GEOG 882
Geographic Foundations of Geospatial Intelligence

2.9 Cold War Geopolitics


As you read Toal's Introduction to Part Two that discusses "Cold War Geopolitics," do some critical thinking and ask yourself:

  • Toal highlights the different perspectives of US and Soviet leaders based on both their recent wartime experiences and their historical experiences. Toal goes on to say, "Why the antagonism between these two states developed in such a way as to eventually divide the European continent in two was a consequence of the geopolitical discourse that became dominant in the United States in 1946 and 1947 and the reaction it provoked from the Stalinists regime." Consider Soviet actions during this time period and Truman's response (influenced by Keenan) in articulating the policy of containment (the US/Western discourse). Then consider that Russia/USSR had been invaded three times in 300 years from the West (Charles XII of Sweden in the 1700s, Napoleon of France in the 1800s, and Hitler of Germany in the 1900s). How might have Stalin viewed this US discourse of "containment" given his country's historical experience with the West and his personal experience with Hitler?
  • Consider the role of Winston Churchill and his contribution in giving meaning to the Iron Curtain. Churchill's 1946 address predated the material fortification of the border between the Western and Soviet spheres in 1954 and the Berlin Wall in 1961. What was Churchill's agenda?
  • In analyzing and evaluating the Cold War as a geopolitical system, consider who was likely to benefit politically, financially, and otherwise from such a conflict. Consider a personal example from a previous instructor of benefit and loss from the Cold War and its end. A few years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Army got smaller by a third and the instructor left active duty for a new life. In the times since he has often joked (many a truth is said in jest) that he misses the good old days of the Cold War because we knew who the enemy was, knew where they were, and did not have to fight anyone. Since the end of the Cold War, he has deployed to Kosovo and Iraq.
  • On page 66 Toal examines the Second Cold War and challenges to détente. Did geospatial intelligence and/or its products play a role in the discursive formation of the Soviet new bid for world dominance discourse and the ultimate Reagan buildup?
  • On page 69 Toal says, "While Gorbachev's self-interested attempt to save the communist system and the Soviet Empire from the top ultimately failed, his 'new political thinking' in Soviet foreign policy helped to undermine Cold War geopolitical discourse." Do you agree or disagree, and why? My notes in the margin of my book ask if Gorbachev's failure to save the Soviet system proved Kennan right that by containing the USSR its own internal failings would ultimately cause it to collapse.

Required Reading

Read Toal's Introduction to Part Two that discusses "Cold War Geopolitics" in The Geopolitics Reader 2nd edition. (Pages 59-74)

Mini Quiz 2.4

After reading Toal's Introduction to Part Two that discusses "Cold War Geopolitics" you will need to take the "Cold War Geopolitics" mini quiz before proceeding. Return to Lesson 02 in Canvas and click on the 2.4 "Cold War Geopolitics" Mini Quiz link.


  • The mini quiz will not count toward your grade.
  • You must correctly answer all five questions on the mini quiz to gain access to the mini quiz for page 10 of this lesson.
  • You may take the mini quiz as many times as you would like.