heightened concerns about regional arms proliferation. Many regions of concern are also areas where weapons proliferation is most acute and involve countries toward whom the major powers often have differing export policies. An important adjunct of this intersection with the problem is state-sponsored terrorism, against which trade restrictions may have deterrent or punitive value.
Although better relations between the United States and the Soviet Union have been accompanied by some progress toward reducing regional conflicts in southern Africa and Central America, other areas have been marked by greater tensions between regional powers. Throughout the Cold War, the Middle East was thought the most likely region to trigger a superpower conflict. With the substantial improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations—and with the decrease of military and financial support for certain Arab states by the Soviet Union and the East European countries—this particular specter has diminished considerably, although conflict in that region remains a major security concern. The fruits of this change were evident in the close consultation and cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union during the early part of the Persian Gulf crisis.
On the other hand, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the Palestinian uprising in the Israeli-occupied territories have severely strained relations and heightened tensions among countries in the region and beyond. The fact that nuclear and chemical weapons and missile delivery systems are now part of the Middle East security calculus only adds to the danger posed to U.S. bases and allies in the region.
The Indian subcontinent also has been threatened recently by the outbreak of large-scale hostilities. India and Pakistan, which have fought a series of wars since independence over still-disputed land on their borders, are upgrading their advanced military capabilities, such as short-and medium-range missiles. India has a proven ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, and there is growing concern that Pakistan may be in the process of adapting its nuclear energy program for military purposes.
In East Asia, fears about weapons proliferation have added to the peril of continuing confrontation. Korea remains divided as a result of lingering Cold War antagonisms, and even as the United States withdraws some forces from South Korea and Japan, it is concerned about reports that North Korea is pursuing a vigorous program of nuclear weapons development.
New forms of regional instability also could arise out of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, if that were to occur. Already, a serious and violent conflict exists between Armenia and Azerbaijan and, less directly, between Kirghizia and Uzbekistan. Moreover, not only is there a continuing risk of conflict between republics of the Soviet Union, but a further danger also exists that these tensions might spill over current Soviet borders and embroil neighboring countries.