|This article covers a topic that, by its very nature, is a magnet for flamewars. Try not to get too assmad at what you're about to read.|
"What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such … That is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government."
- – Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man. Unsurprisingly, he has since admitted that in retrospect he was being too optimistic.
After the end of the communist regimes and the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991 ended almost half a century of Cold War. The ideological, political and economical clashes between different ideologies that had had its apex during World War II had finally ended with the prevalence of capitalism as the dominant economic model and with western-type democracies as the most favoured political models (at least in the West and the ex-Soviet States). The End of the World through nuclear means, while almost seen as a certainty during many periods of crisis, had not come to pass, and a feeling of peace and relief spreaded through the world. While the old fear of a world war pretty much dissapeared, the problems of the Cold War were replaced by many other and smaller conundrums all around the globe. This aspect is important, since due to technological advancements and the development of computers and the Internet, the world is more interconnected than ever before, and events that decades ago would've been isolated to a small region could have massive reverberations throughout the globe.
This period of history is being studied and analyzed by historians as we speak, considering most of the relevant events of this period happened less than 30 years ago and are continuing into the present day (2020, as of this article's writing). There's a reason why historians usually don't touch anything that's happened in the last twenty or so years, so we'll do our best to avoid any skub and just retell events as they happened and how they relate to one another; which is no easy feat since the world has become more interconnected than ever, with events happening halfway around the world being felt everywhere. Now, pretty much everyone outside of tribes not in regular contact is generally in the know about the affairs of the world due to the fact that anything can be recorded and discussed on 24/7 news networks and the internet definitely made everyone more aware of everyone else.
New World Order: The 1990s
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall or transformation of communist regimes worldwide, the United States found itself catapulted into a position of undisputed supremacy over the globe. Following a short, brutal war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq (which ended in a rather hilarious roflstomp victory for the U.S-led Coalition, which took casualties in the low hundreds compared to Iraq having 85% of it's pre-war armed forces completely wiped out), the U.S began perhaps one of it's greatest decades of economic and cultural prosperity under the dotcom bubble. With it's military might guarding the vital sea and air routes of the world, the 1990s began a period of interconnectivity and increased trade that would be later known as "globalization" (Though for some, the term "Westernization" would be better suited, as much of the world has adopted, at least in part, American cultural, military, and economic doctrines).
This isn't to say that things were all peaches and sunshine for the U.S, however. In many cities across the U.S, many African and Hispanic Americans became utterly fed up with the way the police forces often treated them (in the case of many metropolitan areas like L.A., it was little better than dirt). A boiling point was reached when Rodney King, an African American man (who had a history of armed robbery and beating his wife), was given a retalitory beating by two white police officers on camera after leading a high speed chase through a residential area, resisting arrest and attempting to charge an officer. The news media edited out King's aggresion towards the police, but the jury for the officers would see the full tape and acquit them. This action triggered the Los Angeles race riots, which would leave a scar on the collective consciousness of Americans everywhere. Another dark side to this otherwise happy time was the military debacles in Somalia and the war crime filled Yugoslav Wars. The Yugoslav Wars were the only remotely symmetrical war in recent history between something more than African warlords, but rarely appears in war games (or video games that aren't Tactics Ogre) for the simple reason that nobody can understand what the hell was going on without serious research. The domestic side of the Federal Government lost a lot of trust during the Clinton administration between Bill Clinton's sex scandals and the heavy-handed and openly corrupt response of the FBI and ATF took to dealing with the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas. The agencies repeatedly claiming concern for supposed hostages they didn't know the location but totally existed before setting their compound on fire and driving over it with an armored vehicle, which would have killed the hostages if they existed, then planting their own equipment as evidence remains a popular example of the ATF's naked corruption to this day.
Meanwhile, in the newly reformed state of Russia, things were looking a bit... well, let's just say that the immediate post-Heresy Imperium had it much better than what happened to Russia. Problems ranging from a severe economic collapse, the rise of oligarchs and criminal mobs, a major rebellion in the majority Islamic province of Chechnya, and the government is about as morally pure as your average Tzeentchian cultist all contributed to the post-Soviet Russians generally feeling pretty damned hopeless and betrayed by the West. Boris Yeltsin, the first President of Russia, tried his damndest to fix things, but turning the country around proved to be beyond his skills, and left the office in relative disgrace. Enter one Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer and someone with a more authoritarian and straightforward way of doing things. He technically stabilized Russia, but has since been continually stirring shit up in the rest of the world ever since.
In Europe, the European Union was officially ratified by the Maaschirt Treaty in 1992, marking for the first time since
Rome Napoleon that a singular power has held complete sway over all most of the continent. The EU's goal, amongst many things, was to promote economic and military cooperation amongst its member states. To that end, most nations in the EU abandoned their national currencies for the euro, with only UK, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania and Sweden retaining their own. This group has rapidly moved past the mere economic partnership and into either: an overstate that curtails the freedoms of its member countries who are "represented" by unelected bureaucrats with no method of removing them, an attempt to create a governing body that could step in and stop the squabbling nations of Europe from starting WW3, or a hopelessly incompetent bureaucratic clusterfuck that survives through sheer inertia, depending on your point of view. Or any combination of the three.
In the Middle East, however, tensions were steadily rising. Due to events like the discovery of oil in large parts of the region, the disaster that was the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the formation of the Jewish state of Israel in was formerly Arab land and its subsequent occupation of far more territory than it was actually supposed to get, the various Muslim tribes and nations of the Middle East began to look at the Christian and secular nations of the West and Russia with barely restrained hatred, feeling that they had been cheated, stomped on, and oppressed by the ungodly European and American powers over and over again. Many began to long for the glory days of the Golden Age of Islam in the Early Middle Ages, and so started to turn to increasingly radical sects of Islam that promised such a return to power and prestige, such as the Wahhabist sect of Sunni Islam, the state religion of the most powerful islamic nation, Saudi-Arabia. The disastrous invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets in late-Cold War had provided experience to the Mujahideen (roughly translating as "those engaged in a holy war"), experience which was now being turned against those who supported them against the Soviets. A few began to carry out acts of terror against their Israeli and American foes, such as in the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut and the attack on the USS Cole. But the worst was yet to come, as a new, much more disciplined and organized group of Sunni radicals known as Al-Qaeda (in Arabic, literally "The Base" or "The Foundation") came into being, led by wealthy Saudi billionaire and former muhajedeen commander Osama bin Laden. Their strike against the heart of their perceived enemies would forever shatter the ideal of Western triumph and total American supremacy, and usher in a new, long, bloody period of conflict. Of course, the fact that many of these groups were originally trained and armed by the CIA to fight the Soviets and their proxies in Afghanistan and the Iran-Iraq war is often swept under the carpet.
9/11 and the War on Terror
"We have slain a large dragon. But we live now in a jungle filled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes. And in many ways, the dragon was easier to keep track of."
- – CIA Director James Woolsey, 1993
9/11 can be seen as the catalyst for what would fuel today's paranoia against "terrorism". On September 11, 2001, a couple of Al-Qaeda terrorists hi-jacked 4 commercial flights and crashed them to several locales, although the most significant of this was the World Trade Center, causing it to collapse and be labeled as the worst terrorist attack on American soil, as it killed nearly 3,000 people. This attack was led by a man named Osama Bin Laden. If you want to subscribe to the tin-foil hat crew, there's been several conspiracy theories related to this, most popular of which is that the American government planned for 9/11 and the entirety of the tragedy, but whether you want to believe those or not is up to you.
Anyway, with the world shocked, a worldwide manhunt for Bin Laden occurred, taking the US-led coalition forces to Afghanistan, Iraq, and eventually Pakistan. During their hunt, this resulted in warlords and dictators in the Middle East getting the knife, most notably Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. Long story short, after a bunch of wacky misadventures and more conflicts than anyone can count: SEAL Team Six, a special operations unit of the US Navy, eventually killed Bin Laden during a raid ten years later.
Despite the shock of the attacks, the people of the United States did wholly "unify" as is too often suggested by those who lived at the time. Muslim Americans, and even quite a few who simply looked Middle Eastern, including Sikhs and South-East Asians, were the targets of hate crimes - arsons, murders, and assaults shot up in the days and weeks after the attacks. It has been asserted that this is the origin of the Western Conservative bias against Muslims and the reignition of fear of foreigners.
Despite the success of the Osama Bin Laden raid, the War on Terror never really "ended" and it jump-started the global arms industry into overdrive. It created a demand for more guns, more militarization, more equipment, and more troops, in order to stem the tide of terrorists and rogue elements threatening everyone's safety (if you want to believe the rhetoric, anyway). It's also being seen as pseudo-Imperialism, as while the occupied Middle Eastern territories visited by the coalition are technically held by local governments, its not that easy to miss that the US-led coalition are basically bumping off heads that they don't like and installing people that are more open to their policies into government positions and occupying them with either US troops and/or PMCs as "observers" to help stabilize the region and train their troops, essentially turning them into a nation unofficially governed by the US. While it can be argued that said heads were in dire need of a thumping for the sake of the people, this is creating an increasingly common way for the US to expand it's sphere of influence, while being able to dodge the bad label associated with imperialism. Needless to say, this created even more of the resentment and hatred that allowed al-Quaeda to gain power in the first place, which combined with the crumbling state of Syria's government ended up setting the stage for ISIS, a more powerful and widespread organization intent on recreating the Islamic Caliphate of old.
This also created a glamorization of the military by the media that contributed to the war being somewhat normalized in the eyes of the public and painting the coalition forces as heroes (I.E: vidya games like Call of Duty or movies like American Sniper). Call it entertainment or call it propaganda, either way, it contributed to the public being more accepting of what's essentially a world-wide conflict comprised of proxy wars and skirmishes with no clear beginning or end. It also had the effect of massively expanding national governments worldwide in order to "protect and secure" the lives of the citizenry, whereas most libertarians and anarchists viewed it as nothing more than a blatant power grab using security as an excuse.
The US and remaining coalition forces are still technically fighting the War on Terror despite the original aggressors responsible for 9/11 being neutralized. As of writing this article: they're only three years shy of officially beating the Vietnam War in terms of duration. Indeed, it has raised concerns about the purpose of this ongoing conflict, as much of Iraq and Afghanistan is still very much a hotbed for insurrection to the point that Western intervention is no longer having a discernible effect and may very well be actively making it worse. Plus, with the aftermath of the war against ISIS, it has led to yet more intervention by larger neighboring states and more destabilized local conflicts, such as Turkey advancing into Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran conducting a proxy war against each other in Yemen, the crackdown of the Kurdish independence referendum in Northern Iraq, and the Taliban further entrenching themselves in various provinces in Afghanistan.
The Great Recession
"If you owe the bank one hundred dollars, that's your problem. If you owe the bank one hundred million dollars, that's the bank's problem."
- – J. Paul Getty
In 1987 Alan Greenspan became chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank and would hold that office until 2006, leaving behind a legacy of fuckheug asset bubbles. Under the presidencies of Bush the Elder, Clinton, and Bush the Lesser, lending standards became increasingly lax to the point where a well dressed Lictor could qualify for a mortgage. Prices for homes, stocks, and college educations skyrocketed, but because the dollar menu remained a dollar the talking heads insisted it wasn't inflation.
Stocks first plummeted in 2000 when everyone decided the likes of yahoo! and pets.com weren't worth a trillion dollars. Then in 2008 the market shit itself again when bankers realized that Lictor was never going to pay off his home loan. But he can still get a bank to pay for his hormagaunts to go to Princeton, so the shoes aren't done falling yet.
At the height of the bubble, it was possible for a person to obtain a home loan with no declared income, no declared assets, no down payment, and on negative amortization terms which means the borrower is only aiming to pay the interest on the loan (and maybe not even all of that) in the hope of selling the house later for more than the loan. The sheer quantities of just as planned flavor kool-aid everyone was drinking would turn Magnus the Red several more colors.
The overwhelming majority of these loans were variable interest because the Fed had dropped rates so low that for a brief time they were actually paying banks to borrow money (you read that right, not paying them to lend money, paying them to borrow money from the fed; things got crazy). The result was the economic equivalent of Chernobyl; as soon as it became apparent that rates couldn't go any lower everyone who couldn't pay was wiped out and declared bankruptcy. The banks and investors had been divvying up the anticipated profits from the loans and selling them as securities, and suddenly nobody knew what those securities were actually worth. As banks and insurance companies started imploding, the US government was obliged to intervene to stave off a complete collapse of the economy, but this was incredibly unpopular.
The Rise of Extremes, and the Tide of Populism
The year 2016 was a shitshow in many, many ways, and its long-term effects have yet to become fully apparent. In hindsight, all those celebrity deaths were quite foreshadowing.
The policies of Barrack Obama had become unpopular in many rural and conservative places, such as the Midwest and the Deep South, on top of an increasing racial divide that hadn't been seen since the late 1960s. Fed up with these policies, and with the apparent inaction of many moderate to center-right Republican politicians, a good deal of right-leaning voters turned to more hardcore conservative, right-wing populist candidates... candidates such as Donald Trump, who preached a hardline stance against immigration, negotiations for fairer trade deals and increasing domestic manufacturing, and a return to the Reagan-era "Peace through Strength" mentality, now intensified to a degree that many observers thought to border on authoritarianism. And despite all the odds, Trump won the presidential election through a handy margin in the electoral college - due primarily to appealing to the working-class voters in the Rust Belt - against Hillary Clinton (though Hillary won more of the popular vote thanks to the large urban bases in California and New York). This was accompanied by the rise of the so-called "Alternative-Right", a hardcore right-wing ideology that espouses ethnonationalism and nativism as its primary goals.
Almost immediately, the left accused Trump of colluding with Vladimir Putin in stealing the election from Clinton, and a two-year long investigation was launched (that ultimately found evidence of Russian interference in Trump's favor, but could not find sufficient information to confirm or deny that Trump or his campaign was aware of it), with both sides accusing one another of rigging the election. Reacting in anger to what they perceived as Trump's violent racism and bigotry, a collection of left-wing anarchist paramilitary groups formed, naming themselves "Anti-Fascist Action", or Antifa, for short. Antifa would disrupt conservative and right-wing rallies, claiming that as Trump's main supporters were sympathetic to Nazi ideology and espoused violence against their opponents, they could not be dealt with through purely non-violent means. In response to this, hardcore right-wing groups like the Proud Boys formed and began to clash on the streets with Antifa, turning the streets of cities like Portland into scenes eerily reminiscent of early-1920s Weimar Germany.
In 2018, a surge of left-wing populism enabled the Democrats to take back the House of Representatives, and hardcore left-wing candidates such as "Democratic Socialist" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez soon saw themselves propelled to the heights of political power. A political divide in the United States that had slowly been festering since the Bush presidency had grown to fruition; moderates and centrists soon found themselves on the back burner, and the American people polarized into ideologically incompatible camps who began to view each other as traitors to the Republic and wannabe-genocidal dictators, aided by the echo chambers created by social media, with some commentators and scholars predicting that the U.S might see another civil war within a generation.
In Europe, populist movements arose as a result of the perceived overbearing rules and regulations coming from the EU, the migration crisis as a result of the Syrian Civil War, and a general resurgence of nationalism. The most notable of these movements was the '16 British Exit movement (Brexit, for short) that sought the departure of the UK from the EU, and soon, nominally centrist governments in Europe soon found themselves out of power or greatly diminished, replaced by populist right-wing or populist left-wing governments, as the dream of the European Union looked more and more like a fantasy. Brexit itself proved to cause its own problems after it became clear that after leaving the EU, numerous trade deals would need to be renegotiated (among other issues much too complex to describe here). The fact the question of Brexit was decided by a referendum of the general public, which was only partly aware of the issues at stake and did not understand the consequences of leaving the EU, did not instill confidence in the government. Moreover, it is possible that if Brexit does end up happening, Scotland may leave the UK in order to preserve their connections to the EU.
In Russia, Putin's imperialistic ambitions, a paranoid fear of NATO expansion, and possibly a desire to reclaim what had once been a critical port in the old USSR, propelled the large nation into invading its neighbor, Ukraine, in order to "protect Russian minorities in the Donbass and Crimea". Ukraine, having just recently undergone a political revolution that ousted the pro-Russian administration, wasn't having it and fought the Russians and their separatist allies to a virtual standstill in the still-ongoing Donbass War. The Putin regime has also been implicated in several other acts of interfering with other world governments, perhaps as a way to exact revenge for how the West abandoned Russia to its fate after the Soviet Union fell. That said, Putin's stranglehold over Russian politics has set the stage for a major power vacuum to arise after his death/retirement, and there's no telling if the Russian government could survive in his absence.
Meanwhile, populist leaders and old-school authoritarians rose up in Turkey, the Philippines, Brazil, Thailand, India and Pakistan, which has put a nail in the coffin for liberalism in those various democratic institutions. In China, President Xi Jinping removed the term limits and became China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping; this coincides with China reverting back to the foreign policy of the Ming Dynasty on steroids and trying to bring back the Sinocentric world order of old. Beijing's initialization of the Belt and Road Initiative throughout Eurasia and the String of Pearls geostrategic security bases around the Indian Ocean is a multinational project that dwarfs the Marshall Plan, and has spooked Washington into trying ways to at least counter some of China's ambitions to various results. The rise of China, combined with the political stagnation of the US and the decline of Western institutions, has bifurcated the Post-Cold War World Order. Unipolarity has ended.
The future of the world is in flux, as it always has been. Only time will tell whether or not the moderates will again take the reigns of power, or if the status quo is permanently shifted to the left or right. Or if the worst-case scenario predictions about the effects of global climate change come to pass and make that whole question a moot point.
The Pandemic of 2020 AKA World.exe has paused
In late 2019 (first confirmed infection was somewhere around middle of December), a new strain of coronavirus appeared in the Wuhan region of China. Genome sequencing would later confirm that the virus hopped to humans from bats, which have historically been a source of multiple other epidemics such as Ebola and SARS.
An airborne respiratory virus, SARS-CoV-2 resembled the common cold, with some studies suggesting that 80% of infected would be asymptomatic or show mild cold-like symptoms (although in hindsight its close relation to a virus that caused a smaller but still major outbreak in 2002 known as SARS should have been a cause for alarm). However in a small minority of cases, particularly the elderly and immunocompromised, it could result in severe pneumonia frequently resulting in death, and it spread so quickly that the so-called "small minority" is still likely to end up being millions of cases. Unusually for a pandemic, the virus had almost no effect on the young, in contrast to the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918 which affected the strongest the worst due to life-threatening immune responses. Or at least that was assumed to be the case, right until it was discovered that "recovered" cases in younger individuals had a disproportionately high risk of developing strokes, heart conditions, and other life-threatening problems, although this may be due to selection bias; large scale epidemiological studies are as yet still in progress. Regardless, pneumonia is no joke.
Through the end of 2019, it was believed that the virus could be contained to China, but by February 2020 it was clear that containment had failed and that the virus would spread worldwide. With the nationalists and the populist leaders proving themselves unable to handle a disease that respected no borders and unwilling to cooperate with each other long enough to create a productive response that might have kept the virus from becoming a full-fledged pandemic, the global community flailed helplessly in between bouts of passing the buck as the disease, named "COVID-19", spread across one continent after another.
Widespread government orders to close businesses and pushes for people to remain in their homes resulted in unemployment levels never before seen in history, and the global economy reached its lowest point since the Great Depression in what is now being called the "Great Lockdown". Worldwide air travel ground to a halt, and transportation energy use dropped so precipitously that oil reached negative value (not an error result, producers are actually paying people to take oil away). The prolonged economic downturn has made a fair number of people talk about the possibility of implementing major reforms such as universal basic income to ensure that economies don't implode entirely, although the reactions to said proposals have been mixed. On the other extreme some politicians have shown a blunt prioritizing of the economy over the people the economy is supposed to serve, which unsurprisingly has not won them much goodwill.
Even after more stringent lockdown protocols were adopted by at-risk regions, the virus has continued to spread and health care systems throughout the world are being pushed to their limits as people continue to die from COVID-19; as of June 2020 it's already killed more Americans than the entire First World War. With a vaccine still at least a year away (and that's the most optimistic estimate) as of this writing, it's anyone's guess as to how long the pandemic will last...or if the global economy will be able to survive the measures needed to keep the pandemic under control until it ends.
The effects of the stress placed upon populations during the lockdown would be manifested the the large scale protests and riots that took place after video footage of the death of an African-American man at the hands of police, leading to images straight out of the similar riots in 1968 of burning buildings, clouds of tear gas and widespread carnage. By the middle of 2020 the comparisons to 1968 of a year of 'one goddamn thing after another' were many and apt.
Memes have never been better though.
The World Powers nowadays
"For all the ‘4th Generation of War’ intellectuals running around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the tactics are wholly new, etc., I must respectfully say, ‘Not really’: Alexander the Great would not be in the least bit perplexed by the enemy that we face right now in Iraq, and our leaders going into this fight do their troops a disservice by not studying — studying, vice just reading — the men who have gone before us."
- – General James Mattis
With the fall of the Soviet Union and the massive economical crisis Russia suffered while adapting to the new capitalist system, the United States appeared as a global power with no real competition. For a while at least. The United States had to focus their attention in the War against Terror, a massive campaign against terrorism around the globe, in particular after the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, which ended up with the destruction of the World Trade Center buildings through kidnapped planes. Since then, the United States has been present in the Middle East in one way or another. The world in general has had to adapt their military systems, being prepared to deal with another massive world war, and now have to fight small skirmishes against global terrorism, usually with a heavier weight of intelligence and counter-intelligence over actual military power. At the same time, they also have to deal with the ethical snarl of determining where the lines between "civilian" and "combatant" can be drawn, to say nothing of the suggestion that the War on Terror is really a ploy for the US to build a new empire without openly admitting that's what it's doing.
Outside of the US, Europe continued the process of developing an unified political entity, which ended in the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 with the birth of the European Union. With the fall of the Soviet Union, many ex-republics and other european countries under soviet control joined the EU, event that caused certain frictions with Russia. Also in this period we saw the fracture of Yugoslavia, with the conflicts that followed being some of the most bloody and brutal in Europe since the end of World War II.
To further add to the point in Europe right now, with the UK leaving the EU, there is a growing belief that the power vacuum created by Britain is going to make the Franco-German Bloc even more overly dominant. Macron's ambition for a French-dominated EU through a 'European Army' have raised eyebrows amongst Napoleonic/Gaulist analysts. In theory, it makes sense for France to centralize Europe's military under the command of the French as this is Paris' only window of opportunity to not only reinstate itself as the great power of the continent, but also break away from US over-dependence. The window of opportunity is simple in explanation; right now France's old regional adversaries, Germany and the UK, no longer pose a threat. Germany has destroyed its political leadership due to the migration crisis and is militarily castrated. The UK have lost almost all political credibility after the Brexit circus and is on the brink of political fragmentation. Paris right now is the most militarily capable member of the EU and a nuclear armed weapons state in its own right with vast financial influence over its
colonies African friends and multiple overseas naval base. However, in practice, the sheer level of bureaucratic clusterfuck in the language barriers of the 28 27 member states would be a significant challenge to such an idea. Let alone the fact that South and Eastern Europeans do not like the idea of being dictated by the French, and would rather prefer the Americans under good'ol NATO instead. Furthermore, Paris has a stagnating and mediocre economy, so we have no idea how Macron is going to balance the budget and, with Berlin's economy contracting to near recession levels, such ideas may prove too ambitious in the first place. But alas, if Macron wants to role-play Europa Universalis whilst putting on his Napoleon hat, he can be our fucking guest.
Japan, after the economic boom they enjoyed during most of the 80s, suffered one of the biggest asset price crashes in history, sinking their economy. Badly. This was a catastrophic event for many Japanese, and this crisis lasted for over a decade (technically they haven't recovered from it yet). While they are still one of the wealthiest countries in the world, the effects of the 90s crash has had a massive impact on their financial, business and general culture, to the point of being very difficult to find any Japanese work set in modern day that doesn't reference the crisis in any way.
Many of the old communist countries quickly changed into capitalist economies during the 80s and 90s. Nowadays, there are only a handful of countries that would title themselves as communists, with none of them following a purely pre-91 planned economy (China, Laos and Vietnam changed their economy into a capitalist-like system while retaining much of their political structure, North Korea is basically an absolute monarchy, and Cuba is steadily changing and opening their economy to the world).
After the massive humanitarian, agricultural and economical crisis that Mao's "Great Leap Forward" caused, China adapted their communist system into an capitalist one hidden under a communist name, and became the de facto factory of the world, developing a massive industry and becoming a world power from the first time since more than a century. Its economic and political influence in the world is extremely important in world politics. The relationship between China and the US after the Cold War is....how do we put it...shall we say complicated? The US-China relationship is akin to a marriage still hanging on because both partners are so much in debt with one another that divorcing would be too much trouble for its worth. However, China has had plenty of problems during the last decades, and things such as the failed "one child" policy and increasing industrial and environmental pollution. Still for all its inconvenience, China is the second most powerful geopolitical entity and has grown to dominate international relations whether detractors like it or not. Now the question on China's superpower status is nothing more than political skub amongst academics and political scientists, due to how....skubby the actual credentials to be a superpower is in the first place.
On the other hand of Eurasia, Russia as well tried to recover its influence in world politics, with different degrees of success; as mentioned before it now seems to have shifted focus to undermining the influence of other countries instead, particularly that of the US. After somewhat recovering from the massive economic crisis of the 90s, Russia is still one of the most powerful and influential countries worldwide, due to its military weight and nuclear arsenal. Whilst US-China relationship is an overcomplicated trainwreck of interdependence, espionage and trade/IP disputes, Russia-China relations seem to have patched up the divorce from the Sino-Soviet Split. This was due to the fact that both the Russian and Chinese government realized how pointless and petty the split was, and that teaming up was a far more better choice than being divided. Although fears and suspicions still exist, the 2014 Ukraine crisis forced Russia to ignore these old-time fears of China as the relationship towards the West nosedived back to the good old days of the Cold War. The drop in oil prices along with sanctions crippled Russia's already vulnerable economy to the point that, economically speaking, Russia became an economic dwarf. As you can imagine, you can't have another arms race if you don't even have the money to spend them. Fortunately for Russia, this is where China comes in. Although the EU still remains the largest trading partner for Russia, in the long term, trade with China would increase due to China's obviously large middle class. The Chinese are hungry and in ever present need for oil, gas and foodstuffs, Russia is a giant oil and gas reserve with plenty of fertile ground to farm. Factor in the fact that a friendly China would safeguard Russia's underpopulated and vulnerable Far East and you will see a Russia even more against current Western institutions than the old Soviet days. Nevertheless, as mentioned before, they still have more nukes than anyone, but they have reduced that number considerably due to it's not necessary to have so many nukes anymore, and they are reeeealy expensive to build and maintain.
Technology, science and culture
After the world stopped fearing the nuclear holocaust that a MAD would've been, there were many shifts in technological interest. In particular, computer science grew and developed exponentially, with computers becoming a part of everyday life. Modern communications have been affected as well. It is difficult to grasp how big of an impact has the Internet had in shaping modern life but suffice to say it affects every aspect of our lives. Readers of this article are well aware of this since they are using the internet to read it. In particular, the world of entertainment has become really big thanks to this technological level. Videogames replaced movies as the biggest and most profitable entertainment media (thanks in part to the growth of mobile gaming).
Many of the concerns of the Cold War era still persist, and in many cases, they've only grown with time. Without a nuclear war to worry about, things as environmentalism has changed focus on global warming and the waste of polluting elements into the ocean as their effects grow increasingly noticeable. Another issue relating to culture would be the rise of populist movements in various regions around the globe, from every bend of the ideological spectrum, mostly as a result of the increasing globalization and the presumed decline of what was once the nation-state.
One of the high points of the Post-Cold War era has been the shift of emphasis on space activity away from government agencies and towards commercial ventures. With the dissolution of the USSR, NASA began collaborating with the Russian government, first with missions to the Mir space station and later with the construction of the International Space Station.
Beginning with SpaceShipOne in 2003, private enterprise has ticked off a number of firsts and achieved in years what took the military industrial complex decades. In 2015, SpaceX destroyed the conventional business model of space rocketry by successfully landing and relaunching a first stage rocket. Practical re-usability combined with fixed cost pricing likely heralds the end of the massive government sponsored development programs of the past. New technologies in testing include inflatable modules and 3d printed solar panels constructed after launch.
The iconic LC-39A, departure point for the majority of the Saturn and Shuttle launches, is now operated under commercial lease by SpaceX. It is a safe bet that space exploitation is the next trillion dollar mega industry, quadrillion even, unless major AI breakthroughs are made.
The appeal of Post-Cold War world
Do you like stories of special force operators going on incredibly risky missions to take down terrorists, insurgents, and radicals of any ideological or religious flavor? Then this setting might be right for you, due to the prevalence of the Global War on Terror and the almost-extensive use of special forces such as the Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Spetznaz, SAS, and so on in their fight against the new enemy that has largely replaced the Soviet Union in the minds of many in the West - the radical Islamist "jihadist" organizations such as Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, whose goals range from either kicking all foreign influence out of their country, to establishing a global caliphate.
Wargame wise, there is some appeal in recreating the various, drawn-out conflicts such as in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan (to date the longest war in American history at over 17 years if one doesn't count the Korean War, which the US never officially declared war during and has spent most of its existence cold.), pitting the well-equipped, organized, and disciplined forces of the Western powers against the zealotry, tenaciousness, and cunning of the various insurgent and terrorist groups that plague the region. Due to the rather asymmetric nature of these wars, as well as the murkiness that comes with it, it's not as popular as the more conventionally focused, more-or-less Black-And-White morality of World War 2 setting.
Urban Fantasy and Superheroes are often set in the current Post-Cold War era. By making fictional, fantastical threats one avoids the question of what the hell is there left to fight. It also benefits from being a world that's largely prebuilt and known to players, allowing writers to focus exclusively on what's different.
|Historical Time Periods|
|Premodern:||Stone Age - Bronze Age - Classical Period - Dark Age - High Middle Ages - Renaissance|
|Modern:||Age of Enlightenment - Industrial Revolution - The World Wars - The Cold War - Post-Cold War|