Cold War Timeline

Social 30AP Assignment By Chetan Naik

US Leadership

President of the United States of America

Franklin Roosevelt

4 Mar 1933 - 12 Apr 1945

He rose to power at the height of the Great Depression and adopted Keynesian economics to start the path of recovery, via his New Deal and brought about a welfare state. He worked closely with his British and Soviet counterparts to achieve victory over the Axis powers in World War II.

Harry Truman

12 Apr 1945 - 20 Jan 1953

Saw the end of World War II with his ordering of the use of nuclear weapons against Japan. Established the Truman Doctrine which called for the support of free people resisting subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures.

Dwight Eisenhower

20 Jan 1953 - 20 Jan 1961

He was the Supreme Leader of the Allied Forces during World War II, and won a landslide victory based on a platform of fighting communism. His policy of focus on nuclear weapons instigated an arms race with the Soviets.

John Kennedy

20 Jan 1961 - 22 Nov 1963

During his reign the United States began catch-up in the space race with the launch of the Apollo program. His term was abruptly ended when he was killed in an assassination.

Lyndon Johnson

22 Nov 1963 - 20 Jan 1969

He was the vice-president under JFK, and succeeded him following his assassination. He started a "War on Poverty" and signed several civil rights bills to ban discrimination and guaranteeing voting rights for all citizens.

Richard Nixon

20 Jan 1969 - 9 Aug 1974

He embraced policies transferring power from Washington to the states, launched initiatives to fight cancer and illicit drugs and imposed wage and price controls. He resigned after the Watergate scandal, which destroyed his reputation.

Gerald Ford

9 Aug 1974 - 20 Jan 1977

Succeeded Nixon after his resignation. He was the only person to have become both the vice-president and the president without being elected by the Electoral College. He bred a lot of controversy and dissatisfaction due to his official pardon of Nixon for the Watergate Scandal.

Jimmy Carter

20 Jan 1977 - 20 Jan 1981

He took office during a period of stagflation, which persisted throughout his term. He implemented a new national energy policy that included conservation and price control.

Ronald Reagan

20 Jan 1981 - 20 Jan 1989

He implemented sweeping new supply-side economic policies, which have been dubbed Reaganomics. He advocated reducing tax rates, control of money supply and deregulation of the economy. His presidency also saw a re-ignition of tensions with the Soviet Union.

George H. W. Bush

20 Jan 1989 - 20 Jan 1993

Bush Sr's presidency was driven by foreign policy, with several major military operations including Panama, being conducted. His reign saw the end of the Cold War with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Soviet Leadership

Premier of the Soviet Union

Joseph Stalin

21 Jan 1924 - 5 Mar 1953

He was the longest serving leader of the Soviet Union in part due to his Purging of political opponents. He was responsible for the rapid industrialization of the Soviet Union and the establishment of 5 year plans. He led the Soviet Union through World War II, and was crucial to the development of the Eastern Block.

Nikita Khrushchev

8 Feb 1955 - 14 Oct 1964

Started the process of de-Stalinization, immediately after Stalin's death, and started a power struggle for leadership, which was successful. Oversaw numerous reforms and policy changes.

Leonid Brezhnev

14 Oct 1964 - 10 Nov 1982

His term was only second to Stalin's in length, and during his reign the Soviet Union's influence grew dramatically due to rapid militarization.

Mikhail Gorbachev

11 Mar 1985 - 25 Dec 1991

The last leader of the Soviet Union. He attempted massive reforms and attempted to make the SOviet Union more open and transparent. The Soviet Union collapsed the day after his resignation.


Events that took place during the Cold War. American initiated events are in blue. Soviet initiated events are in red. Bilateral events are in yellow. Neutral events are in green.

Yalta Conference

4 Feb 1945 - 11 Feb 1945

It was a wartime conference between the leaders of the three Allied powers, the British, the Americans, and the Soviets. It was convened to set an agenda for the organization of Europe post-World War II. Also discussed was the governance of Germany after the defeat of the Nazis.

This was a form of political expansionism, with each of these nations trying to increase their influence over the war-torn nations of Europe post World War II.

World War II ends

2 Sep 1945

World War II ends with the surrender of Japan to the Allies, Nazi Germany having previously surrendered.

Term "Iron Curtain" coined

5 Mar 1946

It was a metaphor used by British PM Winston Churchill in a speech after the Second World War, to describe the ideological and physical line in Europe dividing the countries that were Soviet-influence and American-influenced. This barrier was viewed differently by both sides.
The border is intended to provide containment against the spread, and of the influence exerted by the opposing ideology. It also represents the spheres of influence of the two major powers of the Cold War.

Cold War begins


This is the year that is often recognized as the start of the Cold War between the United States of America and the Soviet Union.

Marshall Plan

5 June 1947

It was an American a $13 billion initiative to aid war-torn Europe by giving economic support to rebuild economies, which was offered to all European countries. Its aims included the rebuilding of devastated regions, removal of trade barriers and modernization of industry. It also had the double purpose of limiting the spread of communism in Europe, as it required economic prerequisites to be met.
This was a form of expansionism in which the US utilized its economic might to coerce nations to follow their ideology, and fall under US influence.

Berlin Blockade/Airlift

24 Jun 1948 - 12 May 1949

The Berlin Blockade was the blocking of all road, rail and canal transportation to the Western Allies controlled West Berlin. In response the Allies in massive feat of logistics, flew in supplies to West Berliners to meet the need of every citizen of West Berlin. Over 250 thousand flights were conducted to supply 2.1 million Berliners until the blockade was lifted.
The Berlin Blockade was a form of Brinkmanship, with the Soviets avoiding outright annexation of West Berlin yet trying to destabilize the region, while the Americans risked Soviet retaliation for their defiance with the Airlift. It also depicts the Americans desire to maintain their sphere of influence.

Soviets have nuclear weapons

29 Aug 1949

With the reveal of the Manhattan Project following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Americans, the Soviet Union accelerated their nuclear energy project, in order to remove their military disadvantage. With the end of the war, the Soviets were able to focus on research, and aided by their successful spy ring were able to develop nuclear weapons.

The development of nuclear weapons was for the purpose of deterrence against nuclear attacks by the US. It also goes hand-in-hand with the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) which would ensure mutual devastation if a nuclear war were to start.

Korean War

25 Jun 1950 - 27 Jul 1953

It was a war between the Soviet supported Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the American backed Republic of Korea (South Korea). It was a result of the political division of Korea after World War II. After a failure to hold elections throughout the Korean peninsula a communist government was formed in the North, while a right-wing government was formed in the South. The fighting ended with the signing of an armistice.

This is an example of proxy war, where a the two Koreas are fighting on the behalf of the two superpowers for regional dominance.

Rosenbergs convicted of treason

29 Mar 1951

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were Jewish-Americans who were tried and convicted and executed for espionage against the American government. They were accused for delivering secret information to the Soviets about American military technology, possibly even the nuclear bomb. Their highly publicized trial served to increase the American public's distrust of communism and fueled paranoia.

The Rosenbergs served as spies for the Soviet Union who used espionage to gain valuable military research and technologies.

Bandung Conference

18 Apr 1955 - 24 Apr 1955

It was a conference held in Java, Indonesia of 29 African-Asian countries who refused to align alongside the ideologies of either the Soviets or the Americans, so as to be able to determine their own futures independently. It was the seed of the Non-Alignment Movement.
This event showcases non-alignment with each of these nations refusing to align to either superpower's ideology, preferring to follow their own.

Hungarian Revolution

23 Oct 1956 - 10 Nov 1956

It was the the spontaneous nationwide revolt of the Hungarian people against their Stalinist government, with militias being formed against the Soviet troops. A new government was formed who declared their intent to secede from the Warsaw Pact and hold democratic elections. However in early November, in a massive show of force Soviet forces returned with the intention of crushing the revolution. A new Soviet-controlled government was placed once more, and public opposition was stifled, strengthening the Soviet influence in the area.
This is a case of Soviet expansionism, as they try to expand their influence on regions of opposing ideologies. They are also trying to maintain their sphere of influence in Eastern Europe.

Vietnam War

Dec 1956 - 30 Apr 1975

The Vietnam War was another war in the vein of the Korean War, with North Vietnam being supported by the Soviets, while South Vietnam was supported by America. After a drawn out war, due to extremely low home support for the war the US withdrew support for South Vietnam leaving them suddenly handicapped, allowing for the victory of North Vietnam.
The Vietnam War was among the most drawn out proxy wars, with the two divisions of Vietnam representing the ideologies of the two superpowers. As the supporter of the victor, the Soviet Union expanded their sphere of influence in the region.

U-2 Incident

1 May 1960

In the late 1950s, the American government set up an intelligence base in Pakistan - a NATO member - from which surveillance missions over Soviet territory were flown. The Soviets managed to shoot down a U2 spy plane and capture the pilot. Initially the Americans claimed it was a lost weather research aircraft, but were caught in a lie a few days later when the Soviets revealed the American pilot. This further deteriorated American-Soviet relations.

The US were attempting to conduct espionage to gather intelligence on Soviet facilities using their spy planes.

NAM founded


The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is founded in Belgrade by various African and Asian countries, who do not want to align themselves with either of the ideologies of the United States or the Soviet Union.

Bay of Pigs Invasion

17 Apr 1961 - 19 Apr 1961

It was an unsuccessful attack on Cuban soil perpetrated by Cuban exiles trained and supported by the US military. It failed due to poor planning and lack of support by the US military. This was an attempt by the US to restore capitalism in Cuba, which recently had a successful socialist revolution and was developing ties with the Soviet Union.

This event was a form of a proxy war, with one of the superpowers supporting a counter-revolutionary group to fight on its behalf for their own interests. It also shows a form of expansionism, with the United States trying to restore their influence in Cuba.

Berlin Wall built

13 Aug 1961

East German troops surrounded the city of West Berlin, tearing up streets and installing barbed wire and fences. A second fence was built parallel to the original which was replaced with a concrete wall, the area between the two becoming no-man's land. The Soviets claimed it was meant to contain East Germany from Western aggression while the Allies believed it was meant to stop the flow of refugees.

This is a clear example of containment, reducing the contact made with the opposing ideology, in this case by physical isolation.

Cuban Missile Crisis

14 Oct 1962 - 28 Oct 1962

Following the failure of Bay of Pigs invasion, Cuba became increasingly mistrustful and paranoid about the United States. The Soviets offered to set up a missile base in Cuba (in easy range of the US) and shipped some missiles to Cuba. To prevent this, the US ordered a naval blockade of Cuba which lasted until the Soviet ships withdrew, with the promise of Cuba's sovereignty and US missile withdrawal from Turkey.
This is a case of brinkmanship, as for the duration of this blockade with either party refusing to back down, the two superpowers came to the brink of war. The initial reasoning for the development of the missile base is a form of deterrence against attacks towards the Soviet Union and Cuba.

Superpower hotline installed

20 Jun 1963

With the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis nearly leading to nuclear war, it was made obvious that a quick and secure means of communication needed to be established between the two nuclear powers. Hence a private hotline was established between the White House and the Kremlin to allow the respective leaders quick communication in case of an emergency.

This is among the first agreements of the detente, as this reduced the escalating tensions between the two nations.

Prague Spring

5 Jan 1968 - 20 Aug 1968

With the ascendancy of reformist Alexander Dubcek to power in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (CSSR), he began a period of political liberalization, granting of additional rights to citizens and loosening of restrictions. Due to the increasingly broad scope of the reforms armies from four Warsaw Pact nations invaded the CSSR, and within a year reversed the reforms.

This is a case of military expansionism by the Eastern Bloc nations in an attempt to maintain their sphere of influence in the area, as were Dubcek's reforms to continue it would have weakened their influence.

SALT Agreement signed

26 May 1972

The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) took place between the United States and the Soviet Union discussing an agreement to limit the number of missiles acquired, armed, and aimed by the two countries. Negotiations started in late 1969 but was deadlocked for a long period of time, and only with further discussions did the negotiations come to an end, with the leaders of each nation signing the treaty.

This treaty epitomizes the period of detente, with both superpowers reducing hostilities and attempting to come to peaceful agreement.

Soviets invade Afghanistan

24 Dec 1979

In order to support a pro-Soviet regime hereby gaining a friendly neighbour, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. In response the CIA would equip Afghan resistance fighters in a covert operation, leading to a long drawn out war and the eventual withdrawal of the Soviet Union.

The Soviet invasion was a form of military expansionism by the Soviets who were trying to expand and maintain their sphere of influence. The US on the other hand, by equipping the Afghan rebels to fight on their behalf are using proxy war tactics.

Iran-Contra Affair

20 Aug 1985 - 4 Mar 1987

The US government wanted to eliminate all socialist influence in the Americas, including the government of Nicaragua. The US initially funded a rebel group called the Contras, but Congress banned military aid for them in 1983. To bypass this restriction, The administration used the National Security Agency to raise funds by covertly selling weaponry (illegally) to Iran. They hoped that this would help get American hostages in Lebanon freed while funneling the profits to the Contras.
This is a form of proxy war, with American aid supporting a rebel group attempting to displace a government of an opposing ideology. The Americans also depict expansionism, as their intention is to spread their influence and ideologies to other states.

INF Treaty Signed

8 Dec 1987

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was an agreement signed between the Soviet Union and The United States of America. It was a bilateral agreement to remove INF systems (of range 500-5500 km)and shorter range weapons from Europe. Since this agreement was bilateral, other nuclear powers were exempt.

This agreement follows the principles used during the detente, with a bilateral agreement between the two superpowers being signed with the intent of reducing hostility.

Berlin Wall taken down

13 Jun 1990

The wall's official dismantling begins by the East German military, which is soon followed by the German unification on 3 October 1990.

Soviet Union dissolves

26 Dec 1991

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) formally dissolves creating twelve independent states, and ending the Cold War