Few major participants in the Kuwait drama could imagine the Soviet Union of 1977 or even 1987 acting the way Mikhail Gorbachev's crisis-ridden country did in 1990 and 1991. Soviet cooperation, more than any other factor, contributed to US President George W. Bush's optimism about a "new world order." The Soviet Union declined and fell more suddenly and more peacefully than any other empire or great state in history. Imperial decline has historically been a prolonged process spanning decades or even centuries during which the imperial elite is aware of the problem and tries to deal with it. In an examination of the connection between Soviet policy during the Kuwait War and the dissolution of the Soviet state, the focus must inevitably be narrower. The 1991 Gulf War case can help explain some of the puzzles surrounding the Soviet Union's exceptional decline and fall by focusing attention on the weakness of the reactionary forces in the Soviet Union.