8 Factors that have Changed International Relations after World War II


International Relations has been defined in various ways. Writers differ greatly on the definition of the subject.

It appears quite natural, as does Stanley Hoffman says: ”How could one agree once for all upon the definition of a field whose scope is in constant flux, indeed, a field whose fluctuation is one of the principal charac­teristics.”

International Relations defined. Prof. Charles Schleicher defines international relations as the relations among States.


Quincy Wright defines international politics as “relations between groups of major impor­tance in the life of the world at any period of history.”

According to Prof. Hans J. Morgenthau, international relations is a struggle for power among nations. Norman Padelford and George Lincoln define interna­tional relations as the interaction of State-politics within the changing pattern of power relationships.

However, a good working definition of international relations has been given by Harold and Margaret Sprout.

They define international relations as “those aspects of interactions and relations of independent political communities in which some element of opposition, resistance, or conflict of purpose or interest is present.”


Factors that have influenced International Relations after Second World War. Since the Second World War, international relations has changed very much in content and nature.

This is due to the result of various factors in national and international spheres. It means study of international relations must take into account the sociological nature of current events.

But it should also be borne in mind that it also requires an understanding of the pre-Second World War period because interna­tional relations has retained many of the old features also.

In those days, nations were eager to acquire and increase their power while preventing other States from doing so. “Politics among nations in those by-gone days, accordingly, became prescriptive, competitive, hostile and basically enemy based.”


It was a world of nation-States possessing sovereignty that must be safeguarded at every cost.

But after the Second World War, a great change in the concept of sovereignty, nature of conflict among nations, concept of national interest, and means to achieving it has occurred. This change has come about in international relations due to the following factors:

1. Politico-geographic setting:

The politico-geographic setting of the world has changed considerably after the end of the Second World War. With decolonization, a number of new nations have developed that want to assert themselves in the community of nations.

There is an increase in population but not evenly. Although colonization has come to an end formally, the exploitation of the poor by the richer and developed countries still continues.


All these things have made an impact on inter­national relations as discussed under.

(a) Increase in the number of States:

Up to the beginning of the Second World War, Europe continued to decide upon the question of war and peace in the world. A few European States determined the destinies of the whole world.

These States included Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain etc. International politics at the time was not only Europe-dominated, it was also Europe- centered.

However, the Second World War brought about a complete change in this picture. With the defeat of Germany, Italy and Japan, the inter­national centers of powers shifted from Europe to the United States and the Soviet Union.


The European colonial powers were so weakened that they could no longer maintain their overseas colonies. With decolonization a large number of independent nations grew up in Asia and Africa.

The number of U.N. membership that was only 51 in 1945 has risen to 155. This shows that there is almost a triple multiplication in the number of States. All the States are eager to assert their interest in international relations.

So, international relations of today is really international in character because all the States insist on participating actively. Thus, the scope and nature of international politics has entirely changed. It has become highly complex and complicated.

Consequently, the concept of national interest has also changed. The methods of achieving national interest have also changed. In place of national interest, accommodation has to be made for the international interest.

In addition, the new States are faced with the problems of modernisation, political stability, economic development, administrative efficiency and territorial integrity. The smaller nations have thus to deter­mine their national interest keeping well in mind those problems.

It has its effect upon the multi-State interest which determines the .nature of conflict and consequently of international politics.

(b) Rapid but uneven growth of population in various countries:

Population is increasing rapidly throughout the world. But it is increasing unevenly. In China and India it is growing at a terrific speed. It is estimated that by the year 2,000, Asia will have two-thirds of the world’s people living in it.

More population demands more production of food-stuffs. It drains fastly the mineral, food and energy sources. It means housing shortage leading to over-crowding as also shrinking of living space.

It means great pressure on services such as public health, education, transportation and the like. All this will naturally lead to social frictions, tensions, competition and eventual conflict.

Politics in the internal sphere has its effect upon international politics leading to great explosion and destruction.

This explosive situation would be increased by the uneven growth of population. The over-populated countries will exert undue pressure on the less populated countries who would naturally resent resulting in tension and conflict in international politics.

(c) Ever widening gap between the Rich and Poor Countries:

The gap in riches is also a result of over-population. The thickly popu­lated countries become poor due to lack of proper resources.

A vicious circle is set in which the rich countries get richer while the poor countries become poorer. The rich countries are not ready to help the poor countries with the result that they become a target of jealously of the poor countries.

Even in spite of the best of the efforts made, the new and the poor nations, have not been in a position to set their economy on a sound footing. People in those countries live even below the line of poverty.

They cannot raise the standard of living of their people. The rich nations are reluctant to lend aid without conditions. They keep their own national interest in view. Under these circumstances, pressures and tension develop.

India has consistently been warning the richer nations to help the poor nations to bridge the gulf separating them or the events would turn dangerously against them.

A realisation has come upon the developing countries that their lot cannot be improved unless and until the richer and developed countries help in the creation of a new international economic order where exploi­tation of the poor and underdeveloped countries of the world stops.

The developing countries have formed a sort of a trade union known as the Group of 77, to press for a new international economic order both in and outside the United Nations.

In all the United Nations conferences on Trade and Development and the Industrial Development, collective stand is taken by the Group of 77.

But the sad fact that still continues is that the richer and developed nations are not still prepared to bring the under­developed and developing countries at par and end their exploitation.

2. Mad race for Modernisation and Development:

All the new emergent States of the world are trying to modernise and develop them­selves. They have placed before themselves the Western models of development.

They want to attain the same standard of living as prevailing in those countries. In this attempt, they do not appear to be a success in view of the fact that the conditions prevailing in Western countries are far different from those prevailing in their country.

Moreover the Western countries took centuries to achieve their present standard of modernisation and political development while the new nations want to achieve the same results within only a few years. This is not possible. In their effort, they have rather seen decline and decay.

The democratic apparatus as for instance parliamentary system, party system etc. have failed to work well. Rather, they have declined.

The urge for satisfying material wants and achieving higher standard of living has brought about changes accompanied by wide-spread political and economic developments which have created an unprecedented ferment and change in the internal life of those countries.

Internal circumstances influence external behaviour of the States. This results sometimes in aggressive and dangerous attitudes.

3. Nation-State today:

There has developed a great change in the position and character of the nation-State which has in turn affected international relations.

Prof. John H. Herz and Kenneth Boulding hold that the nuclear age has rendered the nation-State and the concept of sovereignty quite out of date and meaningless.

According to Herz, in the classical system of international relations the weaker States were always exposed to the threat of stronger powers. It was the duty of the nation-State to protect those living in its territory.

The main characteristics of the State were power, independence and sovereignty. With the development of new military techniques and technology, modern techniques of administration, economic growth, transport and communications, the rise of nationalism, grew the modern State system.

The modern State system differs radically from that of the past. But still it retains some of the old characteristics. The old State system was confined almost exclusively to Europe.

The modern State system has spread all over the world. The spirit of nationalism has inspired States into self-determining national groups.

The spirit of nationalism has led to the birth of new States out of ruins of old empires built by the colonial powers. No one can deprive a nation of its independence.

At the same time, there has been a great increase in the military power, sustained progress in culture and steady economic growth in the world. There has also been seen an increased competence of the States to maintain effective administrative controls over its people.

Moreover, the new trends and factors such as Economic Welfare, Ideological-Political generation, Air Warfare and Nuclear Warfare have changed the character of war and consequently of international system. Rapid economic growth and industrialisation has shown that no State is self-sufficient.

This has lead to the realisation that economic independence among themselves is a must. Efforts have also been made to bring under one’s influence areas which produce raw-materials, especially the strategic ones.

One has now to defend not only the territory of its State but also the raw-material producing areas under its control. More than anything else, the air warfare in this nuclear age has affected the territoriality of States and made them totally subject to invasion and penetration.

War has also become total and no part of the earth can remain safe. Herz concludes that all these factors have changed the principles of territoriality and sovereignty.

Boulding goes a step further-and holds that the revolution in com­munications has shrunk the world in size and exposed every part of the world to aerial warfare. Every nation can destroy every other nation with equal danger of self-destruction.

So every nation today exists with the permission of other States. So sovereignty has been replaced by conditional viability of the State.

Thus, modern State can no longer discharge its function of defense which is a manifestation of sovereignty.

Secondly, this sovereignty has restricted with the establishment of international organisations with truly world-wide scope The regional organisations like European Common Market, NATO etc., have also worked in the same direction.

Complete independence is thus hard to think and realise. Consequently, it is groups rather than individual States that deal with one another. The State system has thus been replaced by International System.

(4) Democratization of International Politics:

Up to the end of the nineteenth century, the foreign policy of a State was formulated by a very small number of chosen people.

The common masses had no say whatsoever in the process of Government and, therefore, no say in diplo­macy. Diplomacy was thus conducted by a small privileged or elite group. International politics was thus a game between a few selected people of the world.

Moreover, the number of States involved in international politics was very small. The whole of Asia and Africa was under the control of colonial powers such as Great Britain, France etc.

International relations was thus confined within a few states of Europe. It was essentially Europe- based. Europe decided the fate of the whole world. Thus not only the masses in various States but also a great number of States in the world did not take part in the game of international relations.

With the death of colonialism and the spread of egalitarianism (social welfare), more and more people are concerned with the formulation of foreign policy. They come not from any particular class in society but from the society as a whole.

All the political parties have their own respective views on foreign policy. The people conducting foreign policy are chosen on the basis of competitive examination. It is not the privilege of a single class.

This has resulted in the effectiveness of public opinion in foreign policy. We are familiar how V.K. Krishna Menon was forced to resign as the Defense Minister of India at his failure to handle properly the Indian Defense at the time of Chinese aggression in 1962.

We can understand very well that no Government in India can afford to sustain by taking an un favorable stand on the Kashmir issue.

Democratisation has led to what is sometimes called the ‘socialisa­tion of foreign policy’ also. It means no State can afford to pursue a fore­ign policy that goes against the ideals of peace.

That is, no State can afford to ignore the material welfare of its people. Foreign policy thus serves an instrument through which standard of living of the people and overall economic development is secured.

This is especially so in the case of developing countries who have become independent only recently. Foreign policy is no longer the sole concern of the Ministry of External Affairs. It also deals with defense, trade and commerce, culture, economic affairs etc.

(5) The Four Revolutions:

Since Second World War. We have witnessed four kinds of revolutions working in different countries of the world. These revolutions are:

(a) Social Revolution;

(b) National Revolution;

(c) Information Revolution; and

(d) Technological Revolution.

(a) Social Revolution:

It refers to the various movements that aim at eliminating discrimination based on caste, creed, class etc., and to bring about equality in society. Social evils like casteism, untouchability etc., have been sought to be eradicated.

The Constitutions of almost all the newly independent countries of the world have sought to promote equality, social justice and universal civil liberty. Chances have, therefore, been created to ensure equality of opportunity and participation.

This aspect of revolution is particularly important for international relations in so far as the African countries dominated by the whites are concerned. The coloured people are waging a relentless struggle to end white supremacy.

The most recent example of the success of the coloured people against the whites is provided by the freedom of Zimbabwe Rhodesia from the rule of the whites.

The impact of such like struggles does not remain confined to the internal affairs of that country alone but has repercussions on international relations also.

(b) National Revolution:

It refers to the consciousness on the part of a nation to get freedom from foreign domination. This conscious­ness came as a result of the arrogance and exploitation shown by the colonial powers.

This consciousness was also stimulated as a result of the fact that the people of these countries fought at various fronts in various parts of the world and thus became acquainted with democratic institu­tions running in European countries.

They felt the urge to have the same kind of democratic institutions in their own countries as well. Even the Allies declared that they were fighting to make the world safer for democracy.

Naturally, this slogan gave encouragement to the slave nations to rise and to strive for independence. Moreover, the colonial powers had themselves become so weak economically and otherwise that they were no longer in a position to continue with their old colonial policy.

All these factors gave rise the spirit of nationalism. Even some great countries like the United States took a sympathetic attitude towards these nationalist movements. It is why America favoured and worked for Indian independence.

Soviet Russian also took a leading role in the cause of national freedom in Asia and Africa.

(c) Information Revolution:

There has been great advance in almost every kind of knowledge. This has been particularly so in the scientific field with the result that today we know everything about the various regions and countries of the world. No corner of the world remains unexplored.

Our knowledge of the geographical features and phenomena such as economic, political and cultural, in every part of the world, is quite complete and up to date. Information in every branch of science particularly outer space, planets and stars has grown particularly during the last thirty years.

All this is the result of revolution brought in the media of information such as newspapers, radio, T.V., journals and information services all over the world.

Correct information helps a country to know reality about other countries and to formulate balanced and rational policy towards others.

Information removes ignorance and misunderstanding. Naturally, international relations has been affected by this revolution in information.

(d) Technological Revolution:

Above all, the present age has been called “the century of technology”. It is because great advances have been made in the field of technology.

Developments in technology have helped industrial revolution and built sound economy of the nation concerned to the extent that political prestige and power of those countries in the world has increased.

As a result of technological advances, there has been improvement in the means of communications. This has helped in shortening distance. The area of the world has shrunk. In addition, the mobility of the people has increased.

Goods and services move from one part to the other part of the world bringing about interdepen­dence. Ideas fly and have effect on the people living in other parts of the world.

But this technological revolution has affected the conduct of war the most. It is in this field that technology has brought destructive element.

The atomic, thermo-nuclear and neutron weapons, the supersonic air-craft fitted with nuclear weapons and inter-continental range, unmanned missiles with nuclear warheads, nuclear powered submarines etc. have made war so destructive that no trace of humanity will be left after it.

Consequently, war has become total in which not only all the people take part but it is fought with total risks also. The overkill potentiality of these developments have created in the world, what Churchill called, the balance of terror.

This balance of terror is responsible for averting Third World- War. Any future war will mean destruction of the whole world. It will mean destruction of the whole humanity.

It will mean no existence after war as a restrict of radio-active radiation. The nations having atomic power are fully aware of this fact and that is why they avoid con­frontation.

It is on this basis that Prof. P.M.S. Blacket, a well-known physicist, believed that nuclear weapons will never be used.

No denying the fact that any nation who takes initiative in unleash­ing nuclear warfare will score in the beginning.

But retaliation within minutes will destroy the initiator also. There will be no victor and no vanquished. It will be a victory of “dying over the dead”.

War has thus become an unreliable means of international relations. Although war is the final decisive factor, yet it has become difficult to resort to war. War has to fought but it cannot be fought.

To use force or not, has thus become a dilemma in international relations. An ordinary war may at any moment turn out to be a nuclear war. The risk involved may lead to perpetuation of injustice.

We find that Soviet Russia had to yield in 1962 over the question of Cuba when the United States asked Russia to dismantle its nuclear warheads in Cuba or be prepared to face -the risk.

It is due to the risks involved in war that the boundary dispute between India and China, the problem of Palestine and Pakhtoonistan still continue. These problems would have been solved through war in the pre-nuclear days.

Then, the fantastic pace of research, innovations and advances in military technology in the nuclear age make the world quite unstable. Nobody can say certainly what will happen the next hour.

This is what Professor John Herz calls as the ‘Indefinite/less of the Nuclear Age Indefiniteness refers to uncertainty regarding the nature of a possible future war and the number of countries that may become nuclear powers in the near future.

As a result of technological revolution, says Herz, the concept of territorial State has become meaningless. This revolution has its impact upon economics and politics of contemporary international relations.

Zbligniew Brezezlnski holds that “under the pressure of economics, science and technology, mankind is moving steadily toward large scale co-opera­tion.

Despite periodic reverses, all human history clearly indicates progress in this direction.” In this way, technology has served as a kind of force responsible for bringing about a large scale co-operation resulting in the death of the concept of the system of separate nation-States.

The requirements of economic and technological advances have gone beyond the frontiers of political units called nation-States.

Even for the satisfac­tion of domestic needs, Governments have to pursue foreign policy objectives through international means.

We find that the multinational corporations have afforded new means for the developed nations to exploit their industrial and intellectual advantages.

On the other hand, certain scholars believe that technological revolution enhance rather then undermines national autonomy. Karl W. Deutscn holds that “the increase in the responsibilities of national Government for such matters, as social welfare and the regulation of economic life has greatly increased the importance of the nation in the lives of its members “

Summing up the impact of technological revolution on international relations we can say that it has made war the most dreadful course and instead increased co-operation among States.

The traditional use of force has declined and in its place economic and commercial relations have developed. This has led to the cultivation of new political arrangements.

(6) Emergence of Bipolarity:

The net result of the (Second World-War was a death blow to the concept of Multi polarity and the rise of Bipolarity. Before the Second World-War, about seven nations of the world were great powers around which the relations of the world revolved.

The war brought about their ruin to the extent that they could, no longer continue as great powers. They lost not only the position but also the will to continue as such. It was the U.S.A. and the USSR with opposite ideologies and economic systems that rose as the two super-powers.

In order to widen their areas of influence, they indulged in propaganda advocating the benefits of their respective ideology and economic system to the newly independent States of Asia and Africa.

As a result of the emergence of bipolarity, a substantial change occurred in the structure of the international system. A mad race for the alliances was started by USA and USSR.

The North Atlantic Treaty was signed in April. 1949 in reaction to the Prague Coup of 1948 and the Soviet blockade of Berlin. The NATO was to serve as an instrument of Western Political solidarity and collective defense.

This resulted in the creation of an atmosphere of Cold-War. In response to the entry of West Germany into NATO in 1955, the USSR concluded Warsaw Treaty with other East European nations.

(7) End of Bipolarity:

However, the period between 1962 and 1972 is the most confused and revolutionary period in the history of the international system. The unrivalled supremacy of the two super powers came to an end.

Dispute between USSR and China erupted and USA had to readjust its relations with Europe on a new basis. Various new nations emerged in Asia and Africa as a result of the concept of nationa­lism that grew in these continents.

All these things changed international environment to a considerable extent. The newly-born nations felt secure by the rivalry of the super powers. They had good reason to believe that their defense is secured by the over-whelming interest of their senior partners.

They felt that they need not purchase the support of the super-power by acquiescing in its policies. Consequently, they began to assert themselves also. France began to aspire for its old position of superiority in the world.

It began to have talks with the USSR without the approval of the American bloc. However, the death of President De Gaulle of France brought about a change in this direction. Great Britain also tried to develop relations with USSR but failed miserably.

On the other hand, fissures developed in the Communist bloc also. China developed ideological differences with the USSR that came to the open in 1963. China has developed closer relations with the USA as against the USSR. Consequently, bipolar system remained but in a modified form.

The modification of the system of bipolarity was brought about by the rise of nation-state system and the nuclear stalemate between the USA and the USSR.

(8) Growth of Multi centrism:

In terms of military and economic capabilities, U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. are the only two super-powers which are entangled directly or indirectly in the affairs of all other nations. They exceed all other States in the supply of the power to reward.

Only they have the resources, only they can destroy one another completely and almost instantly. Only they can thrust the world into nuclear warfare. No important settlement can be arrived at without their consent.

So, in terms of capacity and aptitude to use fully the corrective power for the general war, there is a latent bipolar system. It means theoretically that the voice of the two powers is essential in all matters in which both are involved, such as disarmament.

Practically, however, the meaning of the preponderance is reduced by their competition. Moreover, due to nuclear deterrence, both the poles enjoy an exceptionally high negative productivity.

In their mutual relations they are frustrated by their competition. They do confront each- other but in fields that are non-military. It is only indirectly that they involve themselves in military task.

As a result, a kind of multi centrism has come to occupy the world age. This multi centrism has resulted from the devolution of coercive power. Certain centres of power, not from the military but other factors of power, have emerged. This is indeed the most novel element of the present international system.

The super-powers of today are without power. They suffer from an acute case of what Raymond Aron calls “the impot­ence of power.” They move away from the points at which they confront each-other directly with a view to avoiding t he dilemma of “humiliation or holocaust.”

In this way, a sort of polycentrism both within Communist and the non-Communist blocs exists. Both the blocs have reached a detente bet­ween each-other resulting in peaceful co-existence.

The doctrine of peace- full co-existence was indeed coined by Khrushchev. It was the threat of thermo nuclear war which gave birth to this concept. The concept of peaceful co-existence brought about transformation in the Soviet political structure.

This demand for democratization in the political structure came to the surface more actually in Czechoslovakia which is a highly industrialised socialist country than the Soviet Union. China lacked this concept being very backward in industry.

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