The dramatic political changes in Eastern Europe in 1989 and Mikhail Gorbachev's continued commitment to perestroika and glasnost in the Soviet Union have raised the hopes of people everywhere that world peace may be at hand. The disintegration of the Warsaw Pact, the poor performance of the Red Army in Afghanistan, the perilous state of the Soviet economy and serious internal ethnic conflicts have drastically reduced the perceived threat which the USSR poses to NATO. As a result, many NATO members are contemplating reductions in defense budgets and military forces. West Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium have all recently announced plans for smaller forces in the near future. In the US, Congress and the media are nearly unanimous in demanding reductions in defense expenditures while suggesting a variety of ways to spend the anticipated "peace dividend." President Bush appears to be vying with Gorbachev to announce bigger troop cuts in Europe and several separate arms reduction talks are in progress. Almost lost amid this euphoria is the fact that the strategic and conventions FORCES OF THE Soviet Union remain formidable. Blackjack bombers, Delta IV class submarines with SSN-23 ballistic missiles, Tbilisi class aircraft carriers and SS-18 Mod V land-based ballistic missiles are stark testimony to the Soviet commitment to modernize an already-powerful military force. Also clouding the optimism of some westerners is the Soviet Union's Byzantine system of political succession which could produce a reactionary successor to Gorbachev. The disparity between hope and reality in global politics and military power has produced caution among American military leaders.