Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Is the World More Secure Now that the Cold War is over?

Political Science 150
War and Peace

War and Peace Paper: Is the World More Secure Now that the Cold War is over?

It has been almost 10 years since the end of the Cold War. The great symbols of the chilling relations between the United States and Soviet Union have faded into the end of history. The Berlin Wall has crumbled. The Warsaw Pact has ceased to exist. Even the symbol of Soviet power—the red flag showing the yellow hammer and sickle—has been torn down from the Kremlin to be replaced by the old Russian tri-color flag. But as the world debates over who won or lost The Cold War, a question still remains. Is the World more secure now that The Cold War is over?

The Cold War was a struggle between the United States and Soviet Union to expand their ideologies in the world. During the cold war, the world was divided into two spheres of nation-states. This is known as the bipolar world. In this bipolar world, certain nation-states allied themselves to the United States while other nation-states allied themselves to the Soviet Union. Nation-states outside of these 2 spheres were actively courted by the superpowers using economic or military aid with the hopes of the nonaligned nation-states would declare their allegiance to either superpower. The Cold War was a central aspect of one nation-state’s relations with other. The end of the Cold War has produced an ideological vacuum of which is being replaced by these cultural, religious and nationalistic ideologies. It is these ideologies that have exerted themselves on the world stage, causing turmoil, insecurity, and war.

The Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia is an example of this suppression of ideologies. Yugoslavia is divided among religious, cultural and ethnic lines. With religions, Yugoslavia is divided between Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Islam. Yugoslavia also has 2 alphabets (Roman and Cyrillic), 10 languages and 12 nationalities (Corelli, 1992). Historically, Yugoslavia and the Balkan Peninsula has been a smoldering cauldron of these different religious and ethnic groups of which violence has erupted between the various groups. During the Second World War, Yugoslavia was a battleground as ethnic factions of Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats fought each other while the Nazi war machine took control of the Balkans. At the end of the Second World War, Marshall Tito created Yugoslavia with its power center located in Serbia. Tito contained this smoldering cauldron of nationalism through the combination of harsh suppression of ethnic and religious ideology and a weak federalist institution of government, which allowed for power sharing among the different ethnic groups. This power sharing was set up to where the power of government was set up among the local level of the republics and not at the federal level. The Communists also set up the different republics in Yugoslavia mainly along colonial borders (Pavlowitch, 1994). However, Tito kept the power center in Serbia with the capital in Belgrade, with Serbs dominating the officer’s corps, the federal bureaucracy, and the secret police (Joffe, 1993). With the death of Tito and the demise of communism—both of which held the nation together—the ethnic hatreds between the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims resurfaced. With the different national and ethnic republics such as Croatia and Slovenia opted to declare independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, the Serbs mobilized their army in an effort to maintain the status quo inside Yugoslavia. The Balkans plunged into war.

Another example of the ideological vacuum has been the war in Chechnya. The Russian-Chechen conflict can be traced back to the Caucasian wars of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During the Soviet rule, Chechen uprisings occurred in 1922, 1924, 1925, and into the 1930s (Lapidus, 1998). With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, eight of the fifteen republics had declared independence—including the Baltic States and Ukraine (Walker, 1993). Both of these factors revived Chechen nationalism. However, Russia’s policy was not to allow Chechnya independence. As relations between the two republics deteriorated, Russian President Boris Yeltsin authorized the use of military force to suppress Chechen resistance on November 29, 1994. The war in Chechnya lasted for 2 years and resulted in over 100,000 casualties and 400,000 refugees (Lapidus, 1998). Once Russian troops entered Chechnya, they found themselves faced with a protracted guerrilla war with the civilian population. In addition, Yeltsin discovered the war was increasingly unpopular among the Russian citizens with public opinion polls showing 60% opposing the war and 25% accepting Chechnya’s independence. In the end, a negotiated settlement was achieved which gave Chechnya full independence (Lapidus, 1998).

Another example of nationalistic movements resurfacing from Cold War power vacuum is located in Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. The enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh contains a population which is 75% Armenian. When both Armenia and Azerbaijan declared independence from the Soviet Union, Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan in July of 1988. Fighting broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh between Karabakhi revolutionaries, supported by Armenian troops and Russian advisors, and Azerbaijani forces in 1991. By 1994, Nagorno-Karabakhi forces had routed numerically superior Azerbaijani forces to gain control not only of Nagorno-Karabakhi, but also territory outside of its borders that represent about 10% of the rest of Azerbaijan (Rieff, 1997). The wars had killed some 25,000 people, and have uprooted 700,000 refugees in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabaakhi (Rieff, 1997). At this time, a cease-fire has been in effect, however both sides eye each other cautiously while preparing for the next war.

These are just three examples of the ethnic and nationalistic ideologies that have resurfaced at the end of the Cold War. Today, there are over 180 different nations, which represent 8,000 distinct ethnic cultures (Von Hippel, 1994). With the wide range of different cultures, nationalistic movements will continue to increase. “Everywhere in the world today, men and women are reaffirming their local particularities, their national, ethnic or religious identity,” says Michael Walszer on what he calls “the New Tribalism,” (Rupnik, 1996). The main problem is that nation-states do not have a specific policy in how to accommodate these local cultures asserting their independence. There was no need for a policy. From 1945 to the end of the Cold War, only one nation was carved out of territory of another nation—Bangladesh was carved out of Pakistan after the 1971 war between Pakistan and India (Von Hippel, 1994). African and Asian de-colonization took place within the current colonial borders while border changes within nations were determined to be inviolable (Freedom Fighters: From Kosovo to Kurdistan…. 1999). Nationalistic movements have been exploding since the end of the Cold War. Many of these movements feel the notion of complete sovereignty would allow these movements self-determination of their regions. However, could other means of self-determination be developed in the post-cold world that would allow these ethnic, cultural, and religious movements to practice governing their own region without claiming full sovereignty? Within the case of Yugoslavia, the nation was divided into 6 republics and two autonomous regions of Kosovo and Vojvodina (Joffe, 1993). For much of the Cold War, the Serb bureaucracy left both regions alone to run their own internal affairs. It was only after the breakup of the Yugoslav Federation that Serbia announced its intentions of a “Greater Serbia” and used military force to achieve its goals. Currently, Serbia is utilizing military force to evict Albanian nationals out of Kosovo—a region Serbia considers as its historic homeland. The military actions of Serbia has forced the US and NATO to use air power to punish Serbian actions in Kosovo. The concept of autonomous regions has not been completely explored. Instead of allowing the nation-state to control the affairs of an autonomous region, perhaps an international body such as the United Nations could administer an autonomous region while allowing for negotiations on the nature and structure of the autonomous region between the nationalistic movements and the current government of that region’s nation-state under United Nations mediation. This could allow autonomy for a particular group under the protection of international law, while diffusing conflict and allowing negotiations between the different parties.

The end of the Cold War has wrought enormous changes in the international order and the interaction of nation-states. Conflicts have risen as old ethnic and nationalistic view have challenged the old political systems developed by the competing ideologies of the US and Soviet Union. The names of these conflicts are familiar—Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Armenia, Kurdistan. Each has it’s own grievance to proclaim to the world. The United Nations and the US must find a political method to allow for a peaceful transition of these nationalistic movements for greater autonomy without introducing the violence of war. Only then, can the world feel more secure.

Works Cited

Corelli, Rae. (1992). Europe’s Nightmare: Nationalism Emerges as a Deadly Force. Maclean’s. Vol. 105. No. 28. Pg. 33.

Freedom Fighters: From Kosovo to Kurdistan, Rebels vie for Independence. Here are the Reasons Some Succeed—and Some Don’t. (1999). Time. Vol. 153. Is. 9. Pg. 42.

Joffe, Josef. (1993). The New Europe: Yesterday’s Ghosts. Foreign Affairs. Vol. 72. No. 1. Pg. 29.

Lapidus, Gail W. (1998). Contested Sovereignty: The Tragedy of Chechnya. International Security. Vol. 23. No. 1. Pg. 5.

Pavlowitch, Steven K. (1994). Who is Balkanizing Whom? The Misunderstanding Between the Debris of Yugoslavia and an Unprepared West. Daedalus. Vol. 123. No. 2. Pg. 203.

Rieff, David. (1997). Case Study in Ethnic Strife. Foreign Affairs. Vol. 76. No. 2.
Pg. 11.

Rupnik, Jaques. (1996). The Reawakening of European Nationalism. Social Research. Vol. 63. No. 1. Pg. 41.

Von Hippel, Karen. (1994). The Resurgence of Nationalism and its International Implications. Washington Quarterly. Vol. 17. No. 4. Pg. 185.

Walker, Martin. (1993). The Cold War: A History. New York. Henry Holt & Co.
Pg. 322.

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