The Cold War and Decolonisation History

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Topic: History
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The Cold War and decolonisation were global occurrences, and even though each event occurred independently, they ended up overlapping with time. In this context, the Cold War underscores the underlying conflict and tension between the United States and the Soviet Union starting from 1947.

On the other side, decolonisation denotes the back down of the European powers from their colonies across the world, especially in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. The Cold War did not cause decolonisation; however, the war schemes employed by the United States incited the decolonisation process.

The Cold War started in 1947 while the decolonisation process started around the same time and climaxed by 1976, as by this time, the majority of nations had achieved independence. The key European nations involved in the decolonisation process under the influence of the Cold War were mostly from Western Europe including Britain, France, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, and the Holland (Goscha & Ostermann, 2009).

The events of World War II played a key role in the Cold War, and hence in the decolonisation process. The Second World War affected and weakened the European states’ economic powers, and thus, they needed help to rebuild. Also, at the same time, the United States had become powerful, thus making the European nations secondary powers.

Given that these nations needed the support of the United States, and they had become secondary powers to it, it follows that their colonies were under the American sphere of influence. This point underscores how the Cold War affected the decolonisation process as explored next.

The United States’ primary objective in the Cold War was to tame the Soviet Union. Therefore, the US started supporting the rebuilding process of the European nations after the devastating effects of the Second World War. The US introduced the Marshall Plan to help in rebuilding the European states in the post World War II era. This way, the US started influencing decision making in these countries together with their colonies.

The main reason behind the United States’ funding for Western Europe was to tame the spread of communism under the influence of the Soviet Union. These nations wanted help, and if the US did not step in, the Soviet Union would have taken the opportunity through massive lending to the Western European countries. The US also signed trade agreements with Western Europe, including the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT).

Therefore, through these agreements and lending, the US ultimately persuaded the Western European nations to withdraw from their colonies as it supported self-determination for all nations across the world (Schmidt, 2007). Also, the United States did not help its allies in anti-communist areas seeking self-determination.

For instance, in Indonesia, “once Sukarno had suppressed the communists, the Americans pressurised the Dutch into a settlement” in 1949” (Ponting, 2000, p.836). This assertion highlights how the US used war strategies to instigate decolonisation.

In conclusion, the United States’ mission in the Cold War was to contain the spread of communism via taming the Soviet Union. In the process, the US moved in to help Western Europe in rebuilding economic muscles after WWII, thus deterring the Soviet Union from doing the same.

Ultimately, the US pushed for decolonisation as the colonisers were under its influence. In areas with widespread communism, the US helped the natives to conquer the communism in the quest for independence before moving into broker a settlement as the Indonesian case.

The problems and opportunities encountered by newly independent states in the 20th century

A majority of colonised countries across the world became independent in the 20th century. These independent states faced numerous challenges and opportunities as they strived to set up independent systems in a cynical environment with everyone predicting doom and failure. Mostly, the independent states were spread across Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa (Bremmer & Taras, 1997).

The newly independent Central and South America encountered similar problems as other third world countries, which had attained the same status of independence. Therefore, this paper references Central and South American states heavily. The greatest problems faced by these nations included politico-economic pressures, while the key opportunities were industrialisation and the embracement of democracy.

Mostly, all newly independent states of the 20th century depended on their former colonisers for economic development, and thus this dependency influenced the political environment of these nations. Given the economic dependency of the newly independent states on their former colonisers, who were mainly from Europe, any international economic shake-up affected these nations severely (Batalden & Batalden, 1997). For instance, the Great Depression almost crippled the economic operations of states with Latin America.

Foreign direct investments were cut off, and these countries could not export their products, which formed the mainstay of their economies, given that the majority of these nations were agrarian. Such shake-ups created unemployment crisis for the newly independent states, as they did not have alternatives. These challenges invited social, and class conflicts as citizens resorted to capitalism to achieve what the governments could not provide.

Governance crises were also commonplace in the newly independent nations of the 20th century. People were not comfortable with the newly formed governments, and thus coups were common. For instance, following the Great Depression and the ensuing economic crises, 12 different countries within Latin America experienced coups in three years (Sium, Desai & Ritskes, 2012). For instance, in 1929, Argentina experienced a military coup, even though it failed.

However, another successful coup toppled Juan Peron from the presidency in 1955. Also, in 1927, Brazil held controversial elections, which heralded a civil war. Getulio Vargas ascended to the presidency during the war, but he later lost his seat to another military coup in 1945. In 1952, Bolivia experienced its version of revolution, and even though a military coup was not involved, the country experienced prolonged political tensions as peasants and miners pushed for equality in the country.

On the opportunities, the newly independent nations of the 20th century had the chance to move from agriculture-based economy to industrialisation, which would better the economic well-being of such nations.

With the help of their former colonisers, the newly independent states opened trade with the international markets and invited investors, who established industries (Batalden & Batalden, 1997). Also, most of these states embraced democracy, and after the many struggles in governance, most military-led governments were restored to democratic governance with civilians at the helm.

In conclusion, the newly independent states of the 20th century faced numerous challenges touching on politics and economics. Most newly independent states faced military coups and civil unrests. All these nations had some political revolution, and such conflicts underscored the greatest challenge for these young nations without experience in independent governance.

Also, the majority of these nations faced economic crises as they depended on western nations for survival. This assertion explains why the Great Depression almost crippled such nations, yet they were not primary players in the crisis. However, these nations had an opportunity to industrialise and embrace democracy.

The reasons for the end of the Cold War and the main problems, issues, and opportunities in the period afterward

The biggest whim for ending the Cold War was an ideological impoverishment of the communist philosophy. The communists’ influence dwindled in the face of the United States’ beaming power across the world. The Cold War ended due to hard times facing the communists and Ronald Reagan’s anti-communist strategies.

One of the reasons that led to the end of the war is the fact that it affected economies of the countries involved, thus leaving them with diminishing finances (Matlock, 1995). The countries involved invested heavily in expensive weapons in preparation for the third world war. The unequal distribution of resources between the fighting countries was also a contributing factor. For example, the eastern bloc relied on the western bloc for energy resources.

Thus the eastern bloc had to terminate the war to avoid energy shortages. The fall of the Berlin Wall heralded the fall of communism and free elections kicked out communist governments, and thus the war ended as the United States had achieved its objectives in the war, which was to tame communism (Gaddis, 2006). Therefore, with communism failing, the United States did not have more objectives in the war.

The other reason for the end of the war was the willingness of Ronald Reagan to confront the Soviet Union’s supremacy. Although Ronald Reagan was not entirely responsible for the issues behind the collapse of the Cold War, his efforts played a key role. His strong stand on the Soviet Union pressurised the union to reform its strategies (Mann, 2009). The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 due to financial and economic constraints leading to the end of the war.

Also, the friendly reforms implemented by the then leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, contributed greatly to the end of the war. Mikhail Gorbachev signed different treaties with the United States, which weakened the communist agenda as the US had always pushed for capitalism.

The post-Cold War period brought numerous challenges and opportunities alike. The United States rose to power and became the world’s superpower after subduing the Soviet Union. Also, the end of the war gave way to the formation of the European Union, which has been uniting Europe even to date. Moreover, China embraced the export opportunity presented by the end of the war, and it started rising as a global economic powerhouse.

On the other side, Japan lost its economic grounds due to its allegiance to the Soviet Union, which had failed in 1991. The United Nations also started playing a critical role in world politics, even though its mandates were highly influenced by the United States. The issue of nuclear proliferation became a challenge with the greatest issue being how to contain its spread. Diplomacy improved, and no major inter-state conflicts have been experienced after 1991 to date.

In conclusion, the Cold War ended primarily due to two reasons. First, the Soviet Union was quickly losing its grounds due to dwindling resources to support the war. When Gorbachev gained control of the union, he quickly turned to the United States and pushed for friendly reforms, which then saw the US soften its stand in the war.

Also, President Ronald Reagan pressurised the union to abandon its communist propaganda, which later led to the collapse of the union in 1991. The post-Cold War era brought numerous challenges and opportunities, as explored in this paper.

References

Batalden, S., & Batalden, S. (1997). The Newly Independent States of Eurasia: Handbook of Former Soviet Republics. Portsmouth. NH: Greenwood Press.

Bremmer, I., & Taras, R. (1997). New States, New Politics: Building the Post-Soviet Nations. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Gaddis, J. (2006). The Cold War: A New History. New York, NY: Penguin.

Goscha, C., & Ostermann, C. (2009). Connecting Histories: Decolonization and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, 1945-1962 (Cold War International History Project). Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press.

Mann, J. (2009). The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War. New York, NY: Viking Books.

Matlock, J. (1995). Autopsy on an Empire: The American Ambassador’s Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union. New York, NY: Random House.

Ponting, C. (2000). World History: A New Perspective. London, UK: Chatto & Windus.

Schmidt, E. (2007). Cold War and Decolonization in Guinea, 1946-1958. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

Sium, A., Desai, C., & Ritskes, E. (2012). Towards the ‘tangible unknown’: Decolonisation and the Indigenous future. Decolonisation: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1), 1-13.