Earth & Conservation

Which Countries Stayed Neutral During The Cold War?

Despite the end of the Cold War, many countries still gather together in the Non-Aligned Movement. So what is this coalition of neutrality?

For much of the 20th century, the Cold War divided the nations of Earth into two camps, aligned with either the United States or the Soviet Union. Or at least that's the common perception.

But in terms of pure numbers, most countries remained neutral during the Cold War -- in fact, they banded together to make their own power bloc. In today's edition of Seeker Daily, Trace Dominguez looks at the history of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

In 1961, an official conference was held in Belgrade called "The Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries," informally known as the Non-Aligned Movement. The summit was convened by a group of national leaders who wanted to establish a middle course in the Cold War -- led by India, Indonesia, Egypt, Ghana, and Yugoslavia.

The Non-Aligned Movement was conceived as a way for countries to resist engaging in Cold War gamesmanship between the U.S. and the Soviets. In particular, the The NAM made significant efforts to end colonialism, both within their own ranks and among struggling aligned countries. Interestingly, the NAM also introduced the concept of Third World nations.

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As initially conceived, the designations broke down like this: Western countries like the U.S. and those in Western Europe were considered First World, while the Soviet Union and supporters like China and Cuba, were labeled Second World. Those which were not aligned with either side, mostly developing countries and former colonies, were called Third World. In this context, Third World countries were those vulnerable to the Cold War politics of the first two groups.

The term has since come to connote developing countries in general, and in fact "developing countries" is now the preferred term. Nevertheless, he NAM is still in existence and as of April 2015, is made up of 120 member states, which covers nearly two-thirds of the United Nations, and more than half the world's population.

Despite its large membership, the movement is far from influential. At the most recent meeting in Venezuela in 2016, less than a dozen heads of state were in attendance, down from 30 heads of state in the last meeting in 2012. Although their anti-imperialist goals are still important, most of their members are aligned with a major power bloc, or at least they receive substantial support from powerful countries like the United States.

-- Glenn McDonald

Learn More:

San Francisco Chronicle: Non-Aligned Movement States Call for more Inclusive UN

Britannica: Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)

Al Jazeera: Venezuela: Non-Aligned Summit Fizzles for Maduro