Effects of Cold War on Modern Democracy

Abstract: The end of the Cold War has resulted in a fundamental change in the dynamics of   contemporary international politics. Developing countries, like Nigeria, with oil wealth, a large army, and a large pool of well-educated citizens are now able to play a leadership role in Africa, due to the reduced strategic significance of the continent for major external powers. However, while policymakers and executors of Nigeria’s foreign policy appear to be committed to responding to demands, pressures and influences from the external environment to contribute to regional peacekeeping, they also need to respond appropriately to domestic pressures and influences, especially those derived from popular public opinion. A civilian regime, unlike military governments, also faces pressure from the parliament and the press. This term paper discussed the Effects of cold war on modern democracy.


History does not come neatly packaged in distinct periods but in order to find clarity of facts, to identify a ‘regime of truth’, we mark such epochs. End of the Second World War was in fact the beginning of one such period, a new phase in world affairs, in which the European state system was extended to what had previously been colonies. The century was reckoned to be the century of freedom of nations. But while in letter, the system may have been based on the principle of the equality of nations in spirit, the system was a hierarchy in which “the United States was the hegemonic power” with a contender Soviet Union. Events of the second half of the twentieth century made it evident that actors on the international stage were judged, condemned, classified and determined in their undertakings, according to two dominant modes of living, i.e., Liberalism and Communism. The term ‘Cold War’, coined by George Orwell to name this particular era was heralded by President Truman in his address to Congress on March 12, 1947. During Cold War period, world was divided between those who hailed the U.S as a leader of the world forces of human freedom and those who saw it as an imperialist power.

Post-WWII, tension between the USA and the Soviet Union led to a worldwide Cold War. Reasons for this included: ideological differences, problems in Germany, the arms race and the Korean War.

Following the surrender of Nazi Germany in May 1945 near the close of World War II, the uneasy wartime alliance between the United States and Great Britain on the one hand and the Soviet Union on the other began to unravel. By 1948 the Soviets had installed left-wing governments in the countries of Eastern Europe that had been liberated by the Red Army. The Americans and the British feared the permanent Soviet domination of eastern Europe and the threat of Soviet-influenced communist parties coming to power in the democracies of western Europe. The Soviets, on the other hand, were determined to maintain control of eastern Europe in order to safeguard against any possible renewed threat from Germany, and they were intent on spreading communism worldwide, largely for ideological reasons. The Cold War had solidified by 1947–48, when U.S. aid provided under the Marshall Plan to Western Europe had brought those countries under American influence and the Soviets had installed openly communist regimes in eastern Europe.

The Concept of Democracy

Democracy is a system in which no one can choose himself, no one can invest himself with the power to rule and, therefore, no one can abrogate to himself unconditional and unlimited power.

Modern political democracy is a system of governance in which rulers are held accountable for their actions in the public realm by citizens acting indirectly through the competition and cooperation of their elected representatives.” Joseph Schumpeter’s influential 1942 definition saw the “democratic method” as “that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote.”

Most contemporary definitions of democracy have several common elements. First, democracies are countries in which there are institutional mechanisms, usually elections, that allow the people to choose their leaders. Second, prospective leaders must compete for public support. Third, the power of the government is restrained by its accountability to the people.

Meaning of Cold War

The Cold War was a global conflict that impacted different places in different ways. The Cold War was truly a global struggle, and one that was fought primarily in nations with developing industrial economies. That made Africa a major source of Cold War tension. The issues created by the Cold War shaped many African nations, creating heated issues that are still dealt with today.

Cold War, the open yet restricted rivalry that developed after World War II between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies. The Cold War was waged on political, economic, and propaganda fronts and had only limited recourse to weapons. The term was first used by the English writer George Orwell in an article published in 1945 to refer to what he predicted would be a nuclear stalemate between “two or three monstrous super-states, each possessed of a weapon by which millions of people can be wiped out in a few seconds.” It was first used in the United States by the American financier and presidential adviser Bernard Baruch in a speech at the State House in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1947.

Effects of Cold War on Modern Democracy

The end of the Cold War has had largely good effects on world politics.  During the Cold War, the Soviets and Americans sought advantage against each other by seeking ideologically friendly regimes.  The Soviets undermined democracy and supported Communist one-party authoritarian states in any place they thought was strategically advantageous, especially in Eastern Europe but also in Cuba, Afghanistan, Africa, North Korea, Vietnam, and many other places.  Although America supported and defended free democratic countries in Western Europe, in the rest of the world it most often supported regimes that were just as bad or even worse than those the Soviets supported.  In one case, the Soviets even supported a genuine multiparty democracy – India – because America was supporting the brutal and corrupt government of Pakistan which happened to be India’s enemy.  In many cases America’s choices were limited; there often simply wasn’t any democratic, pluralist faction to support, and the alternatives were right-wing dictators and left-wing dictators.  But there were also cases where America actually crushed the democratic side because it feared, often wrongly, that that side would be friendly to the Soviets: Chile is the most infamous case.

The end of the Cold War has put an end to both powers’ meddling and has contributed to a flourishing of democracy around the globe.  Latin America was formerly a byword for military dictatorships and juntas, often U.S.-supported; the entire region is now democratic except for Communist Cuba, which seems to be headed for reform too. Africa’s civil wars are subsiding and democracy is spreading now that the superpowers and South Africa are no longer propping up dictators and rebels.  The world’s fourth most populous country, Indonesia, became a democracy after decades of brutal dictatorship under Suharto.

The collapse of the Soviet Union led to a successful growth of democracy in Eastern Europe, but democracy failed in Russia.  Much of Eastern Europe sought to join NATO to protect against renewed domination by Russia, which NATO rather unthinkingly agreed to.  Russia unsurprisingly saw the expansion of NATO in its direction as threatening, especially after NATO intervention in Yugoslavia, and after a brief warming of East-West relations in the 1990s it became increasingly hostile and belligerent, first in Chechnya, then in Georgia, and now in Ukraine.  Russian military power remains at a fraction of what it once was, but its huge oil reserves make it still an influential player in the world economy.

The removal of the Communist boogeyman has made Western democracies less shy about humanitarian and social reform.  At the same time, large factions of enemies of capitalism have been searching for an alternative after the failure of Marxism, but have not settled on any one solution.

The Cold War had a major impact on Africa and the African diaspora, from the persecution of African-American activist WEB Du Bois to the deportation from the US of communist Claudia Jones. In Africa it was used as justification for the existence of apartheid and the banning of the ANC and other liberal organisations, as well as for Nato’s support for the continuation of Portugal’s colonial rule. The Cold War created not just conditions for the continued intervention of big powers in Africa but also justifications for such intervention. From the 1940s, major colonial powers demanded that formal political independence could be granted only to ‘responsible’ leaders – those who would be responsible to the big powers, and opposed to the Soviet Union and communism or to the empowerment of Africa’s people. Leaders who didn’t meet such requirements were removed: such was the fate of Prime Minister Lumumba of what’s now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, replaced by one deemed more suitable – Mobutu Sese Seko.

The bipolar division of the world no longer exists but the contention between the big powers continues in new forms. In Africa a new scramble for geopolitical and economic advantage means intervention is as rife as ever, provided with new justifications. Libyan independence was ended under Nato bombardment, justified on the dubious basis of the ‘right to protect’. The status quo is maintained by the diktat of the IMF/World Bank and the African Union’s NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) but challenged by BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) as well as by Africa’s long-suffering people. Perhaps the most damaging impact has been ideological, the attempt to deny that there is any alternative. Fortunately history and experience show otherwise – that change is inevitable, and that the people are their own liberators.

Why Democracies are Less Violent

The civil liberties and political rights of a democratic system foster and maintain an exchange society. This is a social field, whose medium is composed of a people’s meanings (as those given to the flag or a cross), values, and norms; its social forces are imbedded in this medium and flow one way or another, forming various equilibriums among what people want, can, and will try to get; and conflict or cooperation within this field, violence or peace, depend on the congruence between these equilibriums and the expectations people have about the outcome of their actions.

Democratically, free people are spontaneous, diverse, and pluralistic. They have many, often opposing, interests pushing them one way or another. They belong to independent and overlapping occupational, religious, recreational, and political subgroups, each involving its own interests; and then they are moved by the separate and even antagonistic desires of different age, sex, ethnic, racial, and regional strata.

Freedom thus creates a social field in which social forces point in many different directions, and in which individual interests, the engine of social behavior, are often cross-pressured. Like the Catholic political conservative who cannot decide whether to vote for the Episcopalian, Republican conservative, or the Catholic welfare democrat, many within a free society must balance often contradictory wants. This means that those very strong interests that drive the individual in one direction to the exclusion of all else, even at the risk of violence, do not develop easily. And, if such interests do develop, they are usually shared by relatively few individuals. That is, the normal working of a democratically free society in all its diversity is to restrain the growth across the community of that consuming singleness of view and purpose that leads, if frustrated, to wide-scale social and political violence.

To promote democratic institutions promotes a deeper and more durable peace because it promotes a social field, cross-pressures, and political responsibility; it promotes pluralism, diversity, and groups that have a stake in peace.

African Problems and the Cold War

Since we achieved our independence, several distinguished foreigners have visited our young Republic, and among the many questions they have asked have been those concerning our approach to Pan Africanism, our views on policies intended to keep Africa free of the restrictive forces of the cold war, and the measures we would suggest to implement our policy of neutrality. In the lines which follow we will endeavor to answer these significant questions.

There can be little doubt that there is a present need for cooperation among the newly independent African states, that a working arrangement, at least on a regional basis, is overdue. Unfortunately the situation inherited from the colonial powers, while making plain the necessity for such agreement, has tended to hinder it. Within each nation there are serious discontinuities arising from the existence of different ethnic groups, language differences, disparities in ideological orientation and basic economic conceptions. At the same time national boundaries were artificially drawn to meet external political requirements. Today we find that tribes are split in two, cities are divided and people of the same language and cultural traditions are separated into two and sometimes three different nations.

To resolve this last issue, so prominent in the minds of many African leaders, Pan Africanism has been put forward as an all-embracing remedy. (Some people call the same idea African Unity.) Apart from the proposition that few real-life problems are so simple that they possess only one solution, no two African states can agree on a single interpretation of the terms. To discuss the common heritage and institutions of Ghana, the Belgian Congo and Ethiopia is clearly unrealistic. More important, however, are the character and complexity of the problems facing us at home. To speak of African Unity in the face of existing economic and social disunity is to avoid the central task to which we are committed-the earliest possible economic and social betterment of our people. This task has as one important aspect the unification.


The cold war was a confrontation – political, ideological, military, economic and social – between two camps, the liberal democracies of the west and the communist states of the east. The architecture of this confrontation consisted of a standoff between two armed alliances, NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and in Europe two economic communities, the EU and Comecon.

The cold war also shaped the political agenda in the individual countries. In the liberal democracies, it undercut much of the appeal of more radical left-wing forces and greatly complicated the life of the moderate left; it was all too easy to discredit the moderate left by referring to the international enemy. In the communist east, it provided a rationale for regimes to crack down on any signs of domestic reformism, and therefore consolidated those regimes in power.

During the Cold War period the US was responsible for bending democratic Principles in order to promote the interests of a propertied class. Within the American sphere of influence totalitarian, military and personal rule were promoted, patronized and protected by the US to promote its national interests/interests of global capitalism. It was this that drove the Cold War and turned it from a traditional great power rivalry into a defining feature of the period between around 1947 and 1991. And it was this competition that ended, decisively, with the victory of the western model. So the Cold War has ended, however divided, insecure and unpredictable our current world remains.

Effects of Cold War on Modern Democracy, Effects of Cold War on Modern Democracy, Effects of Cold War on Modern Democracy, Effects of Cold War on Modern Democracy

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