One of the background aspects of the novel was also a central theme: the Cold War. Academic Jeremy Black points out that From Russia, with Love was written and published at a time when tensions between East and West were on the rise and public awareness was high. 1956 saw both the public exposure of an Anglo-American tunnel into East Berlin to intercept Soviet communications, and a popular uprising in Hungary "brutally repressed" by Soviet forces.
As in Casino Royale, the concept of the loss of British power and influence was also present in the novel. With the British Empire in decline, journalist William Cook observed that "Bond pandered to Britain's inflated and increasingly insecure self-image, flattering us with the fantasy that Britannia could still punch above her weight." In From Russia, with Love, this manifested itself in Bond's conversations with Darko Kerim when he admits in England "we don't show teeth any more – only gums."
Following on from the character development of Bond in his previous four novels, Fleming adds further background to Bond's private life in From Russia, with Love, largely around his home life and personal habits, with Bond's introduction to the story seeing him at breakfast with his housekeeper, May. Continuation Bond author Raymond Benson sees aspects of self-doubt entering Bond's mind with the "soft" life he has been leading when he is introduced in the book, as well as the fear he feels when his flight to Istanbul encounters severe turbulence from a storm. Benson also considers the other characters in the book to be well developed, with the Head of Station T, Darko Kerim Bey, "one of Fleming's more colourful characters." Young Bond author Charlie Higson finds Red Grant to be "a very modern villain: the relentless, remorseless psycho with the cold dead eyes of a 'drowned man'."