Case Study

The Cold War, ideology and globalisation

The Cold War was a forty-year conflict that dominated International Relations between the late 1940s and late 1980s. It involved a fluctuating relationship between the USA and the USSR, and it had significant global effects. The two ‘superpowers’ dominated international relations, because of their possession of large quantities of nuclear weapons and the global influence of their foreign policies. Their relationship centred on vastly different ideological interpretations of what was desirable in international relations. The USA sought the international spread of liberal democracy and capitalism, while the USSR wanted to see the advance of revolutionary communism, with the goal of dramatically changing the international order. The Cold War ended abruptly and unexpectedly in the late 1980s. It not only marked the end of the ideological division between the USA and the USSR, and the demise of international communism and its ideological challenge to liberal democracy and capitalism, but also signified the return to centrality of globalisation for our understanding of IR.

The post-Cold War era has been characterised by different ideological assumptions from the USA and Russia, the Soviet Union’s successor state. While the USA has continued to press the virtues of liberal democracy and capitalism via its foreign policy, Russia has sought to advance its national interests via ‘strong’ leadership and a ruling ideology that stresses the importance of power, including that derived from military means. Globalisation is the medium whereby both the USA and Russia sought to project their ideological preferences after the Cold War.]