Cold War and Its Aftermath Term Paper

Pages: 9 (3171 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Drama - World

¶ … Cold War and its Aftermath

The Cold War represented one of the most important periods in the history of the world. It did not only changed the way in which the political world was configured following the end of the Second World War, but, at the same time, it marked a change in the perspective of the way in which relations among states and international actors are perceived. From this point-of-view, the end of this period marked the beginning of an era in which the political coordinates for international relations were uncertain and lacked a particular direction. The demise of the Soviet Union left the United States as the overall winner in the bipolar struggle. However, the entire state system was thrown into a state of confusion and disarray which made the situation from the early years of the post communist period rather uncertain. It can be said therefore that the general consideration of the period following the end of the Cold War was characterized by a lack of sense of direction, which in turn led to other manifestations that still impact today's world.

In order to have a proper comprehension of the way in which the end of the Cold War came to reestablish the world order and have such a major impact on the world politics, it is important to consider the main issues that defined the period of the Cold War, more precisely the final years. On the other hand, a different approach must be taken into account. In this sense, the way in which the Cold War ended was an important element in the reconfiguration of the world. Also, such a reconfiguration took place at different levels of the society, from a political, economic, and social point-of-view. Therefore, an analytical perspective must also take into account these factors. Finally, a view of the current situation in the world is useful to point out the precise issues that were determined by the Cold War and the extent to which such issues are still relevant for today's reality.

The Cold War had multiple causes. Norman Graebner considers that "despite the ensuing flood of literature, much of it excellent by any standards, the Cold War remains the most enigmatic and elusive international conflict of modern times" (1969). Some of the most discussed issues relate to the continuous ideological struggle that emerged during the Second World War, as a result of the fact that the two most important states of the time, the U.S. And the U.S.S.R. adopted two distinct and opposing political systems (Kissinger, 1995). In this sense, the United States based their actions, both in terms of internal and external policy on the principles of democracy, rule of law and equity in international conduct. On the other hand, the Soviet Union adopted, from the end of the Bolshevik Revolution the communist precepts of economic and political conduct. These two notions however were in stark contrast and this eventually led to increased tensions that mounted and exploded once the Second World War ended and the need for cooperation against a common enemy, Nazi Germany, no longer existed.

A factor deriving from this antagonistic perspective on world politics is the economic one. In this sense, while the democracies of the world established their reconstruction plans based on a liberal approach, the Stalinist rule in Moscow tried to implement the purest form of socialism, the communist system. Although at the time, nobody was actually aware of the fact that the liberal doctrine and the communist state planned economy may have difficulty in coexisting, once the system was set in motion, it was clear that the interdependent relations that were already emerging among countries would not be able to be maintained in the conditions in which the socialist economic view of international trade and national economies did not match the capitalist one. Therefore, an increasingly worrisome competition emerged at the economic level, an aspect which only determined a greater pressure on the social level of communist societies.

Finally, another possible source of maintaining the political conflict between the two sides was the geostrategic one. More precisely, due to the fact that both poles of power, the U.S. And the U.S.S.R. were in need of an ever greater number of spheres of influence, each in its turn tried to develop relations in different parts of the world (Nye, 2005). This issue can be considered as a derived aspect of the main idea related to the ideological clash between the West and the East; nonetheless, this strive for increasing the number of countries in which either democracy or dictatorship prevailed constantly fueled the war and even reached its climax during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Therefore it can be said that the Cold War represented an era of disputed territories, spheres of influence, and constant competition, at all the levels of the international scene.

The final years of the Cold War were had to predict, even for the best analysts. The general trend of the time, the one promoted by the realist school of thought considered that the world as it was in the 70s, with its bipolar system would not change, and the confrontational situation would go on for a long period of time (Kissinger, 1995). However, this proved not to be the case. The paradigms of international relations, but most importantly realism as established by Hans Morgenthau in the late 40s, failed to take into account the idea that the socialist economic perspective could not support the rhythm it was marching on because the economic growth yearly reports continued to account was not based on a sound, transparent, and free economic environment (Guzzini, 1998). On the other hand, the capitalist system of rule, despite the fact that it was dependent on energetic reserves and suffered a major economic setback in the early 70s, was able to recover and respect its liberal economic precepts (Calvocoressi, 1987). From this simple view of the two political and economic systems, it was obvious that the communist system of rule would eventually collapse.

The years following Reagan's arrival to power marked a turning point in the history of the Cold War, as well as of the war. At first, his attitude was rather offensive, considering the U.S.S.R. To be "the empire of evil" (Kissinger, 1995). However, Russia's new leader, Gorbachev, eventually brought down the Soviet Union through his measures meant to change and reform the system of government. These were glasnost and perestroika, which both tried to transform the ruling apparatus, by insuring more transparency and responsibility. The change of the U.S. attitude soon followed, and a new series of talks were convened to discuss future plans and changes the reconsideration of the Cold War order would have.

This detente initiative, as it would later be called, tried to insure that should the U.S.S.R. suddenly lose its status, there would be sufficient political contact among the leaders of the two powers that a power vacuum would not occur. However, despite the contacts established especially in the second term of Reagan's presidency, the power vacuum could not be avoided and affected all the countries that were under communist rule.

The weakening of the communist regime in the U.S.S.R. triggered the outbreak of popular revolutions throughout Europe especially. Thus, in Poland, Hungry, and Romania the democratic system based on free elections was restored. However, the power vacuum, as the first consequence of the fall of communism represented an essential aspect in terms of the political environment. The elections, although they were conducted shortly after the fall of the communist rule, were considered to be relatively inconsistent with the actual will of the respective populations (Kaplan, 2000). This was largely due to the fact that the Cold War era and the communist rule had deprived the society the right to support viable political elite which could have represented an important reaction to the actual system of rule inside the communist party.

The major changes that took place at the level of the global order were the reconsiderations of the design of the international system. More precisely, during the Cold War, the system was based on a bipolar system which implied the existence of two major actors on the international scene that engaged in constant confrontation. Even so, the war zone between the two sides was most of the time third world countries whose political leaders were in fact puppets in the global confrontation between the two sides.

Once the fall of the Soviet Union occurred, the equilibrium and balance of power was put in question (Nye, 2005). In this sense, analysts suggested that the major threat to international peace was gone and a new world order would eventually emerge as a result of the victorious nature of the U.S. However, such predictions proved to be unrealistic. Firstly, the first Gulf War showed that the supremacy of the U.S., at least at that time could not be challenged. They convinced the United Nations to approve their intervention in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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