World History – Semester 2 v3.0
Unit 3 Activity: Task 2
Task 2: Assessing Cold War Leaders
The Cold War was a time of inflamed passions. Nations were engulfed in suspicion and
paranoia. It was especially important for leaders to keep a cool head in trying times. One wrong
move could have spelled disaster. As the American
diplomat George Kennan observed, “I would
plead for cool nerves and a keen eye, and the realization that one can be wrong without being
evil, and that those wrong ones might be ourselves.” In other words, Cold War leaders needed
to acknowledge not only their enemy’s faults and weaknesses, but also their own.
However, each Cold War nation also had its fair share of “hard-liners.” Hard-liners advocated for
the following policies:
standing up to the enemy
negotiating from a position of strength
using nuclear weapons, if necessary
In short, they were willing to start another conflict or war to win the international power struggle.
There were at least two occasions where one or the other side came very close to using nuclear
weapons: the Korean War and the Cuban Missile Crisis. There could have been others.
Fortunately, negotiation and restraint won the day over the hard-liners.
In this activity, you’ll look at some important characteristics that were common to all the Cold