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Timeline and overview of

By Vrinda Goswami4A APUSH, Gauer20 March, 2024

The Cold War


4. Thanks

3. short argument

2. Map (painting a picture)

1. Timeline




Apr. 17, 1961

Oct. 4, 1957

Nov. 1, 1955

Aug. 13, 1961

Oct. 16, 1962

Dec. 24, 1979


Dec. 25, 1991

Dec. 2, 1989

Nov. 9, 1989

Aug. 29, 1949

Jun. 25, 1950

May 14, 1955


Dec. 26, 1991


Jun. 24, 1948


Mar. 12, 1947

Mar. 11, 1947


These events are ordered referencing their starting date and do not consider duration or ending date.

15 of the most important events of the Cold War


Locations of the beginning and end of the Cold War


Short argument

The Cold War was actually a legitimate conflict. This is a fact that many historians and experts can agree on. The basic definition of "war" is a state of armed conflict between different nations or states. Since the Cold War was a conflict (albiet one that saw no actual direct battles) and each side stockpiled and threatened the other with their armaments (particularly nuclear missiles during the arms race), the Cold War can be considered an actual war.In addition, the Cold War saw many proxy wars fought between the two global superpowers. The Communist Soviet Union supported one side of these wars, and the U.S. supported the other side, typically to prevent Communism from spreading. Some prominent examples include the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cambodian conflict, and the Afghan War. The two sides sent military and monetary support and sent over supplies in the form of medical aid and armaments. Although the two sides never directly fought, their participation in these proxy wars can be considered participating in conflicts against each other, and therefore it is easy to see a state of war between the U.S. and the USSR. It also helps to consider the fact that the U.S. and USSR were actively blockading each other in Germany, which is an action typically taken when those two states are at war with each other

Supporting that the Cold War was actually a war.

Credits are given on each page individually




What was the Warsaw Pact?

The Warsaw Pact

A Communist counterbalance to NATO

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created in 1949 by the United States, Canada, and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union. It was the first peacetime military alliance the U.S. entered into that was outside of the Western Hemisphere.As a response to the creation of NATO, the Soviet Union and seven other Soviet satellite states created their own collective defense treaty: the Warsaw Pact. This treaty embodied the Eastern bloc and was ideologically opposed to the Western bloc created by NATO. Over time, the two opposing groups built up their own defenses and started the arms race, polarizing the world even more and raising tensions throughout the Cold War. The Warsaw Pact dissolved on July 1, 1991, shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

  • Collective defense treaty: an attack against one Ally is considered an attack against all Allies. Since nobody in their right mind would want to attack multiple nations at once, this was an effective strategy to intimidate opponents and ensure military support in times of need

What was the Space Race?

Sputnik Crisis

And the start of the Space Race

The launch and orbit of Sputnik 1 suggested that the Soviet Union had made a substantial leap in technology, which was interpreted as a serious threat to US national security, spurring the US to boost federal investment in research and development, education, and national security. The U.S. also developed NASA to lead America's civilian space program as a response to Soviet advances in space exploration. Furthermore, the same technology that was used to launch Sputnik 1 could also be used to potentially fire nuclear missiles with an unnerving amount of accuracy on any location on Earth, from anywhere on Earth. This made the Cold War even colder and accelerated the arms race as well. The space race formally ended 6 years after Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon (July 20, 1969) on July 17, 1975, when the U.S. and Soviet Union linked up in orbit and shook hands during the Apollo-Soyuz mission.

  • Sputnik 1: Sputnik 1 was the first artificial Earth satellite. It was launched into an elliptical low Earth orbit by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957 as part of the Soviet space program. It sent a radio signal back to Earth for three weeks before its three silver-zinc batteries became depleted.

National Archive, transcript of the Truman Doctrine

The Truman Doctrine

America declares it is against the spread of Communism

Due to the rise and spread of Communist-led insurgencies like the National Liberation Front in Greece and Turkey, President Truman addressed a joint session of Congress, asking for $400 million in military and economic aid for the two countries, and justifying these actions using the domino theory. He also established the Truman Doctrine, which would guide U.S. foreign policy around the world for the next 40 years. This bipartisan Cold War policy will be used to justify entering conflicts in Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, etc. in the future

  • Domino theory: the idea that if some states were to fall to communism, more states would fall, leading to an increasingly rapid spread of communism globally south and east as far as India.
  • Truman Doctrine: a foreign policy that stated that the U.S. must "support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures".

What was the Berlin Wall?

Destruction of the Berlin Wall

The fall of the Iron Curtain

In 1989, political changes in Eastern Europe and civil unrest (of about half a million East Germans protesting) in Germany put pressure on the East German government to loosen some of its regulations on travel to West Germany. The fall of the Berlin Wall during the Peaceful Revolution was the first step towards German reunification. It was one of a series of events that started the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, preceded by the Solidarity Movement in Poland.In the famous words of President Reagen calling for the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to open the Berlin Wall, "Mr.Gorbachev, tear down this wall!". The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the symbolic end of the decades-long Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. It signified the victory of democracy and capitalism over communism and brought about significant geopolitical changes.

  • The Iron Curtain: Coined by former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, this is a political metaphor used to describe the political boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1991.

U.S.-Russia Nuclear Arms Control

Start of the Arms Race

The Soviet Union detonates its first atomic bomb

The Arms Race was one of the most prominent and publicized aspects of the competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Technically, the race to acquire more nuclear weapons for "self-defense" didn't end until the Conventional Forces Nuclear Treaty of November 1990 was signed, but some argue that the arms race and the Cold War itself are still ongoing events. The arms race saw the two global powers (along with several other nations) stockpile nuclear weapons to such a degree that any nuclear conflict would have had a domino effect and resulted in total global annihilation, causing public fear and general mistrust and introducing the concept of MAD. The engagement of Moscow in the arms race also exhausted economic resources and contributed to the downfall of the Soviet Union as well.

  • MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction. A doctrine of military strategy and national security policy that posits that a full-scale use of nuclear weapons by an attacker on a nuclear-armed defender with second-strike capabilities would result in the complete annihilation of both the attacker and the defender.

Effects of the invasion on Afghanistan

Afghan-Soviet War

A deadly failure to spread Communism

The Soviet-Afghan War caused grave destruction throughout Afghanistan and has also been cited by scholars as a significant factor that contributed to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, formally ending the Cold War.The Soviet Union had justified its invasion of Afghanistan using the Brezhnev Doctrine and sought to prop up the country's communist government in its battle with anticommunist Muslim guerrillas called the Jihadists(which were supported, ironically, by the U.S.). The Soviets lost, and in their wake left a destroyed Afghanistan over which the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group, seized control, later providing Osama bin Laden with a training base from which to launch terrorist operations worldwide (among which was the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers in New York).

  • Brezhnev Doctrine: a Soviet foreign policy that proclaimed that any threat to "socialist rule" in any state of the Soviet Bloc in Central and Eastern Europe was a threat to all of them, and therefore, it justified the intervention of fellow socialist states.

Korean War

Start of the Korean War

A proxy war for the Cold War

The Korean War was fought between the North (supported by Communist China and the Soviet Union) and South (supported by Western nations like the U.S., the U.K., and the United Nations) Korea. It started with an invasion by North Korea and the U.S. joined in offering support for the defense of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). However, the real reason the U.S. joined was to prevent more states from falling to communism and the spread of communism that the Domino Theory foretold. The war "ended" (only an armistice was signed) on July 27, 1953Although called the "Forgotten War" because it "ended" in a fruitless stalemate and was overshadowed by WWII and the Vietnam War, it is highly significant because it marks the first clear battle of the Cold War. It was also the first wartime test of the Truman Doctrine, ending the de-facto pre-WWII policy of isolationism, and deepened relations between the Western nations even further.

  • Isolationism: A policy of remaining apart from the affairs or interests of other groups, especially the political affairs of other countries.
  • Armistice: A formal agreement of warring parties to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, as it may constitute only a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace.

The Malta Summit explained in detail

The Malta Summit

The two world powers meet

U.S. President George H. W. Bush and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev met in Malta to discuss and negotiate a peaceful end to the Cold War. During the summit, Bush and Gorbachev declared an end to the Cold War, although whether it was truly such is a matter of debate. Choosing Malta as the venue for the summit was quite symbolic. Not only was Malta geographically located in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, but Malta was also a constitutionally neutral state. Malta declared its neutrality in 1980, following the withdrawal of the last remaining British forces from the island.During the summit, it was evident that the Soviet Union sought to improve its image and remove the association with totalitarianism. Gorbachev genuinely wanted to revolutionize Soviet leadership and make the USSR more open and honest. His warm reception of change played a large part in the warming relations between the Soviet Union and the West.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest we got (derailed by just one man's vote!) to a global nuclear war. Luckily, the conflict de-escalated, and each side removed nuclear missiles that they had stationed on countries close to their opponents.

The Closest We Got to Direct Conflict

Many argue that the Cold War started when the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb or when the Truman Doctrine was made. In any case, the Cold War was caused by a difference in political and economic ideas between two major superpowers and the mutual fear that the other nation would try to limit their influence.

The Start of the Cold War

The Berlin Wall

Creation of the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall was built by the German Democratic Republic during the Cold War to prevent its population from escaping Soviet-controlled East Berlin to West Berlin, which was controlled by the major Western Allies.This wall would prevent the West from having further influence on the East, stop the flow of migrants out of the communist sector, and ultimately become the most iconic image of the Cold War in Europe. It's safe to say that a lot of people on both sides of the wall strongly disliked the wall and what it represented (as evidenced by the graffiti on the Western side and the constant attempts to flee East Berlin). The Berlin Wall was not one wall, but two. Measuring 155 kilometers (96 miles) long and four meters (13 feet) tall, these walls were separated by a heavily guarded, mined corridor of land known as the 'death strip'. The first wall was built within a week, and later fortified by things like barbed wire.

The Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962

The Cuban Missile Crisis

A 13-day standoff

In response to American deployments of nuclear missiles in Italy and Turkey, the Soviet Union deployed nuclear missiles in Cuba, though their official reason was to provide aid to Cuba ("self-defense") after the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Since tensions were so high, both sides were preparing for the third world war, but neither was willing to be the aggressor. In the end, conflict was avoided when the U.S. agreed to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's (1894-1971) offer to remove the Cuban missiles in exchange for the U.S. promising not to invade Cuba. Kennedy also secretly agreed to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey, This was a dangerous moment during the Cold War and was the moment when the two superpowers came closest to nuclear conflict.

Why the Bay of Pigs Invasion was an embarrassment

Bay of Pigs Invasion

An American embarrassment

The Bay of Pigs invasion was a botched invasion due to being orchestrated poorly by the CIA. 1,400 Cuban exiles (supported by the CIA) launched the invasion on the south coast of Cuba. Earlier, in 1959, Fidel Castro came to power in an armed revolt that overthrew Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista and established a Communist government. The American force, Brigade 2506, was defeated within three days by the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces. The CIA had underestimated the military power of Cuba and the level of support for Castro. Cuba has remained Communist to this day. In response to the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961 and the presence of American Jupiter ballistic missiles in Italy and Turkey, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev decided to agree to Cuba's request to place nuclear missiles in Cuba to deter future harassment of Cuba. This became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

What was the Warsaw Pact?

Vietnam War starts

"The only war America lost"

Originally starting as an anticolonial war against the U.S. military stationed in Indochina (who were there to prevent a communist takeover of the region) by North Vietnamese troops, this conflict escalated into the second of the Indochina Wars and a major conflict of the Cold War. Apart from being the only conflict that ended in defeat for American arms, this 20-year-long war was fought single-handedly by the U.S., a war directly between the U.S. and the Communist bloc, perfectly representing the Cold War. The war ended on April 30, 1975. The two Vietnams (the North being supported by the Communist bloc and the South being supported by the U.S.) unified under a communist banner in July later that year, and neighboring Laos and Cambodia similarly fell to communists. Nearly half of the 3.8 million deaths were civilians caught in the fighting. The end of this war also ended the Cold War draft in the U.S..

  • Cold War draft: The second peacetime draft began with passage of the Selective Service Act of 1948 after the STSA expired. The new law required all men of age 18 to 26 to register. It also created the system for the "Doctor Draft", aimed at inducting health professionals into military service. The death of conscription changed the calculus of American military engagement by dictating how conflicts would be fought and who would do that fighting.

Berlin Airlift MIlestones and Causes

Berlin Airlift/Blockade

The result of competing occupation policies.

After the capitalist nations introduced a new currency for Bizonia, the Deutschmark, the Soviet Union not only introduced their currency (the Ostmark), but also blocked all major roads, links, and canals to West Berlin, starving it of vital resources. The resulting airlifts by America and the U.K. to West Berlin (the air corridors were the only passages allowed by the Soviet Union) increased tensions and further solidified the division of Europe, even though Moscow lifted the blockade in May of 1949. Two weeks later, the states of West Berlin and East Berlin were formally established, which solidified the demarcation between the East and West in Europe

  • Bizonia: A unified region in Germany, combined by the U.S. and the U.K. and made of their respective territories won from WWII. It would later become West Germany, though Western Germany consisted of all the Western Allies' occupation zones.
  • Demarcation: The action of fixing the boundary or limits of something. In this case, the boundaries of Capitalist and Communist influence in Europe.

What caused the fall of the Soviet Union?

Dissolution of the Soviet Union

The last day the Sickle and Hammer flew

On December 25, 1991, the Soviet hammer and sickle flag lowered for the last time over the Kremlin, thereafter replaced by the Russian tricolor. Earlier in the day, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned his post as president of the Soviet Union, leaving Boris Yeltsin as president of the newly independent Russian state. The fundamental factors that contributed to collapse, including economic stagnation and the overextension of the military, were rooted in Soviet policies, but the Cold War and the U.S. policy of containment played a role as well.The immediate outcome of the fall of the Soviet Union was independence of its 15 constituent republics, adoption of more liberal political systems in most of the newly independent states, and a deep economic crisis associated with the changes, as well as a concrete end to the Cold War once and for all. There was also a rise of nationalism among countries like Russia, Baltic republics, Ukraine, Georgia etc. This is the most important and immediate cause of the disintegration of the USSR.

The total collapse and dissolution of the Soviet Union ended whatever doubts people had about the Cold War ending. The satellite states around the Soviet Union also adopted more democratic policies and some abandoned their communist policies altogether. China took the USSR's place as the strongest and largest communist nation in the world as well.

The Physical End of the Cold War

What is the difference between Capitalism and Communism?

Communism vs Capitalism

This was an ideological divide that was often irreconcilable, as seen in early domestic events like the Red Scare, which was a public panic and rush to turn in people suspected of being communist spies. While Communism sought to eradicate social classes and promote collective welfare, capitalism emphasized individual drive and personal gain. This divide on economic and political ideas was the basis of several events and actions taken during the Cold War (like the Truman Doctrine), and the mutual distrust between America (the largest Capitalist nation) and the Soviet Union (the largest Communist nation) brought about an era of spying and one-upping that persisted throughout the Cold War

The Malta Summit saw the two world leaders meet and talk peacefully about how to move forward following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the lifting of the Iron Curtain over Europe. Such openness and cordiality exemplified the want to cooperate in the future and was reflected in other aspects of the two nations' relations, like the Apollo-Soyuz docking mission ending the space race.

The Formal End of the Cold War