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International Relations and Ideologies

  • Assess the impact of various factors and events on 20th century international relations.
  • Create a pie chart that depicts the relative influence of various factors in shaping international relations.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

Students determine the degree to which contemporary international relations have been shaped by ideological conflict by assessing the impact of various motives and methods on international relations.

  1. Assess the impact of various factors and events on 20th century international relations.

Identify factors that influence relationships
Invite students to brainstorm factors that influence personal relationships. Students may consider the following question: What determines whether they get along well with someone or have a tense relationship? Students might suggest that having common interests could influence personal relationships in a positive manner while having competing interests might negatively influence relationships. 

Direct students to reflect on the factors that influence interpersonal relationships and identify those factors that might influence relationships between countries. Encourage students to attempt to rephrase ideas to make them relevant to international relations. In order to include the examples prescribed in the specific outcomes, such as expansionism, containment, deterrence, brinkmanship, détente, nonalignment and liberation movements (30-1) and expansionism, containment, deterrence, brinkmanship, détente and liberation movements (30-2).

Establish criteria to assess impact
Ask students to reflect on their community by considering what event had the greatest impact during the last year. Perhaps it was the opening of a new megastore, changes in the physical environment or a serious storm. What was the community like before this event? What is it like after the event? Direct students to consider how the impact of that event could be assessed. Consider also how to compare the impact of different events.

Criteria to assess the impact could include the following:

  • Breadth of the impact:
    How many people are affected, or how widely felt is the impact of an event? For example, if a new store opens in your community and only three new jobs are created, the breadth is rather limited. On the other hand, a new store that creates hundreds of new jobs will affect many people.
  • Depth of the impact:
    How major or dramatic are the effects caused by the event? For example, if the opening of a new megastore does not affect the operations of existing businesses, damage the environment or influence the habits of consumers, the depth of the impact on people’s lives may be limited. However, if the arrival of a new store causes the closure of smaller businesses, damages the environment or contributes to the homogenization of communities, these changes can be considered as having a deep impact.
  • Duration of the impact:
    What is the length of time the effects are felt? For example, if consumer behaviour or the operations of other businesses are influenced for a short time, the impact may be of limited duration. On the other hand, if the arrival of the new store causes permanent shifts in consumer behaviour or the practices of other businesses, the changes are more long lasting.

Assess impacts on international relations
Group students into teams. Tell students that they will be determining how various foreign policy motives and methods shaped international relations after the Second World War. To research these motives and methods, students may use a variety of sources, including basic authorized student texts. Possible events to research could include:

  • Berlin Airlift
  • Korean War
  • Berlin Wall
  • Congo Crisis
  • Vietnam War
  • Cuban Revolution
  • Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)
  • Nuclear arms race
  • SALT I and SALT II
  • Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT)
  • Afghanistan War (1978–1992)
  • 1980 and 1984 Olympics boycotts
  • Superpower summit talks
  • Iran hostage crisis.

Provide each team with a copy of Assessing Impacts on International Relations (Lesson Material). In addition to indicating which motives and/or methods are related to the event, students should note how the event impacted international relations. If an event increased tensions, a line would be drawn tipped toward the plus sign (+). If an event decreased tensions, a line would be drawn tipped toward the minus sign (–). For example, students might indicate the following about the Vietnam War:


Motives and/or Methods

Impact on International Relations
(how the event increased or decreased tensions)

Supporting Evidence

Vietnam War


expansionism containment

  • US involvement in Vietnam contributed significantly to the deteriorating relationship between the superpowers as North Vietnam’s ally was the USSR.


Encourage students to consider the angle of the line as a way to indicate various degrees of tension. Remind students to consider the criteria for assessing impact when determining the angle of the line. Evidence to support the assessment should be recorded in the supporting evidence column.

After the teams have completed the research on each event, invite students to share their conclusions. Ask students to consider questions such as the following:

  • What events contributed the most to increased tensions between countries?
  • What events contributed the most to détente or decreased tensions between countries?
  • To what degree was the conflict a clash of ideologies?
  • What other factors help explain the origins of the conflict?
  • If there were competing ideologies, how did the ideologies differ?
  • To what degree was the conflict a product of a rejection of liberalism?
  2. Create a pie chart that depicts the relative influence of various factors in shaping international relations.

Assess the impacts on international relations
After all the teams have shared their findings and the class has discussed the relative significance of various factors, tell students they will construct a pie chart that apportions responsibility for increasing international tension to the various motives and methods. Provide each student with a copy of International Relations Pie Chart (30-1) (Lesson Material) or International Relations Pie Chart (30-2) (Lesson Material). Construction of the pie chart will help students respond to the question “To what degree did ideological conflict shape international relations?”

Remind students to reflect on the criteria for assessing impact when developing reasons for each of the motives and methods included on their pie charts. Invite students to share their pie charts and rationales with a small group of peers.

You may wish to refer to Creating a Pie Chart (Support Material) to structure this activity.

Last updated: January 30, 2009 | (Revision History)
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