US Priorities after the End of the Cold War

Essay, 2018

9 Pages, Grade: 1.2


US Priorities after the End of the Cold War

After the end of the Cold War, the American policymakers embarked on the creation of a new United States grand strategy, even though they substantially failed in this endeavour. The main reasons behind this failure may be attributed to the challenges posed by domestic as well as international circumstances, coupled with conceptual limitations. Notably, though there remained some basic agreement on US foreign policy between the mainstream forces in the Republican and Democratic parties, it remains evident that the administrations of Clinton and Bush placed varied emphasis at distinct times on varied nations, regions, international issues and organizations, and even on missile defence. Initially, the Republicans extensively criticized Clinton for paying too much attention to China and Russia at the traditional allies’ expense including South Korea and Japan. However, just after a few months in office, especially after the 9/11 incidence, Bush, who had largely neglected China and Russia, came to recognize the significance of good relations of these two nations. Arguably, there was minimal variance in significance that was attached to the G8. As a result, these two Presidents-Clinton and Bush seemed to enjoy this yearly constrained session of the leading industrial nations in the world. Remarkably, this essay will trace the efforts geared at formulating strategies or policy priorities in the administrations of Bill Clinton and those of George H. W. Bush, alongside analysing their shortcomings.

According to several scholars and political scientists, one of the most contentious issues of the US security policy surrounds the missile defence system. It is paradoxical to state whether this policy has to develop unilaterally and deploy a missile defence system, initially the term being national missile defence (Cameron, 2006). The roots of the missile defence can be traced back to President Reagan’s era in the ‘star wars’ policy where he attempted to put satellites in the space with the aim of shooting down approaching missiles. Conversely, because of technological and financial challenges, the ‘star wars’ policy was not given priority during the 1990s (Rülandet al. 2006). Even though research on the same topic went on, President Clinton put off decisions on deployment of missile defence for his successor. Arguably, the Republicans were more in favour of the missile defence compared with the Democrats, encouraging George W. Bush to come into office with high determination of giving the missile defence a top priority (Sutter, 2003).

Remarkably, the arguments of the Bush administration in favour of the missile defence were support by the Rumsfeld Commission report of 1998 that was assessing the current alongside potential threats to the Americans from missile attack (Cameron, 2006). The report also aimed at assessing the capability the United States intelligence community in terms providing a timely warning to its citizens. The report stated that extensive foreign aid in conjunction with extensive efforts geared at hiding missile development programs from the intelligence of the West, formed conditions under which other nations, with little warning such as Iran, North Korea and Iraq could eventually set out ballistic missiles with ranges long enough to hit some parts of the US.

President Bush, together with his team also claimed that the world had fundamentally changed since the signing of the ABM treaty in 1972, which allowed for strategic balance with the Soviet Union. With respect to this, United States wanted to move from this strategic policy with Moscow, of common assured destruction as United States believed that Russia was no longer an enemy or threat to them (Cameron, 2006). In other words, America wanted to be freed from the restrictions of the ABM treaty that explicitly bars a nationwide territory defence from missile attack, alongside prohibiting any form of development, testing alongside deploying ABM systems and components that are sea-based, air-, space-based or mobile land-based. America has the ability of pursuing the most promising defence technologies if released from the obligations of the ABM treaty.

A number of the Democrats were ultimately concerned at the pace the Bush administration wanted to move on missile defence system. For example, on September 2001, Senator Joe Biden, one of the strongest missile defence critics claimed that the administration was risking a fresh arms race alongside draining resources from other military and domestic programs for a porous system that would never have a positive effect on the US security (Cameron, 2006). Biden added that US needed not to abandon the arms control treaties as was with the case of the relics of the Cold War, and that there were more significant military expenditure priorities than just missile defence (Suri, 2000). Several America’s allies also raised concerns on the possible outcomes of the missile defence on the existing arms control regimes including the ABM treaty, the large cost and technological viability together with its impact on Russia, India, China and Pakistan (Mora & Hey, 2003).

Evidently, the 9/11 incidence simply hardened the proponents and opponents positions in the missile defence debate. The proponents, encouraged by opinion polls that demonstrated a sharp increase in national missile defence (NMD) support, argued that these attacks portrayed the willingness of the terrorists to resort to all actions including weapons of mass destruction (WMD) use (Cameron, 2006). In contrast, the missile defence system opponents maintained that such system could not have barred the jets from hitting the World Trade Centre, and that the resources used in this process would be better used on more effective and viable security policies (Suri, 2000). Nonetheless, President Bush was not ready to listen to such critics and maintained that the 9/11 incident depicted more than ever, the need for a missile defence. Consequently, soon after his meeting with the Russian President Putin in Texas in November the same year, President Bush declared that the US anticipated withdrawing from the ABM treaty, giving an ultimatum of six months. Given the costs, testing and the required time for development, the deployment of any missile defence system would simply take years, whether national or even theatre-based. The issue resurfaced shortly in the two-thousand and four election campaign after John Kerry cast uncertainty on the idea of spending such amounts of money on a missile defence system (Rülandet al. 2006).

Over the years, the US has had some mixed relationship with the UN Security Council, though it was a UN founding associate, and a permanent member of this New York-based agency (Cameron, 2006). According to scholars and political scientists, the UN is noted to have served the US purposes well during the Cold War in the Gulf and Korean Wars. However, there was an observable resentment at the UN in the 1980s, demonstrated clearly by the US ambassador to the UN, who was appointed by President Reagan, Jeanne Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick famously denounced the organization, terming it as a socialist supporter of anti-Americanism. After about a decade later, some of the Congress Republican members publicly questioned the US membership value to the UN (Rülandet al. 2006).

As a consequence, the US-UN relations sharply deteriorated after President Clinton blamed the UN for the tragedy that resulted in the killing of the American troops in Somalia in the year nineteen ninety-three (Suri, 2000). In this incidence, even though the operations were under the control of the American troops, specifically under sole US command, and without the involvement or knowledge of the UN, President Clinton together with the Congress firmly placed the blame on the New York and UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Melanson, 2005). Consequently, the Clinton administration facilitated the turning of the UN from a global instrument of salvation into a new global bogeyman. In addition, the UN was also held responsible for several disasters that took place in the Balkans such as the failure of saving Muslims enclaves like Srebrenica in Bosnia (Cameron, 2006).

The Republicans gained the Congress control in nineteen ninety-four, with Jesse Helms becoming the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC). Helms, was a firm ideological opponent of international organizations, and he largely supported a policy that aimed at reducing the contributions of the United States to the UN, alongside imposing reforms as a payment condition (Cameron, 2006). He was a strong opponent of all sorts of limitations that were directed to American sovereignty, and like other Republicans, believed that the UN remained to be an anti-American, over-staffed and anti-Israeli organization. Other conditions that individual Congress members sought to impose included a veto on birth control funding programs by the United Nations organizations (Suri, 2000). Later in the year two-thousand, a compromise was reached after it was agreed that the US contribution to the regular budget of the UN be reduced from twenty-five to twenty-two percent, and to the budget of peacekeeping from thirty-one to twenty-seven percent. Such notions extended to other international bodies including the International Criminal Justice (ICC), an attitude that has been criticised by several allies to the US including the United Kingdom.

Although the US relationship with Europe remains to be its major significance global relationship, political analysts doubt whether the two share a common thought of the world. Some neo-conservatives argue that the transatlantic rift on setting priorities, defining challenges and determining threats remained to be deep, long in development and expected to persist (Cameron, 2006). Such argument spurred over-simplification by European scholars, some arguing that the US invasion of Iraq, coupled with the disputes of the legality of the move, subsequently caused the greatest transatlantic rift in modern history. The two partners have been noted to have an intricate relation, perhaps due to the increased number of immigrants in the US from Europe. Throughout the US history, America has consistently pursued three interconnected interests in line with Europe. For example, not to engage in the conflicts of the European powers, not to stop European powers from intervening in the western hemisphere along with maintaining or in some instances restoring the balance of power in Europe (Suri, 2000).


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US Priorities after the End of the Cold War
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Caroline Mutuku (Author), 2018, US Priorities after the End of the Cold War, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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