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Post-Cold War Challenges Essay

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Updated: Jan 24th, 2020


After a very long struggle between communists and capitalists, the Cold War ended in 1991, with the disbandment of the Soviet Union and the creation of newly independent states in Eastern Europe. At the time when strained relations between the US and the Soviet Union ended, the financial systems of several countries, particularly those in Eastern Europe, were in the process of collapsing.

Countries that embraced communism faced a number of problems, ranging from inflation to unfavourable balance of trade. In East Germany, many individuals were unhappy since they saw their western counterparts develop and acquire financial muscles while they languished in great poverty. Food shortages characterized the Russian economy, as many people could be spotted lining up to acquire food products from major government sponsored supermarkets.

In 1987, Gorbachev engaged the US leader, Ronald Reagan n talks aimed at resolving the nuclear energy crisis. The two leaders signed the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty in the American capital, Washington in order to end tension and anxiety, which had crippled the world. In the same year, the US accepted to remove over two-thousand six hundred medium range nuclear missiles in the European continent.

In 1989, Hungary defied the Soviet Union agreement and chose to conduct peaceful, free, and fair elections while at the same time demolished the fence that divided it with Austria. Gorbachev surprised many people in the region when he decided not to intervene. In the same year, Poland followed suit by conducting free elections.

The Solidarity Labour Party defeated the Communist Party. A number of other countries in the region conducted peaceful and fair elections and kicked out communism. Other Communist leaders resigned due to public pressure. In December 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved when the Russian leader, representatives of Belarus, and Ukraine disbanded the union.

The Cold War had ended, but its impacts were felt everything in the world. The challenges that faced the world shortly after the Cold War were brought by global structural developments, as well as the Cold War itself. As the Cold War went on, globalization was gaining prominence. Technology was developing at an unprecedented rate, with the acquisition of nuclear power and improvements in the transport sector being the major changes.

Technology contributed in the growth of globalization in the sense that it improved communication and transportation. People would communicate easily and at a reduced rate. Combination of the effects of Cold War and globalization resulted to serious challenges just after the end of the Cold War. These challenges include global terrorism, poverty, the widening gap between the rich and the poor countries, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These challenges will be discussed in detail in this article.


Technological developments have presented new opportunities to contemporary terrorists in a number of ways. This is due to the various technological innovations and its multifarious nature.

Terrorists use the modern technology in spreading propaganda and demonstrating their capabilities. One of the technological advancements that have presented an opportunity to terrorists is the internet, which is being utilized effectively to cause fear and panic among members of the public. Individuals are concerned with the information posted on the social sites. Moreover, terrorists have been able to recruit several individuals who would not have intended to join terrorism.

Terrorists justify their heinous acts through the internet, claiming that they fight for the rights of Muslims. Computer networks are often comprised in the modern society through cyber terrorism, which interferes with genuine governmental information. Through the internet, it is difficult for various governments to end terrorism since such illegal organizations receive funding through the internet.

They request other terrorist groups with adequate resources to avail funds whenever they feel that their accounts are almost drying. It is indeed factual that terrorists in developing countries receive technical and logistical support from their foreign counterparts, particularly in Asia. This is made possible through the internet since all terrorists minimize travelling in order to safeguard their identity. Some terror groups are experts in terms of hacking, defrauding, and phishing other people’s accounts.

This would be conducted successfully without the owner noticing. In fact, a number of financial institutions, including banks have complained severally that their accounts websites have been compromised. This is a threat to many countries and private institutions since the type of crime was not common some twenty years ago.

Technological development led to the creation of deadly chemical and biological weapons, which is a real threat to human life. It would be extremely dangerous if these chemicals and biological weapons get into the hands of terrorists. These technologically driven weapons have the capacity of destroying human life and property. Through technological innovations, new telecommunication equipments, such as cell phones, emails, satellites, the television, and other sophisticated channels are in existence.

Terrorists are in a position to plan and execute a terror attack in an organized way without government officials noticing. In fact, many governments come to know when the attack has already been committed. Terrorist groups are able to use cellular and satellite communications to track down the activities of the government. Through the satellite, they acquire vital information regarding the prepared of the security agencies. Terrorists ensure that they train their members of technology in order to be ahead of the government.

Kilcullen noted further that terrorist organizations, such as the Al Qaeda, operate in over forty countries, with cells in all Arab speaking countries, including Europe and East Africa.

A study conducted by the Jihadist organization confirmed that the 2001 attack of the organization in Afghan destabilized its operations, but the organization is active globally meaning that it poses serious challenges to both state and non-state actors[1]. Al-Battar article, which is usually released by the Al Qaeda, claimed that the crusaders of the war against Islam thought they had destroyed the Jihadist organization when they destroyed Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, the organization had spread out to all parts of the world. In other words, the insurgent group was simply confirming to the world powers that the organization is international meaning that it carries out a series of attacks globally. After the 2001 attack, the organization embarked on a serious mission aimed at purifying the Muslim countries, destroying the Blasphemers’ fortress, and sending brigades to the Islamic countries worldwide (Kilcullen 598).

Studies suggest that terrorist organizations conduct their activities through regional theatres of operation meaning that they combine forces and execute heinous acts of terrorism in the neighbouring countries. The regional Islamic movements that are accused of perpetuating terrorism in various parts of the world follow a clearly laid down procedure, as per the Al Qaeda decree. The style of operation is usually similar meaning that they use suicide bombers.

Even though the groups operate in a similar, some studies suggest that there is no evidence that the Al Qaeda controls the regional terrorist groupings. Such studies suggest that Islamic extremist organizations are not monolithic groups, but instead they are complex organizations that are difficult to understand.

Based on this, Hoffman noted that it is indeed difficult to define terrorism given the fact that they operate in the same way, yet they are not under a single command. Hoffman observed that the term was first employed in France during the French Revolution, but its meaning has so far changed[2].

In the modern international system, terrorism is used to mean a revolutionary or an anti-government activity, which is carried out by a non-state actor or sub-national entities (Hoffman 15). The scholar observed further that the terrorism was initially associated with democracy and the ideals of virtue since its major aim was to force the government to accept competition, but its aim in the modern international system is different.

The major aim of all terrorists is to harm innocent citizens. Terrorists, both traditional and modern, share two major features, one of them being organization and systemization while the other is the aim to change the prevailing order. Terrorist organizations are difficult to define because they claim to fight for freedom and liberation, yet they have stand-by armies that inflict pain even to individuals whom they claim to fight for their rights.

Even Kilcullen claimed that western powers have always struggled to define the Jihadist organizations. Some western analysts are of the view that Jihadist groups are formal organizations while others observe that they are simply mass movements. Other scholars term it a franchised business organization whose major aim is to collect finances through abduction and infliction of unnecessary pain.

Poverty and the Widening Gap between the Rich and Poor States

A number of theories have been developed to explain the cause of poverty in the third world countries. Colonization and globalization could are best suited to explain the causes of poverty in the third world. It was clearly understood that poverty was brought about the nature of relationships that existed between the west and the east. Globalization was advocated in early 1990s, but it served the interests of the west. Just after colonialism, scholars developed dependency model to explain the prevalence of poverty in the third world.

The theory challenged the modernization theory after it was noticed that the major role of international organizations, such as the United Nations, World Bank, and IMF, was to fulfil the wishes of the developed countries. The theory was formulated in Latin America to challenge the views of modernist theories. Gunder Frank, Samir Amin, and Dos Santos were among the scholars who developed and supported the theory.

Immanuel Wallerstein developed a closely related theory referred to as world systems theory to support the ideas of dependency theorists. Theoretically, dependency scholars are compared to modernization scholars since they do not agree on certain fundamental principles regarding underdevelopment in the third world. One of the major principles of the theory is that world economic problems, such as persistent poverty, cannot be understood without considering the global economic system.

According to the dependency scholars, the issue of underdevelopment in the south is not a natural condition, but instead it is a result of the active process of economic failure related to global development (Gilpin 450). In fact, some scholars view underdevelopment in the south and development in the north as two sides of the same coin. In this regard, it is true that development in the north led to underdevelopment in the south.

Many societies in Latin America, Africa, and Asia are poor because the west made them poor. Capitalism led to ceaseless search for profits. Since competition was intense in the west, the south was viewed as the potential solution to the increasing competition and diminishing profits[3]. Since raw materials were transported from the south to the north, poverty in the south was inevitable. Because the south had no adequate raw materials after the process of exploitation, it had to depend on the west for economic development.

Some scholars have a contrary opinion suggesting that the west has been depending on the south for raw materials, markets, and labour, which has affected development in the south. The south is unable to produce its own goods since it lacks raw materials and adequate markets. Foreign goods have penetrated the southern market to an extent that investors in the south cannot engage in any productive investment.

Dependency theory insists that the ongoing relationship between the south and the north is not natural or accidental, but instead it is synthetic given the fact that colonialists created it. The riches in the developed world are attributed to the imbalance of trade that takes place between developed and developing world.

Therefore, developed countries would not be boosting of the economic achievements without underdeveloped countries. Industrialization in Europe and North America could not have materialized were it not for the slave trade that took place between Africa and the Caribbean Islands. In fact, some scholars accuse multinational organizations, such as Barclays Bank and the IMF of benefiting from slavery.

The emergence of the middle class in Europe is attributed to an illegal trade that took place between Africa and the United States. Many people were forced to abandon their homes to work under unfavourable conditions in the Caribbean. The proceeds from the sale of cotton and Sugar, which was realized through forced labour, were taken to Europe. Haiti is usually given, as an example of a third world country, which produced cotton and Sugar, yet is extremely poor to an extent of depending on aid from the US[4].

Dependency theory proves that Europe or the west underdeveloped Africa and the Latin America in many ways, one of them being taking away raw materials and labour. Many tools of trade, such as iron, were obtained from West Africa, including Nigeria and Ivory Coast.

Many societies were left suffering since able men were taken away to work in exploration fields while their families agonized in great poverty. This facilitated development in the west while effectively under developing the south (Cohen 6). A critical review of the relationship between the south and the north shows that the developing world gave too much.

A number of countries embarked on research to establish some of the ways that would help them achieve their economic interests just after independence. Such countries were termed as underdeveloped and shared one major characteristic, which was colonization. They had just attained independence and the major problem was how to develop.

In some poor countries, it was believed that the development of industries would boost export and subsequently reduce the overreliance on imports. At the same time, poor countries were faced with the dilemma of whether to support capitalism or communism, given the fact that the international system was characterized by bi-polarity. The political and economic elite in third world adopted capitalism since they believed that development would be achieved through the idea of private ownership of property and free market.

Based on the modernization theory, development was perceived in terms of economic growth. In this regard, it was believed that creation of industries was the sure way of catching up with the developed world, such as the United States, Britain, and France. The society was expected to adopt ideas that were closely related to those of the west, particularly in terms of designing institutions. The adoption of western culture, such as opening up the economy for foreign investment, was considered modernization.

To be modern, a country had to construct dams and highways, embrace social changes including the abandonment of cultural beliefs, and instituting the modern system of education that relied on science and rationality.

Moreover, the state had to engage in political reforms, such as shifting from traditional sources of power to modern sources of power. This meant that the will of the majority had to be represented through parliament. States were encouraged to formulate bureaucracies, as well as other state machineries, which would preside over the affairs of society.

The theory dominated the international system in 1950s to 1990s when criticisms emerged. The theory was formulated based on the biological nature of organisms and later transferred to the study of human behaviour. In this regard, each society grows according to a natural order. Development should follow a certain path, contrary to some claims that a development is a result of change, which is mainly constant in any given society.

The theory suggests that change should be dynamic implying that actors are expected to initiate them by simply following the successful model. Since Europe and North America were already developed, it was upon the developing countries to emulate the models and techniques that were applied in these developed regions. In Europe, economic development took place following radical measures that brought about industrialization. Therefore, developing countries had no better option other than adopting modernization model.

Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

The third challenge facing actors in the international system as far as national security is concerned is the spread of weapons of mass destruction. In the current international system, even weak states, such as India and Pakistan, are in a position to produce nuclear energy. The main problem is not the production of nuclear energy, but its utilization. It is feared that nuclear energy would be a real threat to the interests of all states in the international system in case it gets into the hands of the extremist organizations and terrorists.

Therefore, a number of states, including the US, have formulated a number of policies to prevent rogue states, such as Iran and North Korea, from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. In 2005, a decision was reached globally that the intelligence community should utilize all possible means to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction because its consequences are stern.

The United States employs a proactive counter proliferation strategy as one way of preventing the spread of WMD. The main aim of the intelligence agency is to collect adequate information that would help in the mitigation of the problem. In this regard, the inclusion of other actors, such as the supranational and other state actors, is very important. In fact, the United States has been forced to engage other states, such as India, to help in the collection of intelligence reports in Asia.

Gavin underscored the fact that nuclear proliferation is a real threat to American interests in the global system[5]. In fact, the nuclear proliferation is the major concern of developed countries, such as the United States, France, Canada, Australia, and Britain. Based on this, Gavin suggested that the United States should reconsider its policy regarding nuclear proliferation and come up with policies that are more effective.

He went a notch higher to discuss the idea that nuclear weapons are more alarming owing to the second nuclear age. The rate at which nuclear weapons are produced in the modern international system is alarming and more dangerous to the sovereignty of the state (Gavin 9). On their part, Albright and Hinderstein observed that certain organizations are responsible for the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction, which is extremely dangerous to the existence of the state[6].

They pinpointed A. Q Khan Organization as the major distributor of weapon of mass destruction[7]. The organization was formed in 1970s in Pakistan to engage in gas centrifuge program (Albright and Hinderstein 112). However, the organization overstepped its mandate when it started producing nuclear energy and weapons of mass destruction.

The national strategy for homeland security report released in 2007 suggested that the US government has to develop the technology sector if it were to contain the influence of world aggressors, such as Iran and North Korea. The field of research should be developed because it supports the strategies that the government designs in keeping off the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction.

Even though, some scholars are of the view that the topic on weapons of mass destruction should stop because the weapons have never existed in the international system, global powers should develop mechanisms to counter the spread of nuclear technology. Such scholars note that even though Iran and North Korea are accused of possessing nuclear power, they have not been in a position to develop weapons of mass destruction.


It can be concluded that the end of the Cold War presented new challenges to several actors in the international system. By the time the Cold War was ending, technological development had reached its peak, with improved transportation and information revolution being the major tenets of globalization.

Terrorists took advantage of technology and the easy of movement from one continent to the other to executive their heinous acts. On the other hand, the west took advantage of the east tom exploit it economically. The existence of nuclear power plants in various parts of east Europe allowed businesspersons to produce weapons of mass destruction for sale. The challenges facing the world after the Cold War include the nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and the widening gap between the north and the south.

Works Cited

Albright, David, and Hinderstein, Corey. “Unravelling the A.Q. Khan and Future Proliferation Networks.” The Washington Quarterly, 28.2 (2005): 111-128. Print.

Cohen, Joel. How many people can the earth support? New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1995. Print.

Gavin, Francis. “Same as it ever was, Nuclear Alarmism, proliferation, and the Cold War.” International Security, 34.3 (2009): 7-37. Print.

Gilpin, Robert. “Dependence and Economic Development.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 54.4 (1988): 591-613. Print.

Hoffman, Bruce. Inside Terrorism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006. Print.

Kilcullen, David.“Countering global insurgency.” Journal of Strategic Studies, 28.4 (2005): 597-617. Print.


  1. David Kilcullen, “Countering global insurgency.” Journal of Strategic Studies, 28.4 (2005): 600.
  2. Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 5.
  3. Robert Gilpin, “Dependence and Economic Development” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 54.4 (1988): 452
  4. Joel Cohen, How many people can the earth support? (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1995), 4.
  5. Gavin, Francis, “Same as it ever was, Nuclear Alarmism, proliferation, and the Cold War.” International Security, 34.3 (2009): 29.
  6. David Albright, and Corey, Hinderstein, “Unravelling the A.Q. Khan and Future Proliferation Networks.” The Washington Quarterly, 28.2 (2005): 113.
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