IN THE PAST few decades, Eastern Europe has experienced change internally and the gradual erosion of Soviet imperial control. The evolution, punctuated by dramatic crises, has presented Western nations with subtle policy issues of how to encourage peaceful change in these societies without provoking repression from their own governments or from the Soviet Union. Western influence requires purposive engagement with regimes of questionable legitimacy while also encouraging people-to-people relationships. There are difficult choices between treating the East European nations as consequential in their own right and looking solely to the region's role in East-West relations, between moving only within well-defined bounds of Soviet tolerance and cautiously testing those bounds.
Eroding Empire reviews the attitudes, interests, and policies of the major Western countries toward Eastern Europe since World War II. Western long-term aspirations are broadly parallel, but substantial differences in medium-term objectives and in tactics have caused friction, especially between West Germany and the United States. The study recommends that Western nations seek greater agreement on objectives and more flexible orchestration of methods used to achieve them. They should not miss opportunities for promoting constructive change and should not allow serious discord in this area to weaken a Western alliance already under severe strain.
The study was designed and directed by Lincoln Gordon. J. F. Brown contributed three chapters and also served as general adviser on the project. Josef Joffe, Pierre Hassner, and Edwina Moreton are recognized authorities on German, French, and British foreign policy.