`Many political systems had become discredited due to their inaptness at coping with war time difficulties, whilst others had merely been destoyed by Hitler in his quest to rule the world.

`A major change in world politics came with the decolonisation of many Third World countries. Although the process was quite slow in taking place, once it actually occured it represented a significant change in the stucture of international affairs.

`Many of the states that emeged at the end of the war had little interest in the so called “Cold War” which was dominating the politics of most developed nations. The effect that this had was very influential for it created an alternative direction in the world system, for as these states when combined covered a considerable area upon the globe, by sticking together they attained a powerful negotiating power.

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However many states that were decolonised following the end of the second world war found that instead of attaining freedom from the developed nations such as the USA and Britain, they have merely changed from one set of dominating controls to another. In other words in order to survive most colonies have found that to maintain any sort of economic system, they would have to invite the help of the developed nations. The major difference now was that these states were no longer the responsibility of the nations which had once ruled them therefore they now had to bribe them for their help for example with the implementation of low taxes, consequently in mainy ways they were no better off than they had been before decolonisation.

`So although the majority of Third World countries have gained independence from the developed world since 1945,the political and economic interests of developed countries are still deeply entrenched in the Third World through the operation of commerce, trade, capital investment and foreign aid programmes.

`This kind of influence is known as neo-colonialism because it perpetuates the pattern of dependence established during colonial times and demonstrates the reluctance of developed countries to change the world economic order – to pay higher prices for Third World commodities and to open up their markets to Third World manufactured goods.

`However the most serious economic bottleneck is the shortage of capital for investment. Many developing countries therefore take out substantial loans to overcome the difficulty of capital formation but this usually results in the country accumulating larger debts which only worsen their economic prospects.

`Multinational corporations are now a powerful influence in the world system. Just a couple of examples are firms like IBM and Shell. At the moment about a third of all multinational investment is in the Third World, particularly in resource rich countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia. As just the sales revenues of transnationals exceed the national incomes of many countries it is easy to appreciate how powerful these institutions are and subsequently how much influence they must have in the world’s political system.

`No country is able to act alone in complete independence and do exactly what it wants to do. For example: the Republic of Africa, in the 1950’s was thrown out of the Commonwealth due to its racial policies, collectively referred to as apartheid. The result of this was that it declined from being one of the most developed countries in the South to now being only a Second World country. In other words, by cutting itself off from the international infrastructure, the Republic of Africa brought itself to economic ruin.

`So what part did the “Cold War” play in the evolution of world policies? The cold War was a period of intense hostility without actual war of which the main ingredient was the mutual fear that both the USA and the USSR had of one another. Because they were seen as the two leading superpowers at the time the relationship between them was given considerable attention and therefore played a significant role in moulding the shape of international affairs.

`Seen from a Russian point of view, it seemed quite feasable that the US would have no qualms over using their nuclear weapons to retain their unique position in world power. Having already shown the devestating effect that their nuclear weapons could inflict (on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki) America had illustrated that at this point in time it was more powerful than all the other states put together. Historically this achievement had enormous implications, for it meant that for the first time in the history of man the entire world was at the mercy of just one state.

`Not surprisingly, this created a great deal of tension between America and various other states, especially the USSR, for when the Second World War ended the USSR was incapable of any further military exertion. Added to the fact that it had no strategic air force, the USSR was placed in a very vulnerable position.

`Nuclear weapons played a key role in the state of affairs after 1945, and produced great problems for the United Nations. Baruchs plan for an International Atomic Development Authority was not able to be put into use as it would have resulted in the United States retaining an enormous advantage over the rest of the world. This was because even if the US stopped making nuclear weapons, it could not destroy its advanced technological knowledge. The plan would also have prevented other states from developing their knowledge in nuclear weapons.

`So it would seem that in the years immediately following the end of the war the “Cold War” played a significant part in dominating world affairs. But how much did it influence the structure of interstate relations?

Since the end of World War Two there has been a collective pull towards the idea of international organisations. The main reason for this increase in enthusiasm has been the divergence of power which initially only applied to the two superpowers – the USA and the USSR, but which is now almost evenly distributed between both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The reason for this spread has been due to the enormous increase in the number of states that have emerged since 1945 and also the subsequent influence that these states have had upon the world system.

`The United Nations was negotiated and agreed to whilst the Second World War was still being fought. In this sense it was born into a world where peace was at the top of everyones priority and war was an event to be avoided at all costs. Having endured two world wars in the space of only thirty three years the vast majority of Europe was both economically and physically exhausted from war.

`Although based upon the League of Nations, the UN charter strongly reflected the atmosphere of the time. In essence it forbade the concept of war, in reality it had to allow it, firstly to defend the rules of the charter and secondly as a means of defense. Had it not allowed war on these grounds there is no doubt that the United Nations would have come to a halt in 1945. For despite the great opposition to war, the idea of forbidding it would have meant that those states who signed the charter would be vulnerable to attack with no means of defending themselves and secondly there would have been no way of enforcing the rules of the charter.

`Often states have taken the law into their own hands and completely ignored the United Nation’s charter. One such example of this is the conflict between Argentina and Britain. In 1982 the two states went to war against each other in order to assert their sovereign claims to islands which were of minimum value to either of them.

`Although it was Argentina that initiated the aggression, Britain showed that when faced with a dilemma such as this, a powerful state will either manipulate the rules of the charter to its own advantage or it will completely ignore them in favour of the benefit that it will accomplish from doing so. One of the main objectives of the United Nations is supposed to be the prevention of such cases as the war between Argentina and Britain or the US bombing on Libya.

`However both of these cases were out of the United Nation’s control. If a state as powerful as the US decides that it is going to attack another state, there is very little that the United Nations can do to prevent it. This is not a failing of the United Nations, but of its members, for if they are not going to abide by the rules that are set out by the organisation then they cannot expect it to work.

`”The United Nations is a mirror of the world around it, if the reflection is ugly, the organisation should not be blamed” – GLADWYN 1953.

`The formation of the United Nations was seen as a new way of dealing with aggression. Although it has had difficulty in resolving certain situations like halting armed conflict, in other areas it has been very successful, for example in world health.

States seek power and they perceive this power in short term goals. The response of one state to an event will be determined by how it is effected in a national sense. For example the war in Bosnia doesn’t affect Britain very much therefore it is not that urgent for it to be stopped. However when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait this was seen as an international crisis because it meant that 20-25% of the world’s oil was being monopolised by a dictator with severe implications for both state and world economies. This conflict was therefore treated as anational emergency and immediate action had to be taken to resolve it.

From these two examples it can be seen that it is only when there is a direct challenge to power that states will respond. With such evidence it is hard to see how any organisation could possibly be expected to collectively secure the international system.

Nevertheless the United Nations has attempted to fill this position and despite the failures that have occured during its short life it has accomplished a great deal and there is no question that without its presence the world would have seen a great deal more disharmony in the period 1945-1990, than has actually occured.

In relation to the question of whether the big change in interstate relations was due to victory in the Cold War or merely due to the rise in the number of states, i feel that it has probably been as a consequence of both of those factors.


Archer.C, International Organisation [ London, Routledge, 2nd ed 1992 ]

Calvocoressi. P, World Politics Since 1945 [ London, Longman, 6th ed 1991 ]

Holland. R,F European Decolonisation 1918 – 1981 [ London, Macmillan, 1989 ]

`Reed. A, Inequality and Development [ London, Longman, 1st ed 1990 ]

Urwin. D,W. Western Europe since 1945 [ London, Longman, 4th ed 1989 ]


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