Cold War: From Crisis to Détente

Cold War tensions reached a new peak in the early 1960s as the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe. Although disaster was eventually averted, it was clear that the stakes had never been higher in the superpower confrontation which dominated global affairs. This course follows the major events and themes that shaped the key decades in Cold War history. The USA increasingly became bogged down in bloody guerrilla conflict in Vietnam, and new theatres of conflict emerged as the US and Soviet Union engaged in the paradoxical quest for peace, while battling for world domination. By the 1970s, there were signs that the frost was beginning to thaw and tensions were abating. Was a lasting resolution within sight?

Featuring subject matter expert

Michael Binyon
Michael Binyon

Contributor at The Times

Michael Binyon has been an editorial writer, columnist and foreign correspondent for The Times since 1971. For 15 years he was based overseas, reporting from Moscow, Washington, Bonn and Brussels, before returning to London in 1991.

What were the driving forces behind the détente of the early 1970s, and what were the prospects for long-term relaxation of tensions?

There was a feeling that however much they were opposed ideologically, the world could not be split into two with the prospect of nuclear disaster looming over them. The idea of a single great deal to scarp nuclear weapons was, of course, completely unrealistic.

Daniel Finkelstein
Daniel Finkelstein

Columnist at The Times

Daniel Finkelstein, appointed to the House of Lords in 2013, writes a weekly column for The Times. Previously, he was adviser to Prime Minister John Major and Conservative leader William Hague.

Describe the impact of the Iranian revolution of 1979 on superpower relations.

It really began to change the dynamics of world politics, and to illustrate that the contest which we all thought we were engaged in – the contest between western liberal democracy and communism – was not the only contest; that political ideas were multidimensional.

Course Overview

  • Witness the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, as the Soviet Union took steps to reach nuclear parity with the US.
  • Investigate the Sino-Soviet split and other problems within the communist bloc that posed a major challenge to Soviet leadership.
  • Explore the détente that developed in the early-to-mid 1970s, marking a period of reduced Cold War tensions.
  • Observe the collapse of détente, where the Soviet Union sought a more assertive foreign policy and the US felt the need to push back.
Course content
  • 8 Full HD Video Lectures
  • Downloadable Course Handouts
  • Knowledge Assessment Quiz
  • Interactive Group Discussion Task
  • Q&A Session with a Subject Matter Expert
  • Certificate of Achievement





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