Rivalries, Old and New

Article excerpt

In 1968 the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia, not so much because of Alexander Dubcek's threatening humanist reforms but out of fear of Prague's warming relations with West Germany. For the Kremlin, Germany represented failure and threat: Lenin had tried and failed to foment a Bolshevik revolution in post-Wilhelmine Germany after World War I; and, Germany had attacked Russia in June 1941, as it had in World War I, only this time the Kremlin carried off some territorial booty, East Germany.

In Russia and Germany Reborn: Unification, the Soviet Collapse and the New Europe (Princeton University Press, $TK, 300 pages) Angela E. Stent chronicles the modern history of both countries with a particular focus on the new Europe which, she writes, "will no longer determine the world's fate in the twenty-first century as it did in the first half of the twentieth."

What country today has the power to be a stabilizing force and anchor of European security? The United States, according to the author, will have to play a leading role in postcommunist Europe because if the United States "were to withdraw into isolationism, then both the domestic and the international situation in Europe would seriously deteriorate." Kosovo and Serbia testify eloquently to that insight.

Miss Stent's book is a first-rate analysis of what's ahead and should be carefully studied by Washington policy-makers.

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Imagine the outcry in Canada from government and populace alike if a president of the United States were to announce publicly his support for an independent Quebec. And imagine if after such a provocation this same president as well as his successors endeavored to help Quebec secessionists in their campaign to break up the Canadian Confederation.

On July 24, 1967, while on an official visit to Canada, French President Charles De Gaulle publicly called for Quebec independence. His successors have been conspiring not so secretly over the last three decades to break up Canada. And yet what remains the continuing object of fear and loathing among Canadian elites, intellectuals and the media? The United States, of course. France is but a distant second.

The whole sordid story is told by J.F. Bosher in The Gaullist Attack on Canada, 1967-1997 (McGill/Queen's University Press, $32.95, 331 pages). Mr. Bosher's heavily researched volume exposes the French government's machinations as well as the Canadian government's meek acceptance of a plot against its continued existence as a democratic nation.

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The Continuing Storm: Iraq, Poisonous Weapons, and Deterrence (Yale University Press, $30, 374 pages) is the mother of all books on the Gulf War written by one of today's most brilliant political-military analysts, Avigdor Haselkorn. And when in recounting the history of the Gulf War he criticizes President George Bush for ending the war while Saddam Hussein was still in power, the author's extraordinary documentation - the encyclopedic footnotes alone are a sort of volume two - and reasoning must be attended to. …