What priorities should guide U.S. policy toward Russia?
Sixth edition. May 2023. (Previously titled Russia’s Transformation.)
PREVIEW THIS UNIT. The preview includes the table of contents, a student reading excerpt, and one lesson plan. PREVIEW ALL UNITS. Additional unit descriptions for the Current Issues Series that summarize the historical context, student readings, and skill development are available on this MIRO BOARD.

U.S. relations with Russia are entering a new phase. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has provoked the most lethal war in Europe since the Second World War. Russia is seeking to assert its own course in the world and reestablish its international influence. How the United States should handle this evolving relationship is an open question. Russia and the United States: Perspectives from History—Choices for Today is designed to help students consider this important issue. The unit is divided into three parts. Each part includes:

  • Student readings
  • Accompanying study guides, graphic organizers, and key terms
  • Lessons aligned with the readings that develop analytical skills (including at least one that focuses on building geographic literacy) and can be completed in one or more periods
  • Videos that feature leading experts

This unit also includes an Options Role Play as a key lesson and an additional synthesis lesson that allows students to synthesize new knowledge for assessment. You do not need to use the entire unit; feel free to select what suits your classroom needs.

“As a scholar of Russian/Soviet history, I like that this unit covers Russia past and present. It also helps students understand the contentiousness of current U.S.-Russia relations.” – Rusty, History and Government Teacher, California

Part I: Exploring Russia's Past

Part I offers an historical overview of U.S. relations with the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. There are three lessons aligned with Part I: 1) Orientation and Compelling Questions, 2) Examining Assumptions about U.S. and Soviet Cold War Policy, and 3) U.S. and Soviet Propaganda.

Part II: Russia after the Soviet Union—Political and Economic Change

Part II surveys the economic and political changes that Russia has undergone since the Soviet collapse. There is one lesson aligned with Part II: Political Geography of Russia.

Part III: Russia and the United States

Part III concentrates on the leading challenges facing U.S. policymakers with respect to Russia and its neighbors, with special emphasis on the war in Ukraine. There is one lesson aligned with Part III: NATO and the War in Ukraine.


Orientation and Compelling Questions

Students view a slideshow that helps them to gain familiarity with the history of the relationship between Russia and the United States from the early twentieth century to the present. They learn about and construct open-ended “compelling questions” which prepare them to work thoughtfully on this important topic.

Examining Assumptions About U.S and Soviet Cold War Policy

Students examine U.S. Ambassador George Kennan's 1947 Foreign Affairs article and a 1946 telegram from Soviet Ambassador Nikolai Novikov to the Soviet leadership. Students identify the assumptions and beliefs that formed the basis of U.S. and Soviet diplomats’ views and the implications of these assumptions and beliefs on their policy recommendations.

U.S. and Soviet Propaganda

After examining Soviet posters and a U.S. comic book, students analyze the impact of propaganda on international politics.

Political Geography of Russia

Students practice map-reading skills and consider how geography affects international politics.

NATO and the War in Ukraine

Students analyze primary source documents that demonstrate multiple perspectives about NATO expansion and the war in Ukraine.

The Options Role Play

The Options Role Play is a key lesson in the unit. Students explore, debate, and evaluate multiple perspectives on U.S. foreign policy toward Russia and cooperate with classmates in staging a persuasive presentation.

Express Your Views

Synthesis Lesson: Students articulate their own opinions on U.S. foreign policy toward Russia based on newly acquired knowledge, personally held values, and historical understanding. They then gather evidence and write a letter to elected officials.

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