For all the skill Soviet President Gorbachev has displayed during his leadership, particularly in his handling of foreign policy issues, he has demonstrated a marked lack of understanding in one crucial area-relations among the various nationalities of the Soviet Union. As nationalist tensions continue to build in various regions of the Soviet empire, evolving in some cases into de facto civil war, the Soviet military finds itself in a most difficult position. The armed forces are faced not only with combating nationalist tensions within their organization, but also with quelling nationalist unrest in the various republics and regions when local forces prove incapable of doing so. Difficulties notwithstanding, the events in the Baltics during January 1991 and the military’s actively aggressive role in these actions indicate that at least some of the highest ranking members of the Soviet armed forces may be increasingly willing to take on such duties.