Unipolarity and Multopolarity

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In a bipolar system, two main centers of powers exist. During the Cold War, this system existed. The
USA was the center of one side (the NATO alliance), and the Soviet Union was the central power on
the opposing side (the Warsaw Pact).
After the collapse of the USSR, there was no country that matched the population, economic and
military power, and nuclear arsenal of the USA. Thus, the United States became the unipolar actor
(sometimes called a global hegemon), in that it was able to dictate or strongly policies around the
world. The US, for example, could lead a war against Iraq in 1991, because the collapse of the Soviet
bloc meant that American strength was almost unopposed. The US was also able to intervene in
Bosnia and Kosovo, even against Russian objections, because Russian threats were no longer credible
the US was too powerful to challenge. That is the essense of unipolarity.
As years passed, Russia began to regain strength, China became a major player on the world
economic stage (and its military power has grown, as well), and the increased collaboration of
European governments created the European Union. Thus, it is becoming harder for a single country,
even the USA, to "go it alone" on matters of global importance. Some political theorists say that we are
now, or soon will be, in a multipolar system, where more than two centers of power exist, and they
must share power and cooperate with each other to form alliances and achieve their goals.
What is a multipolar world?
It's a contraction in terms, for the world is a globe and there are only two poles on the opposite sides of
the axis. That said, the term is used in the discipline known as International Relations World Politics to
refer to an international (global) political system in which there are more than two political and military
power centers. A multipolar system is a more dynamic system because of the everpresent possibility
of defection and shifting alliances that may alter whatever balance (equilibrium) may at one point in
time exist. A multipolar system is best understood by contrasting it with a bipolar system (e.g., the one
that existed during the Cold War when there were two superpowers that held each other in check with
mutually assured destruction by strategic nuclear weapons in the event of preemptive attack by one
against the other), and a unipolar world in which one nation clearly dominates, i.e. exercises
hegemony. A global empire would be an example of a unipolar world. A hypothetical world
government that actually had authority and the ability to enforce its will would also fit this description.
The existing United Nations Organization (UNO or UN) does not.


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