Cold War Timeline


Iron Curtain Speech


A speech made by British PM Churchill that related the very real separation between the US and the USSR by saying, “…an iron curtain has descended across the continent.” His speech was on the first to address the growing reality of the Cold War.

Truman Doctrine


A doctrine proposed by President Truman that entreated to the people of America that Turkey and Greece needed financial aid from America if it was to stay communism-free. He also advocated the policy of containment. His speech is often considered the beginning of the Cold War.

Berlin Airlift

1948 - 1949

When the Soviets imposed the Berlin Blockade in an attempt to increase their influence in Berlin, the Allies responded by forming a coalition between Britain and America. They teamed up to conduct airlifts to give much needed supplies to the stranded people within West Berlin. Eventually, the Soviets lifted the blockade as it was pointless. Worsened tensions between the US and USSR.

Marshall Plan


Plan proposed by Secretary of State John Marshall. It was an economic program that invested around $13 billion into Western Europe to promote cooperation and capitalism. This resulted in more friendly relations with the Western European countries, but was viewed by the Soviets as an attempt for more influence.

Creation of NATO


NATO was created as a deterrent to nuclear war. It consisted of the United States and Western European countries. It promulgated a policy of collective security. Its creation led to the similar Warsaw Pact, thus creating a rivalry.



A top secret report created by the United States National Security Council. Truman used the report to make his foreign policy during the Cold War, especially his idea of “containment”, or intervening in countries to repel the spread of communism. Ultimately proved successful for the US.

JFK becomes President

January 20, 1961 - November 22, 1963

The leader of America during the “hottest” point of the Cold War. He ordered the disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion, but provided great leadership during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Additionally, his Apollo Program resulted in the US being the first country to put a man on the moon.

Ronald Reagan

1967 - 1975

(r. 1967-1975) President of the US during part of the Cold War. He created the Reagan Doctrine, which stipulated American aid to anticommunist movements in other parts of the world. He negotiated with the Soviets to reduce nuclear weapons and is credited with ended the Cold War more quickly.

Prague Spring


The Prague Spring was when Czechoslovakia was led by Alexander Dubcek, who sought to liberalize his country and reduce the USSR’s influence on it. Violently ended when the USSR invaded and deposed of Dubcek. This action was condemned by the US.

Mikhail Gorbachev becomes leader of USSR

1985 - 1991

(r. 1985-1991) Adopted a policy of "glastnost", or openness. Reduced tensions between the US and the USSR by lessening the role of the Communist Party. Won the Noble Peace Prize in 1990. Contributed to the end of the Cold War.

Fall of Berlin Wall


In accordance with his liberal policies, Gorbachev famously “tore down this wall” in order to promote new cooperation between the West and the East. Was highly symbolic of the beginning of the end of the Cold War and paved the way for German reunification.

Collapse of the USSR


Leaders of eleven Soviet Republics met in Alma-Ata and declared their sovereignty. However, ties between Russian and the satellite states remained strong. This marked the official end of the Cold War.


Berlin Blockade

1948 - 1949

The Berlin Blockade started when the USSR attempted to increase its influence in Berlin by sectioning it off from the Western powers. Ultimately failed due to the success of the Berlin Airlift, which gave supplies to the isolated people. The Berlin Blockade was one of the first Cold War conflicts.

Mao Zedong's takeover of China


Leader of the Communist Revolution in China. Played a pivotal role in changing his country, he proposed an alternative theory, called Maoism, which stated that the agricultural peasantry was most important to the revolution, not the industrial workers. Originally a friend of Stalin, tensions gradually increased between the two leaders as fundamental differences in policy were exposed.

Warsaw Pact


A pact between the USSR, Poland, Romania, and other Eastern European states. Formed in response to NATO, the policies stipulated mirrored those of NATO’s, including collective security. The two organizations were a real example of strict borders being drawn between the two camps of the Cold War.

Sputnik Launched


A Russian satellite that was the first to be launched into space. This started the space race that involved the US and USSR. Came as a wakeup call to the US that perhaps their technological superiority was not guaranteed.

Nikita Khrushchev becomes leader of USSR

1958 - 1964

Leader of USSR during the “hottest” years of the Cold War. He brought in reform and condemned Stalin, seeking to improve the lives of ordinary citizens. However, he was in charge during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which almost led to nuclear war.

U-2 Spy Incident


Started when the USSR found a covert American spy plane two weeks before a peace conference. This worsened tensions between two nations and embarrassed the US. Resolved in 1962 when a prisoner exchange took place.

Construction of the Berlin Wall


The mass emigration from East Berlin to West Berlin was a huge embarrassment for the USSR. The Soviets then quickly built a massive, elaborate fortification to stop people from leaving. The Wall was a real life symbol of the distance between the West and the East in the Cold War.

Fidel Castro

1976 - 2008

A military leader who overthrew the US-backed dictatorship of Batista. Aligned with the USSR, he was the leader of Cuba during the Missile Crisis. His reign deteriorated tensions between the US and USSR.

Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan

1979 - 1989

The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in an attempt to support the Communist regime. The US responded by supporting the Mujahideen, who were the anti-communist rebels. The conflict lasted nine years and caused many casualties, worsening tensions between the US and USSR.


Korean War

1950 - 1953

Like the Vietnam War, the Korean War also had soviet backed north and US backed south. The Korean War was also a costly proxy war, taking the lives of two million. However, the North Korean invasion was expelled. Nevertheless, a formal peace treaty was never made.

Vietnam War

1959 - 1975

The Vietnam consisted of two main belligerents: South Vietnam, backed by the US, and North Vietnam, backed by the USSR. A proxy war, the conflict increased hostilities between the two superpowers. In the end, it cost more than two million lives and was a Communist victory.

Cuban Missle Crisis


The “hottest” part of the Cold War. Kennedy learned of Soviet missiles located in Cuba merely 90 miles from the US. He responded by imposing a naval blockade around Cuba. Tensions were at the highest they had ever been, but Khrushchev and Kennedy agreed to each remove their missiles from the foreign base closest to each other.


1969 - 1972

Talks in Finland between the US and USSR to address the expensive stock hold of nuclear weapons. Terms established included the limiting of anti-ballistic missiles to two each. The negotiations lessened the tensions of the Cold War.