The Western Alliance After the Cold War

September 14, 1990

Report Outline
Special Focus


Will the United States continue to be the major power in Europe? Maybe not. The end of the Cold War has lessened Europe's need for American military protection; the unification of Germany is creating Europe's own superstate; and a relatively rosy independent economic future seems assured for the European Community. But the U.S. response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, and the European allies' participation in it, indicate that U.S. leadership is still strong—although it is no longer as clear-cut as it once was.

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It's difficult to say whether Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was surprised by the U.S. reaction to his Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait. But once President Bush decided to send naval forces to the Persian Gulf and U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia, Saddam may very well have expected the Soviet Union, a longtime ally and supplier of military aid, to denounce “American aggression.” And Saddam also may have assumed that America's West European allies would sit out the crisis. Given their dependence on Middle Eastern oil, the Europeans might have been expected to pay lip service to countering Iraqi aggression, but little more.

Times have changed, however, and Saddam's biggest miscalculation in his plan to annex Kuwait may have been to ignore the shift in world alliances that has occurred during the past year. The Soviet Union, instead of jumping to Saddam's defense, denounced the invasion and joined its fellow members of the United Nations Security Council in supporting economic sanctions against Iraq. It was the first time the U.N. body had agreed to such punitive action since 1977, when it voted for a ban on arms sales to South Africa. The Security Council broke precedent again Aug. 25, when it authorized the naval forces of the United States and other countries to enforce the trade sanctions against Iraq. And Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev reiterated his country's support of U.N. action against Iraq in a joint communiqué after his Sept. 9 meeting with President Bush in Helsinki.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
U.S.-Soviet Relations
Sep. 14, 1990  The Western Alliance After the Cold War
Feb. 10, 1989  Soviet Trade: In America's Best Interest?
Nov. 01, 1985  U.S.-Soviet Summitry
Jul. 09, 1982  Controlling Scientific Information
May 25, 1973  Trends in U.S.-Soviet Relations
Apr. 05, 1972  Russia's Diplomatic Offensive
Feb. 09, 1972  Trading with Communist Nations
Mar. 10, 1971  Indian Ocean Policy
Apr. 21, 1965  Negotiations with Communists
Nov. 13, 1963  Scientific Cooperation with the Soviet Union
Oct. 03, 1963  Trade with the Communists
Sep. 11, 1963  Non-Aggression Pacts and Surprise Attack
Oct. 11, 1961  East-West Negotiations
Mar. 29, 1961  Russia and United Nations
Aug. 10, 1960  Challenged Monroe Doctrine
Sep. 02, 1959  American-Soviet Trade
Jul. 03, 1959  Cultural Exchanges with Soviet Russia
Aug. 11, 1958  Conference Diplomacy
Jul. 23, 1958  Limited War
May 14, 1958  Cold War Propaganda
Feb. 26, 1958  Military Disengagement
Feb. 20, 1957  Indirect Aggression
Jul. 25, 1956  Trading with Communists
Jan. 11, 1956  Economic Cold War
Nov. 26, 1954  Peaceful Coexistence
Dec. 01, 1953  Tests of Allied Unity
Sep. 18, 1953  Negotiating with the Reds
Jun. 17, 1953  East-West Trade
Apr. 12, 1951  Non-Military Weapons in Cold-War Offensive
Apr. 20, 1949  Mediterranean Pact and Near East Security
Apr. 28, 1948  Trade with Russia
Sep. 11, 1946  Loyalty in Government
Jul. 31, 1946  Arctic Defenses
Apr. 01, 1943  American and British Relations with Russia
Feb. 24, 1933  Soviet-American Political and Trade Relations
Nov. 03, 1931  Russian-American Relations
Feb. 14, 1924  Russian Trade with the United States
Alliances and Security Agreements
Regional Political Affairs: Europe
U.S. at War: Cold War