Between 1945 and 1991, the Soviet Union (USSR) was the strongest military rival to the United States. Led by Russia, the USSR offered a radically different economic and political system, which claimed to empower ordinary workers and raise people out of poverty.
The promise of communism polarized societies around the world; it was met with the strongest opposition in the United States, where the very word continues to be used as a potent weapon in domestic politics.
When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, some in the West saw this as a victory for capitalism and anticipated that the forces of globalization would quickly transform economic, political, and social systems in the region. Western governments and companies now recognize that history, culture, and geopolitics shape the paths taken by the thirty sovereign states that have emerged from the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and the Warsaw Pact.
In Eastern Europe, as of 2020, the three Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia) along with Poland, Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia are now full members of the European Union. Albania, Montenegro, and North Macedonia have joined NATO. But when Ukraine sought closer ties with Western security and economic organizations in 2014, Russia intervened. The conflict had a far-reaching impact, including US sanctions against Russia.