United Nations During and After Cold War.

Subject: History
Pages: 10
Words: 2643
Reading time:
10 min
Study level: College


This paper strives to present the significance of operations performed by United Nations to provide international security and maintain peace throughout the world. The reasons and consequences of Cold War have been probed and the effectiveness of United Nations Security Council both during Cold War and in the post-Cold War era has been explored. Although, United Nations has remained successful in its operations, in some cases it has failed to achieve its objectives, specifically on long term basis. However, its well-admired successes specifically in the last decade of twentieth century and its widely noted failures forms the foundations for achieving objectives of providing international security and maintaining peace in the twenty first century.

The United Nations- Origin and Creation

The theme of creating an international organization of different member states committed to preserving global peace through mutual security gained popularity during the phase of World War-I. The enormous bloodshed resulting from the ‘Great War; convinced President Wilson and different other Americans as well as global leaders, to establish a global forum in which critical conflicts could be successfully and peacefully resolved. (Economides & Berdal, 154) As such, after different meetings held by the delegates from initial member countries, the United Nations was founded on October 24, 1945. The Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China along with majority of different other signatories approved and ratified the Charter of United Nations. (Dovle & Sambanis, 356)

Cold War- Reasons and Consequences

The Soviet Union and the Western democracies discussed the overall progress of the Second World War and the basic nature of the postwar resolutions at different conferences held in Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam. The disputes between the Western democracies and the Soviet Union, after Second World War, particularly over the possession of East European nations taken over by the Soviet Union led Winston Churchill to highlight in the year 1946 that a specific ‘iron curtain’ was, in fact, descending through the middle part of Europe.

Joseph Stalin, for his part, intensified the estrangement between the Soviet Union and the United States when he stated in 1946 that the grave incidence of Second World War was an inevitable and unavoidable impact of ‘capitalist imperialism’. He further asserted that such a war could reoccur. Under these circumstances the Cold War initiated and a period of tension, conflict and East-West competition short of a full-fledge war commenced.

The period was highlighted by the joint perceptions of hostile and aggressive intention between political-military blocs or alliances. Moreover, there were sometimes ‘proxy wars’ due to the fact that they were fought by the allies of Soviet Union instead of USSR itself- as well as the competition for the dominance in the Third World, and a decisive superpower race of arms. (Paris, 218)

Effectiveness of United Nations Security Council during Cold War

Most of the Untied Nation’s members have still an image and vision of a world in which prosperity and peace are the property of entire masses. The purpose of creating core principles of democracy, freedom, human rights and good governance has always remained among the top priorities of United Nations since its inception and not only during cold war but also in the post-Cold War era.

During the years of Cold War, the objectives set by United Nations for providing international security were restricted to upholding cease-fires along with stabilizing the ground-level situations. The purpose was to ensure that all possible efforts should be made at the political front to find solutions for resolving conflicts through peaceful means. (Pubantz & College, 76)

Different operations were launched to maintain and ensure international security in the period of cold war which was considered a traditional role or model for United Nations. The traditional operations for providing international security during the span of cold war were considered just as interim arrangements to support in resolving a conflict and creating conditions in which the process of negotiations of a permanent settlement can take place.

The traditional tasks for providing international security by the United Nations Security council is included in its charter and involve; monitoring and reporting by using patrols, static posts and different technical means with the concurrence of concerned parties; supervision and management of the cease-fire; and interposition as a confidence-building method. By monitoring as well as reporting on the adherence by the parties concerned to their commitment related to cease-fire, the conventional operation of providing international security during cold war enabled each party to be ensured that the other party will not try to break cease-fire for acquiring military advantage. (Bellamy & Williams, 6)

However, after Cold War the strategic role of United Nations Security Council for providing international security has been changed dramatically. The Security Council has started working more aggressively to promote the international security and peaceful resolution of global as well as regional conflicts.

Effectiveness of U.N Security Council in the Final Decade of 20th Century

The peace operations and the efficiency of United Nations Security Council have significantly increased in the final decade of the twentieth century. It reflects an entire new trend of interventionism. It also redefines a complete new formation of strategies in providing international security for fulfilling much determined anticipations unleashed by renewed enthusiasm to intervene.

The relations among new strategies, interventionism and successful peacekeeping were serious and intimate; no matter how fair-intentioned an intervention could be, unless it is claimed by the intervener that the purpose of intervention is to produce a continuous improvement- both human rights and peace. In other cases, the intervention is neither justifiable ethically, nor viable politically. (Terence & John, 287)

In the decade of 1990, the global community had entirely new legal means of expressing its joint will on a globally impartial basis. The Security Council claims, in the post Cold War era, to being the equivalent of an international parliament and international jury representing not just the individual nations of which it is composed but the joint voice and will of the international society. The Security Council comprises 5 permanent members including United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China. There are ten members- nonpermanent and elected- included only from member nations of Asia, Latin America and Africa. (Farer & Thomas, 227)

After the collapse of Soviet Union, the United States experienced a unipolar status when its power overshadowed all other member countries. In the last decade of twentieth century, an ‘assertive multilateralism’ strategy was adopted by the international community which remained effective from Gulf War in 1991up to October, 1993 disaster in Somalia and Mogadishu. The permanent members of Security Council provided a degree of resourceful leadership commitment that the United Nations had rarely viewed in the past.

Eschewing the state role of “Globocop’ for addressing a domestic program, the Clinton Administration particularly encouraged the then Secretary General of United Nations- General Boutros Ghali- to assume and ensure an increased assertive role in global crisis. However, a small minority, including China, in the Security Council and sometimes Russia were not ready to resist the Untied States on issues that did not impact their national interests.

The successful removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime, highlighted with aggression and violence, in the Gulf and the rescue made in December 1992 of some parts of the Somali people from starvation proclaimed a remarkable partnership. The Security Council, led by United States, decreed conveniently most of the members states supported and paid. However, the international community is still in pursuit of ways to promote and maintain peace, one that is supported by most of the member nations. Moreover, it should also have support of considerable majority of domestic population, embodied fundamental principles and rules of human rights.

It proved to be a major challenge in the final decade of twentieth century as massive interventions by United Nations, war-like operations for enforcement, provoked same types of resistance as experienced by the international community in colonial interventions made in places such as Bosnia and Somalia.

However, in other cases it was found by the United Nations that a specific way is available to cultivate consent, provide international security and establish a permanent peace process with real indigenous roots. These operations by Security Council for peacemaking rested heavily on significant innovations in peacekeeping as well as institutional reconstruction and also as discrete enduring enforcement, all of which developed to address specific characteristics of such challenges. As such in the final decade of the twentieth century, in the post-Cold War era, the agenda of United Nation for providing international security and maintaining security and peace swiftly expanded.

Role of United Nations in Congo during Cold War

The post Cold War era for the United States had significant antecedent occupations of Japan and Germany in the aftermath of Second World War and the role played in predicting the emergence of specific democratic governments there, For U.N, the comparable precursor particularly was in the early part of 1960s in Congo, a newly independent state. (MacQueen, 211)

The Republic of Congo almost failed as a nation since its birth. During the initial days of independence the Congo army mutinied whereas the white administrators which remained there fled. Consequently the economy and the administration collapsed. The land was invaded by the Belgian paratroops and Katanga’s province, rich in minerals, seceded. Such developments, in fact, cast a grave shadow over the opportunistic prospects for the peaceful and successful completion of decolonization of Africa, at that particular point, was gathering momentum.

On July 14, 1960 the Security Council , acting at an almost unusual pace, passed the initial resolution of its series of resolutions authorizing and allowing UN-led forces to support Congo for the purpose of restoring order and, ultimately, in suppressing the Katanga’s rebellions. Given the unprecedented and extraordinary scenario of the mission along with the consequent deficiencies of previous experience, designated staff, existing doctrine or administrative structure to strengthen the operation, the U.N performed astonishingly well in the Republic of Congo. (Hanney, 233-245)

Significant number of forces started arriving within days of the authorization by Security Council. The United Nation swiftly secured the Belgian forces removal. The troops of United Nations, during three years, ensured to force foreign mercenaries out of the region. They also suppressed the secession of white elements in Katanga and provided a broader spectrum of economic, humanitarian and civil assistance to the new regime of Congo. (Ramsbotham, 280)

Measured specifically against the requirements set by the international community at the bottom line- that decolonization proceed, mercenary and colonial troops flee and ultimately Congo was successful in remaining intact. It is considered as the success of United Nation. Democracy did not heavily figure in the different Congo resolutions that were passed by the Security Council; in any case, there was, no agreement in the phase of Cold War on that matter. (Hanney, 233-245)

The Congo was not ever successful in functioning as a pure democracy, but the civil conflicts at the large scale were averted for almost a decade after the departure of United Nations. Congo almost held together during next two decades, even though under an incompetent and corrupt dictatorship.

Accomplishments by United Nations in Congo were made at a substantial cost in lives lost, huge money spent, and the disagreement as well as controversy raised. However, the Prime Minster Patrice Lumumba’s execution overshadowed the significant accomplishments. Resultantly, due to these controversies and costs, neither the leadership of United Nations nor its members were eager or ready to repeat the undesired experience. During next twenty five years, the military interventions by United Nations were restricted to policing ceasefires, interpersonal peacekeeping and patrolling different disengagement zones in specific circumstances where all concerned parties consented to invite its presence.

United Nation Operations- After Cold War

In the early part of 1990s, although a series of successes was enjoyed by the United Nations, the winning streak as well as a consequent optimism regarding nation-building task came to an end. The case of Somalia is marked as the starting point of failures in the final decade of twentieth century. The successes further diminished by different incidences in the former Yugoslavia. The peacekeeping forces led by the United Nations, in both cases, were deeply inserted into communities where no peace was required. The forces of United Nations, in both cases, ultimately had to be replaced by more robust and larger peace keeping missions led by United States.

Even though, the societies were divided as consequences of Cold War, it also provided the much needed glue that successfully held others in a group. The battlegrounds of former East-West, such as Cambodia, Namibia, Mozambique and El Salvador, were able to surface as practical and acceptable states with the assistance of United Nations. Moreover, other divided communities like Afghanistan, Somalia and Yugoslavia- held together by a superpower or some other powerful nations- started disintegrating as outside supports and strains were successfully removed. The United Nations had to face a harder time for holding together failed or collapsing nations rather than brokering the process of reconciliation.

The original mission of United Nations in Somalia was overmatched and undermanned by warring clan militias of Somalia. The multinational forces, led by the United Nations, that ultimately replaced it, were established on a core of almost two hundred thousand American marines and soldiers. These forces swiftly overawe domestic resistance, ensured in securing the delivery of relief supplies- its primary mission. United States then opted to withdraw its forces and passed the responsibility back to the forces led by United Nations. Untied States supported a fundamental expansion of the United Nations’ mandate.

The previous U.S and U.N forces had restricted their mission to secure relief activities, Even as withdrawal of combat forces was made by the United States and was ultimately replaced by much smaller as well as less well-resourced and well-equipped troops of United Nations, U.S joined the mission of remaining troops for the purpose of introducing democracy at the grass-roots level.

Failure of U.N in 20th Century as the Basis for Success in 21st Century

The collapse of national institutions in Somalia, civil wars in Cambodia, El Salvador, Bosnia, Guatemala and different other countries have in fact, marked the typical contours and shapes of civil strife in the last twenty years. The responses by the international community to these crisis, despite huge efforts by United Nations; occasional accomplishments in restoring an effective and legitimate government are considered as the striking failures.

The United Nations, however, should continue to remain effective at its widespread peace operations to ensure successful implementation of its agenda of peacekeeping and providing international security. The focus should be on implementation of peacekeeping process, identifying reasons of failures and successes in every case, and presenting a perspective of building peace over time, monitoring the results before and after involvement by United Nations. Despite the widely known failures of United Nations in Bosnia and Rwanda, the decade of 1990 proved to be more successful regarding peacemaking endeavors of U.N. Liberated in the post-Cold War era, there are many conflicts that have been resolved through negotiations as compared with the past. (Moore & Pubantz, 113)

The United Nations assumed a successful third-party role in different cases including; Sierra Leone, Namibia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Tajikistan, Cambodia, Mozambique, East Timor and Bougainville. Capitalizing on the successes made, and learning from the failures, a remarkable and reliable foundation is in place for United Nations to accomplish the set targets for providing international security and maintaining peace and security.


This paper has thoroughly examined the role of United Nations in the context of Cold War probing its effectiveness during and after Cold War. It is concluded that the success made by United Nations, specifically after Cold War and in the last decade of twentieth century, and its failure to ensure peace in some regions forms the foundations for accomplishing its peacekeeping goal at the international level in the twenty first century.

Works Cited

Bellamy, Alex & Williams, Paul. “Understanding Peacekeeping.” Polity Press. 2004, P.76.

Dovle, Michael & Sambanis, Nicholas. “Making War and Building Peace: United Nations Peace Operations.” Princeton University Press, 2006, p. 356.

Economides, Spyros & Berdal Mats. “United Nations Interventionism, 1991-2004”.Camridge University Press. 2007, p. 154.

Farer, Tom & Thomas Franck. “Interpretation and Change in the Law of Humanitarian Intervention: Ethical, Legal and Political Dilemmas.” Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 227.

Hanney, David. “New World Disorder: The UN After the Cold War- an Insider’s View.” I B Tauris & Co Ltd, 2008, p. 233-245.

MacQueen, Norrie. “Peacekeeping and the International System.” Routledge. 2006, p.211.

Moore, John & Pubantz, Jerry. “The New United Nations: International Organization in the Twenty-First Century.” Oxford University Press. 2007, p. 113.

Paris, Roland. “At War’s End: Building Peace after Civil Conflict: Building Peace After Civil Conflict.”. New Light Press, 2006, p.218.

Pubantz, Jerry & College, Salem. “Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace and the United Nations in The 21st Century.” The International Journal of the Humanities. 1: 76. 2003.

Ramsbotham, Oliver & Woodhouse Tom. “Contemporary Conflict Resolution 2nd edition: The Prevention, Management and Transformation of Deadly Conflicts.” Polity Press, 2005, p.280.

Terence O’ Neill & John Rees. United Nations Peacekeeping in the Post-Cold War Era. Routledge; 1 edition. 2005, p. 287.