Legacy of the Cold War

Sana Karwan

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Benjamin Boyce

The Legacy of the cold war

All through history, conflicts and battles between civilizations and nations have been inevitable. Nations have built military protections, whether they were threatened or not. Many wars have happened throughout our history, some small and some huge. Two of the important wars in history are the world wars happened in the twentieth century. In “Understanding Global Conflict and Cooperation: Intro to Theory and History” by Joseph Nye and David Welch, it is mentioned that the alliance system between the countries in Europe appeared to be multipolar, then it became less stable and Germany rose in power, the balance of power seemed less multipolar and became a bipolar system of alliance and increased the likelihood of war, which was the first world war. After the First World War, the League of Nation was formed; the main aim of the league was Collective Security. But the league failed to attain what it was established for. Although against the rules of the league, but Britain and France formed an alliance and guaranteed the safety of Poland. One of the reasons based on a state level of analysis was when Adolf Hitler moves his troops to Poland and World War Two starts. Adolf Hitler’s target was Russia, Germany had a Fascist government and USSR had a Communist government. After attacking the USSR by the Germans, Josef Stalin allies with the United States and the Britain against Germany, forming the big three. Stalin had conditions fighting this war against the Germans, which was taking all the territories he wants after the war is over. After the defeat of the Germans, the wartime allies, the US and the USSR, so quickly become enemies and the Cold War starts. The cold war left the world militarized, thousands of people lost their lives, many countries financial and economic states were influenced, and the last but not the least, it left a legacy of Nuclear Weapon on the world. (Nye and Welch, 2012)

The United States ends the Second World War by being the international policeman, fighting against communism. With the initiatives the US started, USSR started to worry and wanted to show off his power against the US as well. The Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine were two initiatives by the United States, one to aid Europe rebuild its countries that were affected by the war and the later was to indirectly fight communism. The USSR as a communist country, did not take the Marshall Plan, he did not want to be indebted to the US and didn’t want to show the US they need their money. Also, with the Truman Doctrine, the Republicanism/Communism war started between the two major powers of the second half of the twentieth century. (JFK Library, 2015)

The Cold War was the tense relationship between the United States and USSR and their allies. The war started after the Second World War ended up to the collapse of the Soviet Union, from 1945 to 1991. The outbreak of the war was difference in ideology of the two powers. Each one of them was trying to convince the other who is stronger. Politically, the Soviet Union was fighting for Marxism and the United States for Republicanism, and economically, the USSR was supporting communism and the US was supporting capitalism. The two countries never directly confronted each other militarily, but threatened each other by nuclear weapon and fought proxy wars- using the resources of other countries to showcase power. The war defined the foreign policy of the two powers and was a competition of who is the superpower. (Kramer, 1999)

Arthur Schlesinger based on a revisionist thesis thinks that after the Second World War, US deliberately abandoned their policy of helping and collaboration of the European countries to rebuild Europe. Exhilarated by the possession of atomic bomb, the United States undertook a course of aggression of self-designed to abolish the communism influence of Russia on Eastern Europe and to establish democratic and capitalist states. Truman, the US president at that time, left the Russians no alternative but to defend their boarders. On the other hand, John Mearsheimer claims that “the absence of war in Europe since 1945 has been a consequence of three factors: the bipolar distribution of military power on the continent; the rough military equality between the two states compromising the two poles in Europe, the United States and the Soviet Union; and the fact that each superpower was armed with a large nuclear arsenal.” Mearsheimer argues that possibility for major crisis and instability in Europe was very likely after the cold war. He also believes that Europe without the superpowers would be more likely to suffer violence than the past 45 year. In addition to that, he considers that the anarchic nature of these two super powers over Europe pretty much defined their foreign policies. (Schlesinger, 1967) (Mearsheimer, 1990)

Mearsheimer explains the Cold War as the longest period of peace in European history. During the Cold War, Europe faced no major war according to him, only a couple of minor wars that didn’t bring Europe to major war. Furthermore, he illustrates that there were major crisis in Europe during the early years of the war which again didn’t not bring Europe to the brink of war. He believes that domestic factors, especially nationalism caused the wars of the pre 1945 era, while the post 1945 era, although European states were more concerned about peace, but domestic factors had lesser important in the international community, since distribution of military power between states had characterized Europe. Based on these assumptions, during the cold war, a militarized Europe was the result of the Cold War. (Mearsheimer, 1990)

I interviewed my father about the military influence of the Cold War. He told me that based on what I have read about the Cold War is that after the Second World War the USSR had influenced and Controlled much of Eastern Europe, and the United States took that into consideration, that they didn’t want that communism view to spread more. They didn’t confront each other militarily, but the world was in a psychological war because of these two superpowers. The influence of the Cold War reached Africa, central Asia and the Middle East, specifically Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. The Cold War left a legacy of heavy militarization of the World that there was no national or international security. The US and the USSR developed far more advanced nuclear weapons than the Hiroshima experience. The countries under the Soviet Union were oppressed, there was no democracy in Russia, and the Soviet Union was so busy in aiding the country and other countries that were against the US militarily led to the collapse of the USSR. When I asked him about the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s and the influence of the Cold War, he recalled that although the Iraq was under the circle of the Soviet Union, but the United States was helping Iraq indirectly. In 1988, the US hit one of Iran’s airplanes in Iraq and this was an alert. Also in his opinion in Central Asia, with the establishment of Taliban and Al-Qaida, the US was helping these currently so called terrorist groups against the Soviet Union. This reminded me of the “I am Malala” book by Malala Yousafzaithat I read recently. As a kid, Malala recalls how the US is helping Taliban against Russia.

C. Fred Bergsten talks about three global transformations to the world economy after the Cold War. “First, the reforms in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if successful, will end the Cold War and most East-West confrontation, and will allow substantial reductions in military arsenals. Second, the salience of security issues will decline sharply; economics will move much closer to the top of the global agenda. Third, the world economy will complete its evolution from the American-dominated regime of the first postwar generation to a state of US-Europe-Japan tripolarity.” what he means by these transformations is that the role of individual states will go back to the international economic positions they supposed to have. Also, he is trying to draw our attention to a united Europe with a strong economy that will create a large market for trade. The reason he is talking about these economic roles of Europe is that the United States is in relative economic decline. During the World Wars in Europe, the United States appeared to have the largest economy that was willingly helping the European countries to rebuild Europe. (Bergsten, 1990)

In conclusion, the Cold War left a huge economic and military legacy on the world. It left the world with plenty of military bases of the United States around the world. May be the economic legacy of the Cold War was not as big as the military legacy, but it took time for Europe to rebuild itself. In my opinion, the legacy of the Cold War can be obviously seen in Central Asia, especially in Afghanistan, where Al-Qaida was established in. The United States helping the terrorist group in Afghanistan against USSR hit back on them in September 11, 2001. So, the Cold War that is called to be the longest period of peace in Europe had a corrupt aftermath on the world and left the world militarized that we cannot help fixing.

Works Cited

Bergsten, C. Fred. The Wrold Economy after the Cold War. The New American Realism. Foreign Affairs. Council on Foreign Relations. Vol. 69, No. 3 (Summer, 1990), pp. 96-112. March 20, 2015.

Kramer, Mark. Ideology and the Cold War. Review of International Studies. Cambridge University Press. Vol. 25, No. 4 (Oct., 1999), pp. 539-576. March 19, 2015.

Mearsheimer, John. Back to the Future: Instability in Europe after the Cold War. International Security. The MIT Press. Vol. 15, No. 1 (Summer, 1990), pp. 5-56. March 20, 2015.

Nye Jr., Joseph and Welch, David. Understanding Global Conflict and Cooperation: An Introduction to Theory and History. 9th edition. February 19, 2012. March 19, 2015.

Schlesinger, Arthur. Origins of the Cold War. The New American Realism. Foreign Affairs. Council on Foreign Relations. Vol. 46, No. 1 (Oct., 1967), pp. 22-52. March 20, 2015.

The Cold War.” – John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum, n.d. March 19, 2015.

I also interviewed my father.