When teaching the end of the Cold War it is very easy to give students a summary of the events that led to the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War. Less easy is to coach them on how to use the evidence at their disposal to support an argument.

A recent IB question: To what extent to Ronald Reagan contribute to the end of the Cold War?

Students do not have to argue that Reagan was instrumental to the Cold War, though no doubt, many did. However, with such a question they need to analyze Reagan’s foreign policies towards the USSR specifically and communism more broadly. Students could also consider other factors such as problems within the Warsaw Pact alliance and Soviet economic and social problems.

This is not a Gorbachev question, so while he can be discussed, the question must focus on Reagan’s significance – or lack thereof.

This got me to thinking about the end of the Cold War. Essentially, we can look at internal issues or foreign policies, but to be responsible teachers we need to show students both side and consider the possibility that such a division may be either arbitrary or artificial. Soviet policy towards Afghanistan is definitely foreign policy but its domestic implications were certainly as important.

Similarly, Reagan’s aggressive foreign policy must be ballasted by a domestic policy that played to American perceptions of the US.