Autonomy and Political Responsibility after the Cold War
After World War II, Europe emerged as a continent torn between two very different political ideologies, Communism and Democracy. As the two major superpowers, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States, struggled to defend their respective governmental policies, the European Continent was caught in an intrinsic struggle to preserve the autonomy which had taken so long to achieve. During the Cold War, Eastern European nations struggled to achieve autonomy with the help of the West's dedication to break the Soviet sphere of influence. After the disintegration of the USSR, the struggle for autonomy among nations shifted from an intense, inward, nationalistic struggle to break away from a superpower to a commitment of international unity and cooperation as nations began to take moral and political responsibility for their actions.
The alliance formed between the US and USSR during the second world war was not strong enough to overcome the decades of uneasiness which existed between the two ideologically polar opposite countries. With their German enemy defeated, the two emerging nuclear superpowers no longer had any common ground on which to base a political, economical, or any other type of relationship. Tensions ran high as the USSR sought to expand Soviet influence throughout Europe while the US and other Western European nations made their opposition to such actions well known. The Eastern countries already under Soviet rule yearned for their independence, while the Western countries were willing to go to great lengths to limit Soviet expansion. "Containment of 'world revolution' became the watchword of American foreign policy throughout the 1950s and 1960s."1
The Soviets saw their Communist system in a defensive struggle for survival against the surrounding capitalistic nations. They believed it was necessary to destroy capitalism in their immediate neighboring countries as a means to protect their own autonomy which had been seriously threatened during both the first and second world wars. They did this by seizing control of the nearby Eastern countries and forcing them to adopt the Communist Party policies. As Nikita Khrushchev described in his speech to the 22nd Communist Party Congress, "Our party clearly understands its tasks, its responsibility, and will do everything in its power to see to it that the world socialist system continues to grow stronger, gathers fresh strength and develops. We believe that in competitions with capitalism, socialism will win."2
The Western nations reacted strongly to this Soviet policy of expansion and domination. Winston Churchill described the growing Soviet control as "an iron curtain (which) has descended upon the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of central and Eastern Europe, Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest, and Sofia, all these famous cities and...