This article presents a new framework for understanding the role of international factors in post-Cold War regime change. We treat the post-Cold War international environment as operating along two dimensions: western leverage, or governments’ vulnerability to external pressure, and linkage to the West, or the density of a country’s ties to the U.S., the European Union, and Western-led multilateral institutions. Both leverage and linkage raised the cost of authoritarianism during the post-Cold War period. However, mechanisms of leverage such as diplomatic pressure, or conditionality were–by themselves–rarely sufficient to democratize post-Cold War autocracies. Rather, the more subtle and diffuse effects of linkage contributed more consistently to democratization. The impact of linkage and leverage are examined in the context of post-Cold War hybrid or competitive authoritarian regimes.