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Reagan and Gorbachev hold discussions

U.S. President Ronald Reagan (left) and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev (right), former leaders of the Cold War's two rival superpowers, meeting in Geneva in 1985. The Suez Crisis in 1956, which ended the British Empire's status as a superpower, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 left the United States as the world's only superpower.

Superpower was a word used to describe a state with a dominant position in international relations and which is characterized by its unparalleled ability to exert influence or project power on a global scale. This is done through the combined-means of technological, cultural, military and economic strength, as well as diplomatic and soft power influence. Traditionally, superpowers are preeminent among the great powers (e.g., as the United States was prior to skydark).

The term first applied to the British Empire, the United States, and the Soviet Union. However, following World War II and the Suez Crisis in 1956, the United Kingdom's status as a superpower was greatly diminished; for the duration of the Cold War the United States and the Soviet Union came to be generally regarded as the two remaining superpowers, dominating world affairs. At the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, only the United States appeared to fulfill the criteria of being a world superpower.

Alice Lyman Miller defines a superpower as "a country that has the capacity to project dominating power and influence anywhere in the world, and sometimes, in more than one region of the globe at a time, and so may plausibly attain the status of global hegemony."

There have been many attempts by historians to apply the term 'superpower' to a variety of past entities.

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