The post-World War II international structure was characterized principally by the bipolar confrontation between the liberal democracies of the West led by the United States and the communist, totalitarian regimes of the East, led by the other global superpower, the Soviet Union. Both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. (for Union...
The post-World War II international structure was characterized principally by the bipolar confrontation between the liberal democracies of the West led by the United States and the communist, totalitarian regimes of the East, led by the other global superpower, the Soviet Union. Both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. (for Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) emerged from the ashes of the war the most militarily-powerful countries on Earth, supplanting once and for all former colonial powers like Great Britain and France. The Cold War, as it became known, was centered on Europe, with the eastern half dominated by the Soviet Union and the western half by the United States. The former formalized its bloc with the establishment of the Warsaw Pact, the latter with the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO. The modern, industrialized world, then, was divided between two competing blocs, with much of the rest of the world drawn into the Cold War through association with one of those two blocs. By the mid-1950s, however, an increasing number of countries among what was called "the Third World" sought a different direction. These countries, many of which were in Asia, established what became known as "the non-aligned movement."
The non-aligned movement had its origins in a conference of leaders of Asian countries in the Indonesian city of Bandung in 1955. The basis of this new, and growing "movement" was a rejection of categorization as either pro-U.S. or pro-U.S.S.R. It was led by the larger of these Third World countries, including those that had undergone the traumatic experience of decolonization, mainly India. Another leader, however, was the government of Yugoslavia, which was led by a charismatic strong-man named Josip Broz Tito, a communist who had succeeded in breaking away from the Soviet orbit and establishing itself as a communist nation independent from the Warsaw Pact--a stature anathema to the highly-paranoid and extraordinarily deadly Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
The non-aligned movement eventually grew into a large conglomeration of nations from all over the world, including Latin America, South Asia, and Africa. Brazil, for instance, has emerged as a leader of this movement. In the post-Cold War world, however, the movement has ceased to be identified with a rejection of the bipolar structure characteristic of that era, and is now more concerned with opposing European and American economic domination of the international financial structure, a structure characterized by such organizations as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Less-developed countries tend to intensely dislike the terms and conditions these organization impose in exchange for financial assistance from their principal backers, namely, the United States and the European Union. To date, however, progress towards a new global financial structure has been stymied by the recession that swept much of the world over the past decade. China, for instance, had hoped to replace the United States and Europe as the primary source of economic assistance, and it has succeeded in expanding its influence throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America, but it too is experiencing serious economic difficulties, thereby weakening the non-aligned movement's efforts at breaking out of the Western-dominated structures established after World War II.