The experience of history teaches that when an aggressor sees that he is not being opposed he grows more brazen. Contrariwise when he meets opposition, he calms down. It is this historic experience that must guide us in our actions.
-- Nikita Khrushchev, August, August 7, 19611
The breaching of the Berlin Wall and the spectacular collapse of Communist governments in Eastern Europe in November 1989 brought an end to the Cold War but also raised a question: Had Soviet power simply been in illusion? In a sense, of course, it must have been so, at least for some years. While Gorbachev's policies had clearly undermined Soviet ideology in a way that contributed to rapid disintegration after 1985, "stagnation," to use the Soviet term, had obviously been eating away at the Soviet power structure for some time.
But though in a sense an illusion, at least in recent years, Soviet power had been, paradoxically, no less real. In international affairs, there is no practical distinction between the illusion of power and the reality, as long as the illusion is credited. The history of twentieth-century diplomacy showed this repeatedly--whether in Germany's power under Hitler, which began as an illusion and then became a reality, or in the Soviet Union's power under Khrushchev after Sputnik, which began as a partial illusion and was later unmasked as such. International struggle was itself little more than the interplay among ambition, fear, and illusion. War alone--and in the nuclear era, the crisis or showdown2--was the arbiter