Skip to content
ACE2294 The Cold War is not Dead, it is not even Passed (on UCC Campus delivery only) is a Course

ACE2294 The Cold War is not Dead, it is not even Passed (on UCC Campus delivery only)

Started Sep 27, 2022

Sorry! The enrolment period is currently closed. Please check back soon.

Full course description

Course Overview

Disharmony, distrust and misinterpretation soured Allied relations from 1946; from the ashes of the cataclysmic World War, the emergent superpowers squared up to each other with heated hostility and a brinkmanship that led to opposing military alliances and a devastating arms race, as each sought to contain the reach of the other.  NATO’s unspoken purpose was to keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down. 


The Cold War defined the international community and shaped its culture. The ‘Iron Curtain’ was  immortalised by Churchill as it divided Europe from ‘Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic’.  Eastern European countries were forced under the Soviet Union’s ‘sphere of influence’ to provide that all important buffer against future aggression.  This was not the first attack from the West that the Russians had endured. 


Over the course of the next four and a half decades this division held, separating capitalist and communist systems,  but it spilled into Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and South America periodically, leading to death and destruction. 


When the Berlin Wall came tumbling down in November 1989, the West reacted with astonishment and elation.  From East and West, Germans exuberantly set to work dismantling the graffitied barricade that symbolised a Europe divided by contesting ideologies.  A New World Order was heralded where co-operation would trump competition and the threat of nuclear annihilation would dwindle. NATO and the Warsaw Pact would be superfluous as Russia integrated into European security structures. 


George H.W. Bush’s immediate reaction to events of November 1989 was muted. He declined to ‘dance on the wall’.  In London, Paris and Moscow the notion of German unification conjured up Nazi horrors that still haunted the collective conscience. 


The USSR came undone over the following two years and in the tumultuous decade that followed, the domestic whirlwind of economic ‘shock therapy’ consumed that state, while US hubris grew to fill the ‘unipolar moment’. Clinton looked to extend NATO, to the consternation of some, and in apparent contradiction of promises made to Gorbachev about eastward expansion. Was this a failure to appreciate Russian nationalistic pride and its deep-rooted security fears?


Initially, Moscow had eyed greater integration with Western Europe and even membership of NATO. The 2008 Bucharest Summit, when the West made unwelcome eastward gestures, was a key moment in the unravelling of co-operative relations, portending the eventual 2014 invasion of Ukraine and the downward spiralling of diplomacy between an increasingly confident Russia and an increasingly impervious West. Events in Syria and Libya were catalytic. 


Now, thirty years  after the fall of the Wall, Europe is once again embattled as a revisionist, authoritarian Russia imperils its neighbours. 


Are we facing a new Cold War? And, if so, how did we get here? 


This course will interrogate the history of the Cold War, its unforeseen demise and subsequent events to illuminate the contemporary security challenges.

Course Schedule 


Day: Tuesday evenings 7-9pm 27 September to 15 November 


Location- Western Gateway Building Room, 402, UCC  


Closing date for applications: Friday 16 September 2022



Events in history and their consequences are always more complex and multicausal than media portrayals.  


This course will offer a deep dive into selected turning points in East/West relations since the end of World War Two to offer insights and a more nuanced understanding of the current crisis in Eastern Europe.


Throughout the course there will be an emphasis on class participation.  Exercises, presentations and quizzes will encourage active engagement and lively discussion.  


Lectures One and Two:


The lectures series begins at the end of WWII exploring the division of Europe and understandings around ‘spheres of influence’ and buffer zones. The Marshall Plan sought to stem the rise of communism in Europe while atomic diplomacy and the creation of NATO challenged the Red Army’s vast manpower. Stalin’s election speech, the London Foreign Ministers Conference, the French and Italian elections, the Berlin airlift and the rehabilitation of Germany shaped perceptions and reality.



Lectures Three and Four:


The Cold War was characterised by a ‘cold centre’ but ‘hot periphery’. The nuclear threat of mutually assured destruction in the event of another war in Europe left decolonising peoples in Africa, South America and Asia struggling against interference in their political evolution by duelling superpowers. Containing communism, originally centred on Europe, metastasised to regions outside traditional national security interests. For its part, Moscow exerted control in Eastern Europe and meddled wider afield.


Lecture Five:


Détente was a feature of the 1970s where fraught confrontations of the previous decade gave way to dialogue allowing arms control agreements to be brokered. The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe culminated in the Helsinki Final Act which recognised the political borders of Europe as they stood – now contravened by Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.


Lecture Six:


Ronald Reagan branded the USSR ‘an evil empire’ and his uncompromising rhetoric deeply concerned Moscow.  Alongside the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan this precipitated a cooling of relations during the early 1980s and a NATO military exercise in 1983 brought the world unwittingly to the brink of nuclear war.  However, by the end of this decade the Berlin Wall would be rubble and the Cold War suddenly over.


Lecture Seven:


The disintegration of the USSR, the Yugoslav wars and ‘colour revolutions’ followed. Discussions about German unification led to misunderstandings around the future role of NATO.  The Russians hoped for integration into the security architecture of Europe, instead, NATO expanded and the US enjoyed unrivalled power. Vladimir Putin described the collapse of the Soviet Union as a ‘genuine tragedy’ .


Lecture Eight:


Putin came to power in 2000 after a tumultuous decade in Russian politics. Following 9/11, the Russian president was the first international leader to contact President Bush offering condolences. Russia offered assistance during the invasion of Afghanistan however, relations soon soured. Iraq, the Bucharest Summit and expansion of NATO, and US actions in Libya all ratcheted up tensions. 


International Relations scholar, John Mearsheimer, described the 2014 invasion of Ukraine as NATO’s fault. Others refute this and point to Russia’s belligerence as instrumental in forcing neighbouring states into the arms of the alliance. Our final lecture will seek to tease out these debates, going beyond simplistic constructions to illuminate the heavy hand of history resting on this conflict’s shoulder.


Course Lecturer 

Dr Geraldine Kidd, a UCC graduate, has a particular interest in US foreign relations, Human Rights and the Israel Palestine Conflict. She is the author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Palestine, Israel and Human Rights, (Routledge 2018).

Dr Jacqueline Fitzgibbon, has a MA in International Relations and a Doctorate in the history of US Foreign Relations. Research interests include propaganda in foreign affairs, contemporary international relations, the Cold War and US cultural history. Her book, US Politics, Propaganda and the Afghan Mujahedeen (Bloomsbury 2020), investigates US support for the Afghan mujahedeen during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.


Entry Requirements

Applicants must be at least 18 years old at course commencement. 


Short courses are not assessed. Students will receive a UCC Certificate of Attendance upon completion.


Contact Details for Further Information