HEGEMONY, THE SOVIET UNION AND THE GULF WAR
Jeffrey Robert Rosenberg
B.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 1993
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
1997 by Jeffrey Robert Rosenberg
All rights reserved.
This thesis for the Master of Arts
Jeffrey Robert Rosenberg
has been approved
U Af/iJ 1^31-
Rosenberg, Jeffrey Robert (M.A., Political Science)
Hegemony, the Soviet Union and the Gulf War
Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Lucy Ware
The 1991 Gulf War against Iraq was possible because its alliance with the
Soviet Union had effectively ended with the end of the Cold War. Although the Soviet
Union had never been able to exercise hegemony in the Persian Gulf region, it had
exerted considerable influence over the area. As the Soviet Union's empire collapsed,,
it became unable to control its former client state and it relied on coalition forces led by
the United States acting on the authority of an international institution, the United
Nations, to restore order to the region. The Soviet Union also relied on the United
Nations to restrain its former adversary to prevent American hegemony in the Gulf
region. These actions validate the neorealist theory of international politics by
demonstrating how a state uses institutions to mitigate its relative losses as its power ,
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I recommend
This thesis is dedicated to my mother, Sandra Louise Rosenberg, who has always
given me the freedom to explore and the discipline to complete my endeavors, for
making countless sacrifices while encouraging me to take full advantage of eveiy
opportunity granted to me in life. Thanks, Mom!
It is in memory of my good friends Kamran Rezai and Roshanak Sadr, who fell victim
to the end of an empire on March 17,1994, over Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan, and
of a fellow Marine ground-pounder, Corporal Brian Lane, who gave his life during the
liberation of Kuwait in Februaiy 1991.
I owe the following families and individuals enormous debts of gratitude for
befriending me, taking me into their homes and giving me a love of all things Russian:
Baskakov, Natasha Bogatova, Kseniya Bondarchuk, Julia Borodina, Galina
Brezhneva, Tanya Burchakova, Zhenya Cherepanova, Datsunov, Nadia Demidova,
Dyumin, Libya Gevorkyan, Olya Gorbacheva, Gordeyev, Grigoryev, Ulyana
Khvorostyanova, Olga Kim, Andrei Kochetkov, Kokhanovski, Vladimir Konenkin,
Korkonosov, Yelena Krayushkina, Kryetov, Kuznetsov, Lenkov, Marina Marinova,
Julia Markova, Millionshchikov, Galina Mislivskaya, Irina Mukhina, Tanya
Ponomarenko, Rozanov, Maria Sachko, Seifulla, Anya Shcherbakova, Svetlana
Shishova, Katya Shitova, Tanya Tolkova, Yakovlev, Svetlana Yartseva, Alla
Yefimenko, Zhdanov and Zuyev.
I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the faculty and staff of Moscow University,
particularly my nachalnitsa. colleague, mentor and friend, Natalya Dmitriyevna
Starkova, who showed me that doing one's best is never good enough. Dr. Svetlana
Ter-Minasova has been a great help more times than I dare to count.
My anthropological studies of homo sovieticus would have certainly faltered at many
difficult times if not for my friends and fellow Slavophiles: Steve Alpers, Po Suan
Chong, Jill and Peter Errington, Yasue Funaoka, Liisa Halttu, Lori and Mike
Hendrickson, Heidi Harriet Hollinger, Eugene and Judy Kozlowski, Mika Orrela, Ine
Charlott Paulsen, Maaret Rahikainen, Niina Silen, Kelli Smith, Barbara van den
Tempel, Eija Tervonen, Lynn and Keith Williams, and everyone at the Moscow Hash
I have high regard and a great deal of respect for the UCD Political Science Department,
which taught me more than I ever planned to leam. Thanks for making me work!
Thanks to my nemesis and sempai, John Germann, who has always forced me, a lowly
kohai. to examine my ideas and beliefs more closely. I respect his tenacity in
discussion and argumentation, despite the fact that he is always wrong. I also owe a
debt of gratitude to Marla Kiley for always taking the time to explain the world
according to herself, whether I want to hear it or not. Thanks, too, go to my
meticulous copy editor, Marsi Buckmelter, whose chocolate cream-cheese brownies
have fueled many an adventure, and to Sean Mueller, without whom this long-distance
project would never have been completed.
Finally, thanks to the best friends anyone could ever ask for. the members of Team
Virus and its sympathizers worldwide. The time of purification is at hand.
1. INTRODUCTION ........................................... 1
2. THEORIES OF HEGEMONY....................................3
Theoretical Overview ..............................4
Realists ......................................... 8
Neorealists ...................................... 9
Theories of Alliance and Deterrence.................... 10
Probability of Future Conflict ..........................12
3. THE IRAN-IRAQ WAR ....................................... 14
The End of Superpower Tensions? ........................ 14
Arms to Iraq............................................ 18
4. FACTORS PRECLUDING SOVIET INTERVENTION IN THE
GULF WAR ................................................ 21
End of the Cold War 21
Soviet Agriculture and American Grain ...................23
Perestroika and the Soviet Economy 24
Afghanistan ............................................ 25
Summary ................................................ 28
5. THE GULF WAR ............................................ 30
Soviet Diplomatic Efforts During the Gulf Crisis 30
Soviet Military Reaction to the Gulf War .........36
6. CONCLUSIONS ....................................... 43
Recommendations for Further Research .............48
REFERENCES .................................................... 49
The 1991 Gulf War against Iraq by an American-led coalition was a definitive
event marking the true end of the Cold War. Only a few years earlier, a coalition
spearheaded by the forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) against a
client state of the Soviet Union that was aimed and trained by the Warsaw Pact was
unthinkable. To array such a coalition against a close allyalbeit an aggressor in
violation of international lawof a superpower state and to back ultimatums with
threats of force would have likely resulted in a tense global confrontation between the
United States and Soviet Union, or worse.
It is apparent that the 1990-1991 Gulf crisis and subsequent Gulf War occurred
during and as a result of an odd and unlikely set of circumstances in the world order.
This study will note many of those causes but focus on the Soviet Union and its role in
the conflict in an attempt to explain how an actor behaves as its hegemony erodes.
Using the Soviet-Iraqi alliance as an example of a patron-client relationship that came to
a rather sudden and violent end when the bipolar arrangement of the Cold War ended,
one may also be able to examine the many causes that end alliances.
Initially, I intended to demonstrate that the relative weakness of the Soviet
Union in 1990 and 1991 was a necessary precondition for the success of allied goals in
the Gulf War. I had expected to show that the Soviets' declining empire was most
apparent in the Persian Gulf region and that the absence of a great power left the region
open to a U.S. presence. In the course of research, I determined that the Soviet
Union's hegemony over the region was fleeting, at best, and that the Soviets had little
more success than the United States in establishing a permanent presence in the area
through solid alliances. Although I believe I have demonstrated the weakness of the
Soviet Union and its inability to prevent allied action against Iraq, I have not been able
to determine if a similar response could have been expected ten or twenty years earlier.
One would assume that the Soviets under Brezhnev would never have tolerated a
massing of NATO forces so close to their borders, but this will likely remain a topic of
speculation for decades or centuries to come.
Soviets actions, in this particular example of international conflict, support a
tenet of neorealism with their reliance on an international institution, the United Nations
(UN), in attempts to avert war. When war became inevitable, the Soviet Union again
relied on the UN to rein in the United States and the coalition forces against Iraq. The
use of the United Nations by a power in decline against the sole remaining superpower
is seen by neorealists as practical capitulation at the end of decades of superpower
competition. Whether the United Nations was an effective instrument in promoting
Soviet desiresand I will argue it was notis of little consequence. The most
important factor is that the Soviets tried to use it rather than the sabre-rattling threats
used against the United States in the previous forty years.
In the first chapter, this study will detail the relevant theories of hegemony,
alliances and deterrence to provide a framework for analyzing the roles of the Soviet
Union and Iraq in the world order. There are three contending theoretical camps in the
study of hegemony. The realists advocate a view of the world in which stability is the
exception and occurs only when a powerful state assumes the role of leadership. The
neorealists are adherents of the same theory but note the dependence on international
institutions by weaker states. Institutionalists champion the same international
institutions in resolving international conflict.
The second chapter is a historical look at Soviet involvement in the Iran-Iraq
War. (Much literature written before the 1991 war against Iraq referred to the Iran-Iraq
War as the Gulf War. In this study, for the purposes of clarity, the 1991 war is
referred to as the Gulf War.) Iraq's status as a Soviet client is also shown in details of
arms exports to Iraq, notably from the Warsaw Pact. Both sections will underscore
Iraq's aspirations to become a regional hegemon.
Chapter three covers some of the major factors precluding Soviet intervention in
the Gulf War and why the Soviets decided to side with the American-led coalition
against Iraq. These factorsthe end of the Cold War, the failure of collectivized Soviet
agriculture and increasing dependence on American grain, the crippled Soviet economy,
Soviet troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and global concerns about the proliferation
of weapons of mass destructionshow a state forced to abandon ideology in favor of
survival through cooperation, even with former adversaries.
The Gulf War is chronicled in the fourth chapter, with an emphasis on the
Soviet view of the war, diplomatically and militarily. While the Soviets chose not to
become militarily involved in the conflict on either side, the allied actions were closely
monitored by the Soviet defense establishment out of fear and interest. On the
diplomatic front, the Soviets made extreme efforts to avoid war in the Gulf region. For
the first time since the end of World War II, the United States and Soviet Union were
openly working together rather than against each other, although their respective
motivations ran much deeper than stopping aggression by a lesser power.
This study does not intend to draw broad conclusions about the arrangement of
world power. It intends to illustrate shifting balances of power and alignment using a
very specific case in conditions that are unlikely to reoccur in the future. It is hoped
that this study will further understanding of how a state acts as its relative power
declines, and why alliances end. Most studies of alliances focus on how and why they
are built. There appears to be a significant lack of studies on how and why they cease
There is a saying that history is falsified as soon as it happens. Keeping that in
mind, it is impossible to record and analyze the nearly infinite number of factors that
lead to events. Conversely, this study attempts to avoid looking at the Gulf War in a
vacuum, as some leaders and policymakers have been prone to do. Observing such an
important event through a microscope or reducing its causes to a single factor would
result in a loss of correct perspective and generate conclusions that do not aid a serious
study of international affairs.
THEORIES OF HEGEMONY
The arrangement of power in the Persian Gulf, particularly between
superpowers, must be determined before an analysis of the Gulf War can begin. A
review of the contending theories of hegemony and alliances will facilitate this. Studies
of hegemony are crucial because they will show whether a great power existed in the
Gulf region at the time of the Gulf conflict and how the power, or lack of one, shaped
the conflict. A theoretical background with alliances will help in the analysis of the
Soviet-Iraqi relationship before and during the Gulf War.
The review of the literature in this chapter is focused primarily on the
contending theories of hegemony. The three camps to be discussed are the realists,
neorealists and institutionalists. These theories will provide a basis for assessing
whether the Soviet Union ever exerted hegemony over the Persian Gulf region. The
theories will also attempt to explain how a hegemon acts as its power erodes.
Realists believe that the existence of a hegemon in international relations
provides stability for the world political economy as a deterrent against rising powers
with hegemonic aspirations and as a coercive agent compelling other states to comply
with the current order. States wishing to achieve hegemony must topple existing
hegemons, which is a task usually too daunting, leaving the aspiring state a second-rate
power at best.
Neorealists concur with the realists' hegemonic stability theory but think that
states also join organizations in order to limit the losses they would otherwise incur
from nonalignmentan act of self-interest. What distinguishes neorealists from
realists is their attention to institutions and how they are used by relatively weak states
in a Hobbesian world to limit losses.
Institutionalists propose that international governmental organizations can serve
as a replacement regimea stabilizeras the end of hegemony draws near. They
argue that it is self-interest that guides states to enter these arrangements, which are to
the benefit of all.
There is a fourth camp in the study of international politicsthe idealists. They
also see the benefit of international cooperation in the absence of a hegemon.
However, they believe that states do not cooperate for reasons of self-interest. Rather,
cooperation is a self-sacrificial act by states that recognize that a limited loss of power to
an organization serves all members of the organization best. Idealists have had little to
say regarding the erosion of hegemony and will not factor heavily in this study.
A time series analysis of economic factors, hegemony and the probability of
conflict ends the discussion of hegemony with considerations for the future. The
second part of the review is a brief view of theories of alliance and deterrence.
The three major contending camps on theories of hegemony do not differ
greatly. All acknowledge the role of power in international politics and, to varying
degrees, all accept that conflicts arise. The responses they predict and prescribe vary,
but not widely. The differences tend to revolve around whether the existence of a
hegemon stablizes or destablizes regions or the world as a whole and what the role of
institutions in mitigating conflict can and should be.
Ham (1992,30) defines a hegemon as:
the actor (generally one state) that is significantly more powerful than
other states (be it politically, economically, or militarilybut most often
preponderant in all three sectors), and that is able to enforce international 'law
and order,' by providing the necessary rules of the game, and by being able and
willing to manage international conflicts by economic or military statecraft.
In After Hegemony, Keohane (1984) argues that self-interest among states
leads them to cooperate on the basis of shared interests. Keohane disagrees with
realists, who believe that cooperation is based on hegemony, and also with idealists,
who believe that cooperation is the result of self-sacrifice by states.
The danger of the realist notion of hegemonic cooperation, according to
Keohane, is that in a world of declining American hegemony, cooperation will decrease
and conflict will increase in the world political economy. If the existence of a hegemon
is the main method of producing international cooperation, then cooperation
disintegrates as the superpowers decline. Therefore, Keohane argues that hegemony
cannot be the sole basis for cooperation. Keohane also rejects the idealist notion that
collective agreements will provide global stability.
Nonetheless, Keohane (p. 243) states, "If discord is to be limited, and severe
conflict avoided, governments' policies must be adjusted to one another. That is,
cooperation is necessary." However, "[njonhegemonic cooperation is difficult, since it
must take place among independent states that are motivated more by their own
conceptions of self-interest than by a devotion to the common good" (p. 244). J. V.
Nye (1991,210) restates Keohane's proposition as essentially a "prisoner's dilemma"
in which "cooperation ... is collectively desirable but not individually rational."
Keohane and Martin (1995) believe that stability is derived from many layers of
international interaction, as well as domestic factors present within the actors.
Acknowledging the inherent problem of maintaining a hierarchical enforcement
mechanism for institutions, Keohane and Martin point to the realist claim that the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would decline in the post-Cold War period. In
the absence of a Soviet threat, they note that NATO has not abandoned its pledge to
defend the European continent, and that an attack on one is still considered an attack on
all. On the contrary, NATO has found a new role in regional conflicts and is far from
the realist forecast of disintegration. According to Keohane and Martin, a thriving
NATO is a clear example of the durable nature of institutions in providing international
stability. They believe that institutions such as the NATO alliance can deter conflict and
that a hegemon in decline that does not seek security in institutions may cause
instability. As will be illustrated later, the Soviets' use of the UN during the Gulf crisis
is viewed by institutionalists as a contribution to stability and order, not as a sign of
weakness, as neorealists will argue.
In 1991, Keohane repeats his assertion that economic factors determine
hegemony. He notes that the Soviet Union used 20 to 25 percent of its gross domestic
product to maintain its empire, while the United States was spending approximately 8
percent (p. 437). The difference in maintenance cost existed because the Soviet empire
was held together by coercion, while the allies of the United States freely sought the
Keohane and Martin's (1995) institutionalist position is supported by
Keohane's (1984) earlier research in which he proposed the "functional theory of
international regimes"a regime being the power structure, unilateral or shared, that is
the basis for order. He claims that institutions may replace the falling regime of a
hegemon with a regime of international cooperation because such alliances are a rational
response to international discord in the absence of a regime. Cooperation is also natural
because governments often share common interests, as the United States and Soviet
Union did during the Gulf crisis, and arrive at a state of empathy with each other,
through which they develop regime-building institutions. Keohane (1990,731)
reiterates this theory when he described "multilateralism" as "the practice of co-
ordinating national policies in groups of three or more states, through ad hoc
arrangements or by means of institutions." This innovation is a response to a declining
hegemon and the resultant ambiguities of the end of polarity. Furthermore, Keohane
(1984) asserts that institutionalism is not necessarily mutually exclusive of realist theory
and that new regimes serve the same role as hegemons once did.
Nye (1996), also an institutionalist, agrees with Keohane and Martin (1995)
that the United States, whether a hegemon or not, cannot successfully pursue all of its
interests alone. For that reason, Nye (p. 33) claims that the unipolarity of a remaining
superpower has not "replaced the bipolar balance of the Cold War." Here, Nye also
reveals his belief in bipolar stability theory, while making concessions to realists and
their belief in the role of a hegemon as stabilizer. He continues in his agreement with
Some Liberals argue that economic power has replaced military power as the
central medium of international politics, but this is greatly overstated. Realists
rightly argue that economic instruments still cannot compare with military forces
in their coercive and deterrent effects (p. 33).
Nye sees the real threat to international stability in the increase of states like Iraq
seeking weapons of mass destruction, which would then be used to gain regional
hegemony (p. 35). Contrary to the belief that, in the future, proliferation will lead to
renewed superpower tensions, Nye believes the aspiring regional hegemon is likely to
1 The decline of American hegemony followed that of the Soviet Union by several years, according to
Keohane, but occurred nonetheless because of the heavy debt the U.S. incurred pursuing the realist
policy of heavy armament during the 1980s.
become a common enemy of greater powers, which seek to keep the status quo, rather
than share power. Nye uses Iraq's invasion of Kuwait as an example of an aspiring
regional hegemon threatening the world's oil supply, which quickly made Iraq an
enemy of many and an ally of few.
Nye (1996,40) also states that the United States is using international
institutions to create the structural base for dealing with regional and superpower
conflict. This conforms with Keohane's belief that the United States' role as a
superpower is declining. It also lends support to the neorealist assertion that, if
Keohane is correct, the United States is following the same path the Soviets used
during the Gulf crisis to mitigate their relative losses. The difference between the
institutionalists and neorealists in this matter is what they claim is the motivation for
turning toward institutions. Institutionalists believe that states turn toward institutions
to preserve order. Neorealists believe that states do so to preserve as much power as
Keohane (1984,40) also claims that the United States and Soviet Union could
have coexisted without mutually threatening each other's hegemonic position, as long
as each retained the power to prevent "incursions by others who would deny it access
to major areas of its economic activities." The regime theory proposed by Keohane is
an alternative to realists and their hegemonic stability theory. Both theories agree with
the premise that domestic affairs have no influence, except constraint, on the
international affairs of a state. Both theories likewise recommend foreign policy be
isolated from domestic policy and the constraining influences of domestic aspirations.
In a review of After Hegemony, Tetreault (1987,288-289) bridges the realist
(Strange) and institutionalist (Keohane) theories by noting that the first Reagan
administration sought hegemony through a hard realist policy of increased defense
spending, then shifted toward institutionalism by "relying more on the regimes he had
disdained a short time before."
Miller (1992), also an institutionalist, believes that a balance of power obstructs
the rise of destabilizing hegemons, preserves the autonomy of small states, reinforces
the stability of the status quo, and promotes peace. Contrary to the hegemonic stability
theory offered by Nye (1992) and Kugler and Organski (1989), Miller states that
hegemony is "undesirable in that a marked imbalance of forces creates temptation for
aggression against weaker states." Equilibrium is, therefore, a condition in which
powers do not believe they have to keep up with each other. Without equilibrium, arms
races ensue and danger of conflict increases. While Miller notes that the existence of a
hegemon produces a situation in which it is easier for a powerful state to attack a
weaker state, he fails to address the other side of the relationship, in which a powerful
state deters acts of aggression among weaker states, as the Soviets tried to do in many
attempts to persuade Iraq to withdraw its forces from Kuwait.
Miller uses the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait as an example of the failure of
hegemonic stability theoxy (pp. 16-17):
Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait was a major demonstration of
the destabilizing effects of the post-bipolar era. This invasion, in turn, could be
accounted for by Hussein's (mis) perception of the emergence of a "power
vacuum" in the Persian Gulf as a result of the apparent disengagement of the
superpowers from the Third World. Because of the Soviet withdrawal from
Eastern Europe and some parts of the Third World, Moscow was seen as a
power in decline by Hussein, and then less of a constraint on his actions.
In the past, Miller notes, the Soviets tended to oppose "naked" cross-border aggression
by its clients. Furthermore, Saddam Hussein was not deterred by the United States
because he thought that the lack of Soviet backing of Iraqi actions would promote the
appearance of an insignificant conflict between two lesser states that wouldn't raise
Miller's assertion that a unipolar force results in more conflict is supported by
the next round of violence after the Iraqi invasionOperation Desert Storm. The
absence of another world power to constrain American actions and global power
projections resulted in a continuation of the conflict and removal of Iraqi forces from
Because of Soviet decline and disengagement, the U.S. was less
constrained by its long-time adversary, and thus could afford to deploy a
massive force not far from Soviet frontiers, including by withdrawing some
forces from the European front; these moves were much less conceivable during
the Cold War (Miller, 18).
Nye (1992) condenses the arguments surrounding hegemony. He assesses the
world situation following the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and lists
several possibilities for the arrangement of power in the future. A return to bipolarity is
impossible because of the inherent faults in the irreparable Soviet economy.
Multipolarity is unlikely because there is little balance between the great powers of
China, Europe, Japan, Russia and the United States. A new order based on the Asian,
European and American economic blocs discounts military factors. Unipolar
hegemony is impossible because the United States holds the most military might, but
shares too much economic strength with the other blocs. Nye concludes in apparent
agreement with Keohane that the so-called "New World Order" consists of "multiple
structures." Similar to a "layer cake," Nye (p. 88) describes the distribution of post-
Cold War power as:
The top military layer is largely unipolar, for there is no other military
power comparable to the United States. The economic middle layer is tripolar
and has been for two decades. The bottom layer of transnational
interdependence shows a diffusion of power.
Institutionalists have offered an alternative to international cooperation
compelled by the coercive superpower or superpowers. Their solution to anarchy and
conflict is not even multipolar. Their solution is to base cooperation on true shared
interests. Once lesser states lose the hegemon that once guided their actions, they will
find these interests and act together to benefit each other. It is also the basis of dealing
with a trouble-making rogue state, such as Iraq.
Realists (Strange, 1987; Kugler and Organski, 1989) believe that international
cooperation is based on hegemony. This notion that powerful states compel other
states to act in concert with the hegemon and, therefore, provide order in what would
otherwise be international anarchy is called hegemonic stability theory or power
preponderance theory (Ham, p. 30).
According to Webb and Krasner (1989), there are two parts of the hegemonic
stability theory. The first part is that the provision of stability by a hegemon is a
collective good, from which many states benefit regardless of their contribution. The
second part is that a hegemon can open and maintain a socio-economic system without
risks to its security. Furthermore, the hegemon can use its might to compel others to
accept the system (p. 184). Again, many derive the benefit of the action of one.
There is a continuing disagreement over whether the hegemony of the United
States is in declinea discussion mostly irrelevant for this study of the fall of the
Soviet Union, except for the some of the propositions regarding the world balance of
power. Countering Keohane's "declining [U.S.] hegemony thesis" in this discussion,
Strange makes five propositions (1987,553-554):
1. The change in relations among states is for economic, not political, reasons.
2. "[S]tructural power decides outcomes (both positive and negative) much more
than relational power does, and the United States structural power has, on
3. The United States pursues a dual policy of liberalism in economic affairs and
realism in political and military affairs.
4. Destructive uses of hegemonic power is a continuing source of global instability
and a cause of crisis.
5. The United States, not international institutions, is the key to international
Strange argues that cooperation is transitory. States take what they can get from the
relationship, such as the benefits of economic liberalism/capitalism, but become
unreliable in political and security matters. Cooperation with these states will benefit
the superpower economically, but the superpower must expect to stand mostly alone in
dealing with rogue actors. Other states expect the superpower to act in this manner and
become "free-riders," enjoying security benefits from an incomplete relationship of
Kugler and Organski (1989) repeat the realist criticism of multipolar stability
theory and state that equilibrium among states leads to conflict because of strategic
parity and the absence of a hegemon, either ally or opponent, to deter acts of
aggression. The hegemon either presents a threat of retaliation for aggression against a
smaller ally or, in the case of alliance with a potential aggressor, prohibits action
through the threat of withdrawal of support, which would result in the inability of the
aggressor to sustain its actions, leading to protracted and undesirable conflict, or
outright defeat. The second case is evident in the Gulf War, when the Soviets
withdrew their long-standing support for Iraqi aggression in the region and failed to
honor a mutual defense pact. The result was as Kugler and Organski would have
predicted: the Iraqis were unable to sustain their actions and were swiftly defeated.
It is here that the realists and insitutionalists agree (Kugler and Organski, J. S.
Nye; subsequent citations of "Nye" are for J. S. Nye) and argue that the world is now a
far safer place, without the competition and brinkmanship of the Cold War. While
some conflicts have risen because of the fall of the Soviet superpower, many more
conflicts, which threaten to engage rival superpowers with negative consequences
beyond the original regional conflict, have been defused (Nye, 19%, 31). Nye also
asserts that regional conflicts are more likely after the end of the bipolar Cold War
situation, yet the implications of those conflicts will be less than the "proxy wars" had
during the Cold War. Agreeing with Nye, Lieber (1995,10) states that instability will
increase because "the United States and Russia no longer have the same degree of
interest in preventing the escalation of regional struggles which previously might have
dragged them into open confrontation."
Neorealism, according to Gilpin (1986,301), is also called modem realism,
new realism and structural realism.
What distinguishes neorealists from the realists is that neorealists not only see
international order enforced by the existence of a hegemon but also argue that states in
positions of declining hegemony will rely on institutions to minimize their losses as
their power wanes. This proposition is based in the realist notion that the natural
condition for international politics is anarchy and, as Waltz states (1954,160), "In
anarchy there is no automatic harmony." Because of this, states must be willing to use
force to counter force or pay the cost of weakness (p. 160).
Waltz (1979), like Strange, disagrees with the institutional promise Keohane
gives. According to Waltz's neorealist view, the weakness of international institutions
comes from their being a last resort for states trying to minimize their relative losses.
Balances of power are coincidental, according to Waltz (p. 117), and are the result of
actions of self-interest by states.
Waltz's neorealist assertions regarding international institutions are largely
derived from the realist theories of international politics. Waltz (p. 117) defines
The ruler's, and later the state's, interest provides the spring of action; the
necessities of policy arise from the unregulated competition of states; calculation
based on these necessities can discover the policies that will best serve a state's
interests; success is the ultimate test of policy, and success is defined as
preserving and strengthening the state.
A state's main interest in the anarchic international order is security, according
to Waltz. Only after security is established can a state turn inward and seek other gods.
In an essay disputing a critic of neorealism, Gilpin (302-303) explains neorealism as a
legitimate offshoot of realist theory, although the former is more concerned with
rational choices leading to action in the international arena. He scolds critics for
oversimplifying those choices as typically cold and violent, and adds a moral dimension
to the theory by noting that realism was originally a movement to constrain the actions
of absolute rulers so that governments would act in ways beneficial to the whole, not
just a ruling elite. He names realist theorist Hans Morgenthau as one of the first
academicians to condemn the Vietnam War.
While Miller (p. 17) disagrees with the realists and neorealists on American
hegemony existing as a deterrent against regional conflict, he agrees with Waltz, stating
that the anti-Iraqi action "had a strong appearance of collective security action" but "was
really only hegemonic leadership which made it all possible."
Gilpin admits that realism is based on negative assumptions regarding the
progress of human morality: "Anarchy is the rule; order, justice, and morality are the
exceptions," and is the first of three assumptions made by realists. The second
assumption is that meaningful human interaction is at the group level and usually
involves some conflict. Humans are essentially "tribal" and maintain these loyalties
even as society advances technologically. A modem name for tribalism could be
nationalism. The third assumption is that human actions are guided by desire for power
and security. Other values may very well also guide actions, but until the primary
needs for power and security are met, secondary values carry little weight..
Waltz (1986,330) notes that while rationality is the guide for action in both
realist and neorealist theories, it cannot be used with absolute certainty to predict the
actions of states. While Keohane believes that neorealists like Waltz have only made
realism more systematic, Waltz clearly does not believe that his clarifications of realist
theory have produced a formula through which a situation can be worked out and a
single, clean solution can be found. The value of realist and neorealist theory,
according to Waltz, is to evaluate actions by states over a long period of time to derive
some general conclusions about the true nature of international politics.
Theories of Alliance and Deterrence
This section has been included for two reasons. First, to provide a theoretical
framework for understanding alliances and, in particular, the Soviet-Iraqi relationship
that will be discussed in later chapters. Second, it will demonstrate the seriousness
with which the international community must take its post-Cold War restructuring, in
light of the possibility that unexpected and ambiguous conflicts might arise quickly in
Most theorists derive theories of alliance from discussions of the balance of
power. Snyder (1990,104) defines alliances as:
formal associations of states for the use (or non-use) of military force,
intended for either the security or the aggrandizement of their members, against
specific other states, whether or not these others are explicitly identified.
Snyder limits his study of alliances to those formed for security purposes. He defines
alignment as "a set of mutual expectations between two or more states that they will
have each other's support in disputes or wars with particular other states" (Snyder,
105). The expectations are based on specific future contingencies.
Alliances will form, according to Snyder, in a multipolar system to reduce the
insecurity a state feels among other states of similar power in a situation of anarchy.
Entering an alliance creates an ally and enemy simultaneously. The alliance is inclusive
for its members seeking mutual security assurances. However, it is also by nature
exclusive, as any state not in the alliance recognizes a threat from the rising power of
aligned states and will seek a "counter-alliance" with other nonaligned states.
Sorokin (1994) agrees with Snyder. He states "an alliance is formed only when
the potential ally would not intervene without one and would always intervene with
one" (Sorokin, 298). Snyder and Sorokin both believe that security alliances are made
only as a response to ambiguous world situations and perceived threats.
Sorokin's fear-based game-theoretical model utilizes the idea of alliances as
deterrence through threats of retaliation for acts of aggression, even when a potential
aggressor is not considering use of force. Snyder agrees that deterrence is the main
benefit of alliance, along with defense, if attack should come. The other benefit is
"preclusion," which is the use of alliance to prevent an ally from entering into an
alliance with adversaries.
In a bipolar system, alliances are the result of superpower rivalries (Snyder,
117). The situation is far less ambiguous than in a multipolar system, according to
Snyder (p. 117):
The superpowers, of course, have no incentive to ally with each other
since there is no third party strong enough to threaten them both. In their own
interest, they will throw their protective arms around the lesser states that are in
closest geographical proximity, whether the latter want protection or not.
In this type of alliance formation, which is not based on the fears that Sorokin
describes, weaker states derive benefit from the "collective goods" theory of unearned
benefits. That is, they can be relatively confident that if they are attacked by a
superpower, the other superpower will come in defense of the weaker state and in
natural opposition to the superpower aggressor (Snyder, 117). In the Gulf War, the
"free riders" enjoying collective goods were, from America's perspective, the
Europeans, who largely sent token forces to the Gulf while deriving massive economic
benefits from the success of an American hegemon in repelling the Iraqi invasion
(Hadar, 1991,421). This arrangement of power also raised fears among the
Europeans that Europe would always be a "secondary power" (Hadar, 423) with
interventionist America ruling a unipolar world. This agrees with Strange's proposition
that other states will offer little resistance to American leadership because they realize
that the subordinate status, while often humiliating and constraining, provides benefits
that cannot be gained by withdrawing moderate support for the hegemon and going
During the Cold War, the opposing superpowers were the United States and
Soviet Union, which, according to Snyder's model, battled each other in "proxy wars"
in smaller states of little significance to either superpower. The battle was not for the
smaller state, but to diminish the relative power of a competitor.
Snyder states that there is an inherent danger of direct superpower confrontation
in a bipolar situation, in which a regional conflict draws in the superpower allies of the
states in conflict and the conflict expands. This threat comes more from the Third
World states such as Iraq, than from European clients, although the superpowers of the
Cold War focused intensely on European states.
Sorokin explains why Third World "entrapment" poses more threat than conflict
in Europe. He states, "Regional rivalries are characterized by high levels of animosity
between neighboring states and the potential for intervention by outside states that are
militarily stronger than any of the regional powers" (Sorokin, 299). While the United
States and Soviet Union were unquestionably stronger than any European or Third
World power, European states always lacked the required level of animosity to begin a
conflict that would directly involve a superpower confrontation. The Middle East is a
particularly unstable region with an aspiring hegemonIraq.
Snyder (p. 122) notes a 1985 study by Stephen M. Walt in which he shows that
alliances in the Middle East are formed to gain support against an enemy, not for
protection from a superpower. Thus, alliances shift easily to the superpower that is
willing to offer the largest reward for becoming an ally.
Although alliance theorists tend to do a commendable job of explaining the
formation and maintenance of alliances, they have had noticeably little to say about
what a state should do when the alliance collapses. As will be shown, the Soviets were
somewhat at a loss in what to do when their former client state, Iraq, became the object
of international condemnation and military confrontation. Trying to play both sides
condemning Iraq's actions, trying to avert war, and standing alongside the United
States, while trying to limit American power through the UNseems to have worked
for the Soviet Union. Although this is probably a case of having enough sense to pick
the winner, the Soviet dilemma should be an example to the world to formulate plans
when one is left with few friends.
Probability of Future Conflict
Understanding the position of the United States in the world political economy
takes on additional significance when considering the probability of future conflict. In
1991, Boswell and Sweat performed a time series analysis of hegemony and wars.
Using a realist definition of hegemony derived from economic power, global reach and
relative total power, they concluded that periods of economic expansion produce the
resources to sustain long conflictsa rejection of Marxist crisis theories, in which
negative economic patterns compel a state to turn outward in acts such as military
adventurism in order to distract domestic attention. Using World War II as an example,
Boswell and Sweat (p. 145) note that the American economy had been a period of
recoveiy from the Great Depression for "five or six years prior to the outbreak of war."
Likewise, Germany and the Soviet Union were both autonomous, mobilized economies
at the same time.
Using this analysis, the economic expansion of the 1990s will probably result
in expanding militaries and sustained conflicts, according to Boswell and Sweat.
Deterrence, especially with nuclear proliferation, will become a multilateral concern, as
opposed to the bipolar concern it was during the Cold War.
If Boswell and Sweat are correct, it is even more imperative that greater
understanding of the role hegemony and alliances play in international politics is
gained. As well as avoiding costly conflicts that can spill over borders and engage
unsuspecting states, greater understanding can also guide responses to problems and
concerns before they develop into full crises. When a crisis develops, despite the best
efforts to avoid it, the arrangements of power must be clarified before action can be
confidently taken. Whether the world is more dangerous than it was yesterday or a
hundred years ago is debatable. However, conflicts still arise and far more rapidly than
before. Even if the rate of conflict drops significantly, those that still arise will develop
with increasing speed each time, demanding sufficiently rapid responses each time.
In this chapter there has been a discussion of the contending theories of
hegemony and assertions of what a hegemon will do as its power erodes. The
institutionalists argue that institutions can provide order in a world of declining
hegemons. Realists counter that notion and claim that the remaining supepowerthe
United Statescontinues to provide order. The neorealists concur with the realist
claim, but add a dimension. They argue that states in decline seek refuge in the
institutions advocated by the institutionalists. These states do this, not to assist in the
provision of order, but to limit their relative losses. Therefore, it is not the collective
good they seek, but rather narrow self-interest. In the following chapters, the Soviet
Union will be shown to be such a power in decline.
THE IRAN-IRAQ WAR
The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers run through Iraq, which is considered to be the
cradle of civilization. Realists believe that the nature of international relations is
anarchy. It would then follow that this region of the Middle East would be the center of
thousands of years of conflict and war. Indeed, it has been and continues to be. In
recent years, there have been wars in the Middle East stemming from many sources:
border disputes, economic differences, superpower alliances and ethnic hatred, just to
name a few. The decade-long Iran-Iraq War was fought for most of these reasons.
This chapter will focus on the role of the superpowers, particularly the Soviet Union, in
this devastating war.
The modem history of the region is colonialism and the questionable political
borders left from decolonization. Instability has been the rule in the Middle East, as
many of today's foreign policymakers often forget. In recent decades, the aspiring
regional hegemon, usually acting under a Soviet superpower shield, has been Iraq.
Former Soviet client, rogue actor, sponsor of terrorism with nuclear aspirations,
chemical and biological weapons, a willingness to exercise naked aggression on its
neighbors and own citizens with a disproportionately large militaryIraq has all the
makings of the truly modem foreign policy problem.
The Iran-Iraq War demonstrates the closeness of the Soviet-Iraqi relationship in
the most important modem event in the Gulf region until the 1991 Gulf War.
According to realists and neorealists, most alliances are formed for reasons of security.
Alliances formed for economic or other reasons are usually secondary and tend to
establish themselves in the shadow of military alliances. The Soviet-Iraqi alliance was
The second part of this chapter chronicles some of the ways Iraq developed the
fourth largest army in the world. Although many weapons were bought from Western
sources, the vast majority of Iraq's arsenal and training came from the Warsaw Pact,
hence directly resulted from its relationship with the Soviet Union.
Interestingly, an examination of this period demonstrates that the Soviets never
established true hegemony in the Gulf region and that the Iran-Iraq War was not the
superpower "proxy war" some claim, although the war in neighboring Afghanistan
was. The war in Afghanistan will be analyzed further in the next chapter.
The End of Superpower Tensions?
In 1980, Saddam Hussein decided to launch an Iraqi invasion of Iran. A non-
aggression pact made with the Shah of Iran in 1975 had lasted until Hussein felt the
deposed Shah's successor, Ayatollah Khomeini, was beginning to stir up minority
unrest in Iraq. Two minority groups, the Kurds and the Shi'ites, were problematic for
Hussein. The Kurds had been carried on an uprising since 1961 and were armed by
Iran, the United States and Israel (Douglas, 1991, 56). The Shi'ites are of the same
branch of Islam as the Iranians. Coupled with border disputes, competition for
influence over the Gulf region and mutual dislike between Arab Iraq and Persian Iran,
tensions got high enough to touch off war.
The Soviets had carefully built a relationship with the Shah and hoped to gain
closer relations with the new Iranian regime when Khomeini made theocratic Iran's
anti-American sentiment known (Sterner, 1984,136). However, Khomeini labeled
America "the Great Satan" and awarded the Soviet Union the same title. Iran also
allowed weapons and supplies to be shipped through to the resistance during the Soviet
occupation of Afghanistan, a war the government in Tehran strongly opposed.
The Soviets voiced their displeasure with the Iran-Iraq War and declared their
official neutrality (Saivetz, 1989,6) in the conflict. In 1980, Soviet Premier Brezhnev
blamed "imperialism" (Sindelar and Peterson, 1988,68) for the war and stated:
Neither Iraq nor Iran will gain anything from mutual destruction and
bloodshed.... It is only the third side, i.e., the US .. which stands to gain.
As far as the Soviet Union is concerned, we are for Iran and Iraq settling
disputable issues between themselves at the table of negotiations.
Although the Iran-Iraq War diverted world attention from Afghanistan (Sterner, 137), it
couldn't have been worse and more complicated for the Soviets. The 1972 Treaty of
Friendship and Cooperation between the Soviets and Iraq included the provisions of
mutual crisis consultation, mutual non-aggression and defense cooperation (Saivetz,
30). The Soviet Union was faced with the dilemma of adhering to declared neutrality
or supplying arms and other aid to Iraq to show its reliability to its other allies (Sindelar
and Peterson, 67). The dilemma was a typical feature of the bipolar arrangement of
power. If the Soviets failed to support an ally, it was thought that the United States
would seize the opportunity to provide support to tilt the balance of power in its favor.
Iraq was a powerful Soviet asset that enjoyed Soviet protection without the constraints
on its actions that it might have experienced if it had been an Eastern European member
of the Warsaw Pact. In many ways it was the "free rider" that realists note in their
examinations of superpower protectorates.
The Soviets were also faced with potential inconsistency in their foreign policy.
The Carter Doctrine, which later became the American policy framework for die 1991
Gulf War, was made in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Carter
stated the doctrine in his 1980 State of the Union Address (Naff, 64):
An attempt by any outside force to gain control over the Persian Gulf region
will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of
America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary,
including military force.
The Soviets then offered the Brezhnev Doctrine, which called for "international respect
for the [Gulf] region's sovereignty, as well as independent local control over its natural
resources.... [and] that no foreign military bases should be established in the area"
(Naff, 1985,95; Sindelar and Peterson, 41).
The initial stages of the war went poorly for Iraq. Iran made major territorial
gains. In 1982, the "neutral" Soviets restarted the supply of arms to Iraq (Naff, 86),
filling an initial $10 billion order (Naff, 147). Iraq received MiG-25 fighter-
interceptors, T-72 tanks and SA-8 missiles, along with permission to use its Soviet-
made TU-22 high-altitude bombers, on which the Soviets had placed highly restrictive
controls. By October 1982,1,500 Soviet military advisors were in Iraq (Saivetz, 41).
For the rest of the war, the Soviets gave nearly unconditional support to Iraq. In 1987,
the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement that the Soviet Union would
"continue its support for Iraq in accordance with the friendship and cooperation
agreement between the two countries, an agreement that covers military, economic, and
cultural fields" (Saivetz, 65).2
Iraq and Iran benefited economically from ties with the Soviet Union during the
war. Both were able to minimize potentially catastrophic losses in oil production by
sending oil and gas through pipelines to the Soviet Union for export to Western
Europe. This enabled both to pay for arms and extended the viability of the conflict the
Soviets officially opposed. This feature demonstrates that the Iran-Iraq War was not a
superpower proxy war. The Soviets armed and supported both warring parties, to the
exclusion of American interests in the region. Through their contradictory actions, the
Soviets managed to prevent the war from becoming another clash between the
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, both targets of Iraqi aggression in 1990 and 1991,
aided Iraq during the war. Although the Soviets and Saudis had no diplomatic relations
and were greatly suspicious of each other, the Saudis also supported Iraq out of
animosity toward the Iranians. Anti-Sovietism stemmed frorh the Saudi rulers' view of
Soviet Marxism as "corruptive atheism, intent on subverting the Muslim world and the
Saudi monarchical-capitalistic system" (Abir, 1989,10). The fear began in 1950s
when the Soviets allied with Egypt's anti-Western Colonel Nasser (Abir, 10) and
worsened when the Soviets gained naval bases in Aden and Somalia in 1968, then
supported the Marxist Popular Democratic Republic of Yemen. The breaking point of
Soviet-Saudi relations was the Soviet naval use of an Iraqi base in 1972 following the
Soviet-Iraqi friendship and cooperation treaty.
Saudi Arabia viewed the West with distrust, yet reserved far more distrust for
the Soviets. Saudi support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War fit two Saudi intentions: to
show Arab solidarity and to "drive a wedge between Baghdad and Moscow and to
improve Iraq's relations with Washington" (Abir, 12). Nonetheless, the Saudis
proclaimed strong objections to any foreign intervention in the Gulf region, until the
1991 Gulf War. Sharing Iraq's anti-Iranian sentiment did not prevent the Saudis from
allowing the United States to fly weapons and equipment to Iran from Saudi territory
during the war, probably because the Saudis long suspected that the real Soviet goal of
aid to Iraq was not shared interest but Iran's oil and gas reserves along its border with
the Soviet Union. Abir (p. 16) points out: "Tehran, in Moscow's eyes, [was] the
primary strategic asset in the Middle East."
2 Some Russia experts in the West have noted that support for Saddam Hussein among Russians, in
the Iran-Iraq War and the 1991 Gulf War, may in part come from Hussein's Stalinesque appearance.
The Iranians were fighting Iraq to their west and supporting the Afghan
resistance to the east To them, it seemed the Soviets were coming from both sides.
Iran bordered the Soviet Union on the east and west sides of the Caspian Sea,
physically separating the Soviet Union from the Persian Gulf (Ross, 1984,438). This
perceived threat didn't stop Iran from accepting Soviet arms during the war. Yet, "The
Russians do not want Iran to win the Gulf war. They should stop acting as if they
did," noted the Economist in 1987 ("Gorbachev's Gulf," 13). Iranian victory in the
war would be bad for the Soviet Union, particularly with the prospect of militant Islam
spreading from Iran through the Central Asian Muslim republics of the Soviet Union.
The article stated, "If Iran won the Gulf war, triumphant Shia fundamentalism would
be even less likely to bend its knee to the wishes of Marxist unbelievers" (p. 14).
Soviet and American concerns about each other's build-up in the Gulf area did
not prevent them from acting in concert to protect their shipping interests. Both offered
to reflag Kuwaiti oil tankers in hopes that such a move would carry an inherent threat of
retaliation if the either warring party attacked commercial ships, as the Iranians had
done in the past. Soviet and American diplomats agreed that they had a mutual interest
in the free flow of oil exports through the gulf, even as American military planners
were trying to figure out what to do if the Soviets intervened by entering Iran (Naff,
Iran had fired on and boarded a Soviet merchant ship while the American
warship Stark had been hit by an Iraqi missile. The Soviets, who felt they had too long
been excluded from affairs in the Gulf region, justified their naval presence with an
argument about the Persian Gulfs proximity to the Soviet bordera type of Soviet
Monroe Doctrine. Sharing a common threat to shipping, the American and Soviet
warships routinely shared intelligence on mines and deployed helicopters and
minesweepers together. Soviet ships also sailed alongside an American naval convoy
to take advantage of the additional protection it would afford in an attack (Cigar, 1989,
The clearest indication that the usual practice of the Cold War did not exist in the
Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War was the presence of an American carrier group
that wasn't counterbalanced by a Soviet anticarrier group, as had been the standard in
previous regional conflicts. "The intent," Cigar wrote (p. 62), "clearly was to
underline thatoperationally at leastit was not the United States which was the
The cooperation and coordination must have come as a shock to some strategic
planners who for decades had theorized that Soviet interest in the Persian Gulf stemmed
from the limited access Soviet ports allowed (Sindelar and Peterson, 3):
An outlet on the Indian Ocean would permit Soviet naval units to bypass the
often frozen waters and inhospitable climes of Murmansk, and to escape the
geographical strangleholds encircling Soviet naval bases at Vladivostok and in
tile Black Sea.... There is no doubt that an Indian Ocean outlet today would
give the Soviets a new, shorter route for much of their commerce and trade, and
a vital naval position near the heart of some of the free world's most heavily
traveled shipping lanes in one of the globe's most crucial oceans.
The Soviets showed little interest in fulfilling speculation that the war in Afghanistan
and alliance with Iraq would allow them to "domino" their way to a warm water port in
the Gulf region.
At the end of the Iran-Iraq War, the spheres of influence in the Gulf region
remained as unclear as ever to the Americans and Soviets, who had both pursued
reactive policies to the conflict. The Soviets had armed both sides, as had the Western
powers. The United States covertly transferred amis to Iran, while official American
foreign policy tilted toward Iraq. Every regional power remained deeply suspicious of
the superpowers' intentions in the area. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union had improved
relations with both Iran and Iraq (Maull and Pick, 1989,149-150) by the time a cease-
fire had been reached and had also signaled a new interest in restructuring its
adversarial relationship with the United States. The bipolar arrangement was rapidly
disappearing, superpower confrontation had been averted and a new interest in
cooperation had been put into practice. Institutionalists see this as states finding a
mutual interest in limiting conflict. The realists and neorealists, however, view this as
concession on the part of the superpowers that they were no longer capable of
sustaining hostilities. Neorealists can point to the end of the Iran-Iraq War as a moment
that vindicates their theory. The weakened Soviets attempted to give the impression of
neutrality, while consolidating their power in the Gulf region and avoiding
confrontation with the United States. Their actions show a state unwilling and unable
to continue the Cold War, a state that would have to rely on mechanisms other than
unilateral power to serve its interests.
The Soviet Union made no concrete gains from the war, but the outcome could
have been much worse. First, the Soviets were never brought into direct military action
as they were by the Soviet-established government in Afghanistan. Second, the
Soviets were able to supply both Iran and Iraq with weapons while, oddly, improving
relations with bothsomething the United States was unable to do. Third, relations
with the United States were improving despite the war in Afghanistan and the Soviets'
unwavering support of Iraq and a few other regimes in the Gulf region that were
problematic for the United States. The Soviets had gained support and credibility in the
Gulf region, even as their economy stagnated and their empire started to collapse.
Conventional wisdom might suggest that they were in an improved position to persuade
a country like Iraq to curtail its hegemonic aspirations. But Iraq's actions in 1990-91
demonstrated the limits of Soviet influence and forced the Soviets to choose between an
old out-of-control alliance with Iraq and improved relations with former adversaries.
Arms to Iraq
An advantage of military and economic alliance with the Soviet Union was
Iraq's ability to procure modem weaponry and the training to use it. Even following
the devastating Iran-Iraq War, Iraq still possessed by far the largest military in the
Middle East. By most estimates it was the fourth largest in the world. Iraq mainly
owes the Warsaw Pact for its military might.
A feature of the end of the Cold War was some openness on the part of the
Warsaw Pact in disclosing its arms deals. Using that new data, the Stockholm
International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) concluded that Iraq imported more arms
than any other country in the world, except India, between 1971 and 1989 (Clark, 23),
most of which came from Warsaw Pact nations. According to the Polish Solidarity
daily newspaper Gazeta Wyboncza (Clark, 23), among those imports were 1,000
Soviet-designed Polish-made T-54/55 and T-72 tanks, from which Poland earned some
of its $624 million in armored vehicle sales to the Third World between 1986 and 1989.
The Poles also sold armored personnel carriers, artillery, antitank missiles, rifles and
ammunition to Iraq. The Polish Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs said that most of
the tanks Iraq used in the invasion of Kuwait were built in Poland.
Adding to Iraq's impressive collection of armored vehicles were 1,000 BMPs,
an armored infantry vehicle designed by the Soviets but built in Czechoslovakia.
Czechoslovakia also sold Iraq Soviet-designed T-54/55 and T-72 tanks, which were
considered better than the Soviet-produced models (p. 24). Iraq possessed
approximately 2,500 of these tanks at the beginning of the Gulf conflict. Romania was
the main supplier of T-55 tanks to Iran, yet also sold them to Iraq in exchange for
much-needed oil and other goods during the Iran-Iraq War. Hungary could be
responsible for Iraq's most advanced fighter aircraftthe Soviet MiG-29, of which the
Iraqi Air Force had 18 at the outset of the Gulf War. Although the Hungarian
government denies it, SIPRI speculates that Hungary may have already resold their
MiG-29s to Iraq before taking delivery from the Soviets. In 1988, a sale of MiG-29s
from the Soviet Union to Hungary was reported, followed by announcements from
Bulgaria and Romania that Hungary was the only member of the Warsaw Pact without
the MiG-29 (p. 25). The East German Engineering-Technical Foreign Trade (ITA)
illegally used the state IMES Export-Import company to make $400 million from arms
sales, much of which went to Iraq, although the East Germans would not reveal
specifically what was sold (p. 25).
The largest arms trader with Iraq was the Soviet Union. "By geographic
region, the Middle East was the leading importer, purchasing $12 billion of foreign-
supplied arms, while the Warsaw Pact, with exports of $21 billion, was the primary
exporting region [in 1989]" (Fieleke, 1991,47). Second only to the Soviet Union as
an arms supplier was the United States. Together, the Soviet Union and the United
States accounted for approximately two-thirds of world arms exports in 1989 (Fieleke,
48). The United States was not a major arms supplier to Iraq, having sold only 45
The third largest exporter of arms in 1989 was Great Britain (Fieleke, 48),
which was also embroiled in an Iraqi arms scandal in 1991 following Britain's
participation in routing Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Despite a British embargo on arms
sales to Iraq until a peace treaty was reached between Iran and Iraq, two managers at
the British firm of Euromac were found guilty of trying to sell kryton switches to Iraq
(Fitzgerald, 1994, 14). These capacitors have many civilian applications but are also a
dual-use technology used in separation of missile stages and triggering nuclear
Following the Supergun scandal, in which British customs authorities seized
parts for a gun that has a theoretical range of 3,000 miles, the kryton scandal pained the
British government, particularly when it learned that "while US Customs was trying to
prevent the Iraqis from obtaining kiytons, the US Department of Energy invited them to
a conference to find out how to use them" (Fitzgerald, 15). After ignoring Iraq's
attempts to become a nuclear power for so long, the British government was told by
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (p. 15) to stop Iraq's military aspirations "at every
An irony of the international arms trade is that the British, the French, who
supplied Iraq with $5.6 billion (Naff, 147) of its advanced weapons such as the Exocet
missile and Mirage fighter aircraft, the Czechoslovaks, with a chemical defense
battalion attached to coalition forces, and the Hungarians, who dispatched a
noncombatant support unit with coalition forces in the Gulf, all faced their own
weaponry during the war. Adding to the hazard was the specter of chemical weapons
developed with the aid of German scientists. As soon as Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait,
the largest arms suppliers within the Warsaw PactCzechoslovakia, Poland and the
Soviet Unionsuspended arms sales to Iraq (Clark, 1990,23). It is unlikely that this
put any pressure on Saddam Hussein, who had to "make do" with what he already had.
Arms deliveries to Iraq display one of the most troubling aspects of the collapse
of alliances. The Soviets certainly didn't hesitate to sell weapons to Iraq as long as
those weapons were used against Iran. At the end of the Iran-Iraq War, most of Iraq's
weapons remained and then were turned against Kuwait. The Soviets were not in a
position to do anything about it. The use of Warsaw Pact weapons and training in an
act of aggression that was condemned by almost every state in the world was a great
embarrassment to the Soviets. Almost as embarrassing was the reliance on its former
NATO adversaries to bring Iraq into line and its dependence on the ineffective United
Nations to keep the United States from overstepping its mandate for action.
FACTORS PRECLUDING SOVIET INTERVENTION IN THE GULF WAR
This chapter lists some of the unique characteristics at the time the Iraqis
invaded Kuwait and explores several reasons for Soviet behavior. These factors
partially explain why the Soviets chose a path of cooperation with the allies against
Iraq, rather than confrontation over a threat to a client state. They also demonstrate the
increase in relative Soviet weakness, in comparison with the United Statesthe
condition neorealists claim will lead such a state to seek refuge in an institution.
The Cold War had ended and the former superpower rivals, the United States
and Soviet Union, were seeking better relations. Soviet collectivized agriculture was
experiencing the worst production in the postwar period, leading to increased
dependence on imports of American grain. The Soviet economy was in shambles and
perestroika was almost universally considered a failure. Gorbachev's future as the
leader of the Soviet state was in question. The Soviet incursion into Afghanistan had
just ended in a defeat by Third World guerrillas supported by the United States, Soviet
society was becoming isolationist, and Soviet opinion ran heavily against the military
adventurism that marked the 1960s and 1970s. Finally, the collapse of the Soviet
empire led to an inability to control former clients, many of which, like Iraq, were
seeking weapons of mass destruction and doing so far too close to Soviet borders.
End of the Cold War
In 1989 and 1990, a series of events took place that put an end to the Cold War
that had gone on since shortly after World War II. The changes began in Eastern
Europe as one state after another undertook efforts to leave the Soviet-dominated
socialist bloc. When President Reagan took office in 1981, he quickly changed the
foreign policy establishment of the United States, long used to detente, to suit his Cold
Warrior views. When he left office, ironically, he and Soviet Premier Gorbachev had
formed a cordial relationship and the Cold War was nearly history.
Williams (1989) explains the nature of the superpower relationship as a natural
feature of the bipolar situation. In this situation, he argues, it is impossible for
superpowers not to become adversaries (p. 274).
Even if their intentions towards each other are initially benign, the two great
powers are stuck in a security dilemma in which actions taken by one for
defensive purposes appear as threatening, aggressive or expansionist to the
other. The result is a series of self-fulfilling prophecies in which defensive
actions provoke countermeasures that confirm and intensify the original fears.
Worsening the natural suspicions superpowers have of each other were the "inherent
bad faith model" that lead policymakers to treat any conciliatory move by the adversary
to be an exercise in deception, and "strategic fundamentalism" in which any conflict is
automatically "attributed almost exclusively to the malevolent nature of the adversary"
Despite Reagan's "Evil Empire" rhetoric, he was not opposed to detente,
according to Williams (p. 278), but to "one-sided detente on Soviet terms. He thought
the United States had ceded too much to the Soviets in the past and was intent on
rebuilding America's military to a point from which he could bargain from a point of
strength, rather than a point of weakness or parity. Reagan faced battles in his own
cabinet, particularly between his Secretary of State, George Shultz, who wanted to
negotiate with the Soviets, and his Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, who
wanted to "squeeze" the Soviets in an intense arms race. Williams claims that the
negotiators eventually won Reagan over (p. 278). Reagan, who served during the
terms of four Soviet premiers, recalled in his autobiography of complaining to his wife
that every time he thought he was making progress with a Soviet leader, he would die
and the process would have to start anew.
On the Soviet side, Gorbachev, who didn't die in office, was a more
"conciliatory" (Williams, 1989,278) leader than his predecessorsBrezhnev,
Andropov and Chernenko. Gorbachev was more motivated to negotiate by the
domestic pressures of a stagnant Soviet economy and the failing war in Afghanistan
than he was by international opinion. "Nevertheless," Williams stated (p. 279), "it
made it possible for the Reagan administration to adopt a more conciliatory approach
without appearing overly conciliatory." Williams states that it was Gorbachevs
willingness to take an honest look at the limits of Soviet power that led him to seek
improved relations with the United States (p. 280).
The United States was experiencing growing optimism. Williams says (p. 280)
Reagan, "the Great Communicator," changed Americas mood through the use of
"powerful rhetoric" and use of force against "targets of convenience" in Grenada,
Nicaragua and Libya.
The beginning of the end of strategic competition began in the Third World with
the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, where the Soviet Union had found
maintaining an empire costly and annoying, having experienced the same problems the
United States had with militant regimes that constantly threatened to draw the
superpower into regional conflicts. "From Gorbachev's perspective," wrote Caldwell
(1990), "his 'new thinking' in foreign policy was designed to create the 'breathing
space' he needed to nurture his revolution at home."
The nature of arms control changed dramatically. In the 1970s, ceilings had
been placed on the arms build up, but in the 1980s the discussion changed to reduction
in the number of arms held by each side (Williams, 282). The Strategic Arms
Limitation Treaty (START) set terms for reducing arms by 25 to 50 percent. Williams
(p. 283) claims this was a result of the joint vision held by Reagan and Gorbachev of
nuclear-free world that was "unrealistic ... [yet] changed the parameters of the aims
control debate." In 1988, Gorbachev announced the reduction of Soviet conventional
forces by 500,000 men, which meant removing six divisions from Eastern Europe
(p. 283). Arms reduction proceeded even with Reagan repeatedly insisting that arms
control agreements were often unverifiable. Furthermore, Reagan agreed to arms
reduction with full knowledge that the Soviets were cheating on earlier agreements,
such as the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which specified that construction
of ABM radars could only be along borders and face outward. Satellite imagery clearly
showed a huge ABM radar located in Abalakova, near Krasnoyarsk, in central Siberia,
with coverage of most of eastern Siberia (Burrows, 1986, 14 and 326). The Soviets
claimed the radar was to track space objects and Reagan was furious, yet he continued
Economics also changed the geopolitical landscape. The Soviets realized that
reform of the economy was required for survival, as the United States gained trade
competition from Western Europe and Japan. Both superpowers were no longer the
undisputed economic powerhouses each had assumed they would always be.
Competition with third parties, in the case of the United States, and domestic reform of
a failing economy, in the case of the Soviet Union, simultaneously signaled a need for
some cooperation, rather than outright competition.
Prior conceptions of threat also changed during a very short period of time, in
comparison with decades of a Cold War standoff. American pollsters from Gallup
measured American perceptions of the Soviets during the beginning of the Bush
administration, when the Cold War truly came to an end. Fifty-five percent rated the
Soviet Union favorably, as opposed to the 32 percent who gave it an unfavorable
rating. Thirty-nine percent even called it an ally, opposed to 31 percent who called it an
enemy (Levin, 1990,35).
These results came even in the face of nightly news reports of a Soviet
economic blockade of the Soviet republic of Lithuania, Soviet repression of civil unrest
across the Baltic states, a state of martial law in some Soviet regions, and warfare in the
Soviet republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia (Kasparov and Parr, 1991,8).
Bush refused to implement sanctions against the Soviet Union as he worried about the
possibility of a military coup against Gorbachev which eventually came,
unsuccessfully, in August 1991. At the same time, a poll by the Soviet Academy of
Sciences revealed that 87 percent of Soviet respondents thought relations with the
United States were "good" or "satisfactory."
Soviet Agriculture and American Grain
Improved relations with the United States came at the right time for Soviet
agriculture. The worst harvest in decades made improved relations even more critical
for the Soviets. The failure of collectivized agriculture in the Soviet Union resulted in
Soviet dependence on the import of millions of tons of grain annually, most of which
since 1972 came from American farms. Aside from grain, most Soviet agricultural
imports came from other states in the socialist bloc, a reflection of "hard currency
constraints and commitments to allies" (Zeimetz and Foster, 1989, 26). Hard currency,
which the Soviets greatly lacked due to contradictions in their vast command economy,
was a precious commodity used to obtain needed items from the West, such as the
grain the socialist bloc was unable to produce.
In 1991, Barkema (p. 7), a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of
Kansas City, noted that the Soviet grain market was "as unpredictable as it is large." In
addition to the ineptitude of agriculture planners and problems of transportation in the
Soviet Union, he explained that Soviet terrain dictated a short growing season with
limited moisture. The inefficiencies of the Soviet system resulted in delays, which
often translated into enormous changes in Soviet grain production, "sending periodic
shock waves through world grain markets."
In 1990, the Soviets imported less than half the American grain10 million
metric tons (mmt)they had a year earlier (p. 7). Two factors contributed to the drop.
First, the Soviet grain crop of 1990 was 220 mmt, the second largest in history.
Second, foreign exchange reserves had dropped significantly, constricting the Soviet
ability to pay for imports. Barkema (p. 7) points out,
In 1990, the USSR's balance of payments deficit increased to more than $14
billion, up from less than $4 billion in 1989. The deficit drew down foreign
exchange reserves from about $9 billion to only $5 billion, enough for only two
months of imports.
The 1990 performance of Soviet agriculture was an anomaly, as production was
expected to fall to approximately 195 mmt in 1991, requiring the import of as much as
35 mmt of grain, according to the International Wheat Council. At the same time,
world grain supplies began to tighten, driving up prices. "Thus," Barkema noted (p.
7), "the USSR will rely even more heavily on credit or outright donations to fill its
grain supply gap. The United States has already extended $2.5 billion in credit
guarantees to the USSR to buy U.S. grain."
The extension of credit was to help fulfill the requirements of the second Long
Term Grain Agreement (LTGA) which was to run from 1984 to 1988, then was
extended through 1990. The LTGA specified amounts of American grain made
available for Soviet purchase and the minimum levels the Soviets could purchase
(Zeimetz and Foster, pp. 26-27).
Perestroika and the Soviet Economy
Unlike the performance of agriculture in 1990, the Soviet economy of the same
year was the worst in the postwar period. Crises in government, disorganization and
disillusionment with perestroika all led to poor performance, despite the attempted
remedies of economic reform, management, and property ownership (Schroeder,
1991). Schroeder (p. 3) reported these findings from Ekonomika i Zhizn (Economy
and Life, No. 5,1991, pp. 9-13): GNP, industrial production and agricultural output
had all declined2 percent, 1.2 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively. It was the first
time in the postwar period that the Soviet government had reported declines in these
The consumer price index for goods and services rose by 5 percent, doubling
1989's rate. Prices of goods from state collective farms rose by 29 percent. Black
market prices also rose significantly. "The Soviet statistical agency (Goskomstat
SSSR) also estimates that unsatisfied demand increased by nearly a third in 1990"
(Schroeder, 4). This resulted in large scale hoarding, the rate of which increased by 50
to 100 percent, according to Goskomstat.
The growing budget deficit resulted in a decline in state investment by 4
percent, the first decline of the postwar period. Even defense spending dropped by 6
percent. Adding to unsatisfied demand (Schroeder, 5),
[t]he volume of unfinished construction exceeded that of investment,
and state orders for commissionings of new facilities were not fulfilled by huge
margins; only 39 percent of such orders were completed for new industrial
facilities, and despite ambitious goals to improve matters, the construction of
new housing and social facilities was well below the levels achieved in 1989.
The growing budget deficit added debt to foreign sources by 38 percent as foreign trade
turnover dropped 6.9 percent.
Schroeder (p. 5) concluded that perhaps the worst development regarding the
Soviet economy was the use of "apocalyptic language" by Western analysts, who used
words like "collapse," "catastrophe" and "chaos" to describe the decline. Their
exaggeration perpetuated the incorrect assumption that the Soviet economy was
In 1989, Yadav examined the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and
determined that the war was lost strategically, although Soviet forces won almost every
engagement with the rebel mujahedin. He refuted claims that the weakening Soviet
economy was responsible for the retreat from a war that left at least 1.2 million civilians
dead, 5.9 million people as refugees, displaced 2 million people and cost Afghanistan
almost $13 billion in material losses (Ghaussy, 1989,120-134) by 1989.
Yadav compared the war to three historical examples of great powers
withdrawing after protracted warfare without accomplishing the goal: Napolean's
Russia campaign of 1812, the French in Algeria from 1954 to 1962, and the Americans
in Vietnam from 1964 to 1973. All three forces withdrew while their economies were
Drawing from lessons learned in those conflicts, Yadav (p. 363) ruled out loss
in battle as a condition for Soviet withdrawal. Early engagements resulted in almost
total Soviet victory since the resistance was poorly organized. Eventually, "Moscow
had to confront an enemy possessing the functional equivalent of government, i.e.,
political parties of groupings with the ability to rally men, to organize them, and to lead
them into battle" (p. 363).
Pakistan offered the resistance protection and Soviet forces rarely pursued the
mujahedin into that state. There, the resistance was able to arm themselves, train and
operate into Afghanistan. Hundreds of millions of dollars from the United States (p.
363-364) assisted the resistance, sometimes in the form of Stinger surface-to-air
missiles and antitank weapons. Refusal to "submit to Soviet will" (p. 364) meant that
resistance had lost the tactical war with the Soviet Union but won strategically (Yadav,
In these conditions the Soviets have realized the irrelevance of victorious
tactical engagements which leave the mujahedin resistance centers untouched.
To eliminate these centers the Soviets would have to enter Pakistan, but this
would mean another invasion, a more escalated international environment, and a
new situation fraught with its own imponderable uncertainties. American
weapons would still flow uninterrupted. The Afghan guerrilla resistance is
therefore beyond reach of Soviet power.
Yadav's conclusion (p. 367) to his analysis of the failure of "Great Power War"
shows to whom the Soviets really lost: "A competitive international system checkmated
the advance of one superpower by the counterforce of another." Afghanistan, not the
Iran-Iraq War, was a superpower conflict. Countering the Soviets' direct involvement,
the United States supported the rebels as a proxy army and eventually won the war
when the Soviets tired of a costly and protracted engagement.
By 1990, Iraq's nuclear aspirations were no secret to the world, particularly the
Soviet Union, which must take much of the blame for transferring the technology to the
Iraqis. Iraq as a nuclear power became far more problematic for the Soviets as the Cold
War wound down and Iraq became less of a client and more of a rogue actor in close
proximity to Soviet borders. The Soviets demonstrated concerns about their ability to
control proliferation with their support of the Gulf coalition, whose goal included
denying Iraq the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction.
In agreement with the theory of hegemonic stability, Mandelbaum (1995) stated
that the bipolarity of the Cold War was the chief factor in limiting the proliferation of
nuclear weapons and keeping the "nuclear club" to five members: China, France, Great
Britain, Soviet Union and United States.
Mandelbaum described three types of states likely to become nuclear candidates
and what the United States should do to prohibit that proliferation. The first type of
state is an ally, such as Germany or Japan, whose acquisition of nuclear weaponry
would certainly upset the so-called "balance of power." The second type is what
Mandelbaum calls "orphans." These states are ones that feel threatened, but enjoy no
security guarantees from nuclear powers. Pakistan, Israel and Ukraine are among the
orphans. The third and most dangerous type are rogue states, such as Iraq and North
Korea, which have both shown extreme hostility toward world opinion, particularly the
United States, and are certainly involved in serious programs to develop nuclear
weaponry. If the rogues are to be denied this capability, then access to bomb-related
material must be denied, and the demise of the Soviet Union has weakened those
restrictions, according to Mandelbaum.
What makes Iraq perhaps more dangerous than unpredictable North Korea is its
rather overt designs for hegemony in the Middle East, particularly against its rival and
fellow rogue state Iran. Iraq is also in the group of rogue statesNorth Korea, Syria,
Libya and Algeriathat suffered politically and militarily from the demise of the Soviet
Union. Furthermore, all of them are ideological states and prominent in their anti-
Westemism. Chapman (1995,53-54) states the same problem:
The presence of states such as North Korea, Iran, Libya, and Iraq possessing
combinations of militarily aggressive leaders, messianic ideological doctrines,
and proven records of using force against domestic and international opponents
heightens international political tensions.
Mandelbaum also singles out Iraq as the state that has twice experienced force
used to deny it nuclear capability: first, when the Israelis attacked the Osiraq reactor in
1981, and second, during the Gulf War. Part of the reason for the use of military force
to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait during the Gulf conflict, as the American government
acknowledged, was Iraq's nuclear program. Mandelbaum suggests that nuclear
proliferation, which the Soviet Union was unable to prevent its former client from
pursuing, was perhaps the primary reason for the use of force, not the eviction of Iraqi
forces from Kuwait.
The Bush administration (Chapman, 54) explained the danger of proliferation
from the collapsed Soviet Union. The statement noted that confrontation between the
United States and Soviet Union had ended, yet "aggressors" were using covert means
of obtaining means to build weapons of mass destruction, particularly with the inability
of the Russians to exercise controls to prevent the leakage of that technology. Another
problem was the dispersal of nuclear weapons among four former Soviet Republics,
three of whichBelarus, Kazakhstan and Ukrainehad physical possession of the
weapons, but little control over them as a result of disputes with Russia.
Therefore, "[a] sovereign Kuwait was also less important than a nonnuclear
Iraq," Mandelbaum stated (p. 35). "But because it constituted an unambiguous
violation of international law, the invasion and occupation of Kuwait provided the basis
for the political support the war attracted."
Forecasting some of the problems that were to come to the Middle East in a
matter on months, Nolan and Wheelon (1990,34) wrote:
This spring the news media offered the public a rare glimpse into a
shadowy, frightening world. On April 2  Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein
announced that he had the means of killing half the population of Israel. The
next day Israel launched its second satellite into orbit with its powerful Jericho
II rocket. On April 11 British customs agents impounded a shipment of metal
tubes bound for Iraq, ostensibly for a petro-chemical complex. The agents
maintainedand one of the British suppliers later confirmedthat the meter-
wide steel tubes were actually intended for the barrel of a huge gun capable of
firing rocket-assisted shells more than 3,000 miles.
The "supergun" was designed in the 1960s by Gerald V. Bull, a former U.S. defense
consultant who had become an international amts broker. Bull was shot to death on the
doorstep of his Brussels home on March 22,11 days before Hussein made his
pronouncement about Israel.
The only good thing to come from this series of events, according to the
writers, was the renewed world attention on ballistic missiles and other long-range
weapons of mass destruction. Chapman (1995) agrees:
The conclusion of the Cold War's U.S. Soviet superpower rivalry may
have ended the threat of a global nuclear military confrontation involving these
powers.... [the conclusion of the Cold War] resulted in the emergence of
numerous threats to regional and global order.
According to Nolan and Wheelon, the number of countries possessing ballistic
missiles doubled to 18 in less than ten years. The superpowers armed their clients with
these weapons (p. 34) because "they presumed that the bipolar alignments of power
would restrain regional conflicts." Therefore, the missiles were payment for loyalty as
the suppliers thought they would not come into use. The first doubts were raised by
the 1982 Falklands War, when a British cruiser was sunk by an Argentinian Exocet
missile built by France. The same type of missile nearly sank an American destroyer in
1987 when Iraq fired on it during the Iran-Iraq War (p. 34).
Nolan and Wheelon note Iraq's hegemonic aspirations and state that its
ambitious strategic weapons program is not just the result of tensions with Iran, Israel
and Syria. Iraq's weapons engineers had been modifying the Scud-B ballistic missile
to increase its range while developing an even longer-range missile. At the conclusion
of their warning, which was followed several months later with Scud attacks on Israel
and Saudi Arabia, the writers are in apparent agreement with Keohane's declining
hegemony argument and Waltz's warning to mitigate losses as hegemonic power
erodes: "Above all, the U.S. should recognize the waning of its influence on the global
arms race so that it can wisely wield the influence it retains. The stakes have never
been higher" (p. 40).
The turbulent years of 1990 and 1991 are a near-perfect picture of Waltz's
description of the natural state of international anarchy. The Soviet response, explained
in the following chapter, further illustrates what neorealists claim a state in the
precarious Soviet position will do. In military, economic and political decline, while
losing control of former clients prone to unpredictable action, the Soviets abandoned
Cold War confrontation, maneuvered for better relations with the West and deferred to
the United States to bring Iraq into line. Still wary of American intentions, the Soviets
turned to the United Nations to keep its losses to a minimum. Soviet hegemony was
being relinquished due to internal constraints and external developments, but not
without a fight.
In the first chapter, Waltz was noted in his belief that security is a state's prime
interest and that only after security is established can a state turn inward to solve
domestic problems. The Soviets, facing considerable domestic problems and a
changing frontier had ample reason to worry that the United States would move to fill
any spaces left by the shrinking Soviet empire. Rather than utilize sabre-rattling
threats, which would have further destabilized the world political situation, the Soviets
relied on the institution with which they still had leveragethe United Nations. It was
the same institution that the United States relied upon to validate its actions. No longer
could the United States explain its actions as a superpower by claiming a Soviet threat.
Institutionalists could feel partially vindicated seeing two superpowers use the
United Nations to pursue action that serve their mutual interests. However, it is the
neorealists who appraise the situation correctly. The superpowers did not act together
for the collective good. They did so because onethe Soviet Unionwas too weak to
stand up to the other, while the otherthe United Stateswas without a major
adversary and needed to justify its actions. Self-interest, rather than cooperation guided
by mutual interests, was the motivation of both powers.
THE GULF WAR
Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990-1991 was the clearest indication
that the Cold War was indeed over and was the largest deployment of American forces
since the Vietnam War. The operation was a coalition led by NATO against a former
Soviet ally, in combat just over the horizon from Soviet borders. Although this chapter
will show that the Soviets tried every avenue available to prevent war, the Soviets had
voted for the UN resolutions that granted international authority to the conflict.
Iraq was possibly unaware that its alliance with the Soviets had ended and may
have thought that its friend to the north would prevent hostile action against it following
the invasion of Kuwait. If so, it was the severest of miscalculations. If the Soviets
ever had any hegemonic designs on the Gulf region, they were abandoned when they
approved of the resolutions that established an American military presence there.
Soviet Diplomatic Efforts During the Gulf Crisis
"This will not stand. This aggression against Kuwait."President George
Bush, August 5,1990 (Baker, 1995, 276).
By chance, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and American
Secretary of State James Baker were together after their meeting in Irkutsk, Siberia,
when news of the August 2,1990, Iraqi invasion of Kuwait broke. Gorbachev was
beginning his vacation, assured by the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) that the
chances of war peaked two weeks earlier (Sharp, 1992,275). On August 3 at
Vnukovo II airport in Moscow, Baker and Shevardnadze issued a joint statement
condemning the invasion.
The Soviets immediately cut off arms deliveries to Iraq and voted for United
Nations Security Council resolutions to establish a worldwide embargo on Iraq
(Church, 1990,21). Even Cuba joined the unanimous vote, with only Yemen
abstaining (Baker, 278). Gorbachev, who met shortly thereafter with Iraqi Foreign
Minister Tariq Aziz in Moscowone of five diplomatic missions made by Iraqis during
the crisis to the Soviet Union, as the Soviets made five trips to Iraq in return (Sharp,
1992,283)insisted that the only way to end the crisis was Iraq's unconditional
withdrawal from Kuwait (Church, 21).
When the Saudis requested the deployment of American troops into Saudi
Arabia, Baker called Shevardnadze to inform the Soviets that the deployment would
begin on August 8, but that the United States had no intention of seeking a permanent
presence in the area (Baker, 282). Shevardnadze reacted coolly to the news, having
been heavily berated by the Arabists in the Soviet government for his joint statement of
condemnation with Baker.
At Baker's suggestion, Shevardnadze consulted with Gorbachev about sending
Soviet troops as part of the multinational coalitiona suggestion Gorbachev rejected
because of the Afghanistan debacle and because the Soviet Arabists who insisted that
Iraq wouldn't invade Kuwait were now saying that Saddam Hussein could be
controlled (Baker, 285).
Gorbachev sent a "blunt message" to Saddam on August 24, asking for a
definite response to the question of whether or not Iraq would withdraw from Kuwait.
The reply from Saddam didn't warrant commentary, according to Shevardnadze, who
immediately contacted Baker "to bring about passage of the resolution" forcing Iraqi
troops from Kuwait (Baker, 287). Baker (p. 287) notes that this was yet another of
Saddam's critical mistakes in dealing with the superpowers:
I knew Shevardnadze well enough to understand that the language of his
letter meant that he was totally fed upnot only with his own Arabists but with
the Iraqis. Saddam had made another serious miscalculation by failing to be
responsive to the Soviets, thereby undermining the influence of his patrons in
the Soviet Foreign Ministry on Gorbachev and Shevardnadze.
Shevardnadze was also angered by the Iraqis' prevention of the exit of 5,000 Soviet
citizens still in Iraq (Sharp, 1992,283-284).
The September 9, 1990, Bush-Gorbachev summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland
was probably the first true post-Cold War meeting of the superpower leaders, a meeting
highlighted by a problem they faced in common: Saddam Hussein. A week earlier,
Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Gerasimov had told the press (Sharp, 1992,
281) that the meeting was unlikely to produce a "joint ultimatum" to Iraq, as such as
statement would appear to be a "plot between the two superpowers." Nevertheless, a
joint statement issued by Bush and Gorbachev called for Iraq's unconditional
withdrawal from Kuwait, freedom for the hostages held in Iraq, and reiterated "support
for Security Council Resolutions 660,661,662,663,664 and 665" (Helsinki
Summit," 1990,13). The statement was hastily revised before release when officials
from the State Department discovered some of the Soviet diplomats had tried to soften
the language (Baker, 293) and remove the section regarding unconditional withdrawal.
At the same meeting, Bush asked Gorbachev for assurances that the Soviet
Union would not try to interfere if the United States exercised a military option to drive
Iraqi forces from Kuwait (Gardam and Fanning, 1996). Gorbachev later stated in a
television documentary: "This was a key meeting. A country had been occupied. If, at
that point in history, we had not been able to deal with that situation, everything else we
had worked for would have been null and void" (Gardam and Fanning, 1996).
Baker (1995,275) told Shevardnadze basically the same thing at the same
meeting on September 9, 1990: "If it doesn't work ... if it can't work in a collective
way to reverse the aggression, I don't know how we're going to prevent this from
happening again". Baker's concerns about holding together a coalition united against
Iraq were later expressed (Gardam and Fanning), "Without the Soviet Union on board,
we never would have been able to marshal the international coalition that we were able
to build up." The coalition eventually grew to over 30 states that had pledged military
forces, monetary assistance or both.
"Moscow has opted to side with world opinion against an influential regional
power and client state, risking the loss of Iraqi oil and payments," wrote Crow (1990,
6). During the entire Gulf crisis, the Soviets appeared to be pursuing a dual policy
toward Iraq. On the surface, Soviet policy was officially in lockstep with the United
States and United Nations. But the Soviets were also desperately trying to avoid armed
conflict and mitigate the harm to Iraq (Crow, 6):
The Soviet leadership has, for example, demonstrated de facto
compliance with Saddam Hussein's request that the Soviet embassy in Kuwait
be closed by evacuating the building, but it has insisted that Soviet-Kuwaiti
relations remain intact. Moscow has also failed to withdraw Soviet advisers in
Iraq and to formally suspend or cancel its treaty of friendship with Baghdad. In
general, this dual policy has proved satisfactory to both Iraq and its opponents.
On September 12, the Russian Federation's Supreme Soviet Committee on
International Affairs requested that the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union withdraw
Soviet military advisers from Iraq and suspend the friendship and cooperation treaty,
on the grounds that "any contacts with the aggressor in the military sphere [are]
unacceptable and amoral" (Crow, 1990,7). The Soviet Union's shift, from
cooperation with its former client to cooperation with its former adversaries, was even
more apparent when it re-established diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia on September
17 (Freedman, 1991,8) which had been frozen since 1938. The Saudis even invited
the Soviets to join the coalition forces (Fuller, 1991,69).
Miller (1991,49) states that Gorbachev shifted to the right in those first months
of the crisis to stabilize his political base when he "abandoned the so called '500 days'
program of economic reform by his liberal economic advisors in favor of a hybrid
compromise plan espoused by his Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov and supported by
anti-reform conservatives." Gorbachev had pursued some radical restructuring and
austerity programs, while repeating that there would be no turning back from the
changes. Conservatives in the Soviet government, who had opposed the reforms since
they were initiated by Soviet Premier Andropov after Brezhnev's death, were in a
position to exploit the discontent of Soviet citizens and possibly end Gorbachev's rule.
On September 25, Shevardnadze threatened Iraq, and greatly angered Soviet
Arabists, by implying that the Soviet military would join the coalition forces (Crow, 6).
The next day he claimed that his reference to "a criminal against humanity" was not
directed at Saddam Hussein, and added, "as old friends, we call on him to think again
and submit to the demands of common sense."
The Soviet Foreign Ministry felt that it was in a particularly sensitive position
because Soviet-supplied arms to Iraq had been used for offensive purposes. Foreign
Ministry spokesman Gennady Gerasimov called the presence of Soviet advisers in Iraq
a "moral problem" (Crow, 7). By siding with world opinion against Iraq, the Soviet
Union also stood to lose approximately $6 billion worth of contracts for military
specialists and $800 million in losses in oil shipments from Iraq and Kuwait (Crow, 6).
Although the Soviets stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States in
insisting on Iraq's unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait, Soviet posturing on the
matter still gave the appearance of relative weakness. The Soviet Union complied
quickly and fully with the United Nations-imposed embargo and immediately
suspended arms shipments to Iraq. Nonetheless, it had pledged no military forces or
economic assistance to the coalition effort One American journalist wrote (Mann,
1990,24), "They appear too weak to do so, mainly because they are broke." The same
journalist speculated that the Soviet motivation to stand aside for a military solution was
that "the Soviets do not relish the prospect of a capricious Saddam Hussein armed with
nuclear weapons, none too far from Soviet borders."
Stanfield (1991,258-259) wrote that the American foreign policy establishment
was worried during the Gulf crisis that Soviet conservative "hardliners" might attempt a
coup against Gorbachev for playing to American interests, notably voting for all 12 of
the Persian Gulf resolutions in the Security Council of the United Nations. If such a
coup succeeded, the Soviet military, which was wary of American intentions in the
Gulf and was somewhat reluctant to abandon Iraq as a client, would have likely sided
with the Arabists in the Foreign Ministry and have started to rearm Iraq. These fears
were echoed in the December 20,1990, resignation speech of Shevardnadze, who
warned of a coming "dictatorship." Shevardnadze stated that conservatives in the
Soviet government were angry at him for having "given away" the "Soviet strategic
patrimony in Eastern Europe and for allegedly planning to send Soviet troops to fight
alongside the US-led UN forces" (Miller, 1991,49).
Baker and Aziz met in Geneva on January 9,1991, in a meeting described by
all as "somber." Baker believed it was the last opportunity to avoid war, but Aziz
refused to even accept a letter from Bush to Saddam. Bush later called the meeting "a
total stiff-arm" (Jaretski, Harbrecht and Maremont, 1991,32-33).
Approximately an hour before the allied air war against Iraq began, Baker
(Baker, 384) called Shevardnadze's replacement, Aleksandr Bessmertnykh, and
notified him that there was no turning back and would be no further pleas to Saddam.
The warning was not relayed to Baghdad, apparently because Iraq had not notified the
Soviets before it invaded Kuwait, violating their treaty. Deputy Foreign Minister
A. M. Belonogov emphasized that "we had no moral right to disclose to anyone
information that we had received in confidence from the American side." ("Gulf War
On January 29, during the first days of the war, Baker and Bessmertnykh
issued a joint statement, stating that it was regrettable that Iraq had not heeded coalition
warnings and the United Nations resolutions, which authorized the use of force by the
coalition. Baker emphasized part of the statement that appeared to address Soviet
concerns ("U.S.-Soviet Statement," 1991,312):
... the United States and its coalition partners are seeking the liberation of
Kuwait, not the destruction of Iraq.... the United States has no quarrel with
the people of Iraq and poses no threat to Iraqs territorial integrity.
Bessmertnykh noted that the goal must remain the removal of Iraqi forces from
Kuwait. He and Baker agreed that in the aftermath of the war, American-Soviet
relations will have improved and their joint efforts to promote peace, particularly
between Arabs and Israel, would be "greatly facilitated and enhanced" (''U.S.-Soviet
Statement," 312). While unified on most of the issues surrounding the Gulf crisis, the
Soviets and Americans were at diplomatic odds over the Soviet crackdown in the
Baltics, which had led to considerable violence in some situations (Baker, 391).
In Novava Vremya (New Times), Russian commentator Leonid Mlechin (1991,
15) explained some reasons for the Russian hesitation to watch Iraq's destruction,
stating that a "staunch ally" was about to be lost, indicating to others that alliances with
the Soviet Union are not worth much. Furthermore, it would allow the United States to
claim the position of the last superpower, while the Soviets watched their influence in
the Middle East dwindle.
Those reasons were not strong enough to oppose world opinion, Mlechin
continued (pp. 16-17):
It turned out that, generally speaking, the interests of the USSR and the
US in the Middle East do not contradict because both superpowers are
interested in the maintenance of peace and stability there, in the settlement of all
conflicts by political means.... But can our country benefit from its alliance
with the dictator and reckless gambler who is prepared to destroy the world?
Then Mlechin quoted Iraq's Deputy Foreign Minister Nizar Hamdoun from a statement
a few years prior:
The aggressor only gains from a policy of appeasement. The world has
understood this only by paying a heavy price for the Munich deal of 1938. Of
course, the aggressor is wise enough to advance his demands in a seemingly
In addition to the problems posed by Soviet Arabists, the Soviet leadership also
had to contend with the Soviet Union's 58 million Muslims and their feelings about the
war. As soon as the allied bombing campaign began, the Soviet Southern Command
was put on alert, although Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Belonogov said the
move was "precautionary" since the Soviet Union was near the war zone (Stein, 1991,
The Iraqi embassy in Moscow reported on February that it had received over
10,000 letters from Soviet citizens volunteering to fight for Iraq, mostly from Muslims.
The newspaper Argumenty i Fakty reported that it had also received hundreds of letters
from Soviet Muslims in support of Saddam Hussein and that many writers had offered
to fight on the side of Iraqi forces (Stein, 13). Some of the writers viewed Hussein as
a "defender of the faith" and compared him to the late Ayatollah Khomeini. However,
a journalist in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, a Soviet republic with a mostly Muslim
population, interviewed a large group of students, most of whom wanted to fight on the
side of Saudi Arabia (Stein, 13). Uzbekistan's Supreme Soviet called on Gorbachev to
use all possible means to end the war. The Muslim citizenry of the Soviet Union turned
out to be as divided as any other group of Soviet citizens.
On February 8, the Soviet Foreign Ministry issued a statement warning that
escalation and widening of the war had to be prevented: "We urge everyone, including
the Palestinians and Israel, to show restraint Should the war widen, it will strike them
first and foremost" ("A US-Soviet Rift," 1991,19). Bessmertnykh was concerned to
distinguish the Soviet position on the war from that of the United States (Sharp, 1992,
289), but continued the display of unity in a joint Soviet-American statement that was
designed to demonstrate Soviet ability to restrain the United States. The statement
confirmed that "the objective ... remained the liberation of Kuwait, not the destruction
of Iraq" (Sharp, 1992,289).
As the ground war drew nearer after five weeks of bombardment by 88,000
allied sorties, the Soviets tried to avert the second phase of the war by offering a plan
that would have required the Iraqis to withdraw from Kuwait over a 21-day period
following a cease-fire. After two-thirds of the Iraqi forces had exited, the global
sanctions would be dropped and the United Nations, through forces "not directly
involved in the conflict" (Morrocco, 1991, 20), would oversee the withdrawal of the
Soviet Envoy Yevgeny Primakov traveled to Baghdad to persuade Saddam to
accept the Soviet deal (Gardam and Fanning). Saddam said he would withdraw, telling
Primakov, "I am a realist. I know I shall have to leave" (Shaip, 290).
Bush thanked Gorbachev for his "intensive and useful efforts" (Morrocco, 20),
then quickly rejected the plan and reiterated his demand for an unconditional
withdrawal, adding that the war wouldn't cease until there was evidence of a massive,
rapid withdrawal from Kuwait (Fessler, 1991, 477).
Bush then gave Saddam Hussein a deadline of February 23 at noon to start
withdrawing or the ground war would begin. The Iraqi responded that they wanted to
pursue the Soviet offer Bush had just rejected.
Deputy National Security Advisor Robert Gates recognized (Gardam and
Fanning) that the Soviets were frustrated at not having been able to broker a deal:
Gorbachev, to me, waswas making one last attempt to try and have it
both ways. He wanted to stay with the United States in the course of this
conflict and yet he also wantedwas under, I think, great pressure from
various elements of the Soviet bureaucracy to try and preserve this client
relationship with the Iraqis and with Saddam Hussein, who, after all, had been
a Soviet client for many, many years.
Baker notes that Soviet envoy Yevgeny Primakov had taken it upon himself to
meddle with set Soviet-American agreements regarding Iraq. Constantly trying to
change the terms of agreements and persistently requesting approval for face-saving
conditional plans for Iraqi withdrawal, he was described by Baker (p. 397) as a
"nuisance" and (p. 396) "[a] member of the Politburo, and the Foreign Ministry's
ranking Arabist, he was a personal friend of, and apologist for, Saddam Hussein."
Primakov made a statement on the day the second deadline expired (Baker,
If the [ground] war starts today, it will start and the whole world will
see that it has been started in circumstances where the USSR has indeed
accomplished a tremendous achievement to find a political settlement... then
those who have started it will take it upon themselves the responsibility.
When the ground war began, Bessmertnykh was still trying to play both sides
of the conflict. He stated ("Gulf Peace," 1991, 1), "There is nothing anti-Iraq in this
fundamental position of ours.... we intend to build our relations with Iraq in the
future as well.... We attach serious importance to guarantees of Iraq's territorial
Baker notes (p. 400) the vital importance of the Soviet-American bilateral
relationship to American strategic interests. Gorbachev had been a constructive partner
on German reunification, the Gulf crisis and the Middle East peace process. For that,
Baker states it was important to pay him "proper heed." Baker and Bush also went out
of their way to constantly reiterate Gorbachev's helpfulness, in hopes that doing so
would improve Gorbachev's faltering standing in the Soviet Union. Baker claims that
Gorbachev knew the importance of the relationship with the United States (p. 400):
America's continued economic and moral support was important to his
controversial and painful program of economic reform. From a political
standpoint, he knew the key to unlocking additional backing for his economic
program in the months ahead lay in Washington. We had already interceded
with the Saudis and other friends to come to Gorbachev's financial aid. In
short, he owed us, and needed us.
Baker states that once the Soviets had voted for the United Nations resolutions,
they were unable to do anything more to shape the outcome of the conflict. Primakov
and Gorbachev's desire to be seen as peacemakers drove them to continue to seek a
peaceful resolution, even after the war began (Baker, 402). Furthermore, Baker notes
(p. 402) that "Arabists in the Soviet Foreign Ministry were beginning to fear that unless
something were done to reverse this trend, the Soviets might soon be seen as an
afterthought to American hegemony in the region."
The Soviets hoped to give the appearance of fulfilling the institutionalist
promise of cooperation and be seen as a collaborating great power, rather than an
adversarial great power. Despite this action, they confirmed what many American
policy-makers already suspectedthat the Soviets were unable to offer substantial
resistance to American policy.
Soviet Military Reaction to the Gulf War
In May 1984, the chief of the Soviet General Staff, Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov,
told a reporter from the Red Army's newspaper Krasnaya Zvyezda (Red Star) that
changes were taking place in the militaries of "developed" states:
rapid changes in the development of conventional means of destruction
and the emergence ... of automated search and destroy complexes, long-range
high-accuracy terminally-guided combat systems, unmanned flying machines
and qualitatively new electronic control systems [that will] make it possible to
sharply increase (by at least one order of magnitude) the destructive potential of
conventional weapons, bringing them closer, so to speak, to weapons of mass
destruction in terms of effectiveness.... This qualitative leap in the
development of conventional means of destruction will inevitably entail a
change in the nature of the preparation and conduct of operations (Clark, 91,
The Gulf War posed an opportunity and a problem for the Soviet defense
establishment. The opportunity was the first real evaluation of American and NATO
forcestheir weaponry, equipment, personnel and commandin action since the
Vietnam War. The problem was that the demonstration was taking place too close to
the southern Soviet border, against a former Soviet client, and Soviet weaponry and
training proved to be no match for the allied forces.
During the Gulf War, Benjamin S. Lambeth of the Rand Corporation noted in
Aviation Week and Space Technology ("War Gives," 1991,46) that the war gave the
Soviets an "unprecedented" chance to evaluate American performance against Soviet
equipment: "It is a laboratory in which all of the technology, training, tactics and
operational style that the United States has developed since the Vietnam war has
converged in a high-intensity war situation," he said. Of interest to the Soviets,
according to Lambeth, were allied logistics, maintenance, support and command (p.
46). He concluded, "I think there is going to be a big lessons-leamed enterprise in the
The same month Lambeth made his statements, February 1991, the Soviet
General Staff established a Special Operations Group to monitor the Gulf War
FitzGerald, 1991b, 16). This was occurring just as Major-General Filatov suggested
(Sharp, 1992,290) that a "major US defeat" was very possible and Marshal
Akhromeyev warned American diplomats that Saddam Hussein had a "Masada
complex" and would fight viciously if cornered.
In the view of many Soviet generals, the Gulf War served Allied evaluation
purposes, as well. General-Major N. Kutsenko, the deputy chief of staff of the
General Staffs Center for Operational-Strategic Studies, stated (FitzGerald, 1991b, 26)
that NATO was exploiting the war to test weapons systems in current NATO inventory.
Other Soviet officers commented that some allied weapons systems were brought
forward in mismatched contests of technologies not designed to counter each other,
such as the deployment of Patriot missiles against Scud missiles.
The Soviets observed, "the crushing defeat of the Iraqi army demonstrated the
obsolescence not only of Soviet military doctrine but also the entire Soviet model of
military development," according to Colonel A. Tsalko (FitzGerald, 1991b, 24). The
only Soviet tactic that seemed to work was maskirovka. the practice of deception and
concealment through dispersal and decoys. The failure of American satellite systems to
detect such practices was blamed on "poor meteorological conditions" (FitzGerald,
1991b, 27). The only Soviet weapon that performed with considerable success was the
anti-aircraft Shilka missile system, to which many of the 51 allied aircraft were lost
Soviet Defense Minister Dmitriy Yazov told the Soviet parliament during his
February 1991 confirmation hearing (Clark, 1991,4):
What happened in Kuwait and Iraq necessitates a review of the attitude
towards army air defense and the country's entire air defense system....
When we ask ourselves, did it work in Iraq, we have to answer, mostly it did
not. And then we ask, why not?
The Iraqis' Soviet air defense system had been rendered useless during the
"first minute of the war" (Clark, 1991,4) through a massive effort at electronic
jamming and destruction of radars, surface-to-air missile systems, aircraft, airfields and
the command, control and communications for the system.
Ironically, the allied victory in the Persian Gulf theater was nearly a strategic
crisis, as noted by Christopher (p. 230): "The poor performance of Soviet weaponry
... has so worried the Kremlin that it threatens the peace derived from the ending of
the Cold War." Among the weapons Christopher attributes to the renewed threat felt by
the Soviets were American armor and attack aircraft, such as the A-10, which destroyed
approximately 4,000 Soviet-made Iraqi tanks. The AH-64 attack helicopter, which was
plagued by problems in exercises, performed almost flawlessly in combat, earning its
motto that "Apache owns the night" from attacking Iraqi troops who never knew it was
coming. B-52 bomberssome 36 years old at the timeprompted mass surrenders of
Iraqi troops following daylight carpet-bombing raids on infantry. The USS Missouri,
the battleship on which the armistice ending the Pacific theater of World War II was
signed, was employed. Low allied casualties were attributed to America's Vietnam
"trauma," after which "Americans put their faith in expensive, high-tech weapons that
allow the operator to 'stand off (keep a safe distance from the enemy while attacking)"
Worse yet, the Soviets quickly realized that the plan for the allied ground war
was "based on the doctrine of AirLand Battle, a framework to defeat numerically
superior Warsaw Pact forces in war in Europe" (Christopher, p. 231) and was
destroying "the mirror image of Soviet combat doctrine" (Baker, 401). The display of
power, despite recorded Soviet support for the coalition to remove Iraqi forces from
Kuwait, revived Cold War fears that had just started to wane. "An increasingly
assertive Soviet military establishment is uncomfortable with the US display of might
so close to its southern border," wrote Sophie Quinn-Judge (1991, 9).
Sympathy for Iraq prompted the staff of Novaya Vremya to conduct an
investigation of whether the Soviets were helping Iraq during the war. Among the
claims gathered from "US intelligence sources" was a rumor that Soviet advisors had
given the Iraqi military information about when American spy satellites passed over the
areahelping hide mobile Scud launchers. The Soviet military vehemently denied any
logistical or intelligence support was going to Iraq from Soviet sources and stated that
the "last Soviet specialist left Iraq on the night of January 9 to 10. No one even
expressed a desire to remain there" (p. 18). The report also noted that probably half of
the 40 diplomats at the Soviet embassy in Baghdad were "KGB or GRU military
intelligence officers" (p. 18) and questioned how they were biding their time during the
Quinn-Judge (p. 9) noted that the "usually more measured" Yazov "claimed the
US had already overstepped its UN mandate for the use of force against Iraq" and had
added himself to the alarmists among the hardliners. The allied ground war was
launched a few days before the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and Yazov expressed
concerns about non-nuclear deterrence when he said that the Soviet Union would be at
a disadvantage (p. 9) in some forms of conventional arms. "Now that our bloc has
ceased to exist for all practical purposes, we will have, instead of a 1:1 ratio of forces, a
1:1.5 ratio, and where some weapons are concerned a 1:2 ratio," Yazov said (1991,7).
The commander of Soviet Antiaircraft Missile Forces, Colonel General Rasim
Akchurin, also issued a warning saying (Foye, 1991, 2), "the echo of missile thunder
in the desert must put us on our guard."
Baker notes (p. 401) the high stakes the Soviets placed on the conflict:
Geographically, Iraq was separated from the Soviet Union by only a
few hundred miles of Turkish and Iranian territory. So from an emotional
perspective, the war was essentially on the Soviet doorstep. Their anxiety in
this regard would be roughly comparable to American concerns over a war in
Central America, and thereby understandable.
Baker continues (p. 401):
Historically, until its invasion of Kuwait, Iraq had been a showcase
Soviet client state. Five months later, that client was being pounded by the
largest Western air offensive since World War IIand its former patron was a
diplomatic party to the onslaught. This specter was bound to have been chilling
to other Soviet client states, who no doubt wondered about the durability and
credibility of their association with Moscow.
American goals were questioned by many people in the Soviet Union, including
a staff correspondent for Pravda (Truth), Vitaly Gan, who wrote ("Gulf War," 1991)
on January 26,1991, "The removal of S. Hussein would force the US to retain its
military presence, because otherwise attempts to fill the political vacuum would be
made by Iran, Syria or Turkey, which, moreover, have long had plans to dismember
Iraq." In addition, he wrote that a continued American presence would "step-up" anti-
Western sentiment in the Middle East.
The American presence in the Gulf was also a blow to Gorbachev's viability as
a Soviet leader. His opponents gained strength from the perception that the Soviets
were not only losing power but helping the United States consolidate its power
They did not condone Iraq's moves, but they perceived the United States as
using the crisis to establish a military presence in the Gulf, even as a
replacement for the no longer tenable American military presence in Western
Europe and a plan to shift NATO power against the Soviet Union to areas to the
south of the USSR. Gorbachev's vision of the end of bipolarity had, in their
eyes, turned into American unipolarity, and with Soviet assistance (Golan,
Quinn-Judge wrote (p. 10) that the alarmism of the Soviet military was seen by many
Soviet dissidents as "the old ploy of using an external threat to justify internal control."
The Soviet press also stirred the anger of the Soviet military. An angry
reporter, Stanislav Kondrashov, for a Soviet state newspaper, Izvestia (News), quoted
("Gulf War," 1991) a columnist from Nezavisimava Gazveta (Independent Newspaper)
on January 26,1991, who wrote:
The invincible Red Army of what are, for the most part, not very
professional officers and half-trained conscripts would hardly be able to resist
for very long NATO's professional armies and state-of-the-art superprecise
superweapons. The clash of brute force and reasona bullfight, in essence
would end in a moment of truth, as all bullfights do.
Kondrashov was furious that a member of the Soviet press would draw a parallel
between Iraqi incompetence and the Soviet army. The quoted columnist also drew on
the warning issued by Soviet intellectuals regarding the use of "external threat to justify
The experience of the Afghan War and the clashes in Tbilisi, in Baku
and now in Vilnius fully proves that the civilian population is almost the only
target that our glorious defenders can hit with more or less certainty ("Gulf
War," 1991, 18).
Then Kondrashov explained the "brutality" of the allies 9 (p. 18):
The American generals are protective of their soldiers, for whom they
are accountable to the politicians, who, in a developed democracy, are in turn
accountable to the people. The more they protect their own, the less they spare
someone else's and the more of them they kill, those whom democracy does not
protect. God forbid that blood should drench the sands in the ground battles
that are predicted.
Other members of the Soviet press, not content to argue amongst themselves,
raised the problem of the individual involvement of participating members of NATO in
the allied coalition. On January 29, 1991, V. Peresada, a correspondent for Pravda,
commented ("Gulf War," 1991) on the possibility that the structure of the NATO
alliance could expand the war beyond Kuwait and Iraq:
... the combat flights by American planes from the base in Turkey
the only NATO country having a common border with Iraqcall this decision
[of individual participation by NATO members] into question. After all, if there
is an Iraqi counterstrike against Turkey, Art. 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty,
which requires that an attack on one NATO member be regarded as an attack on
all members, will come into effect_____In essence, it has been predetermined
that this will occur automatically. Since Iraq has reacted to the situation with a
statement that it considers Turkey an aggressor, NATO proceeds from the
premise that a strike against the latter is quite possible.
Not all members of the Soviet General Staff were agitated by the hostilities in
the Gulf. Marshal Akhromeyev wrote (1991) in the January 21, 1991, edition of
Pravda that the American-Soviet confrontation of the Cold War and the subsequent
Gulf War were over. He asserted that the former superpower opponents were entering
a period of increasing cooperation, signaled by the "unity" in response to the Gulf
crisis. He claimed the Soviet military would continue a policy of "demilitarization,
democratization and deideologization." On February 27, Komsomolskaya Pravda
noted (Sharp, 1992,292)"... an unexpectedly swift defeat, without large scale
fighting, as had previously been expected."
Soviet military spokesmen were also outspoken at times (Foye, 1991,1),
stating that the Gulf War was not a defeat of Soviet weaponry and tactics because the
Iraqis employed outdated equipment against the allies, while advanced Iraqi equipment
was held in reserve and hidden or, as in the case of many of Iraq's capable Soviet-made
MiG-29 fighter aircraft, fled to neighboring Iran.
The lessons Lambeth said the Soviets would leam were that success in future
war depends heavily on "mobilization and deployment in theaters remote from the
homeland." Second, surprise is the "decisive" factor in "course and outcome" of war.
Third, deterrence is no longer a purely nuclear matter (FitzGerald, 1991b, 38-39):
While nuclear parity remains the linchpin of strategic stability, the
performance of ACMs [advanced conventional munitions] in the Gulf War is
said to prove that the new non-nuclear technologies are threatening the old
strategic equation. Deterrence is now said to require not only nuclear parity but
also parity in high-technology non-nuclear forces.
After his decade-old prediction came true, Ogarkov wrote (FitzGerald, 1991a,
77) in September 1991:
the Gulf War, which many military men regrettably regarded as merely
an episode, demonstrated in my view that victory in modem warfare can be
achieved not only by quantity, but mainly by quality. We must see this and
learn from it. Our country must also adopt definite decisions on this.
FitzGerald (1991b, 20) notes that the Soviets" had long subscribed to Lenin's dictum
that it is criminal not to possess all the weapons possessed by the opponent."
The responses of the Soviet diplomatic corps and the military establishment
demonstrate that the Soviets were far from unified on the Gulf War. The diplomats
were divided among those who sought better relations with the United States and those
who favored adherence to old loyalties against old enemies. The military viewed the
war as a threat and opportunity. To observe Soviet equipment and tactics swiftly
defeated by NATO forces not far from Soviet borders had some general officers in near
panic and threatened Gorbachev's rule. The result of the Gulf War probably
contributed to the hardliner coup attempt against Gorbachev a few months later. Other
officers watched with enthusiasm as NATO revealed many of its long-kept secrets.
The next generation of Russian weaponry is probably being developed with the aid of
televised pictures from CNN. If the American military had intended to demonstrate its
might to the Soviets, it would have done better to think again. The Soviet fears instilled
by the allied action against Iraq nearly renewed the Cold War.
While not in a position to make demands of anyone, the Soviets proved
masterful at negotiating from a point of relative weakness. Former Soviet Foreign
Minister Andrei Gromyko often complained that the United Nations was always a tool
of American foreign policy interests. With the example of the Gulf War, a similar case
could be made. However, it was, in this instance, also a tool of Soviet interests.
Unable to control a former client, the Soviets used the UN to bring Iraq into line and
never committed a single soldier or any money to the effort. When it looked like the
United States might overstep its mandate and continue military action to an invasion of
Baghdad to topple Saddam Hussein, the Soviets again used the United Nations to rein
in the Americans and save Iraq from possible further destruction. In the end, the
Soviets were rewarded for standing with the United States, NATO, the UN and world
opinion. At the same time, Iraq was brought under control, Kuwait was liberated and
Saddam Hussein, an old friend of the Arabists in the Soviet Foreign Ministry, was still
As was illustrated in the previous chapter, Soviet domestic concerns constrained
Soviet foreign policy, validating the realist assertion that domestic politics has no effect
on foreign politics, except constraint. Left with few options during the crisis, the
weakened Soviet government turned to a weak institutionthe United Nationsas a
forum for their concerns. The fact that the Soviets did not feel strong enough to
challenge the United States unilaterally shows a substantially weakened power and the
true end to the bipolar arrangement of power known as the Cold War. The crisis did
not produce a sudden thaw in Soviet and American relations and their mutual
apprehensions about each other's intentions. It did, however, bring to light which state
was negotiating from a position of strengththe United States.
Institutionalists would argue that the actions of the United States and Soviet
Union during the Gulf crisis validate their theory that states use international institutions
for the benefit of all. On the surface, it would appear so. The evidence demonstrates
something to the contrary. Far from the institutionalist altruism both superpowers tried
to convey to the world, they were both acting out of narrow self-interestthe Soviets
mitigating their losses and the United States seeking international approval for its
actions. Both took action to benefit one, although the United States, as realists would
note, probably did so with full knowledge that the number of "free riders" deriving
benefits from American action was high.
As Inman, Nye, Perry and Smith (1992,57) note, "The first lesson of the Gulf
War is to be very wary of any so-called 'lessons' of the Gulf War." With that proviso,
Inman et al. (p. 71) conclude that there were so many causes and coincidences that led
to the war that it is nearly impossible to draw any lasting conclusions from it:
Viewing time as a stream makes one recall Heraclitus's observation that 'you
can never step into the same stream twice.' Keeping the uniqueness of the Gulf
War uppermost in our minds has forced us to be humble before the complexities
Indeed, the Gulf War occurred at one of the strangest junctures of modem
history. The Cold War and the antagonistic relationship between the Soviet Union and
United States that had marked almost every significant event since World War II ended
with the two to acting somewhat in concert during the first real test of their abilities
following the end of bipolar competition. Oddly, it was also the massive arsenal built
by NATO under Reagan and Thatcher to counter the Soviet threat that added teeth to the
United Nations resolutions authorizing use of force. That, combined with the Carter
doctrine and Bush's vision of "a New World Order," gave the multilateral coalition
building a stunning, yet brief, victory.
Bush's vision has disintegrated into American fears of the United States being
drawn into every conflict on the globe as the world's policeman. The ability to lead and
the will to lead are two very different things, which has many describing the situation
today as a "New World Disorder." Collective security is still evasive and promises to
work only when it serves the interests of individual actors. Despite the success of the
Gulf coalition, collective security arrangements cannot be relied upon to keep order, as
is being proven in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Although the probability of a cataclysmic superpower confrontation has been
greatly reduced with the end of the Cold War, the number of "shooting wars" has
increased. Some Cold War proxy wars have ended or are dwindling due to the lack of
competitive sponsorship by the Soviet Union and United States, only to be replaced by
other less-controllable conflicts. Other regional conflicts, long suppressed by a
superpower patron for global security interests, have begun again with renewed vigor.
Iraq still possesses the largest military in the region (Nye, 1996,36). Nye
notes this in response to those who have called for rapid disarmament with the demise
of the Soviet Union. In 1994, Iraqi forces staged along the Kuwaiti border, as they
had just before the 1991 invasion. The United States was able to rapidly deploy
150,000 troops into the region in three days in Operation Vigilant Warrior to deter an
Iraqi attack, if that had been Saddam Hussein's intent (Morrison, 1994,1960).
Nye states (1996,36) that this underscores the importance of "maintaining U.S.
forces capable of responding to two major regional conflicts (MRCs) that occur nearly
at the same time" because tensions had also risen on the Korean peninsula as a result of
North Korea's reluctance to negotiate regarding its nuclear program. Nye continues,
"Had the United States lacked sufficient forces to respond to contingencies in both
arenas nearly simultaneously, it would have lost leverage with both these regional
powers and they might have been tempted to exploit U.S. difficulties."
According to Hadar (1991,426), the European view differs greatly, although
European powers contributed heavily both financially and militarily to the coalition.
The view is that Iraqi belligerence suited the American defense establishment, which
was concerned about becoming irrelevant in the new order.
The prescription for projections of American power is clearer than for the
former Soviet Unionall 15 republics of which are still adjusting to an ambiguous and
constantly shifting role in the world order. To find a suitable place in international
affairs, Russia, in particular, must reconcile many of the dilemmas and challenges of
the Gulf crisis.
The end of the Cold War came quickly, perhaps faster than either side thought
possible. The "new thinking" that arose from decades of confrontation stressed Soviet
foreign policy to its maximum, as policy was formulated to gain new friends while
trying to preserve old friends. The new situation was (Golan, 1992,213) "a world of
interdependent states and, therefore, international relations devoid of ideology, East-
West competition, and the zero-sum game approach characteristic of the cold war." It
was very possible for the United States and Soviet Union to "lose" in the Gulf crisis,
yet both came out as victors. The Americans performed well militarily, while both the
United States and Soviet Union scored diplomatic victories.
Freedman (1991, 1) summarized the five principles of Soviet "new thinking."
First, the danger of nuclear confrontation is more compelling than states, classes or
ideologies. Second, zero-sum measurements of power and influence had to be
abandoned, particularly in regard to the Third World. Third, "balance of interests"
should take into account the interests of the Soviets, Americans and regional powers.
Fourth, the United Nations should be used to resolve regional conflicts politically and
avoid uses of military power. Fifth, as regional conflicts tend to draw superpowers
into heated confrontations, there is a need for the United States and Soviet Union to act
together to settle such conflicts.
The most important of Freedman's principles to this study is the fourth one.
The fourth principle is the one institutionalists hope will provide order in the absence of
the bipolar arrangement, yet the United Nations did not prevent war in the case of Iraq
in 1991. Rather, it set the timeline for it to occur. The Soviets made unilateral attempts
to produce a peaceful settlement and relied on the UN only to restrain the United States,
not to prevent the war. Neorealists are correct, in this case, that institutions cannot be
relied upon to prevent conflict, for they are the refuge for states left with few options
and not a forum for settling major differences. For decades the Soviets had claimed
that the UN was a tool of American foreign policy interests. The same could be well
argued in the case of the Gulf crisis. However, Soviet "new thinking" with the
importance placed on an international institution validates, in this case, neorealist
theory. This thinking, to neorealists and realists alike, was Soviet capitulation in the
Cold War, admitting that it could not win the bipolar struggle and consolidating its
losses at a critical moment in history.
This thinking arose, according to Freedman (1991,5-6), from three factors,
two of which were discussed in the third chapter "Afghanistan Syndrome," the Soviet
economic crisis and the issue of Soviet Muslims regarding Soviet cohesion. While it
was to be expected that Soviet Muslims would be divided on the Gulf crisis, so were
most Soviet citizens. A poll conducted in September 1990 showed that 38 percent of
the Soviet population held the Soviet Union's arms trade partially responsible for the
Iraqi invasion (Golan, 1992, 215). Gorbachev acknowledged (Fuller, 1991, 59) the
Soviet Union's special responsibility for the invasion.
In addition to Soviet feelings of guilt and responsibility were feelings of
powerlessness when Soviet-led diplomatic initiatives to head off war failed repeatedly
while facing Iraqi taunts (Fuller, 65):
Sensing Soviet ambivalence, Saddam called on Gorbachev in early September
to "redeem his nation's status as a superpower" by joining "the permanent
angels" of the Arab world in a sacred struggle against the "devils" of America
and the West.
The collapse of Soviet alliances and the Soviet shift away from patronage of
regional powers to stem American influence was dubbed by Mohamed Heikal as
"Sovietquake" (Karawan, 1994,433) for its impact on the Arab world. In response,
many Arab states quickly shifted policy to fit the new order. Heikal stated, "Syria's
policymakers, for example, were forced to contend with the consequences of a post-
Soviet era, which included emboldening Washington to go to war with Iraq without
worrying about a confrontation with Moscow" (Karawan, 434). The realignment was
borne out of the Soviets' former Arab allies' "acute sense of political and strategic
vulnerability" (Karawan, 434).
The Soviets' Arab allies were stung by the perceived shift in Soviet policy.
Shaip (1992,276) notes that the Soviets were probably equally confounded:
The real challenge which confronted Soviet diplomacy, therefore, was
not whether to support Iraq, but what to do instead. A number of options
existed: to do nothing; to work for a compromise solution by diplomatic means;
to work for an unconditional withdrawal by diplomatic means, or to join the
emerging coalition of states which were prepared to threaten and use force to
secure an unconditional withdrawal.
Although the Soviets succeeded in avoiding turning the Gulf crisis into a
superpower confrontation, Sharp judges their diplomatic efforts "a failure" (p. 292-
293). They failed to prevent a war against a state with which they still enjoyed close
relations, exposing the limits of their influence. "Worse, the fact that the final phase of
the peace mission took place at all may have undermined the credibility of the threat to
use force to compel the Iraqis to leave," Sharp states (p. 293).
Nonetheless, Sharp notes (p. 298) the result was better than what might have
occurred just a few years earlier when the Soviet Union might have felt compelled to
adhere to its treaty with Iraq and provide assistance, which could have led to a global
confrontation between the superpowers. "If it so chose, the Soviet Union could have
transformed a local crisis into a global one by supporting Iraq" (Sharp, 1992,273). In
that regard, Sharp should acknowledge Soviet success in recognizing the potential for a
catastrophic expansion of the crisis and taking the necessary steps to avoid it.
Even if the Soviets had taken a less compliant path, Golan noted (1992, 225),
"Moscow could have made the pursuit of the anti-Iraq offensive most difficult, possibly
forcing Washington to act without UN approval or international support." Loss of
international support, out of global fears of angering an unstable Soviet Union, could
have been a diplomatic disaster. In addition, it would have seriously limited the
American military option, even if the United States had chosen to act under United
Nations Article 51, which allows unilateral force in self-defense of national interest.
Hadar notes (p. 445):
In the Gulf War, it took 75 percent of America's tactical aircraft and 40 percent
of its tanks to defeat a country with the gross national product of Portugal.
Washington could not have afforded such an effort without the $54 billion in
aid pledged by its allies
Having orchestrated a most unique coalitionunthinkable just a few years
earlierthe leaders of the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union all faced
challenges to their power during or shortly after the war. British Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher was deposed by her own party during the buildup to war.
Gorbachev weathered a coup attempt in August 1991 to find himself leader of a state
that no longer existed when the Soviet Union dissolved on December 31 of the same
year. Bush lost a re-election bid in November 1992. The irony was not lost on
Thatcher (Gardam and Fanning):
There is the aggressor, Saddam Hussein, still in power. There is the
president of the United States, no longer in power. There is the prime minister
of Britain, who did quite a lot to get things there, no longer in power. I wonder
Although it appears the world saved little thanks for the men and women who
dealt deftly with the first post-Cold War crisis, there are some lessons to be learned
from their actions. The first lesson is to assume nothing, particularly in ambiguous
situations in world politics. The mutual distrust left from the Cold War is what
motivated the United States and Soviet Union to work so well with each other during
the Gulf crisis. The Americans were unsure if the Soviets might come to Iraq's defense
and sought redundant UN resolutions to get the Soviets on the record. Once the
legalistic matter was solved, the Americans sought moral approval for their actions
through rhetoric such as Bush's statements about "a New World Order."
The Soviets used the UN to restrain the Americans in their use of force against
Iraq while conducting foreign policy efforts with Iraq that often contradicted American
and UN policy. At the end of the war, the Soviets had greater favor with the West,
which had been for several years seeking assurance that the Soviets were "no longer
fundamentally opposed to the Western political and economic order" (Fuller, 1991,
The use of the UN by the respective powers was in accordance with their post-
Cold War repositioning and posturing. The Soviet Union was collapsing and the
United States knew it. With the exception of any intention of a demonstration effect
during the Gulf War, the United States pursued a policy of partnership with the Soviets
rather than gloating. To the Americans, the UN was useful only to validate actions it
probably would have taken anyway under UN Article 51 the use of force in self-
defense for national interest To the Soviets, the UN was critical in restraining the
United States if it had chosen to begin aggressively filling some of the vacuum left by
the Soviet collapse.
Although this example cannot be generalized to make specific recommendations
for future policy decisions, it does fit the pattern of behavior described by neorealists
and will contribute to studies that intend validate the neorealist assertions about world
politics. Waltz states that his theory cannot predict behavior, although it would have
done so in this case regarding the weakened Soviet state.
The arguments of the realists in this example are too simplistic. They would
assert that the Gulf War was clearly a case of one power filling the vacuum left by
another. This was also my belief at the beginning of this study. By definition, the
Soviets never exercised enough power in the Gulf region to be considered a hegemon.
The current presence of American forces in the area is not remotely hegemonic either,
although, at the time of the Gulf War, they probably were one. Institutionalists such as
Keohane would argue that the United States enjoys some degree of economic
hegemony over the Gulf, but OPEC has repeatedly proven that it has a mind of its own
and its economic alliances are not generally based on political or military alliances.
This interesting debate in international relations has generally been focused on
the origin of hegemony and how global power is arranged around it. Keohane began
the other side of the debate with his declining hegemony thesis, which he applied to the
United States. This body of knowledge was complemented by Waltz's systemic
neorealist assertion that a state in a position of declining power will seek to minimize its
losses by seeking refuge in international institutions, as the Soviet did in the case of the
Gulf crisis. While neorealism explained, in this instance, the incident the best, the
theory does not completely validate itself with one example.
The Gulf War cannot alone validate a theory, but it will be added to the set of
evidence that adds strength to the neorealist position. My original assertionthe
condition of the Soviet Union during the Gulf crisis was the critical factor in allied
success against Iraqwas supported by the evidence, but not in a way I had planned.
I had intended to use realist theory to show the Soviet Union's relative non-
involvement in the crisis as a necessary precondition for the Gulf War to occur. Upon
examination of the available materials regarding the Soviet Union and the Gulf War,
then comparing it with the literature on hegemony and alliances, I am forced to
conclude that realist theory is lacking. The neorealists have, in this case, correctly
determined that a state in a position of declining power will turn to international
institutions to mitigate its relative losses as the balance of power shifts. A brief review
of the historical evidence demonstrates this:
During the Iran-Iraq War, the Soviets worked with the United States to protect
mutual interests, while the Soviets also attempted to exclude the United States from
gaining any favor in the region. Having come out of the conflict with more support
from its client Iraq and suspicious Iran, the Soviets began an almost simultaneous
withdrawal from Afghanistan and turned inward to address domestic concerns.
Relations with the West were improving and the adversarial Cold War relationships
were nearly dead. Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait became the first real test
of the new relationship. Iraq had been a Soviet ally and had acted in a rogue manner,
apparently miscalculating that the Soviets would shield it from international retaliation.
The Soviets, however, pursued a neorealist course and quickly chose to side with the
United States and most of the international community by condemning Iraq's actions
and setting a timeline for action to deal with the crisis. Giving the appearance of
adhering to the promise of institutionalism, the Soviets were, in reality, in no position
to oppose the coalition with action or threats. Instead, they sided with the coalition, in
an attempt to retain as much influence as possible in the matter. Further demonstrating
the Soviet Union's weakness was the fact that they made unilateral attempts to head off
the war but used the United Nations only to restrain the United States in the war that
was becoming inevitable. This shows that the Soviets not only realized their position
of relative weakness, but also realized the general weakness of the United Nations. In
the end, the Soviets largely succeeded. They gained credibility as a member of the
international communitysomething much needed following the invasion of
Afghanistan and the heavy-handed internal crackdowns in the Soviet republics. They
also prevented the United States from gaining what the Soviets could not achieve
hegemony in Middle East.
Recommendations for Further Research
There is a considerable gap in theoretical literature right where studies of the
dissolution of alliances should be. The literature on alliance formation and maintenance
is generally limited, but while many people seem more than willing to take on the task
of explaining why they believe alliances should and do form and what should be done
to keep them alive, few seem willing to question what should be done when a partner
no longer feels the alliance has anything to serve it. Finding the causes of the break-up
of alliances should provide enough enjoyment for someone's dissertation. Attention
should also be given to the reaction states should have to the end other states' alliances.
The people of Kuwait can attest to the interesting results of the end of the Soviet
Study of the end of alliances fits nicely with the study of international power
arrangements. Many people blamed superpower competition for the strife and conflict
in the world but their assertion has been proven false by the rise of dozens of wars,
civil and cross-border, around the world since the end of the Cold War. Many of these
conflicts were in fact suppressed by superpowers.
It appears unlikely that any Western states would go to war if the NATO
alliance were dissolved. Then again, it appeared unlikely that Sarajevo would be under
siege shortly after communism fell in Eastern Europe. A few wars have even broken
out within the borders of the former Soviet Union. One of them is in Mother Russia
herself. Perhaps no one predicted the rise in violence because no one has taken a
serious look at the effects of international disintegration.
Abir, M. (1989). Saudi-Soviet Relations and the Iran-Iraq War. Middle East
Review. 22 (1). 10-16.
Akhromeyev on Foreign, Defense Policy. (1991). Current Digest of the Soviet
Press. 43 (4), 19-20. (Reprinted from Pravda. pp. 1, 5,1991, January 21)
Baker, J. A. (1995). The Politics of Diplomacy. New York: G. P. Putnam's
Barkema, A. (1991). How Will Reform of the Soviet Farm Economy Affect
U.S. Agriculture? Economic Review. 76 (5). 5-17.
Blight, J. G., & Welch, D. A. (1989). On the Brink: Americans and Soviets
Reexamine the Cuban Missile Crisis. New York: Noonday Press.
Boswell, T., & Sweat, M. (1991). Hegemony, Long Waves, and Major
Wars: A Time Series Analysis of Systemic Dynamics, 1496-1967. International
Studies Quarterly. 35 (2). 123-149.
Burrows, W. E. (1986). Deep Black: The Startling Truth Behind America's
Top-Secret Spy Satellites. New York: Berkley Books.
Caldwell, L. T. (1990). Soviet-American Relations: The Cold War Ends.
Current History. 89 (549), 305-343.
Chapman, B. (1995). Nuclear Proliferation: A Selective Annotated
Bibliographic Guide. Reference Services Review. 23 (11. 53-92.
Christopher, I. (1991). The Soviet Union Lost the Arms Race in the Gulf
War. Contemporary Review, 258 (15041. 230-236.
Church, G. J. (1990, September 17). A New World. Time. 136 (12). 20-23.
Cigar, N. (1989). The Soviet Navy in the Persian Gulf: Naval Diplomacy in a
Combat Zone. Naval War College Review. 42 (2), 56-88.
Clark, D. L. (1990). Warsaw Pact Arms in Iraq. Report on Eastern Europe, 1
Clark, D. L. (1991). What the Soviet General Staff Might Learn from the Gulf
War. Report on the USSR. 3.3-5.
Cooper, M. H. (1992). NATO's Changing Role. CQ Researcher, 2 (31).
Crow, S. (1990). Soviet Union Pursues Dual Policy on Iraq. Report on the
USSR. 2 (401. 6-8.
Douglas, P. (1991). Bloody, Beautiful Kurdistan. Soldier of Fortune. 16
Falk, R. (1983). The End of World Order. New York: Holmes and Meier.
Fessler, P. (1991, February 23). Bush Gives Iraq an Ultimatum, Rejects
Soviet Initiative. Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report. 49.477-478.
Fieleke, N. S. (1991). A Primer on the Arms Trade. New England Economic
FitzGerald, M. C. (1991a). The Soviet Military and the New Air War in the
Persian Gulf. Airpower Journal. 5 (4), 64-78.
FitzGerald, M. C. (1991b). The Soviet Military and the New "Technological
Operation" in the Gulf. Naval War College Review. 44 (41. 16-43.
Fitzgerald, P. (1994). The Kryton Factor. New Statesman and Society. 7
Foye, S. (1991). The Gulf War and the Soviet Defense Debate. Report on the
Freedman, R. O. (1991). Moscow and the Gulf War. Problems of
Communism. 40. 1-17.
Fuller, G. E. (1991). Moscow and the Gulf War. Foreign Affairs, 70.55-76.
Gardam, T., & Fanning, D. (Executive Producers). (1996). The Gulf War.
Frontline. London and Boston: BBC and WGBH (January 9-10).
Ghaussy, A. G. (1989). The Economic Effects of the Soviet War in
Afghanistan. Internationales Asien Forum 20 (1/21,117-136.
Gilpin, R. G. (1986). The Richness of the Tradition of Political Realism. In
Keohane, R. O. (Ed.). (1986). Neorealism and Its Critics. New York: Columbia
Golan, G. (1992). Gorbachev's Difficult Time in the Gulf. Political Science
Quarterly. 107 (2). 213-230.
Gorbachev's Gulf, too. (1987, October 24). Economist, 305. 13-14.
Gulf Peace Bid Fails, Ground War Starts. (1991). Current Digest of the
Soviet Press. 43 (81. 1-6. (Reprinted from Pravda. pp. 1, 5,1991, February 21)
Gulf War: Some Misgivings on US Aims. (1991). Current Digest of the
Soviet Press. 43 (4), 17-19. (Reprinted from Pravda. p. 5, 1991, January 26)
Gulf War Starts: Soviet Response Mixed. (1991). Current Digest of the Soviet
Press. 43 (31. 1-7. (Reprinted from Izvestia and Pravda. p. 1, 1991, January 17)
Hadar, L. T. (1991). The United States, Europe, and the Middle East. World
Policy Journal. 8 (3), 421-449.
Ham, P. van (1992). The Lack of a Big Bully: Hegemonic Stability Theory
and Regimes in the Study of International Relations. Acta Politica. 27 (11. 29-48.
Helsinki Summit Focuses on Gulf Crisis. (1990). Current Digest of the Soviet
Press, 42 (37), 13-32. (Reprinted from Pravda and Izvestia. p. 1, 1990, September
Inman, B. R., Nye, J. S., Jr., Perry, W. J., & Smith, R. K. (1992). Lessons
from the Gulf War. Washington Quarterly. 15(1), 57-74.
Is Moscow Helping Baghdad? (1991). New Times. 7, 18.
Jaretski, B., Harbrecht, D., & Maremont, M. (1991). "A Total Stiff-Arm" in
Geneva. Business Week (31961.32-33.
Karawan, I. A. (1994). Arab Dilemmas in the 1990s: Breaking Taboos and
Searching for Signposts. Middle East Journal. 48,433-454.
Kasparov, G., & Parr, L. (1991). U.S. Can Checkmate Communism by
Playing the Right Moves. Glasnost News and Review. 3 (3), 8-12.
Keohane, R. O. (1984). After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the
World Political Economy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Keohane, R. O. (Ed.). (1986). Neorealism and Its Critics. New York:
Columbia University Press.
Keohane, R. O. (1990). Multilateralism: An Agenda for Research.
International Journal. 45 (4), 731-764.
Keohane, R. O. (1991). The United States and the Postwar Order: Empire or
Hegemony? Journal of Peace Research. 28 (4), 435-439.
Keohane, R. O., & Martin, L. (1995). The Promise of Institutionalist Theory.
International Security. 20 (1). 39-51.
Keohane, R. O., & Nye, J. S., Jr. (Eds.). (1972) Transnational Relations
and World Politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Kugler, J., and Organski, A. F. K. (1989). The End of Hegemony?
International Interactions. 15 (2). 113-128.
Levin, B. (1990). In from the Cold War. MacLean's, 103 (23), 34-35.
Lieber, R. J. (1995). American Hegemony, Regional Security and
Proliferation in the Post-Cold War International System. Contemporary Security
Policy. 16(1). 1-13.
Mandelbaum, M. (1995). Lessons of the Next Nuclear War. Foreign Affairs.
14 (2), 22-37.
Mann, P. (1990). Judging the Soviets in the Gulf: Are They as Weak as They
Look? Aviation Week and Space Technology. 133 (231, 24.
Maull, H. W., & Pick, O. (1989). The Gulf Wan Regional and International
Dimensions. New York: St. Martin's Press.
Miller, B. (1992). A "New World Order": From Balancing to Hegemony,
Concert or Collective Security? International Interactions, 18(1), 1-33.
Miller, R. F. (1991). The Implosion of a Superpower. Asia-Pacific Defence
Reporter 18 (6/7), 49-52.
Mlechin, L. (1991). Is Moscow on the Wrong Side? New Times. 7. 14-17.
Morrison, D. C. (1994). Gathering Storm. National Journal. 26 (34/35).
Morrocco, J. D. (1991, February 25). Soviet Peace Plan Weighed as Gulf
Ground War Looms. Aviation Week and Space Technology. 134 (8), 20-22.
Naff, T. (Ed.). (1985). Gulf Security and the Iran-Iraq War. Washington
D.C.: National Defense University Press.
Nolan, J. E., & Wheelon, A. D. (1990, August). Third World Ballistic
Missiles. Scientific American. 263 (2). 34-40.
Nye, J. S.,Jr. (1992). What New World Order? Foreign Affairs, 71 (2). 83-
Nye, J. S., Jr. (1996). Future Wars: Conflicts after the Cold War. Current,
Nye, J. V. (1991). Revisionist Tariff History and the Theory of Hegemonic
Stability. Politics and Society. 19. 209-232.
Paloczi-Horvath, G. (1989). Arms to Iraq. The Engineer. 268 (69451.32.
Peace Nerves. (1991). Economist. 318. 18-20.
Quinn-Judge, S. (1991). Military Misgivings. Far Eastern Economic Review
Record, J. (1991). Perspectives on Policy and Strategy. Strategic Review. 19
Ross, D. (1984). Soviet Views toward the Gulf War. Orbis, 28, 437-47.
Saivetz, C. R. (1989). The Soviet Union and the Gulf in the 1980s. Boulder,
CO: Westview Press.
Sanders, S. W. (1989). A "Common European House"Or a New Design
for Soviet Hegemony? Strategic Review, 17 (2), 18-31.
Schroeder, G. E. (1991). Perestroyka in the Aftermath of 1990. Soviet
Sharp, P. (1992). The Great Test: Soviet Diplomacy and the Gulf War.
Diplomacy and Statecraft. 3 (2), 272-302.
Sindelar, H. R., & Peterson, J. E. (Eds.). (1988). Crosscurrents in the Gulf.
New York: Routledge.
Snyder, G. H. (1990). Alliance Theory: A Neorealist First Cut. Journal of
International Affairs. 44 (1). 103-123.
Sorokin, G. L. (1994). Alliance Theory and General Deterrence: A Game
Theoretic Model and the Case of Israel. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 38,298-325.
Stanfield, R. L. (1991). The Other War Zone. National Journal. 23 (51. 258-
Stein, G. (1991). Soviet Muslims Divided on Gulf War. Report on the
LESSEE (8), 13-15.
Sterner, M. (1984). The Iran-Iraq War. Foreign Affairs. 63. 128-143.
Strange, S. (1987). The Persistent Myth of Lost Hegemony. International
Organization, 41 (4), 551-574.
Tetreault, M. A. (1987). The Declining Hegemony Thesis [Review of the
book After Hegemony]. Journal of Politics 49.282-290.
A US-Soviet Rift Over the Gulf War? (1991) Current Digest of the Soviet
Press. 43 (61, 17-19. (Reprinted from Izvestia. p. 1, 1991, February 11)
U.S.-Soviet Statement renews Pledge to U.N. Resolutions. (1991, February
2). Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report. 49.312.
Waltz, K. N. (1954). Man, the State and War. New York: Columbia
Waltz, K. N. (1979). Theory of International Politics. New York: McGraw-
Hill Publishing Company.
Waltz, K. N. (1986). Reflections on Theory of International Politics: A
Response to My Critics. In Keohane, R. O. (Ed.). (1986). Neorealism and Its
Critics. New York: Columbia University Press.
War Gives Soviets Unprecedented Chance to Evaluate U.S. Performance.
(1991, February 18). Aviation Week and Space Technology. 134 (7), 46.
Webb, M. C., & Krasner, S. D. (1989). Hegemonic Stability Theory: An
Empirical Assessment. Review of International Studies. 15 (21. 183-198.
Williams, P. (1989). US-Soviet Relations: Beyond the Cold War?
International Affairs, 65 (2), 273-288.
Yadav, S. S. (1989). Failed Great Power War and the Soviet Retreat from
Afghanistan. Comparative Strategy. 8 (3), 353-368.
Yazov on Gulf War, Army Grievances. (1991). Current Digest of the Soviet
Press. 43 (8), 7-8. (Reprinted from Pravda. pp. 1-2, 1991, February 23)
Young, P. L. (1992). Living in a Multi-Polar World: Has the Commonwealth
of Independent States Already Disintegrated? Asian Defence Journal 1992
Zeimetz, K., & Foster, C. (1989). Soviet Agriculture in the 1990's and the
U.S.-USSR Grain Agreement. Agricultural Outlook. 1989(159). 24-27.