The New World Order: An Outline of the Post-Cold War Era

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“The New World Order”: An Outline of the Post-Cold War Era

Muzaffer Ercan YlLMAZ *

Abstract This article provides an analytical discussion on post-Cold War developments and the emerging world order in that era. In this regard, some of the main characteristics of the international system, basic trends, and new threats in international relations are addressed, in that order. It is argued that while classical inter-state wars tend to decrease in the post-Cold War era, there are many other serious threats to international peace beyond the full control of nation-states, most notably ethnic conflicts, religious militancy, terrorism, North-South conflict, and unfair economic competition. The future of the world is stressed to depend on whether major powers are able to, and willing to, work on these threats in a cooperative manner. Key words: Post-Cold War Era, International System, International Trends, International Threats, World Order.

INTRODUCTION The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s has had a dual impact on international relations. On the one hand, the Soviet military withdrawal from Eastern Europe and the Third World brought an end to the Cold War, allowed democratization to proceed in many states previously ruled by Marxist dictatorships, and led to significant progress in resolving several Third World conflicts that had become prolonged during the Cold War. The reduction in EastWest tension also resulted in a great decrease in inter-state conflicts, some of which occurred due to the superpower ideological rivalry during the Cold War. Even it became fashionable to argue that force, used here as military power, has run its course in international politics. And it is true that defense budgets in many parts of the world radically decreased (See, for example, United States, Government Accountability Office, 2008). This trend, despite very few contrary examples (for instance China), appears to holding.

Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations, Vol. 7, No. 4, Winter 2008

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On the other hand, however, it would be rather unwise to argue that the world is now at peace. The collapse of the “Soviet Empire” was followed by the emergence, or reemergence, of many serious conflicts in several areas that had been relatively quiescent during the Cold War. Some of these new conflicts have been taking place within the former Soviet Union, such as the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, and the fighting in Chechnya. But some conflicts also erupted or intensified in several countries outside of it and many Third World conflicts in which the superpowers were not deeply involved during the Cold War have persisted after it, like the secessionist movements in India, Sri Lanka, and Sudan. Ethnopolitical conflicts aside, there have been other threats to international order that are, indeed, beyond the full control of major powers, even the United States, the victor of the Cold War. The most notable ones include religious militancy, terrorism, North-South conflict, and severe competition over scarce resources. Thus, the end of the Cold War can be said to have brought about both stability and instability to international relations. The purpose of this article is to evaluate nearly two decades of the post-Cold War era in terms of the elements of stability and instability. In this respect, the study will start with an overview of the general characteristics of the international system. This will be followed by a more detailed discussion on basic trends and new threats in international relations. Several observations will also be outlined in concluding the study with respect to possible future directions of international affairs.

THE INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM AFTER THE COLD WAR With the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe and disintegration of the Soviet Union, the bipolar international system dominating the Cold War period disappeared, leaving its place to basically a unipolar...
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