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Cold War in history and lessons for today (CFR Education)

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March 10, 2024 (CFR)

Dear Felipe, 

This week CFR Education is focusing on the Cold War. In addition to being the longest conflict in U.S. history, the Cold War provides historical insights and imparts enduring lessons applicable to current challenges to United States interests around the world. At its core, the Cold War was driven by the clash of ideologies between the United States and the Soviet Union, a rivalry that persists to this day. While catastrophic nuclear destruction was avoided, the advancements in nuclear technology during the Cold War have had lasting implications, and the tools employed by both countries to further their interests have become tenets of foreign policy.

This newsletter includes over 15 open educational resources for both high school and higher education that cover important lessons from the war, including:

 

Happy learning, 

Caroline Netchvolodoff 
Vice President, CFR Education

Background on the Cold War

High School Lesson Plan: Ask your students to reflect on the above timeline and video with the activity in this lesson plan (which includes a printable map). 

Nuclear Proliferation

By the mid-1950s, both the United States and the Soviet Union had built enormous nuclear weapons arsenals with more than enough bombs to annihilate the other.

 

Teach your students about the history of nuclear weapons and the efforts to stop their spread:

Teaching Tip: How did the nuclear taboo fade, and what does nuclear proliferation mean for the United States? Ask your students to listen to this podcast and report back on what they’ve learned.

The Foreign Policy Angle 

Three tools of foreign policy were central to the U.S. strategy during the Cold War. 

  • Soft Power: a country’s ability to influence others without resorting to coercive pressure. 
  • Intelligence: a product and a process acquired through espionage and practiced through covert action.
  • Deterrence: dissuading bad behavior with the threat of significant punishment.

High School Teaching TipGive your students the opportunity to practice using these different tools with this series of free mini simulations that invites them to play the role of a decision-maker on the U.S. National Security Council (NSC). 

Apply these tools outside of the Cold War with these pieces from Foreign Affairs:

The Balance of Soft Power: The American and Chinese Quests to Win Hearts and Minds

Open Secrets: Ukraine & the Next Intelligence Revolution 

How America’s Adversaries Have Hijacked Its Old Deterrence Strategy

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