Historical Context

The Cold War in the 1980s
Ender's Game takes place in Earth's future, one in which all countries are cooperating together to save the planet from alien invasion. Nevertheless, the novel does suggest that the international conflicts of the twentieth century will not be forgotten, as an American hegemony (a group of nations dominated by one) will be pitted against a Second Warsaw Pact, led by the Russians. In this world, Russia rules Eurasia from the Netherlands to Pakistan. Peter believes that Russia is preparing for a "fundamental shift in world order." Once the bugger wars are over, the North American alliances will dissolve, and Russia will take over. This conflict may have seemed inevitable in the early and mid-1980s, when the novel was written. Since the end of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union had engaged in a "cold war" which involved military buildups but no direct military confrontations. Almost forty years later, this conflict showed few signs of being resolved peacefully.

The two sides of the Cold War were led by the democratic United States and the communist Soviet Union. The Warsaw Pact, signed in 1955, established an alliance among the Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. It served to defend the group against any potential military or economic threats from the West. It also strengthened the Soviet Union's hold over its Eastern European satellites and prevented them from making close ties with the West. On the other side was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which bound Western Europe and the United States together in defense against the communists. From the end of World War II, both the Americans and the Soviets increased their nuclear arsenals, each trying to prevent the other from gaining a military advantage.

The tenseness of the 1950s and 1960s had given way in the 1970s to a limited "detente," or lessening of friction between the two sides. By the 1980s, however, the Cold War began heating up once again. The Soviet Union had invaded neighboring Afghanistan in 1979, leading to increased U.S. fears of spreading communism. Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980 on a platform that included promises of a tougher stance against the Soviets. Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as an "evil empire," and his administration planned for 1.2 trillion dollars in new military spending. The government also proposed a "Strategic Defense Initiative," commonly called "Star Wars," a space-based defensive system that would intercept incoming nuclear missiles. These actions were in contrast to public reassurances from the Americans that they wanted to proceed with arms reduction treaties, so the Soviets remained nervous of American intentions. It was not until after Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985 that tensions eased between the two nations. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved, along with the Soviet Union itself, in 1991.

Science and Technology in the 1980s
One of the most startling technological revolutions of...

(The entire section is 1258 words.)