War international system is dominated by uncertainty about the future of the Soviet Union — its political structure, economic system, territorial configuration, and ethno-national composition. Radically different outcomes could have vastly different consequences for the West. This paper explores the implications of some of the most widely discussed Soviet futures and examines the current Western debate on appropriate economic assistance policies for helping to shape a favorable Soviet outcome. Two major dichotomous possibilities dominate the Western debate: preservation of the Soviet Union essentially within its present borders and with a strong center representing it to the outside world; or chaotic disintegration of the Soviet state into multiple independent republics or clusters of republics. Virtually all Western governments have identified Western interests with preservation of the union, believing its breakup would have disastrously destabilizing consequences for the Soviet Union that would also pose grave threats to Western interests.