JC History Tuition - What is the Second Cold War - JC History Essay Notes

What is the Second Cold War?

Topic of Study [For H2 and H1 History Students]: 
Paper 1: Understanding the Cold War (1945-1991)
Section A: Source-based Case Study
Theme I Chapter 3: End of Bipolarity

Find out more about the renewed tensions between USA and USSR due to clashing foreign policies such as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).

Context: How it all began
Before the Second Cold War, there was a momentary period of much-desired peace in the 1970s. Also known as the Détente, both the American and Soviet governments held talks to limit the arms race. However, the myth was shattered when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. Additionally, the entry of the incoming American President Ronald Reagan had set the stage for the renewed tensions and superpower confrontation in the early 1980s.

1. Renewed Confrontation: The “Afghanistan problem”
Following the 1978 Saur Revolution, in which a Soviet-backed People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan launched a coup against the Afghan President Mohammed Daoud Khan, there was growing dissent in the nation. USSR justified its intervention by invoking the Brezhnev Doctrine, which was meant to preserve the Soviet bloc through military responses.

Subsequently, the Carter administration perceived the increased Soviet presence in the Gulf as an “arc of crisis”, thus declaring their intent to counter the Soviet invasion via proxies. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) aided the Mujahideen rebels who fought against the Soviet troops and the Afghan army.

Furthermore, the Afghan invasion swayed the perceptions of the Americans and its politicians, such that the potential Presidential candidates in America were more supportive of renewing Cold War antagonisms towards the Soviets.

2. Reagan’s Cold War Rhetoric: The Strategic Defense Initiative
Reagan’s anti-communist stance had paid off, as evidenced by his remarkable victory in the US Presidential elections in November 1980. The former Hollywood actor assumed a more hostile stance towards the Soviets. In March 1983, his “Evil Empire” speech showed his resolve in denouncing and defeating the Cold War rival.

The truth is that a freeze now would be a very dangerous fraud, for that is merely the illusion of peace. The reality is that we must find peace through strength…

So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride—the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil….

Speech by the US President Ronald Reagan, Annual Convention of the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida; 8 March 1983.

In this speech, Reagan tried to dissuade the American public from supporting the anti-nuclear demonstrations (“freeze”) as the military build-up was an effective form of deterrence to prevent Soviet aggression. Also, Reagan justified the continuation of the arms race as the only viable option to manage this “evil empire” and save the world from potential catastrophe.

A few days later, Reagan proved his point by announcing the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which was an ambitious project to protect the United States from Soviet nuclear attacks.

The defense policy of the United States is based on a simple premise: The United States does not start fights. We will never be an aggressor. We maintain our strength in order to deter and defend against aggression — to preserve freedom and peace

It is that we embark on a program to counter the awesome Soviet missile threat with measures that are defensive. Let us turn to the very strengths in technology that spawned our great industrial base and that have given us the quality of life we enjoy today…

What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?

Address by US President Ronald Reagan, Address to the Nation on Defense and National Security; 23 March 1983.

In his public address to the Americans, Reagan introduced the SDI and declared its creation as a defensive measure against potential Soviet attacks. By doing so, peace can be assured.

Yet, the SDI alarmed Moscow as the renewed arms race clearly violated the terms of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABTM) that was signed in 1972 by former leaders of the two superpowers. In fact, Soviet leader Yuri Andropov announced that the Soviets took the matter seriously and vowed to respond accordingly given that the SDI would render Soviet missiles obsolete.

Changing landscapes: For the better?
Fortunately, the “Second Cold War” did not persist due to a series of events. First, the rise of Soviet leader Gorbachev marked a significant change. His “New Political Thinking” was a pivotal factor in influencing the withdrawal of Soviet forces from the Third World as well as Afghanistan, which ended the Cold War divide in Europe. Second, Reagan’s second term was characterised as being more accommodating. Therefore, tensions simmered when both leaders agreed to hold talks, as seen by the summits held in Geneva (1985), Reykjavik (1986), Washington (1987) and Malta (1989).


What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– How far do you agree that the political leaders were most responsible for the Second Cold War? [to be discussed in class]

After you have covered the topic on the Second Cold War, it is important that you attempt source-based case study practices to review your understanding. Join our JC History Tuition and we will guide you through the entire study process. Besides, students who join our programme will receive summary and timeline notes as well as outlines to derive a clear understanding of the Cold War.

You can also sign up for other JC tuition programmes, such as GP TuitionEconomics TuitionJC Chemistry TuitionJC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we offer Secondary English TuitionSecondary Math tuitionSecondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to find out more.

JC History Tuition - Cold War - What was Détente - JC History Essay Notes

What was Détente?

Topic of Study [For H2 and H1 History Students]: 
Paper 1: Understanding the Cold War (1945-1991)
Section A: Source-based Case Study
Theme I Chapter 3: End of Bipolarity

Examine how the superpowers adjusted their foreign policies and eased bilateral tensions in the 1970s.

The Détente
Détente refers to the easing of strained relations between USA and the Soviet Union. Following the disastrous October Crisis of 1962, US President Richard Nixon assumed a more diplomatic stance to avert a potential nuclear catastrophe. The Nixon administration offered to promote greater dialogue with the Soviet government.

1. Moscow Summit of 1972
Following the unexpected trip to Beijing in February, President Nixon met the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in Moscow in May 1972. The Summit led to several milestone achievements.

First, both parties agreed to cooperate on the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project, which signaled the end of the “Space Race”. Additionally, the two leaders signed two nuclear arms control agreements: The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I) treaty and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT).

The SALT I treaty was significant as it froze the number of strategic ballistic missile launchers to halt further arms build-up. On the other hand, the ABMT limited each of the two parties to 100 anti-ballistic missiles.

2. Washington Summit of 1973
A year later, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union Alexei Kosygin made a trip to Washington for another summit in June 1973. Similar to the previous meeting, it was hailed as a turning point in superpower relations, given that both parties agreed to sign the Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War.

In essence, this agreement signified both superpowers’ willingness to exercise restraint and prevent the threat of a nuclear war.

Guided by the objectives of strengthening world peace and international security, Conscious that nuclear war would have devastating consequences for mankind,

Proceeding from the desire to bring about conditions in which the danger of an outbreak of nuclear war anywhere in the world would be reduced and ultimately eliminated, Proceeding from their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations regarding the maintenance of peace, refraining from the threat or use of force, and the avoidance of war, and in conformity with the agreements to which either Party has subscribed,

Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War, 22 June 1973

3. Vladivostok Summit of 1974
The third meeting was known as the Vladivostok Summit, which took place in November 1974. The summit was conducted as an extension of arms control provisions between the superpowers. The American President Gerald Ford traveled to Vladivostok to sign the agreement, which restricted the number of inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

4. Helsinki Accords (1975)
Lastly, the Helsinki Accords were introduced during the Conference on Security and Co-Operation in Europe in July 1975. Also, known as the Helsinki Final Act, it was a diplomatic agreement that revealed mutual efforts to ease tensions between the Soviet and Western blocs.

Soviet Union was in favour of the Accords as it sought recognition of its post-war hegemony in eastern Europe. For example, the Soviet government insisted on the rightful existence of East Germany as well as Poland’s western border. Through this, USSR would then be recognised as a Great Power.

In return, USA requested USSR to recognise the respect for human rights, freedom of information across borders and the expansion of contacts between the eastern and western parts of Europe.

Was Détente sustainable?
Although the above-mentioned agreements made it appear as if the superpower tensions were no longer present, tensions resurfaced in the late 1970s. Following the signing of the SALT II treaty in 1979, Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979.

This unexpected move resulted in open and harsh criticisms by the West. In response, US President Jimmy Carter requested the increase in the defense budget and financed the anti-Soviet Mujahideen fighters to counter the Soviet occupation.

Eventually, the electoral victory of the Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan accelerated the end of the Détente, ushering the age known as the “Second Cold War”.


What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– How far do you agree that the end of the Détente was inevitable? [to be discussed in class]

Now that you have covered the major events that shaped the superpower relations in the 1970s, you should attempt some source-based case study questions to apply what you have learnt. Why not join our JC History Tuition as we provide you with bite-sized and exam-friendly study notes, additional essay and SBCS practice questions as well as outline references.

You can also join other JC tuition classes, such as GP TuitionEconomics TuitionJC Chemistry TuitionJC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we offer Secondary English TuitionSecondary Math tuitionSecondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to learn more.

JC History Tuition Bishan Singapore - What is the A Level H1 History syllabus

New A Level H1 History syllabus

Changes to the GCE A Level H1 History syllabus
Similar to H2 History, the A Level syllabus for H1 History (8821) has been reviewed and modified. It is imperative that you take note of these changes as examination format and contents have been changed from 2017 and beyond.

If you require additional references, please view the documents provided by the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB): H1 History syllabus for 2020; H1 History syllabus for 2021.

1. Format of Assessment
For the examination structure, the H1 History (8821) syllabus features only one paper:

  • The Cold War and the Modern World (1945-2000)

The duration of examination is three hours. Within the paper, there are two sections: Source-Based Case Study (Section A) and Essays (Section B).

1a. Section A: Source-Based Case Study
The first section requires students to analyse five sources and answer two sub-questions. These sources are either text-based (e.g. academic publication) or visual-based (e.g. political cartoon – refer to our post on political cartoons). Bear in mind that both primary and secondary sources could be used in this section.

Section A carries 40 marks in total, which is 40% of the overall weighting.

For the part (a) question, students must compare two sources. It carries ten marks. For the part (b) question, students must analyse an assertion and refer to the given five sources. Application of contextual evidence may be required to answer these sub-questions.

1b. Section B: Essays
The other section involves essay writing, in which students have to complete two essays in Section B. For the first essay question, students must select 1 out of 2 essay questions that are set on Theme II (The Cold War and Asia, 1945-1991). For the second essay question, they must choose 1 out of 2 essay questions that are set on Theme III (The Cold War and the United Nations, 1945-2000).

Each essay question carries 30 marks. In total, Section B carries 60 marks, which is 60% of the overall weighting.

2. Syllabus Content
Next, we will now examine the areas of study to understand the list of topics covered for A Level H1 History (8821). At the end of the study, you should develop a keen sense of understanding about the Cold War and how its local, regional and global impacts.

2a. Theme I: Understanding the Cold War, 1945-1991
The first theme is strictly for the assessment of Section A, Source-Based Case Study. You will examine three stages of the Cold War to understand how it began and ended. First, the Emergence of Bipolarity after WWII discusses the possibly reasons that explain the outbreak of the Cold War. Then, A World Divided by the Cold War discusses two major events that explained the ‘”globalisation” of the ideological conflict, namely the Korean War and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Finally, the End of Bipolarity focuses on the study of how the USSR collapsed as well as the popular interpretations for the end of the Cold War.

2b. Theme II: The Cold War and Asia, 1945-1991
The second theme is applied in Section B, Essays. In this theme, you will learn more about the effects of Cold War in shaping the diplomatic relations of superpowers and a rising great power: China. In Superpower relations with China (1950-1979), you will analyse the historical developments that led to the notable Sino-Soviet Split. Also, a major turning point in the 1970s will be studied, such as the Sino-American Rapprochement.

The second half of Theme II features The Cold War and Southeast Asia (1945-1991). At the regional level, you will learn more about the motivations that led to the formation of the ASEAN organisation as well as the significance of the Second Indochina War (more commonly known as the ‘Vietnam War’). At the national level, you will examine how the ongoing Cold War threats influenced Singapore’s Foreign Policy from 1965 to 1991.

2c. Theme III: The Cold War and the United Nations, 1945-2000
As for the final third theme, which is also assessed in the essay section, you will develop a fundamental understanding of the United Nations (UN), which plays a central role of maintaining international peace and security. This is achieved through a brief examination of the Organisational Structure of the UN, which features the three key organs: Security Council, General Assembly and the Secretary-General.

As for the second half of Theme III, you will focus on six case studies to assess the Effectiveness of UN Peacekeeping Operations in Maintaining Peace and Security. A thorough review of each case study is paramount, given that past examination questions were set on specific cases.


If you are looking for writing support, do consider joining our JC History Tuition programmes. You will receive organised study notes, essay outline references and source-based case study questions. Furthermore, we conduct thematic content discussion to reinforce your historical understanding of the Cold War. Class practices are held regularly to ensure that you observe progress as you gear up for the GCE A Level examination.

On a separate but related note, we offer other JC tuition classes, such as GP TuitionEconomics TuitionJC Chemistry TuitionJC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we provide Secondary English TuitionSecondary Math tuitionSecondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to learn more!

JC History Tuition Bishan Singapore - What is the A Level H2 History syllabus

New A Level H2 History syllabus

Changes to the GCE A Level H2 History syllabus
From 2017 onwards, the A Level History syllabus has been reviewed and updated. In contrast to the previous syllabus, there are some changes to the topics covered in the essay and source-based case study questions. Also, changes to the examination format are made. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to these developments as you gear up for the final examination. In this article, we will be looking at the syllabus requirements for H2 History (9752).

For more information, please refer to the comprehensive document provided by the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB): H2 History Syllabus for 2020; H2 History Syllabus for 2021

1. Format of Assessment
For the examination format, the H2 History (9752) syllabus features two papers:

  • Paper 1: Shaping the International Order (1945-2000)
  • Paper 2: The Making of Independent Southeast Asia (Independence-2000)

Students are required to sit for two separate papers (dates are usually announced in the first few months of the examination year). Within each paper, there are two key sections: Source-Based Case Study and Essays. Since the format for Paper 1 and Paper 2 is identical, we will be examining the two sections in a paper.

1a. Section A: Source-Based Case Study
The first section features the Source-Based Case Study (SBCS in short). Students are required to analyse six sources and answer two sub-questions. These sources can be in the form of written or visual texts. For example, a press release by the U.S. State Department during the Cold War. Alternatively, the source can be a political cartoon that depicts an issue or individual. You can learn more about visual-based sources in our post.

In total, Section A carries 40 marks, which is 20% of the overall weighting.

For the part (a) question, students must compare two sources and answer in the context of the question. It carries ten marks.

Compare and contrast the evidence provided in Sources A and B about Reagan’s motivations behind the Strategic Defense Initiative. [10]

example of the part (a) question

For the part (b) question, students must study all six sources and test the given assertion. This part carries 30 marks.

How far do Sources A-F support the assertion that the Cold War ended mainly because of Reagan? [30]

example of the part (b) Question

1b. Section B: Essays
The second section features the essays. Students are required to answer two questions from Section B.

They have to select 1 out of 2 essay questions in the first set (Paper 1 – Theme II; Paper 2 – Theme I). Then, students must do the same by selecting 1 out of 2 essay questions in the other set (Paper 1 – Theme III; Paper 2 – Theme II).

Within the Section B itself, there will be the ‘EITHER‘ and ‘OR‘ stated clearly to show the available choices for students to pick their preferred choice of question to attempt.

Each essay question carries 30 marks. Therefore, the total marks for Section B is 60 marks, which is 30% of the overall weighting.

How far was the United Nations able to overcome the challenge of Cold War rivalry?

Example of the section b essay question

One important point to remember is that for the Paper 2 Section B, students must compare at least three countries as case studies when supporting their arguments.

2. Syllabus Content
Now that we have examined the examination format, we will now move on to the areas of study for H2 History (9752). Given the broad coverage of content, this article will provide a brief summary of the topics tested for A Level.

2a. Paper 1: Shaping the International Order (1945-2000)
For Paper 1 (which is formerly known as ‘International History’), there are three major themes covered:

  • Theme I: Understanding the Cold War (1945-1991) [SBCS]
  • Theme II: Understanding the Global Economy (1945-2000) [Essay]
  • Theme III: Safeguarding International Peace and Security [Essay]

For Theme I, students will examine the Cold War topic from a chronological order: starting with its origins, followed by its internationalisation and finally its eventual end. The Cold War topic is an overarching theme that is essential for A Level given its widespread effects not only in Europe, but also in Southeast Asia. This means that your knowledge of the Cold War can be applied to Paper 2 as well.

For Theme II, students will learn more about the Growth and Problems in the Global Economy as well as the Rise of Asian Tigers (South Korea and Taiwan). This topic can be analysed both from the economic and political perspectives. Notably, the establishment of multilateral financial institutions (IMF, World Bank & WTO) still affects the modern world in many ways.

For Theme III, students are required to be familiar with the formation of the United Nations as well as its application in Peacekeeping Operations. Given the ever-changing and ever-expanding functions of the United Nations, the A Level H2 History syllabus will only cover four organs: Security Council, General Assembly, Secretary-General and the International Court of Justice. For UN Reforms, there will be changes to the content coverage, particularly the section about the ‘rise of regionalism and regional organisations’.

2b. Paper 2: The Making of Independent Southeast Asia (Independence-2000)
For Paper 1, there are three main themes as well:

  • Theme I: Search for Political Stability [Essay]
  • Theme II: Economic Development after Independence [Essay]
  • Theme III: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation [SBCS]

For Theme I, students will learn about the Approaches to Governance and the Approaches to National Unity. This theme will provide a historical study on how various Southeast Asian colonies (as well as Thailand) became independent after World War Two. Political concepts, such as ‘Parliamentary Democracy’ and ‘Authoritarianism’ will be covered as well.

For Theme II, students are required to learn about the Paths to Economic Development and the Asian Financial Crisis. Similar to Paper 1 Theme II (Global Economy), the application of general economic concepts is carried out to understand how Southeast Asian nations became prosperous. Additionally, there will be a section dedicated to understand the causes and consequences of the 1997 financial crisis.

For Theme III, students are expected to be familiar with Inter-state Tensions and Co-operation as well as the establishment of the ASEAN. This theme is largely relevant in raising awareness on the political complexities of inter-state relations, given the persistence of such challenges in the modern world (e.g. South China Sea dispute). Furthermore, students will learn how this newly-formed regional organisation strives to maintain regional peace and security through various methods.


You can sign up for our JC History Tuition to study productively. Our programme features summary notes, essay outline references and source-based case study practice questions. Our structured curriculum will ensure that your time is well-spent as you learn in a progressive way.

Furthermore, you can consider register for our JC tuition, like GP TuitionEconomics TuitionJC Chemistry TuitionJC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we provide Secondary English TuitionSecondary Math tuitionSecondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to find out more.