Post-Cold War Context: From Geo-Strategic
to Geo-Economic Considerations?
After the Second World War, decisions made at Yalta and Potsdam were to modify the
structure and dynamics of international relations in a very significant way. Two
relatively coherent ideological blocs would fight each other for over forty years. This
confrontation rapidly gave birthto a new concept: the Cold War.
During this period, international political forces coalesced around the United
States and the Soviet Union, creating a bipolar system and freezing international
frontiers in an East-West confrontation logic centered on the interests of the two
superpowers. Alliances seemed to be permanent and State behaviors were predictable.
Major conflicts did arise, but adirect confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers never materialized. They fought each other mostly by the means of proxy wars, where developing countries were generally the first witnesses and the first victims.
Taking advantage of the economic and military vulnerability of these States, the US
and USSR perpetuated structural dependence. In the case of the Soviet Union, this
practice wasexacerbated by constant political incursions into the economic sphere in
order to centralize all the power in Moscow. The resulting asymmetric relationship
would prove to be very difficult to deal with when the developing countries’ links to
the Kremlin were suddenly cut off.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the power vacuum created by the retreat of both
superpowers suddenly laid existingStates, and those that would soon become
independent, open to major changes in the distribution of power. This transformation
of the international system, characterized by high volatility and global instability, made
the international situation more complex and gave new impetus to geopolitical factors1.
On the one hand, the new frontiers of the former Soviet space have revived ghosts
from thepast. Old ethnic antagonisms clashed with the mix of national identities
imposed by those in power when the political space was reconfigured. On the other
hand, some greedy political leaders, looking to expand their power, manipulated
history by creating new cultural references in order to serve their ambitions. The
Balkan region has certainly been a tragic example of this depolarization,redrawing of
frontiers and emergence of new States. For example, Yugoslav national identity faded
before it could really materialize, just as President Tito had anticipated in his worst
The disintegration of the Soviet Union symbolized the end of a planned, centralized
and above all closed economy. Most countries in the “East” embraced capitalist
virtues2 by integrating financial,monetary and commercial global systems and rapidly
engaging in a process of reform. On one hand, they were confronted with an increase
in movements of capital, goods, services, people and knowledge as a result of the spread of new technologies. On the other hand, new actors — such as multinational firms with revenues sometimes higher than the GDP of developing countries — were now operating acrossborders. This globalization process was challenging the role of the State as the dominant actor in the international system. It no longer held the exclusive right to the legitimate use of force, especially given that it included a non-military dimension such as economic power.3 However, the State is still the main actor in the international system and retains its prerogatives on its ownterritory4. The State is not passive. It adapts to new situations and competes in the economic race. In fact, the State’s national security objectives — gain control over territory and expand its sphere of influence — are no longer bound by military deployments5; they are more complex and involve new considerations such as control of and access to scarce resources6 and the conquest of foreign markets...