James W. Peterson
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The imbalance of power in 1991
Collapse of the Soviet Union and allied victory in the Persian Gulf War
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The two unrelated events of the break-up of the Soviet Union and the allied victory in the Persian Gulf War made the year 1991 a significant turning point for both Moscow and Washington. A full fifteen nations emerged from the shell of the former Soviet Union, while revolutions in the formerly communist managed states of East Europe led to the emergence of democratic forms in all of them. The resulting Russian state was much smaller and weaker than the Soviet state that it supplanted. In contrast, American power surged forth with the coordinated victory in the Persian Gulf War over Iraq, after its invasion of Kuwait, that restored U.S. military credibility after the quagmire of the War in Southeast Asia. New doctrinal formulations emerged on both sides with the new Russian Constitution of 1993 that paralled the rise of the Yeltsin government, and with the New World Order as articulated for a time by the George H.W. Bush administration. The resulting imbalance of power was a major change from the dynamics of the Cold War but also a prod to the ambitions of Russian leaders like Vladimir Putin. However, balance remained with the mutual negotiations that characterized START diplomacy.

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