Greatest Impact of the Cold War

The Cold war period had a significant impact on how security was handled as seen through the prism of international relations. The conflict between the “East” and “West” that characterized the Cold war was unique on its own. As a result of the Cold War, the race to acquire nuclear weapons took off with considerable power like the United States and Soviet Union building on their military arsenal. Most important, the acquisition of nuclear weapons was the principal reason for a shift in international relation given the sheer harm of these weapons. As the first time in history, the Cold War period saw the production of weapons that could destroy the entire world when used in war.  The severity of using these weapons was imminent that the idea about winning or losing never appeared to be something that can be achieved. Most important, the Cold War politics transformed the international relations landscape as it motivated the emergence of balance of power, containment, bipolar world and deterrence approach to world security.

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Balance of power

The Cold War politics gave rise to the rise of balance of power between the ‘East’ and ‘West’. Scholars have defined balance of powers as the relationship between actors who affect the stability of the international system. The use of balance of power was critical to states that were keening on checking the other from usurping power in the international arena. More than before, the Cold War politic brought into the picture the US-Soviet dominance as the players who shared power in the international system. During the Cold War period, the politics of that time centered on the conflict between communism versus capitalism, which fueled increased rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. Given the military prowess and formidable between the two states, the Cold War politics paved a way for the two players to balance power with one another.


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The Cold War politics also led to the development of containment as a security approach. George Kennan; an American diplomat is accredited for development this idea. Kennan was pessimistic about the relation that Washington had with Moscow. He believed that Washington was better placed if it contained the tendencies of the Soviets to expand across the Globe. As an answer to avoiding any military obligation, the United States started applying counter-force.  Rather than tackling the issue of Soviet pressure on the free institutions in the western world, the containment approach was seen as a long-term strategy that would weaken the Soviets without the use of force that could lead to a nuclear war. It is intriguing to note that the United States adopted the containment approach as one of its policies during the Cold War era. Through the use of this approach, the United States was keen on disrupting the diffusion of communism to other parts of the world that were considered stable.


During the Cold War era, the use of deterrence approach was credited for preventing the nuclear attacks between the Soviet and the United States. The rivalry between the two super powers had potential risk of annihilating the world in an event of a nuclear confrontation. Deterrence has been considered as crucial in holding world security given its role in preventing any war during the Cold War period. Because of the deterrence effect, both the United States and the Soviet feared the danger of engaging nuclear war. In fact, it is believed that the leadership of the two states feared the outcomes of a nuclear war to their Nation. As a result, the two states dared not to raise the slightest provocation. Later, other concepts such as Mutual Assured destructions were developed in relation to the subject of deterrence. This concept was propagated by the United States, who believed that they could destroy the Soviets in case of an attack on them. To a large extent, scholars agree that the application of the deterrence approach curtailed potential nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States.

Bipolar World

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Scholars view the rise of a bipolar during the Cold War era as a result of the US-Soviet rivalry. This impact can be attributed to the Soviet and United States dominance in the international politics as superpowers.  With overarch interest to spread their influence across the world:  the Soviet Union and the United States affected nearly all aspects of the international climate. With the two states locked in, a tussle for world dominance, a bipolar world system was established characterized by the struggle for dominance.  The establishment of the bipolar orientation between the US and the Soviet brought the two powers into focus with each one of them fearing the actions of the other. Notably, each opponent dared not to attack the other for fear of reprisal. Nonetheless, the end of the Cold War gave way to the end of the bipolar orientation that had dominated the international relations.

Without doubt, the Cold War had an immense impact on the security approaches used in the international systems.  With the focus being on the US-Soviet rivalry and the nuclear arms that each one possessed, the international  politics ‘s approach to security had to shift. Notably, the  two states balanced power and dared  not to attack each other with arms as the two were key players in the international system. The US also adopted a containment theory to check the Soviet expansion efforts. The deterrence and bipolar world approach came into being as a result of intense rivalry and fight for world dominance between the two states.

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