The Choices Program was founded in the 1980s during a period of high tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. Thomas J. Watson Jr., U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1979-1981, and a former president of IBM, proposed that Brown University create a foreign policy center where scholars and practitioners could work on U.S.-Soviet relations and U.S. nuclear weapons policy. Thus, the Watson Institute was born. We at Choices are one of its offspring and have retained a focus on U.S.-Russia relations. Over the years, a fantastic group of scholars has helped Choices present this important topic for high school classrooms.

The situation in Ukraine tops the news right now accompanied by many pronouncements and speculation about what it means for the United States, Europe, Russia, Ukraine, etc. The situation is serious, but often the analysis in the media seems incomplete, unhelpful, and contradictory.

The challenge is to make sense of the events for ourselves and our students. Russia’s Transformation: Challenges for U.S. Policy provides a rich historical overview of U.S.-Russia relations from the Russian Empire through the present day. The materials cover the social and economic upheaval that followed the end of the Soviet Union, and then helps students assess the most recent challenges for U.S.-Russia relations. It’s a great way to come to an informed judgement about these important events and the U.S. relationship with Russia.

Russia’s Transformation is also available as an Ibook. It is visually really attractive, contains informative videos like the one above, as well as text that helps put current events in a historical context. It is a great resource for anyone looking for a rich, but concise overview of this important issue.

Finally, we also have a new Teaching with News activity: Unrest in Ukraine. This free lesson provides a background to the ongoing crisis, has students analyze political cartoons, and helps them to monitor the Ukrainian crisis in the news.