The relevance of the Cold War in today’s world

14 October 2019

A four-part ABC Radio National series on the end of the Cold War will feature an international relations expert from The University of Queensland.

The tailored series to air later this month will see Associate Professor Sarah Percy from UQ’s School of Political Science and International Studies discuss how the Cold War ended, and why it matters for international politics today.

“The end of the Cold War is important today because crucial international events of the last 30 years have their origins in the collapse of the superpower rivalry,” Dr Percy said.

“Without understanding how and why the Cold War ended, it’s very difficult to understand contemporary politics.”

Dr Percy looks at three different explanations for the end of the Cold War; the superpower rivalry, popular protest and dissent and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The fourth episode concludes with an examination of the events of 1989.

The series will coincide with the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and air at 8am on Sunday mornings on ABC Radio National, from October 19.

Dr Percy said in a climate where public pro-democracy protests still dominate the headlines, it was especially important to be reminded that without popular protest, the Cold War may not have ended the way it did.

“Sometimes we focus on the failures of democracy campaigns,” she said.

“The end of the Cold War reminds us that we should also look at where protests for democracy worked.

“One of the things that was essential for pro-democracy protestors in 1989 was the fact that the world was watching, and supporting, their dissent.”

UQ Chancellor Peter Varghese AO and Associate Professor Andrew Phillips from the School of Political Science and International Studies will also feature in the series. 

The Chancellor shares his views from his perspective as an Australian diplomat, while Dr Phillips provides expert analysis of the international relations of the period.

Dr Percy currently teaches International Relations of the Twentieth Century at UQ.

Her students will get a sneak preview of some of the content from the series on October 14, when she will deliver a lecture on the end of the Cold War.

“My teaching has really informed my approach to creating the radio series,” Dr Percy said.

“I love to explain how international events occur, and why they matter for contemporary politics, in a way that people will find really engaging.

“I’m really looking forward to discussing the radio series with my students – not just this year, but in the future, when they can listen to the podcast.”

The end of the Cold War will air 8am on Sunday mornings on ABC Radio National, on October 20, 27, November 3 and 10 and will also be available to download as a podcast.

Media: Sarah Percy,, +61 7 3443 1323; Kristen Johnston, HASS Communications, +61 7 3346 1633,, 0439 187 349.