The Impact of the End of the Cold War on Us Foreign Policy

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Discuss the impact of the end of the Cold War on US foreign policy


When the world famous liberal thinker Francis Fukuyama in his masterpiece declared that we were witnessing the end of the history, he was greeting the new political structure and also the new international environment, which is peaceful[1]. However, developments that occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union showed us that the dissolution of the Soviets was unexpected. The international society was not ready for peace and Fukuyama’s optimistic assumptions were far from becoming real. Moreover, the international society currently started to realise that the tension and the potential of mass destructive war during the Cold War era had provided a much more stable and securitize world order for any other periods of the history. Recent developments that occurred after 9/11 attacks showed us that the world is not much securer due to the characteristics of this new type of threat which is commonly known and referred as terrorism.

As being the flagship of the Western powers during the Cold War, the US is facing with much more pressure than before. Post- Cold war developments proved that although the US has the leadership features and military superiority against conventional threats or in other words ‘known’ enemies, it is still lacking of showing the same attributes in the Post-cold War era. This paper is going to analyse the impact of the end of the Cold War on US foreign policy. In order to do it so, it will provide historic background information on Cold War era and also the developments occurred after. Later on this paper will focus on the shifts that occurred in the American foreign policy after the Cold War.

Basics of the Cold War Policies:

For almost five decades the Cold War was the main stage for the evolution of international relations. Many institutions, political or military organisations and even international norms and regulations of the Cold War are setting the base even for the modern day politics. Hence the legacy of the Cold War era is still shaping the political, economic and social relationships within, and also in between the states.

Although there is no specific agreement between the historians on when it began, the Cold War is the name given to approximately 50 years long conflict between the Communist block led by Soviet Union and the Western nations led by United States of America. Cold War was a conflict, which did not include any direct military engagements between these two parties. On the other hand, it was fought by various types of means including diplomatic, economic and mostly by propaganda.

In general basics of the Cold War era can be grouped under 4 categories. These are:

1) Bipolar System:

The primary outcome of the Second World War probably was the emergence of two superpowers which created a new and never been before experienced system anytime in the history of international relations called bipolar system. A bipolar system includes two evenly matched powers in this case The US and the Soviet Union. Once allies during and opponents after the Second World War, these two victorious states have became the main actors of the world politics for over 50 years.

2) The US Foreign Policy of Containment:

The Soviet Union and its supporters were declared as the enemy of the free world by the Western states mostly by the US during the Cold War. Although it has been argued that the first indications of hostility between these two states have emerged during The Yalta and Potsdam conferences[2], the first arguments on the soviet threat have taken place between the American decision makers in late 1940s[3]. The main idea during these arguments was focusing on the essential importance of containing the Soviets, both politically and geographically in order to save and protect the US interests in overseas. In his reply to the US Treasury Department, George Kennan a former American diplomat,...
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