Cold War Timeline

Brrrr... Chilly! (geddit?)

Origins and the Post Stalin Thaw

Truman is President

January 1945 - January 1953

US's GDP Double From Warfare


Germany Divided


Divided into French, British, American and Soviet zones. Berlin in the East is also divided into these zones.

Yalta Confrence

February 1945

The US and UK agreed to Stalin to have a Sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, the UN was created and it was attended by Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill.

Romania Becomes Communist

February 1945

Potsdam Confrence

August 1945

Attended by Churchill (later Attlee), Stalin, and Truman. Problems with USSR sphere of influence. Still working together.

The Long Telegram

February 1946

Kennan's telegram to the American government from the USSR encouraging the US to see the USSR as a huge threat, predicting an inevitable struggle between the two ideologies and promoting containment.

Iran Crisis

March 1946

USSR wouldn't leave Iran, even though they had agreed to. The country had been split between the UK and the USSR and the north was to be given to the UK. Britain and the USSR consequently condemned the USSR.

Iron Curtain Speech

March 1946

Churchill speaks at a University in Missouri and mentions the Iron curtain which has descended.

Novikov Telegram

September 1946

Soviet Ambassador to the US, said that the US was beginning to act all imperialistic and planning global domination.

Poland Becomes Communist

January 1947

Poland falls to communism.

Trizonia Working Together


Working as a co-ordinated unit. Soviet zone is separate.

Truman Doctrine

March 1947

The doctrine written by Truman stating that communism needs to be contained, the world was divided between communist and capitalist and that the USA would fight for freedom all over the world.

Marshall Plan

June 1947

The USA offered $13 billion to help rebuild Europe in exchange for the country agreeing to free trade. The USSR couldn't do this and so it showed them up.


September 1947

This is called the Communist Information Bureau. Communist control over parts of Eastern European governments.

Czechoslovakia Becomes Communist

February 1948

After a communist coup, Czechoslovakia becomes a communist nation.

Berlin Blockade

June 1948

Lasted 324 days, ended in May 1949. Soviets wished for control over West Berlin. It ended with the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany (Western) and the German Democratic Republic (Soviet).

Britain Given Bomber Planes

August 1948

Britain were given 60 bomber planes by the US that could carry nuclear weapons.



Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, response to Organisation for European Economic Co-operation, also Marshall Aid.


April 1949


April 1949

The three western areas of Germany were now functioning as one unit. This was the political integration of the two states.

Germany Seperated Officially

May 1949

Federal Republic of Germany was the West and German Democratic Republic was the East.

USSR gets Nuclear Weapons

August 1949

China Falls To Communism

October 1949

After a civil war in which America was involved and supporting and failing the Guomindang in their fight against communism.



Written by Truman,focused on how America would respond to the Soviet threat and how it saw the world.
USA spent $10 billion in 1945 vs. USSR $13 billion on military stuff.
Proposed the idea of roll back, increased military spending and limited wars.

Korean War

June 1950

A vulnerable South Korea, which had been refused US aid, was attacked by the North after convincing Stalin it was okay.
America goes in under the guise of the UN and gets close to taking most of the North(Nov).
Mao feared the US being so close and because North Korea had given it troops to fight the civil war, and joins in.
They fought for 2 more years at the 38th parallel.
MacArthur wanted to use nukes but Truman didn't.

US Get the H-Bomb

November 1952

Eisenhower (Ike) is President

January 1953 - January 1961

Massive Retaliation


Secretary of State Dulles, support the idea of appearing hard with communism and use the threat of nuclear war more frequently. It was vague to other countries when America would use this.



Dulles' broader policy on dealing with the USSR. Examples include:
- Threatened nuclear war to China in 1953 over Korea.
- Over the shelling of Quemoy and Matsu in 1954-5 in China.

New Look


Eisenhower's belief that the USSR was expansionistic, the US should use military means to overcome communism, brinkmanship and massive retaliation. . It was a hard-line policy.
However, Eisenhower was cautious of nuclear weapons and wished to improve life for American and re-balance the American economy. He was commander in cheif of NATO and a WWII hero. He was pro face-to-face diplomacy.


March 1953

Berlin Rising

June 1953

Policies increasing production needs without pay became particularly unpopular and lead to 400,000 workers protesting in the street. This lead to arrests and executions, and demonstrated the West's reluctance to involve itself for fear of conflict. This was, however, used in American propaganda.

End Of Korean War

July 1953

USSR Get the H-Bomb

August 1953

Beria Executed

December 1953

Beria was arrested and executed by Khrushchev

Military Spending is 12% GDP


In the USA, military spending is way to high for Ike, at 12% of GDP.

Guatemala Coup


CIA back a coup to overthrow a left wing President. Not so supportive of democracy here.

Domino Theory

April 1954

Developed by Eisenhower. Suggested if Vietnam fell so would Indonesia, Laos and Thailand.

Geneva Confrence

April 1954

US refused to sign this but said it wouldn't undermine it. Britain, France, USA, and the USSR attended. It settle disputes of the Indochina war (1946-54) establishing a French cease fire, liberating, Laos and Cambodia, and dividing Vietnam until 1956 (supposedly) , but did nothing over Korea.

Iran Overthrown CIA

June 1954

The CIA helped overthrow the Iranian government by helping to fund a military coup, which made Iran a stable ally to the US until 1979

Cuts In Red Army

Approx. 1955

5.8 million to 3.7 million, they were announced in the early 1960s.

Peaceful Co-Existence

Approx. 1955

Khrushchev's policy of existing with the West due to the fact that they were going to destroy themselves in the end. Capitalism was going to implode.
An example of this was the Austrian State treaty and the giving back of land to Finland.

Austrian State Treaty

May 1955

Austria, which had been divided in a similar way to how Germany was divided was allowed to be a sovereign state. It allowed for the Geneva Summit later in that year. Originally Molotov was resistant to it, but Khrushchev managed to overcome this.

Warsaw Pact

May 1955

A response to West Germany's integration to NATO and a Soviet desire to keep control of military forces of Eastern Europe. It was a Military COMECON.

West Germany Join NATO

May 1955

Geneva Summit

July 1955

Restarted face-to-face diplomacy, generally seen as a good step forward. First proper conference since Potsdam.
Didn't agree on what to do with:
- Germany (Soviet suggestion to neutralise was ignored because it would increase the USSR's influence)
- European security - replacing NATO and the Warsaw Pact with one security system was proposed by the USSR, but rejected as the West saw it as the attempted dismantling of NATO.
- "Open Skies" to give warning with attack. Proposed by Eisenhower,Khrushchev saw this as a plot for espionage.

Vietnam War

November 1955

Soviets Leave Finland

January 1956

Porkkala is handed back to Finland after 16 years, even though the Soviets had a 50 year lease to it. It was used by Khrushchev as evidence of increased Soviet co-operation. Finland didn't join NATO and promised to remain neutral

Khrushchev's Secret Speech

February 1956

Was only released in 1989, Khrushchev denounced Stalinism, the cult of personality and using the purges.

Polish Rebellion

June 1956

The leader and traditional Stalinist of Poland died in February which caused mass demonstrations and anti-government protests in order for nationalist and moderate Gomulka to be leader.
Khrushchev visited in October and eventually he gave in to moderate economic change, as long as Poland remained committed to the Warsaw Pact.
It revealed a split in the communist world. Even further, Mao supported the Polish rebels.

Hungary Rebellion

November 1956

Calls for free press, multi-party democracy and withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact weren't stopped by the leader, Nagy's, moderate policies, so he gave into these demands, declaring Hungary a neutral country.
After two weeks of entering the country, the Soviets establish a new leader , arrested 35,000 protesters and killing the 300 leaders.
Hungarians had through, because of Radio Free Europe they would have received American support from Dulles and Ike, but the West refused to stop Soviet suppression.

Sputnik Launched by USSR

October 1957

The USSR launches sputnik, the first artificial satellite.

America Aware of Nuclear


U2 spy planes show that USA has better nuclear capability than USSR. Increased ability to negotiate, America likes to negotiate from a position of strength.

Germany's A Pain


West Berlin was an escape route for Soviet Germans and they suffered mass defections, a security breach and a good place for US radio propaganda in the Soviet block.
Western powers rejected East/West German in Spetember talks and the GDR needed security.

2nd Berlin Crisis (Demands)

November 1958

Khrushchev tried to force West Berlin to be a free-city, start East/West talks, and said in six months the Soviets should control access routes to Berlin.
The three western powers rejected this, and Dulles threatened NATO action. Khrushchev backed down and there was a Geneva Conference for foreign ministers in 1960 that helped with tensions a little.

Cuban Revolution

January 1959

Fidel Castro helped overthrown a US supported ruthless dictator, which would upset American interests in the area, as America had control of phone lines and their sugar and rail industries.

Kitchen Debate

July 1959

Between Nixon, the Vice-President, and Khrushchev, at the American exhibit in Moscow. The USSR would say "bye bye" to America when they go by and have the same technology as them in a few years. Khrushchev was somewhat aggressive.

Camp David Summit

September 1959

Only USA and USSR for the first time. Post Dulles' death. Still unable to agree on Germany and disarmament.

Khrushchev Visits USA

September 1959

Is rejected from Disney land on health and safety grounds and accused the US of hiding rocket launchers there. Weird.
Boasted "we will bury you" when talking about USSR's economy, but given the nuclear situation, wasn't a great choice of words.

Paris Summit

May 1960

Less successful as both sides were taking a harder stance. Khrushchev pressured by Mao to be tougher. Walked out over U2 Spy Plan incident.

U-2 Incident

May 1960

An American plane was caught over the USSR and shot down by a missile. America claimed it was a weather research thing gone off course. Russia found espionage equipment and called them out on it. Eisenhower admitted the truth but refused to apologise. This lead to Khrushchev walking out of the Camp David Summit.

Kennedy is President

January 1961 - November 1963

Bay of Pigs

April 1961

The CIA supported attempted takeover of Cuba. It failed and only 1400 Cuban exiles were sent over. They were quickly overcome by the Castro Army and Air force. Thus it strengthened Castro's regime and embarrassed Kennedy.

Vienna Summit

June 1961

Khrushchev tried to make the most of Kennedy's inexperience and the Bay of Pigs event. Khrushchev said he would support liberation wars, pushed recognition of East Germany and said Berlin should be settled in 6 months on Soviet terms.
Only thing agreed was Laos was to be independent. Kennedy was misjudged as weak.

3rd Berlin Crisis (wall)

August 1961

In July Kennedy had pledged to not leave Berlin.
After the Vienna Summit Krushchev demanded American recognition of East Germany, which was rejected. In response he built a wall between East and West Berlin.
Nukes were considered until it became clear West Berlin wasn't threatened.

4th Berlin Crisis (tanks)

October 1961

Some US diplomat wasn't allowed into East Berlin because he refused to show his passport, which went against the agreement for free travel for Soviet and Western personnel.
Lucius Clay gave the diplomat US military dudes. Armed soldiers came with US citizens. to get in and put tanks at Checkpoint Charlie. On the 27th 33 Soviet tanks were put in East Berlin, with 10 at Checkpoint Charlie. Khrushchev allowed for return fire for the tanks if the US fired first. Kennedy called Khrushchev to organise a mutual retreat. After 16 hours, the tanks were removed, one by one.

Operation Mongoose

October 1961

The US's operation to try and destabilise Cuba's left wing regime. In 1962 over 60,000 acts had been committed in this name.
In the Caribbean the US had large military demonstrations, which caused the USSR and Castro to think they were going to invade.

Cuban Missile Crisis

October 1962

The missiles in Cuba could destroy all Strategic Air Command bases, near to all of the US's largest cities and reduced warning time to just 3 minutes. It broke the idea of spheres of influence.
After the missiles have been spotted in Cuba the Soviet foreign minister assures Kennedy that there are no nuclear weapons in Cuba. Kennedy is aware that an air strike would not guarantee that all the nukes could be destroyed. The US blockades Cuba. The Strategic Air Command was put at DEFCON 2, the highest ever.
In the end it is settled that the Soviets will remove the missiles from Cuba if the Americans lift the blockade and publicly promise to not invade Cuba and makes a secret assurance that the missiles in Turkey may be removed. Not after a plane was shot down over Cuba and the USSR demanded nukes be removed from Turkey.


June 1963

The idea was that both leaders could contact one and other immediately in order to prevent misconceptions.

Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

August 1963

Banned nuclear testing in the atmosphere, space but not underground. Lasted about three years but the Soviet Union rejected the USA's idea of visiting their nuclear facilities.

Johnson is President

November 1963 - January 1969

Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia

August 1968

The Warsaw pact nations invaded Czechoslovakia over their new liberalisation or the "Prague spring". It was an example of the success of the Brezhnev Doctrine.

Nixon is President

January 1969 - August 1974

Ford Is President

August 1974 - January 1977

Vietnam War Ends

April 1975

Carter is President

January 1977 - January 1981

Reagan is President

January 1981 - January 1989

Sino-Soviet Relations

Stalin's In Power

May 1941 - March 1953

China Falls

October 1949

Mao announces that China is now a communist nation, the People's Republic of China. Mao is a hard stalinist.

The Treaty Of Friendship

February 1950

The USSR gave a loan of $300 million, gave back the Manchurian railway,and that it would help if it were attacked by any other capitalist country.
The PRC agreed to the USSR's territory in Outer Mongolia.

China Joins Korean War

November 1950

China had helped maintain North Korea's communist regime.

Sino-Soviet Deals

Approx. 1953

The Soviets helped the Chinese from 1953-4 in the following ways:
- China was given large amounts of aid for its first five year plan.
- Helped China build power plants.
- Gave a naval base on a border to China
- Increased trade

Educational Help

Approx. 1953

Over 9000 Chinese people were educated at top Russian universities.
38,000 were given vocational training in Siberia.

Khrushchev's in Power

March 1953 - October 1964

First Taiwan Straits Crisis


Mao attempts to take over Taiwan in an attempt to reunify the country and began shelling Quemoy. The Guomindang did not back down and were helped by the US. This was a big deal as a nuclear war between the USA and the USSR could come into play.
In 1955 the Guomindang gave Taschen Islands to the PRC, but kept Quemoy and Matsu.
The communist party of China became more moderate and began negotiations.

Dulles Refused To Shake Hands With Chinese Prime Minister


Criticisms From Mao and Khrushchev


Khrushchev criticised Mao for:
- dividing communism
- the Great Leap Forward

Mao criticised Khrushchev for:
- Relations with Tito
- Peaceful-coexistence
- The privileged elite that'd developed in Russia

China Lobby In USA

Approx. 1955

Aimed at reconstructing relations with China and surrounding areas, and focused on "who lost China".
Taiwan, the Philippians and the French in Vietnam received military support. South Korea received financial support and aid.

Peaceful Co-Existence Gets On Mao's Nerves

Approx. June 1955

Mao feels as though peaceful co-existence is a policy abandoning peasants that are stuck under capitalist rule.

60% Chinese Trade With the USSR


Hundred Flowers Campaign


A brief period where Mao let people be openly critical of the regime and let "one hundred flowers bloom" in favour of many opinions.
However this lasted not very long, and was a method of flushing out dissidents.

Mao Offended By De-Stalinisation

February 1956

The secret speech made by Khrushchev, encouraging de-stalinisation really annoyed Mao, whose policies had been greatly encouraged by and based upon the principles of Stalin.

Anti-Rightest Campaign - China


After the One Hundred Flowers campaign, Mao had a harsh crackdown on those disagreeing with him, and stuck to his Stalinist roots. This contrasted with Khrushchev's secret speech and the general direction of the USSR.

USSR in Mongolia

Approx. 1957

The USSR refused to reduce ties in this area, which China saw as part of its sphere of influence.

Great Leap Forward


Mao's Great Leap Forward was an attempt at trying to bring the Chinese economy forward and lead to the death of over 17 million people. It involved setting up small scale dams, iron and steel furnaces and communes and re-organised the Chinese economy. It was seen as an attempt to set up things like a "back yard steel furnace" in rural areas.
It eventually lead the USSR removing their aid in the 1960s.

2nd Taiwan Straits Crisis

August 1958

The PRC, once again began shelling the Islands of Quemoy and Matsu, this was Mao's attempt at testing how committed the USA was to the Guomindang.
Mao wanted to get the USSR involved in protecting China from the potential threat of Taiwan. The US used Eisenhower's brinkmanship as a method of winning the conflict, and the PRC and the USSR saw Quemoy and Matsu as a method of putting pressure on the USA when necessary.

Khrushchev Visits China

August 1958

The second time this leader has visited China and it was done and it was for the Khrushchev-Mao Conversations in Beijing. Relations were clearly on edge throughout this.

Sino-Indonesian War


Soviet military aid was sent to the Indonesians and Khrushchev back them. The war lasted until 1962.

Sino-Soviet Split Clear


Chinese Denounce Soviets as Revisionist Traitors


Sino-Indian War

October 1962

The Chinese, over a border disagreement in the Himalayas, launched an attack. China announced its ceasefire about a month later and withdrew from the land.
Khrushchev criticised Mao for the war and sent over $800 million to India in aid. Mao was particularly pissed off.

Mao Publishes Cuban Missile Defeat


Mao decides to capitalise on Khrushchev's failings in the Cuban Missile Crisis and humiliates him.

USA and China

Approx. 1963

It was discussed that Kennedy would reproach Mao, even though the USA had funded the Guomindang, to make use of the Sino-Soviet Split. However, Vietnam involvement prevented this

Mao Describes Khrushchev's Policy as "Phoney"


Mao says the USSR has become bureaucratic and consumerist, not to mention it would compromise with western nations.

Brezhnev Is In Power

October 1964 - November 1982

USSR and China End Trade and Diplomacy


Not much else to say. Quite sad. Oh well.

Soviets Have 15 Divisions at Border


Cultural Revolution


The Red Guard forms out of students and the youth and the like in order to suppress opposition to Mao and prevent China going the way of the USSR and having a bureaucracy.
It was completely declared by Mao.
Students denounced their teachers and there was forced migration of those who lived in urban areas to rural areas. Officials were sent to labour camps for Mao's fear of them becoming disobedient.

Czechoslovakia Invaded

August 1968

Bringing a more independent communist nation back in line with Russia's view of things. Showed China that the USSR could do stuff elsewhere and worried the Chinese that the Russians would invade.

China Has Few Allies


China, because of the Cultural Revolution, removed its ambassadors from most countries. It only had three allies France, Pakistan and Albania.

Ussuri River Crisis

March 1969

The Red Guard occupy Zhen Bao, which was a disputed territory. The Soviet troops left the area giving it to the Chinese. This was a long standing tension.
In 1964 it was going to be given to China but Mao pissed off Khrushchev by saying this was the first bit of land the USSR
had given them and so it was cancelled.

The USSR casually spoke to the USA about nuking China. This didn't happen but panicked Mao.

In the end senior people from both sides agreed to respect borders, the Chinese left, and the crisis ended.

US Ping-Pong Team Go to China

April 1971

Mao asks the American team to play a match in China.

Nixon Visits China

February 1972

Nixon's meeting with Mao wasn't guaranteed. When they did meet up they managed to get on well and form a working relationship. In the Shanghai Communique they agreed:
- They disagreed over Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan.
- They would stop any country trying to takeover the South-East.
- They would normalise relations by 1976.

Both sides had to be careful because they had stigmatised the other side to the public, with yellow peril and the Chinese seeing the Americans as vampires.

The meeting worried the USSR, who had to maintain some sort of relationship with the USA, as they could now focus on them and face a war "on two fronts".

Kissinger Goes To China


He attempts to make an agreement over Taiwan, military and intelligence matters and Ford tries to follow in the footsteps of Nixon with this but it is unsuccessful.

Ford Goes To China

December 1975

Ford is a much weaker president than Nixon and so isn't in a position to compromise, and doesn't help achieve the normalisation of relations very much. It did help continue the work of Nixon to some extent, however.