Sample History Paper on The Cold War and its Consequences for the World

The Cold War spans from immediately after the Second World War. One of the most significant aspects of the War were the conflicts in East Asia and the Middle East. Additionally, the War brought an end to the European colonial empires in Africa and Asia. There was great competition in politics, economy, and military prowess between the United States and the Soviet Union. The competition also flowed to cultural, nuclear, and space capabilities. The world came to the brink of a third world war from these competitive politics between the US and the Soviet Union. Although the Cold War did not degenerate into a full-scale war, it resulted in consequences for the U.S. and the Soviet Union, as well as other countries that were allies of the two warring nations.

One of the most apparent consequences of the War was the emergence of a bipolar world. According to Thompson and Morenthau (1958), this is a state whereby the majority of the military, economic, and cultural influence is held by two states. Having emerged the victors of the Second World War and with claims of both the nations having nuclear weapons, the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union created a bipolar world. This meant that if any other nation wanted their aid or support, they would have to be under them (Thompson & Morenthau, 1958). The superpowers, therefore, competed to have more nations under their influence as a strategy to gain greater influence in the international stage. The situation made the atmosphere tense and affected mostly the third world countries that were at that time beginning to gain independence. Some feared hostility from other countries should they find each other on opposite sides.

The fear of hostility and attacks from either side of the political divide led to the formation of military alliances. The alliances were created for different purposes. NATO, as an example, was built by its founders including the U.S., UK, Canada, France, Italy, and Denmark among other European countries to facilitate a collective defense through the collection of different policies of the states that believed their survival was threatened (Rupp, 2006). At its formation, NATO’s resolve and purpose were tested by the emergence of disputes from among the member states, which were quickly resolved from within the organization. At its founding, NATO had twelve founding member states; but the number increased to thirty (Rupp, 2006). The alliances provided a sense of security to the member states. The other alliance to be formed was the Warsaw Pact, whose members included the Soviet Union, East Germany, Hungary, and Poland. These early alliances defined and intensified the division between the democratic and socialist nations.

The formation of the military alliances degenerated to the arms race and militarization. Gaddis (1982) informs that the cold war had initially begun as a conflict of ideologies between the United States and the Soviet Union, where one advocated for international pluralism and the other a single power quest for absolute security. The fundamental clash between these ideologies from the two countries saw the addition of a dimension that included arms race and weaponry (Gaddis, 1982). There was increased tension between the two sides as the acquisition of armory increased rapidly. The race was graced by increased nuclear weapons, submarines, and armored vehicles. There was no stop to the stocking of the weapons as both sides felt threatened by the other. Each of the two sides was not taking chances should an active war occur. The stockpiling assured them that there would be adequate preparation upfront. Indeed, there was insecurity even among the secured.

Weapon stockpiling and the formation of alliances created victims of the continued tussle between the two superpowers—the third world countries. During the cold war, the two sides had advanced economies and great economic and political influence. Other countries that had lesser economic development, third world countries, were placed them right in the middle of the superpowers’ tussle. Some of these third world countries had ties to the superpowers and were expected to show their loyalty (Howksley, 2003).  Many of these third world countries were just from colonial rule while others like in Latin America had been independent for longer but were still struggling as they faced extreme conditions such as poverty and social inequality. A number of nationalist leaders emerged and wanted to build bigger and stronger developed countries. They also wanted the reduction in their affiliation with the superpowers but at the same time wanted aid from developed nations. This placed them at a disadvantage because if they sought help from the superpowers they would be under them and would also prompt a hostile reaction from the other side. They were therefore trapped.

Although most third world felt trapped, African countries benefitted from the escalation of the War through decolonization. The War led to the decolonization of several nations in Africa- French Northern Africa to be exact. The decolonization was done by both the superpowers due to their particular interests in the region and to the value, they accorded to their respective relationship with the colonial power, France. These nations were Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco (the Maghreb). The main concern for the two superpowers, however, was not to accelerate the independence of the Maghreb countries but how best to safeguard their own strategic, political, and economic interests in the region in view of the importance they accorded to their respective relationship with France (Zoubir Yahia, 1995). The competition for the “hearts and minds” of the Algerian fighters gave the Soviet Union an upper hand for their supportive approach as opposed to the United States, which chose to support their NATO ally and pursued a more ambivalent policy. The Maghreb countries were, therefore, free from colonial rule.

As the Cold War progressed, third world countries were fast gaining independence. However, they remained at loss on who to support in the progressing War. The quagmire prompted the formation of the Non-Alignment Movement by Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, Gamal Abdel Nasar of Egypt, and Jawaharlal Nehru of India in its first conference (Belgrade Conference) in 1961 (Luthi, 2016). This movement was to encourage the nations that had just gained independence not to join in the Cold War by picking any sides but to remain neutral. As a condition for membership, members of the Non-Aligned Movement were not to be affiliated with any military alliance such as NATO or any other alliance (Luthi, 2016). Although the movement required no affiliation with the superpowers or the military alignment, it allowed a state to remain active in international politics.

While the Non-Aligned Movement advocated for neutrality among its member states, Germany was at the center of the War. The War divided Germany into NATO-backed West Germany and Soviet Union-backed East Germany. To separate the two, the Soviet Union constructed the Berlin Wall. The wall was essentially a blockade to prevent any ground travel between the East and West Berlin. The fall of the Berlin wall resulted in the unification of East and West Germany. The wall could not hold due to the waning power of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s as the Communist Party in East Germany began to lose its grip on power (Brzezinski, 1991). Talks between East and West Germany officials followed the fall of the wall, having been joined by officials from the United States, Great Britain, France, and the USSR. The talks led to the unification of East and West Germany, and although it came shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the reunification essentially signaled the end of the Cold War.

The reunification of Germany had one resounding consequence; the fall of the Soviet Union. The fall essentially brought an end to the Cold War, and the U.S. emerged as the only superpower. With the fall of the Soviet Union came the birth of a new state called Russia (Brzezinski, 1991). While it had the headquarters of the former Soviet Union, Russia had significantly lost its size and resources that had previously given its superpower status. Although still powerful, its influence had faded.

Having explored the different consequences brought about by the cold war it is evident that it impacted the superpowers and the world at large. The reunification of Germany, the fall of the Soviet Union, the arms race, the creation of NATO, and the Non-Aligned Movement, all came as a result of the Cold War. The War impacted the world negatively through polarization, forcing different nations to choose sides in a war that did not involve them. The War, on the other hand, brought independence in the third world countries through decolonization, the third world countries began enjoying a sense of freedom and making decisions independently. The fall of the Berlin Wall marked a resounding end to the War, even as the United States emerged as the only superpower.

 

References

Brzezinski, Z. (1991). East and West Germany reunite. The Adelphi Papers, 32(265), 3-17.

David, S., Y. (2011). Strategic stability in Cold War: Lessons for continuing challenges. Papers Proliferation, 36, 7-17.

Gaddis, J., L. (1982). Strategies of Containment. New York: Oxford University Press.

Howksley, H. (2003). The Third World war. London: Pan Books.

Luthi, L., M. (2016). The Non-Alignment Movement and the cold war. Journal of Cold war Studies, 18(4), pp. 98-147.

Rupp, E., R. (2006). NATO After 9/11: An Alliance in Decline. Springer

Thompson, K., & Morenthau, H. (1985). Politics among Nations. New York: McGraw Hill.

Zoubir, Y., H. (1995). The United States, the Soviet Union and decolonization of the Maghreb. Middle Eastern Studies, 31(1), 58-84.