Paper Discussing the Impact of the End of the Cold War on US Foreign Policy

Paper Discussing the Impact of the End of the Cold War on US Foreign Policy

The destruction of the Berlin Wall in late 1989 marked the start of the end of the Cold War. The Cold War is defined as an ideological and geopolitical struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. But what its end means to the United States and people around the world? Some people say that without the conflict between these two powers the world would be more peaceful because undoubtedly the United States would be in charge of the whole world. However, some people argue that the collapse of the Soviet Unions marks a shift in the global balance of power so that the world actually was put in a more danger environment than before.

In the Cold War era, the United States and the Soviet Unions tried to occupy in the different parts of the world in order to contain the power of each other, which was showed not only in the war of Viet Nam and the breakup of Germany but also in the arms race. What is more, the famous “Marshall Plan” was made to help the war-raged western European countries to reconstruct after the World War Ⅱ. The United States intended to make these countries prevent the power of the Soviet Unions from spreading in Europe by supporting them because Eastern Europe had already been under control of the Soviet Unions and been administrated by the communist. Therefore, someone says that the Cold War is also a competition for the allegiance of, and influence over the Third World (Michael 1992:38). But the reason why the United States wanted to compete with the Soviet Unions was not that they were different in ideology but that the Soviet Unions contained the No. 1 power of the United States which intended to impose its hegemony over the rest of the earth (Michael 1992: 112). The economic ability of the Soviet Unions was much weaker than the United States so that the living standards in these two countries were greatly different. So the United States was not afraid that the Soviet Unions would surpass it in the economic sector. Nevertheless, the military force of the Soviet Unions was a big threat to the United States, especially the Nuclear Weapons. As a result, the United States had to share the global power with the Soviet Unions and both of them were cautious about their behavior. The Long Peace evolved out of the particular conditions of the Cold War between these two powers (Michael 1992: 22).

But if the post-Cold War environment does turn out to be a different one, then the Long Peace may not survive within it (Michael 1992:32). On one hand, in Western Europe, the Marshall Plan and the foundation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) paved the way for the eventual development of the European Community. Moreover, in order to deal with the issue of North Korea and built the leadership in Asia, the United States tried to build a good relationship with Japan and used it as the base. The United States gave Japan not only financial support but also a high priority over trade. Therefore, Japan grew very rapidly and created economic miracle. Meanwhile, the international economic institutions created in the wake of World War Ⅱ were producing a truly global market. As a result, in the post-Cold War era, when the United States switched its main attention from military force to domestic issues, it started to realize that it met the economic competition from Japan and Western Europe. Under such situation, the United States could not continue to tolerate its economy more involved in the global market and see its benefits less and less (Walter 2002:374). On the other hand, the breakup of the Soviet Unions set a lot of countries free from its control so that these countries were suddenly in mess and different parties struggled for leadership. Although the United States won, its allies would not like to continue to follow it. Because the threat from the Soviet Unions had already disappeared, they did not need the protest of the United States. Therefore, the new world after the Cold War would be rather dealt with balancing the forces of integration and fragmentation against each other than balancing the two powers (Michael 1992: 37). What impact did the new world have on foreign policy of the United States?

Firstly, the breakup of the Soviet Unions made chaos in the world, especially Russia and Eastern Europe, while the United States helped them to get through the crisis. After the breakup of the Soviet Unions, chaos made domestic production fell and starvation spread. Therefore, the Russian government decided to print more money to save economy but such decision triggered inflation. As a result, Russia asked the United States for help. At the beginning, the United States would not like to provide help because it had no idea how to change its old containment policy. However, later, in order to save Russia and make the world stable, the United States not only provided financial support to Russia but also made some private companies invest there. “Many U.S policy makers believed that assistance to its successor republics could advance a range of American interests” (James 1998: 225). The aid of the United States would save the weapons in these countries, help prosperous markets rise and create new chance for western trade and investment (James 1998: 226). “Russia and the Soviet successor states are no longer considered a military threat to the West, even though their economic and political instability raise concerns about security” (Richard and Richard 2004:102). Therefore, in the post-Cold War era, the United States changed its view towards former Soviet states and saw them as potential partner. As for military force, the United States leader and his Soviet counterpart cut the number of nuclear missiles and warheads, and also conventional forces and in early 1992, President Bush and President Yeltsin declared the Cold War was over and planned further arms cuts (Walter 2002:384).

However, the United States tried to enlarge the NATO and Russia saw such action as a direct threat. Many U.S officials saw the NATO as a way of containment because the United States could set up military barriers along Russian western borders (Walter 2002: 382). The United States still thought Russia as a threat if its military force remained the same. Although Russia had already cut down its ground forces, it still had a strong control of numerous nuclear weapons. In addition, Russia had some conflicts with the United States. For example, “President Boris Yeltsin consequently disliked, and only reluctantly (or not at all) cooperated with, Clinton’s policies during the Yugoslav cries” (Walter 2002: 388).

Secondly, the US government tried to make economy grew in order to strengthen leadership in the world economy and meet competition from rising economy powers, especially Japan and Western Europe. In 1994, the US congress completed the historic North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) (Walter 2002:377). The United States had already dreamed of having North American free market for a long time. On one hand, in 1988 the US signed a treaty with Canada and it had deeply influenced by the economy, culture and society of the US. On the other hand, Mexico, as a new market, finally was brought into NAFTA by President Clinton in 1994. However, the US government considered that relatively high labor and environmental standards would make the cost of American-made goods higher than other countries so that it would be difficult for domestic industries to compete with others (Fraser 2005:121). So “the Clinton administration raised these issues in the early 1990s when it insisted that Canada and Mexico sign side agreements pledging to enforce environmental laws and labor standards in return for American ratification of NAFTA” (Fraser 2005:121). What is more, with the success of the NAFTA, President Clinton brought the US business community into China. At that time, a lot of arguments on the issue of China human rights in the United States and therefore president Clinton was expected to take this issue into account. But he gave the trade between the two countries greater weight. The US government thought if the United States lost China market, this market would be left to Japan and Western Europe.

Meanwhile, the United States tried to establish a new economic relationship with Japan and Western Europe. During the Cold War, the United States, Europe and Japan had been competitors in the marketplace but they all would not forget that they had a common enemy- the Soviet Unions (Walter 2002: 347). However, in the post-Cold War era, Japan and Europe had emerged as financial and commercial superpowers due to the help of the United States and globalization. As a result, a lot of people said that the economic relationship among them would not be so close(Walter 2002: 347). The American also asked the president to deal with trade deficits. Therefore, the US government paid major attention to the export side in the trade with Japan in order to promote increased American market in Japan. However, “its growing prosperity was linked to increased trade and several financial crises, especially the one that rocked Asia in the late 1990s, demonstrated the increased interdependence of global financial markets” (Fraser 2005: 121). Similarly, the European Community and Germany’s reunification certainly altered the balance of economic power in the world but they had closer economic ties with the United States than before (Kenneth, Robert and Donald 1992: 165). “A non-fragmented global economy is the best possible guarantor of enduring prosperity and world order” (Kenneth, Robert and Donald 1992:169).s

Thirdly, in the post-Cold War era, the reunification of German became a threat to the world again and the US dealed with this situation with caution. After the reunification, the rich West German helped the East German reconstruct and made its economy grew and therefore Germany economy grew very well. Germany economic ability was the third one in world, following the United States and Japan. As a result, the people around the world started to worry about the rising German and considered whether it would become “the bad citizen” again or not. Consequently, Russia demanded that German should cut off their army and continue to swear off nuclear weapons (Walter 2002: 381). Moreover, it suggested that the US should keep a close eye on Germany. To the US government, it also considered to contain the power of German. It admitted the independence of German but also intended to bring German into the NATO so that its activities would be under the eye of the US (Walter 2002:382).

Fourthly, the United States still held an interest on the Third World. During the Cold War, the United States intervened widely in the Third World, such as Korea, Panama and Cuba and its main purpose was to keep the world free from the control of the Soviet Unions but not to establish its own empire (Kenneth, Robert and Donald 1992: 152). Except this purpose, the Third World was useless for the United States because it was lack of industrial and economic power. Therefore, the Third World may lose its primary meaning for the United States. However, “The Middle East seemed likely to retain its priority because of Israel and oil” (Jurgen, Theodor and Eva 2006:106).

In the Cold War era, the United States just considered Communist power as the primary and biggest threat to world peace and strongly blamed for its aggression. But “The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s coincided with a moment of unquestioned American supremacy in the Middle East” (Jurgen, Theodor and Eva 2006:107). The new attitude of the United States could be seen clearly in the case of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. In the Cold War era, Iraq was the friend of the United States because it used Iraq to contain the power of Soviet Unions in the Middle East. Therefore, the United States supported Saddam administration although it knew that Saddam was a despot and Iraq was under his violent control. On the contrary, in the issue of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the United States sent out over 500,000 troops, persuaded the UN Security Council to take serious actions towards Iraq, such as imposing harsh restrictions on Iraq and eliminating its weapons of mass destruction (Jurgen, Theodor and Eva 2006:107). “Never had Washington been so close to calling the shots in the Middle East – or so it seemed” (Jurgen, Theodor and Eva 2006: 108). The United States gave the reason that it had the responsibility to protect the world peace and promote democracy through the world. What is more, it said that the threat of Iraq would spread not only in the Middle East but also the whole world if its brutal behavior was not prevented. However, someone argued that the reason why the United Stated intervened was that it was eager to be in charge of oil resource in Iraq. Therefore, it could get a lot of benefits from this rich oil resource. “Arguments that the United States should intervene to promote democracy are unpersuasive because the United States lacks the ability and the will to impose democracy by force” (Jurgen, Theodor and Eva 2006:106).

Therefore, it is clear to see that the end of the Cold War did not mean that the world would be more peaceful, while the issue of the world became more complicated. “The Cold War had, in fact, developed into an eminently workable inernational system. It was predictable, economically manageable, politically useful, and militarily unthreating” (Michae 1992:110). In the post-Cold War era, a rough sense of order and discipline on the world has gone and therefore policy choices for the United States are more varied than the Cold War era (James 1998:21). Even in the post-Cold War era, President Clinton raised his military budgets from $260 billion to over $300 billion and he and Bush sent the US troops into more conflicts during 1990 to 2000 than before (Walter 2002: 385). In the post-Cold War era, compared with the former enemy- the Soviet Unions, the United States met more unknown terrorists. As a result, actually the end of the Cold War made the US foreign policy becoming more complicated and more dangerous. For the United States, “ Role, interests, and priorities must be reconsidered and revised in light of the changing world. Specific strategies and policies must be developed to deal with the specific problem and issue agenda of the post-Cold War world. And yet, all this must be done in the context of a more fragmented policy process, itself a partial consequence of the changes associated with the end of the Cold War” (James 1998:21). For the people around the world, when the end of the Cold War, they excepted that the world would be more peaceful so that they would be not involved in the world conflicts. Unfortunately, the end of the Cold War did not bring the stability to the world but it actually brought more unstabilities.

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