Missing the Cold War

Missing the Cold War

The Cold War was assumed to be finally over with the disintegration of the Soviet Union in January 1992. 

The process started with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, followed by the re-unification of Germany in November 1990. This heralded the end of the bi-polar world divided between capitalist and socialist camps, led by the White House in Washington and the Kremlin in Moscow. The Soviet Union, established though revolution as the world’s first mass socialist experience in 1917, collapsed before even reaching its 75th anniversary.

With the end of the Cold War, the concept of a uni-polar world became popular, with the U.S. the only pole to be taken into account. But neither in nature nor in politics can there be only one pole. The effects of the digital revolution, sourcing from the U.S., gradually helped China, ruled by the Communist Party, to grow as a major power in the global capitalist system. Russia has also slowly recovered, while the European Union has become a major economic power, if not a political one, with a recovering post-unification Germany.

During the Cold War there were a number of local-scale wars. Perhaps the most significant were in Vietnam due to U.S. involvement and later in Afghanistan due to Soviet involvement. The latter actually contributed to the disintegration of the Soviet Union, while other consequences remain a major problem for the world in the form of radical Islamist movements and cross-border terrorism. In a sense, the Afghan War started during the Cold War but did not end with its conclusion.

Optimists hoped a more peaceful world would emerge from a uni-polar world order. But in fact the world transformed into a multi-polar order. The resulting wars (and the consequences of them, including massive migration flows) have became a routine of politics, especially in the Middle East-Southern Europe axis where Turkey is located. A much greater loss of life, destruction and destabilization have taken place in the post-Cold War period, especially in the Middle East, the Caucasus and the Balkans, compared to the bi-polar Cold War era.

Due to what used to be called as the “Balance of Terror,” during the Cold War there was little threat of an escalating Third World War. The so-called “Balance of Terror” dictated a status quo defined by massive stocks of nuclear weapons in the hands of both sides, meaning that even the one who pushed the red button first had no chance of surviving. Today not only are societies threatened by cross-border terrorism, religious and ethnic fanaticism, and xenophobia, there is also the possibility of none-state, terrorist actors acquiring nuclear, biological or chemical weapons of mass destruction. The world is not a safer place in the post-Cold War era.

With leaders everywhere looking to collect ever more power in their hands - and being ready to take every measure necessary to achieve that - the optimism that prevailed with the end of the Cold War is giving way to a mounting pessimism on both a regional and a global scale.

opinion, polarization, foreign policy, conflict, global politics, USA,