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The Relevance of the Cold War today

Strategic Security Analysis - 2016 n°7

Key Points

  • Beyond the easily re-surfacing rhetoric on a ‘new Cold War’ when referring to the Western world’s relationship with Russia, the bipolar conflict (1945-1989) shaped the international system in tangible ways that remain highly relevant today.
  • The concrete legacy of the Cold War rotates around three elements: nuclear weapons and the related arms control and non-proliferation treaties; local conflicts with long-lasting consequences; and international institutions that continue to play a key role today.
  • Current instability in the world’s hotspots – from the Korean peninsula to Afghanistan – cannot be understood, nor future courses charted, without turning to the Cold War in search for the roots and causes of today’s dilemmas.
  • The major institutions that govern the ‘West’ – NATO and the EU – are both rooted in the bipolar era, and the sense of community, belonging and shared values that characterise them was forged throughout the decades.