The Definition of the Cold War
The Cold War, which refers to a time of the war not fought on battlefields but made up of contrasts, intolerances, hatred, and hostility on social, economic, and primarily political levels, is the period of maximum tension between the countries of the West – under the influence of the United States – and the Eastern countries – under the influence of the Soviet Union.
End of the Cold War and the beginning of a new era
Several factors brought the end of the Cold War including economic, political, and technological advancements. Some advancements brought the fall of the communist bloc countries and the rise of the capitalist countries which ultimately led to the unipolar dominance of the US. The economic advancements that brought about the end of the Cold War were international trade, the rise of the Tiger economies in Asia and the decline in commodity prices, the oil crisis, the stagnation in the USSR and East Europe between the years 1979-1982. This led to the decline of the communist bloc countries. As the economy changed, economic growth was abducted by the non-communist states of East Asia, and in particular Japan, which by the 1970s had become the second-largest capitalist economy in the world after the United States. The detente between Europe and the USSR, the Warsaw pact, Gorbachev’s influence, the reunification of Germany, the demise of the communist parties in East Europe, American unipolarity, the dissolution of the Soviet Bloc, the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty, the First Gulf War, the creation of the United Nations, and the World Trade Organization were the political events that marked the transition to the post-Cold War era. The rise of globalization also profoundly changed the World Order after the Post 1945 period at the end of the Cold War. Technological-wise, the establishment of the world wide web brought about a new era in trade and communication. Therefore, due to all of these factors, the end of the Cold War changed the whole post-1945 scene and signaled a new world order, which retained its place in the twenty-first century.
The Economical Reasons
During the period between 1975-1985 which marked the end of the Cold War, several events occurred such as the oil crisis in 1971, resulting in the doubling of the oil prices and the restriction of imports that ultimately resulted in the economic stagnation of the Eastern European countries. The period between 1971-1982 marked the lowest point of the USSR’s stagnation years with the commodity prices dropping because of the increase of international trade and the rise of the Tiger Economies in Asia. This enriched the capitalist countries’ economies while decelerating the economies of the East Bloc countries because they were closed to international trade and could not decrease the commodity prices as much as the Asian or European and American countries. In productivity and economic management, the United States and Japan have a dominant role in the global economy, while East Europe is pushed into severe economic recessions. On the other hand, Western Europe had developed by signing the Maastricht Treaty (Treaty of the European Union) in 1993. As a consequence, they managed to create a unified form of shared interests both economically and monetary-wise in Europe. Besides, the economic power of the European countries was increased by the creation of the EURO. Overall, in the world economic scene we see a multipolar dominance of the US, EU, China, and Japan in the post-Cold War period.
Institutionally, it is seen that economic establishments such as the World Trade Organization, IMF(International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank, GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average) were formed.
The Political Reasons
The political reasons that brought about the new world order at the end of the Cold War were first of all the effect of the European Detente, which was marked by the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO which was signed in 1949 and in 1999 reached 19 countries. Secondly, in France -with De Gaulle- the overcoming of Yalta is seen in the period between 1965 to 1969. Thirdly, in the United States with the presidency of Donald Reagan, the breakdown of detente, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iranian Revolution. In 1980, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev took over control and the terms perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness) were introduced in the 1980s. Unfortunately, these terms began to wane by the late 1980s and the Soviets lost their hopes that the political system would be completely renewed. By the end of the 1980s Gorbachev believed in the non-intervention policy -also called Frank Sinatra Doctrine- believed that the Soviet Union should not intervene in the Eastern Europe countries’ political affairs. East Europeans should decide on their futures according to Gorbachev and he aimed to use change as a tool in administering his relationship with Americans under the presidency of George Bush. As a result, the American-Soviet relationships were no longer a ‘Cold War’ but a ‘partnership’.
With the collapse of the East European communist power, the Cold War system ended, and in 1991 the collapse of the Soviet Union occurred. On the other hand, Germany was reunified with the demolition of the Berlin Wall. There was unpredictability, poverty, and conflict in the world, and Genocide and terrorism rose in the 1990s. On the other hand, Soviet-American relationships got worse with the election of Reagan in 1984, which caused a deterioration of the Detente between the US and USSR.
The war in Afghanistan also caused damage to the detente, such as the suicide of fourteen thousand soldiers, but this war also forced the Soviet Union into its internal system. The Soviets had always been against capitalism. They always supported anti-imperialism and had hostility towards capitalism. They struggled a lot with colonialism. However, the Soviets appeared to be another great power that had responsibility for their management of the International order by military and economic influence.
The Gulf War was a massive conflict and a challenge to the unipolarity of the United States during the Post Cold War period. The war began when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. For 8 years Iran fought Iraq, which left the Iraq regime in a very difficult position. As a result, Iraq suffered great economic loss and political power.
The domination of the United States in the international order in the 1990s had been unipolar, which meant that during the last years of the 20th century, the United States had no rival within the international system. It had great military and political power in the global order.
In the Balkans, the disintegration of Yugoslavia is seen which started in the 1920s when the 6 Republics in Yugoslavia started seeking autonomy. The full disintegration happened in the 1990s, when Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence from Yugoslavia in June 1991. However, Serbia could not be independent. In September and October of 1991 Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina became independent. Furthermore, In 1992 the European Community recognized Croatia and Slovenia; in April as independent states. Then there was a long ethnic war in Bosnia Herzegovina. The Serbs seized Bosnia’s territory and proclaimed the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Technological Reasons for the new World Order
The 1990s is marked by globalization -a term referring to cultural, social, and economic changes caused by the growth of international trade and the development of high-speed global communications. The new global economy was dominated by entrepreneurs in the United States and a by-product of this economy was the internet. The world wide web was deregulated during the Clinton’s administration and was an important virtual marketplace.
It is evident that in the 1990’s in the period of the post-Cold War, there was a massive gap between the global and economic powers between Russia and the United States during the 1990s. America was a dominant economic and political superpower, a victorious neo-liberal capitalist model of development after the Cold War. On the other hand, Russia had declined in the 1990s after the Cold War, as the newly independent Russian federation suffered plenty of political and economical crises. This situation weakened the Russian government and caused problems in their economy, leading to political instability.
● Antony Best, Jussi M. Hanhimäki, Joseph A. Maiolo and Kirsten E. Schulze, International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond, Routledge, 2014
● Dr. Angela Romano notes ‘The end of the Cold War order/ dawn of new era’
Academic Paper History and Civilization, Angela Romano.