The Cold War Term Paper
The end of the Cold War was probably the most significant even in the history of the 20th century, while the Cold War was one of the most dangerous wars in the history of mankind. Even though there was no open military conflict between two superpowers, the US and the USSR, the tension between these states was so serious that the threat of the nuclear war was quite real. Consequently, the existence and survival of human race in the case of the transformation of the Cold War into a ‘hot’ military conflict between the two superpowers was in great danger and the risk of its total elimination was very high.
Naturally, in such a situation the end of the Cold War was welcomed by the vast majority of the world community. For many states it was a great relief since the end of the Cold War eliminated the most serious threats to their national interests, on the other hand, universal human values and democratic principles which were highly appreciated by every individual in the democratic countries could be eventually transmitted on the post-communist part of the world. This is why it is possible to view on the end of the Cold War in two dimensions: state and individual. Obviously, these two levels perhaps analyze the end of the Cold War and its consequences more efficiently than any other. At the same time, they help fully realize the significance and effects of the end of the Cold War.
Historical background of the end of the Cold War
On analyzing the end of the Cold War, it is hardly possible to really understand the significance and effects of this historical event without a brief overview of the historical background and events that actually led to such an outcome of this war between two antagonistic systems: totalitarian and democratic. In this respect, it should be pointed out that basically the end of the Cold War was the result of the profound crisis of political and economic system of the Eastern block at large, and its hegemonic state, the USSR, in particular.
In fact, by the mid-1980s, the USSR armed forces were the largest in the world and were considered to be extremely powerful that naturally created great tension between the USSR and the democratic world headed by the USA which national interests were considered to be danger until the threat of communist expansion remained along with the dominance of communist ideology in the USSR that supported totalitarian system in this country.
At the same time, individual rights and liberties were extremely limited in the USSR whose non-military economic and social sphere was stagnating while political bonzes representing the Communist party benefited from the existing system of privileges and ample funding of the Soviet military complex. To put it more precisely, by the late 1980s “Moscow had built up a military that consumed as much as twenty-five percent of the Soviet Union’s gross national product at the expense of consumer goods and investments in civil sectors” (LaFeber 2002:332). Naturally, such a situation could not last for a long time. In fact, by the late 1980s the Soviet economic growth rate was close to zero while a sharp fall of currency earnings as a result of the downward slide in world oil prices only deteriorated the situation. Eventually, socio-economic and later political systems of the USSR had collapsed and the dissolution of this state was just a question of time. Obviously, the Soviet leaders perfectly realized the dangerous changes in the socio-economic development of the state and undertook steps aiming at the structural changes in the Soviet gross national product in favor of civil sector.
As a result, gradually, the USSR refused from its international policy of the interference in the affair of other states, especially those of the Eastern block, while traditional Western values were gradually accepted by the dominant political power of the USSR and integrated in the social and economic life of the country. Finally, in December 1989, Gorbachev and G.W. Bush declared the Cold war officially over at a summit meeting in Malta.
State analysis of the end of the Cold War
Basically, on analyzing the end of the Cold War on the state level, it should be said that, primarily, this meant the end often world opposition of two systems capitalist, or democratic, and socialist, which was totalitarian as the matter of fact. Naturally, the ruin of the global opposition created new opportunities for the normal and free development of democratic states. There was no threat to their national interests from the part of the USSR and, thus, they could develop their economies without substantial investments in military. At the same time, the end of the Cold War eliminated the ideological and economic borders between them and ex-communist states. As a result, they could enter new markets and develop not only political but economic international relations as well that positively influenced the development of national economies of developed countries which used to oppose to the USSR.
However, it is necessary to underline that some researchers do not agree that the Cold War ended at all. They say that the accents have just changed but the world is still in the state of war that affects dramatically international relations. To put it more precisely, some specialist estimate that if earlier there was the opposition between two principle ideologies of those times capitalism versus communism, then nowadays there is the cold war between well developed, rich countries and some outcast of the third world whose policy, regimes and ideology have to be changed by democratic as it is traditionally said.
Moreover, specialists argue that nowadays democratic states have to cope with consequences of the Cold War, among which terrorism is the most dangerous one. in this respect it is worthy of note that the most notorious terrorists and supporters of the international terrorism in the modern world, such as Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussain, are ‘products’ of the Cold War. It is a well-known fact that during the cold war secret services of the USA tried to find supporters of their ideology and enlarge the opposition to the communism expansion. That is why they supported different organizations and a lot of people that could contribute to the win of the USA in this war. Unfortunately, not everybody knows that Osama bin Laden was supported or even created by the US. He was supposed to be one of those people who together with mujihadin will help to expel the troops of the ex-USSR from Afghanistan. By the way, American services such as CIA amply supported Afghanistan movements against the USSR technically and financially. They trained their soldiers, consulted them, taught them to fight against soviet tactics, provide them for weapons, etc. But, unfortunately for Americans, some of the opponents of the Soviet Union didn’t stop the war when the Soviet troops left Afghanistan and they continued their war but their enemy became different. They began to resist the American influence and political, cultural and economical expansion. The wartime with the Soviet Union and ample help from the American side permitted them, particularly Osama bin Laden, to create worldwide organizations and have links with many other terror organizations.
As for Saddam Hussain he also was supported by the USA because he was useful for them as the opponent of Iran that was under the influence of the USSR. But as soon as the Soviet threat disappeared he became of no practical use for Americans and moreover he began to act independently without coordination with his former alliances. Very soon he began to threaten American economical and geopolitical interests and finally after post Gulf war pause his regime was, finally, destroyed in the war on terror because of Saddam’s support of international terror organizations.
So the ‘friends’ in the cold war became the main enemies after its end and what is more they became totally incontrollable. This is why it is logical to presuppose that as long as these ex-‘friends’ commit their evil acts the Cold War is not really over. Naturally, this threat of terrorism significantly undermined stability in international relations and created certain tension between different states, for instance between the US and Iran, or the US and Iraq, threatening to national interests of many states. In such a way, relations between states on the international level after the end of the Cold War became less controllable and potential threats shifted from the threat of the nuclear war to the threat of international terrorism that is considered by many states as the major threat to their national interests. As a result, these states are forced to work out a plan of organized struggle against international terrorism and, currently, this war on terror is headed by the US and supported by the vast majority of well developed capitalist states.
In such a way, in state terms, the end of the Cold War gave start to a new epoch of international relations. However, despite significant liberalization of international relations and wider spread of democracy, the end of the Cold War and its effects engendered new threats to national interest of many states and made international relations quite tense again.
Individual analysis of the end of the Cold War
On the individual level, the end of the Cold War also resulted in the dramatic shift since in actuality it gave freedom to millions of people inhabiting post-communist states. What is even more important, is the fact that in the result of the end of the Cold War the international relations provided the possibility to normal communication between people on different levels starting from the level of state to the personal level.
At the same time, the end of the Cold war contributed to a significant extent to the wide spread of traditional values of Western culture. To put it more precisely, Western norms and values which were highly appreciated by all people populating democratic states could be transmitted to people that had never lived in a really democratic state. It is important to underline this affected international relations dramatically since in international terms individual principles and values of western people could be freely delivered and shared with people of post-communist countries that contributed to the general democratization of these states and improvement of life of ordinary people in these countries.
On the other hand, the end of the Cold War also created a new threat that affects each practically all states at large and each individual in particular. This threat is closely associated with globalization, which resulted from the ruin of the Iron Curtain separating democratic countries from the eastern block, and it is the danger of loosing national identity, culture and tradition due to the overwhelming power of the impact of Western values on socio-cultural life of post-communist states.
Thus, in conclusion it should be said that the end of the Cold War was a very important historical event that had really changed the world. On analyzing this even on state and individual level, it is possible to conclude that this event contributed to the democratization of the world but at the same time, the negative effects of the Cold War may be observed till the present moment, such as terrorism, that makes it possible to argue whether the Cold War is over or probably not. Finally, the end of the Cold War and elimination of ideological and economic borders also resulted in economic and cultural globalization that is quite dangerous for national cultures of post-communist and developing states.
Allen, Beverly. “Talking “terrorism”: ideologies and paradigms in a post-modern world” SYRACUSE J. OF INT’L LAW AND COMMERCE, SPRING 1996
Jeambar, Denis. “The Birth of The New World”, l’Express Dec.20, 2001
Kortunov, Andrei. Sources of International Crises after the End of the Cold War. New York: New Publishers, 1994
“Post-cold war international security threats”, MICHIGAN J. OF INT’L LAW #3, SPRING 1999
LaFeber, Walter. America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945–1992, 7th ed. New York: Random House, 2002.
Lundestad, Geir. East, West, North, South: Major Developments in International Politics since 1945. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Sandro, C., 2005, “Resentment in the east” Toronto Star, September, 18, 2005.
Sealing, Keith E. “State sponsors of terrorism”, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY INT’L LAW REVIEW #2, 1999.