How we still feel the effects of the Cold War today

the legacy of the Cold War that should be remembered: that nuclear weapons are not the answer to our global issues.

The Cold War was a period between 1947-1991 of high political tensions between the capitalist USA and the communist Soviet Union of Russia. As both countries competed for global influence and supreme power when it came to technological and scientific development, the world population was plunged into a state of fear of the unknown as technology began to far outpace the knowledge of man. John F. Kennedy expressed in his presidential inaugural address in 1961 the desire for peace between the two world superpowers, a request that has sung out through history up until present day: “we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction”. It is this alluded to fact that is profoundly unsettling: that not enough is understood about the annihilating abilities of the nuclear technology that humankind has within its hands. The most prevalent part of the Cold War was the nuclear arms race, a landmark within global history as well as international relations that has a legacy still highly significant today.

I choose to write about this not-so-long ago part of history because I feel that we are stuck in a rotating loop of time. The Cold War had forced us to develop radical new ways of thinking about technology, and this is largely what remains with us today – it is embodied in the devices we hold in our hands, that are to an extent a product of the Cold War era and its climate of anxiety. We use phones, the internet and the various other forms of technology in the same way that it was used decades ago: to monitor other people and to project a somewhat precarious identity in the face of uncertainty. After all, technological development certainly did not slow down as we entered the 21st century – it has continued to accelerate, with political tensions soaring alongside it.

I am no expert on this topic, but I feel it is something that all of us are affected by unknowingly, and that we should all be aware of its influence on world matters today. It is fair to say that the exchange of threatening tweets about nuclear attack between significant world leaders is something that has unsettled the majority of us. It is like the child of Cold War relations is utilising a modern day app (that is usually used to share memes and casual thoughts) to make threats of nuclear war – it is this paradox that is what I find most startling.

Part of the Cold War’s legacy in politics is the notion that the best defence against arms, is to be armed. Both the USA and Russia have continued to various degrees to improve their nuclear weapons systems since the informal end to the war, and many other nations not previously acknowledged as states with nuclear technology have developed and tested their own devices. It seems the whole world is on the defensive, all of us existing in this ceaseless mentality of distrust and uncertainty. This seems a rather regressive approach to nuclear technology to have after the Cold War: the most important lesson to learn from it is that we should be armed with the desire for peace and alliances, not the instinct to destroy when provoked. I have been told by friends and family of people who chose not to have children during the Cold War due to the belief that a child could not be brought into that deadly climate – and rightly so. But people cannot be deprived of life choices because of nuclear threats, and by fear of the unknown. Our children and ourselves must primarily feel secure in our world.

It was this sense of security that I felt yesterday when I read about the signing of the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula, officially bringing to an end the Korean war that began when the north and south split in a battle over communism and democracy in 1950. And although there is more progress to be made, the signing suggested that there is an awareness of the destructive effects of threats and nuclear development, and a desire for peace over pestilent weaponry. Thus, it hints at the legacy of the Cold War that should be remembered: that nuclear weapons are not the answer to our global issues.