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Changes in the 20th Century International Politics


The present paper looks at the most significant issues in the international politics in the twentieth century that caused most significant changes to take place across the world. Although there are a number of issues that can be put in this category such as poverty, injustice, deprivation, economic stability, “massive industrialization”, “exploration of space”, “inventions that have transformed communications” (Seattle, 1999), the paper examines the most significant events that are typically related to the history of the twentieth century. At the end of the paper, a thorough discussion of the issues discussed is undertaken in which the present writer gives personal opinion supported by the facts discussed. Henceforth, the present paper is a comprehensive effort to write a thorough critique on the major issue of the twentieth century international politics.

World War I

World War I (1914-1918) or the Great War carries immense significance in the overall run of the twentieth century international politics for a number of reasons. The war not only caused huge turmoil for the entire world when it was going on, it also left grave aftermaths after it was over. Prominent causes of this huge calamitous war were numerous. However, major causes were the rivalries that were going on among Germany, France, Great Britain, Russia, and Austria-Hungry, with other countries also in the arena. Major issues that each country had in its own terms were economic, imperialistic, and territorial bones.

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These issues began and had intensified in the late nineteenth century and the above mentioned countries plunged into a furious war to win their interests. Although World War I brought massive destruction for all the countries involved, it is remembered today as a very significant event to change the way international political matters were previously dealt with.

To summarize the issues it can be said that the war was between the nationalism and imperialism and the core point was the territories over which France, Germany, Austria-Hungry seemed desperate to have control. The most important point that emerged with the ending of this war was that a number of treaties were signed and Germany was forced to accept guilt for the war. It is these treaties that are viewed by experts as partially responsible for another war in the days to come: World War II. However, formation of League of Nations by which people hoped better peace and harmony in the world is a positive sign of this war as well. Above all, the war brought a dramatic change in the economic, social, and political fronts of entire Europe (The Columbia Encyclopedia, 2007).

World War II

World War II (1939-1045) is another episode of massive bloodshed, horror, misery, and rivalry between two blocks of a number of countries of the world known as the Axis and the Allies. This war is said to have significant changes in the way international politics was seen and practiced. Peace Settlement and Great Depression are viewed to be at the very bottom of the war. However, major caused were expansionist approach by Germany, Ital, and Japan, the three countries that also stood up against the growing power of Communism. These three countries became totalitarian and militaristic to gain power at this point of time and conservative democracies were targeted by the trilogy. As such, the entire political scene of the world changed dramatically once again after this war was over.

An important point in this war was the inclusion of the United States of America. Germany’s attack on Russia has already brought the Super Power into action. Thus, it seemed as if the entire world was at war. The end of war is tragically complex, the important point to note for international politics was that after the end of war, two chief powers stood uprightly to make their own demands, hence giving the world a new world crisis: the beginning of Cold War.

With all this, the world suffered greatly at the hands of WW II. Modern warfare, beginning of Cold War between Russia and U.S., the reduction in political powers of Britain and France, and the emergence of Common Market changed the entire course of international politics. With this background it seems alright to state that after this most costly war, overall scenario of international politics was divided into two blocks: Russia and the U.S. Another major contribution in the alteration of international politics was the independence of colonies in Africa and Asia (The Columbia Encyclopedia, 2007b).

Cold War

With opposition by some at its actual period, the general consensus on Cold War is that it started in 1945 (or 1946) after the Second World War was over, and itself ended in 1990. This cold blooded conflict between two major powers of the world, the United States of America and Communist Russia, is seen a major catalyst for a number of apparent activities on the horizon of international politics. The major issue of Cold War was that Socialist Russia was in constant pursuit of defining its own way of dealing with power and politics that was certainly different from that of the West. One was communist and the other was capitalist or imperialist in essence.

The entire efforts put by different Russian leaders can be said to follow the order of “Russian Revolution” that was set to change European way of political practices. However, with this pursuit, the war for power (atomic weapons) and winning other countries for their greater interests started; both Russia and the United States won their followers. International politics can be clearly seen as driven by the interests of these two blocs.

The basis of this war is seen as Communist ideology. Once it ended on the terms set by United States and other NATO countries, the Cold War also ended. However, no student of international politics can ignore the fact that this single tussle between two major powers resulted in a huge number of different diplomatic, social, economical, and ethical changes in a number of countries. Thus, the End of Cold War freed the world from this tussle (Matlock, 2007).

Fall of Communism

Fall of communism is another major event that led the world to go through alteration in terms of political practices on the global fronts. Communism is seen as the carrier of a dictatorship-ideology for ruling people where total control over the population was what was seen to be the central point. Russian leaders are blamed of depriving their people of the freedom to organize of even exist outside the forms and institutions that were officially prescribed by the Russian government. This had an effect over the entire world especially in the governments which joined hands with communist Russia. However, with the end of Cold War and fall or communism in Russia, let the world breathe a sigh of fresh air in which such concepts of freedom to speech, free trade, diplomatic relations, and democratic ethos and so on developed in countries where these were even unheard of.

With this, the entire world gradually started to reform itself into a different body where diversity and respect for diversity were given utmost importance. This is all possible partly due to the fall of communism in the major leader, Russia, and partly due to the development of democratic norms in European countries and the United States of America. However, it is also right to suggest that fall of communism did cause a number of positive movement to come to a decline. One such can be stated to be labor reforms that capitalist nation went through only because of the pressure put by the labor movement which was mainly supported by the then USSR (Furet, 2003).


Although the concept of globalization is not new, it was in the 20th century that the international political scenario added this concept for a different framework. Today, globalization can be said to come out of the last century with all its might which is growing by the day. With increased flow of services, goods, and capital across borders, globalization demanded a number of different countries to go through multifarious changes on political and diplomatic fronts. The most remarkable examples is that of the United States of America, the sole superpower of the world with its unique foreign policy to extend its influence over European as well as Asian countries for diversified benefits. Looking at the U.S. foreign policy can give us critical insights that lead one to believe that it caused so much to change in international politics.

For instance, “Much of the foreign policy debate in the United States today revolves around assessments of the fundamental importance of American primacy and globalization”. It has been a matter of U.S. primacy that it used it can use its power to get what it want at the expense of other nations’ interests and respect. This trend did continue in the 20th century and has grown very powerful in the context of today.

The major example that has dramatically altered the course of international politics, rivalries, and allies today is U.S.-led “war on terrorism”. The central point of American foreign policy is said to be creating harmony in the world by giving support to democratic and economic practices and by this way American foreign policy aims to achieve one long-lasting goal: maintenance of the United States’ power over rest of the world.

This is only possible if the U.S. is out to be on positive terms with other countries. As such, we see very active role of the U.S. in the international politics wherever one casts their glance: “In this new era, American foreign policy will no longer pivot on geography. Instead, it will be defined by the combination of America’s unrivaled power in world affairs and the extensive and growing globalization of world politics”. This is perfectly alright to state that today’s international politics partly depends on how the U.S. government wants it to work. As such, international politics is part of American foreign policy that no country of the world can deny today (Daalder, & James, 2003).

Conclusion and Discussion

In the above discussion 6 major events were discussed with relation to international politics. From the above discussion, it can well be seen that international politics was not something that sought parallel contribution from all the countries of the world. What history of the 20th century teaches us, instead, is that the powerful nations are the ones that decide the course of international politics. Either it is in the form of World War I and II, or the ideological movement initiated by the then powerful giant: Russia, it is all about the game of power. Coming into the 21st century and looking at the stance taken by the U.S. confirms this analysis.

Today, it is very much clear that international politics is actually another side of U.S. foreign policy. Thus, the kernel of the entire research of the paper can be put in one sentence: international politics is actually the way in which major power(s) of the world would like to see the course of events of the entire world to happen. Thus, to talk about international politics today, it is important to what foreign policy of major powers of the world is. In the very recent context of the world, U.S. foreign policy is the only bundle that is there to understand to way international politics is aimed to progress at least in the near future.


Daalder, I. H., & James, L. (2003). “The globalization of politics: American foreign policy for a new century.” Brookings Review. Web.

Furet, F. (2003). Passing of an illusion: the idea of communism in the twentieth century. The Atlantic Monthly (283) 3, pp. 113-16.

Matlock, J. (2001). The end of the Cold War. Harvard International Review (23) 3, p. 84. COPYRIGHT 2001 Harvard International Relations Council, Inc.

Seattle, (1999). 20th century offers few clues for the 21stSeattle Post-Intelligencer (Seattle, WA). Web.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition (2007a). World War I. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. New York: Columbia University Press.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition (2007b). World War II. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. New York: Columbia University Press.

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