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The Post-cold War ‘Settlement’ in Comparative Perspective

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Part of the SpringerBriefs on Pioneers in Science and Practice book series (BRIEFSTEXTS,volume 42)


The end of the Cold War offered an opportunity to negotiate a major “settlement,” not unlike those following the great wars of the twentieth century. In the 1990s, the plan was to assimilate the former Soviet Union and its East European allies into a great liberal community of states stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok. This selection outlines the liberal philosophy underlying this great project, the hopes and expectations it engendered, and suggests some of the reasons why it has failed.


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  1. 1.

    This text was first published as: “The Post-Cold War ‘Settlement’ In Comparative Perspective” in Douglas C. Stuart and Stephen F. Szabo, eds., Discord and Collaboration in a New Europe: Essays in Honor of Arnold Wolfers. Washington, D.C.: Foreign Policy Institute, 1994, pp. 37–70.The permission to republish this text was granted by on 20 May 2015 by Patricia Zline, Rowman& Littlefield Publishing Group for University Press of America.

  2. 2.

    Robert Gilpin, War and Change in International Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).

  3. 3.

    Arnold Wolfers, Discord and Collaboration: Essays on International Politics (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 1962) 137–38.

  4. 4.

    James Baker, “America and the Collapse of the Soviet Empire: What has to be done?” U.S. Department of State Dispatch, vol. 2, no. 50, December 16, 1991, 889.

  5. 5.


  6. 6.

    Ibid, 890 and 891.

  7. 7.

    Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society (London: Macmillan, 1977).

  8. 8.

    Elements of power, of course, remain. This is symbolized in the continuation of Canadian and U.S. commitment of troops to the defense of Europe. Compared with previous peace settlements, however, the post-1989 arrangements are not designed specifically to police the “losers” of the cold war or to enforce the terms of a comprehensive peace treaty. The paraphernalia of power politics, established through all the peace treaties of 1648, 1715, 1815, 1919, and 1945, are not to be seen in the post-1989 settlement.

  9. 9.

    It could be argued that the imf and World Bank have achieved the position of economic overlords of the former socialist countries, insisting on Thatcherite market-driven economic orthodoxy, even when it can lead to social chaos, vast increases in class distinctions and unemployment, and other “pathologies.” See Pawel Bozyk, “The Transformation of East Central European Economies: A Critical Assessment,” Studies in Comparative Communism, 25, no. 3 (September 1992): 257–73-There is some evidence that views within the World Bank and IMF are beginning to moderate, that is, to accept that the transformation to free markets may require years.

  10. 10.

    Mark Zacher, “The Declining Pillars of the Westphalia Temple: Implications for International Order and Governance,” in ed. James N. Rosenau and E. O. Czempiel Governance Without Government: Order and Changes in World Politics, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 58–101.

  11. 11.

    President George Bush was willing to grant diplomatic recognition to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan in February 1992, even though those “republics” had nothing akin to democratic political structures and were in some cases at war with minorities within their borders or oppressing them or both. The leaders of the states in questions all paid rhetorical obeisance to democracy and free markets but demonstrated little in the way of action. Bush nevertheless decided to grant recognition because of his concern about the activities of Iran in the area.

  12. 12.

    The United States has long used recognition policy as a means of influencing the domestic arrangements of countries, particularly in Central America and South America. The point here is that the present policy toward recognition of the new post-socialist states becomes a principle of policy rather than a matter of choice under certain circumstances.

  13. 13.

    Withdrawal of “membership” was revealed during the August 1991 coup d’état in the Soviet Union. Not only did most Western governments indicate unqualified support for Mikhail Gorbachev, but they let it be known that the Soviet Union would receive no further Western aid unless Gorbachev was returned to power. The csce, at its Helsinki summit, suspended Serbia’s membership because of that country’s support of local warlords in Bosnia. Georgia’s application for membership to the cscein 1991 was rejected because of its policies against the South Ossetians; Georgia has since been accepted.

  14. 14.

    See J.L. Richardson, “Questions about a Post-Cold War International Order” (Working Paper 1992/3, The Australian National University, Research School of Pacific Studies, Canberra, 1992).

  15. 15.

    See Robert Jervis, “The Future of World Politics: Will It Resemble the Past?” International Security 16, no. 3 (Winter 1991/92): 39–73; and James M. and Michael McFaul, “A Tale of Two Worlds: Core and Periphery in the Post-Cold War Era” International Organization 46, no. 2 (1992): 468–91.

  16. 16.

    See John J. Mearsheimer, “Back to the Future: Instability in Europe after the Cold War,” International Security 15, no. 1 (1990): 5–56.

  17. 17.

    Charles Krauthammer, “Beyond the Cold War,” The New Republic, December 19,1988.

  18. 18.

    Waltz, Man, the State, and War, and John Lewis Gaddis, The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).

  19. 19.

    Karl W. Deutsch et al., Political Community and the North Atlantic Area (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957).

  20. 20.

    Stanley Kober, “Idealpolitik,” Foreign Policy (Summer 1990): 18.

  21. 21.

    Quoted in Stanley Kober, “Idealpolitik,” Foreign Policy (Summer 1990): 20.

  22. 22.

    Politicians’ and the news media’s use of the term “reform” sanitizes the process of constructing a market-based economy. What has been involved is not “reform” but the destruction of a command economy and its replacement with racketeering and chaos rather than a market economy. Whatever the long-run prospects of reconstruction, in the short-run (for example, five years) the transformation is being carried out with little consideration for the basic needs of people. The current debate in Russia is not so much about the desirability of organizing a market economy as how to go about it: cold turkey (Yeltsin’s formula, fully supported by the West) or through a coherent, long-range plan that reduces popular suffering and retains Russian economic autonomy and sense of pride.

  23. 23.

    Western governments’ earlier recognition of the Baltic states falls into a different category because those countries had enjoyed sovereign statehood between 1919 and 1940 and their forcible incorporation into the Soviet Union was never recognized as legal.

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Correspondence to Kalevi Holsti .

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Holsti, K. (2016). The Post-cold War ‘Settlement’ in Comparative Perspective. In: Kalevi Holsti: Major Texts on War, the State, Peace, and International Order. SpringerBriefs on Pioneers in Science and Practice(), vol 42. Springer, Cham.

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