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Cold War Timeline

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    Truman as US President

    Truman served from 1945 until 1953 as United States President. He is known for his policies of containment, the Truman Doctrine, and the Marshall plan. He was president when the US dropped the atom bombs on Japan, and facilitated the Berlin airlift. He was also involved in the creation of NATO. Possibly most importantly, he established the US’s Cold War position.
  • Potsdam Conference

    Potsdam Conference
    This was the first moment when tensions between the US and USSR began to show. The U.S. had completed their first successful nuclear weapon test only the month before, and Stalin concerned about the advantage that it gave the U.S. The USSR had liberated much of Eastern Europe, and Britain and the U.S. could not simply force them to leave. Ultimately, the countries compromised and pushed many decisions until after the defeat of Japan, but cracks were forming in the relationships.
  • End of WWII

    End of WWII
    U.S. used two nuclear bombs on Japan, in the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, effectively bringing WWII to a close. With no common enemy, and competing to establish themselves as the predominant world power, competition between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. begins to grow.
  • Truman Doctrine Established

    Truman Doctrine Established
    The Truman doctrine was a policy of containment, which president Harry Truman announced. The doctrine established communism as a threat to world peace. This doctrine also called for $400,000,000 in aid to help Greece and Turkey set up democratic governments.
  • Marshall Plan

    Marshall Plan
    Also known as the “European Recovery Plan”, the Marshall Plan announced $13 billion of U.S. funding to Western European countries to help them rebuild after WWII. The Soviet Union interpreted the plan as a way for the US to get Western Europe into their sphere of influence.
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    Berlin Blockade

    The Berlin Blockade was the first major crisis of the Cold War, and was caused in the short term by the proposal by western states to introduce a new currency into Western Germany and West Berlin. This angered the Soviets. Stalin set up a full blockade, a decision his advisors thought rash, and prevented any supplies being moved through East Berlin to West Berlin. On July 1st, the U.S. and U.K. started an airlift to supply West Berlin, which lasted for 323 days.
  • Formation of Nato

    Formation of Nato
    North Atlantic Treaty was made of 12 countries. The treaty established that an attack on one of the countries would be considered an attack on all the countries. The USSR claimed that the NATO alliance was aggressive and directed towards the Soviets, to which the US responded that it was a defensive alliance.
  • Fall of the Berlin Blockade

    Fall of the Berlin Blockade
    After 323 days of Airlifts to West Berlin, Stalin finally removed the blockade. The airlift had demonstrated the U.S.’s air superiority, and served to weaken the USSR’s reputation.
  • Soviet Tests First Nuclear Weapon

    Soviet Tests First Nuclear Weapon
    The Soviets felt immense pressure to develop their own nuclear weapons to show their scientific ability and to protect themselves from the West. On August 29th, 1949, the USSR detonated their first atomic bomb in Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan.
  • PRC Annonced

    PRC Annonced
    Mao Zedong announced the People’s Republic of China as a communist nation on October 1st, 1949. This served to boost the domino theory, as many Americans were fearful that communism would continue to spread down the continent of Asia. It can also be pointed as one of the motivators for the U.S.’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
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    Korean War

    The Korea war is known to be the first proxy war of the Cold War conflict. After Japanese occupation ended due to defeat in WWII, Korea was split into North and South along the 38th parallel. The North was aided by the USSR and the South by the U.S. The war began with the North invading the South. UN troops (mostly US troops) entered to help the south.
  • PRC Enters Korean War

    PRC Enters Korean War
    The Communist Volunteer Army Corps were troops from the PRC. In October, 300,000 of these soldiers mobilized. Mao wanted to the PRC's superiority and went on to supply virtually “unlimited” troops. These troops fought against UN troops, initially gaining ground before being forced back.
  • US Tests First Hydrogen Bomb

    US Tests First Hydrogen Bomb
    The hydrogen bomb was much more powerful than any nuclear bomb before it, and it made many people nervous. Two years after the U.S’s first hydrogen bomb test, public opposition of the hydrogen bomb spread. This stemmed from a test on Bikini Atoll, where the nuclear fallout was underestimated, and 23 Japanese fishers ended up in the hospital with radiation poisoning.
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    Eisenhower as US President

    Eisenhower served as president from 1953-1961. He is known for his role in resolving the Korean War, his policies in Guatemala, and how he handled the Suez, Taiwan Strait, and Berlin crises. Eisenhower was more aggressive towards communism than his predecessor, Truman. Most notably, he implemented a policy of rollback towards communist governments.
  • Stalin's Death

    Stalin's Death
    Stalin’s death caused many changes in the Soviet Union. A subsequent period of “destalinization” led to multiple uprisings in the soviet bloc. Right after Stalin’s death, the U.S. thought a new era had begun. Stalin’s personality cult was greatly criticized
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    Khrushchev as Soviet Leader

    Immediately after coming to power, Khrushchev delivers his Secret Speech, which criticized Stalin, and his Peaceful Coexistence speech. This speech called for peaceful competition between communism and capitalism, and he wanted to promote friendly relations between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. These speeches indicated that a new era of coexistence could be possible.
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    Formation of Non-Aligned Movement

    This movement formed as a partial result of the Korean War. It consists of countries that chose to remain neutral between the West and the USSR. It also has many other principles, known as the "Ten Principles of Bandung". Members of the Non-Aligned Movement must have certain objectives, many of which address colonialism issues.
  • Warsaw Pact Created

    Warsaw Pact Created
    The Warsaw pact was the Soviet Union’s reaction to the formation of NATO. The treaty was a collective security agreement between the Soviet Union, Albania, Poland, Romania, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria (“Warsaw Pact”). The Soviet Union controlled this organization. The Warsaw pact is officially known as the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance.
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    Second Indo-China War

    Similar to Korea, Vietnam was split into North and South. The North supported Marxist ideas, and the South was anticommunist. The South had been supported by the French, but the U.S. replaced their support. This angered the North even more. The war was brutal, and many Vietnamese civilians were killed. In the end, the North won, and Saigon fell on April 30th, 1975.
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    Suez Crisis

    The Suez crisis was the first time that the Cold War had significant effects in the Middle East. Egypt wanted to nationalize the Suez Canal, which angered the British and French. This was the first time that the UN sent troops to deescalate a situation, and set many precedents for future crises.The crisis also forced the UK and France to realize that their influence was quickly diminishing, and showed that the U.S.was willing to set up alliances with dictators as long as they were anticommunist.
  • Sputnik Launched

    Sputnik Launched
    A major event in the Space Race (a subdivision of the arms race), Sputnik was the first satellite to be successfully launched into orbit. This showed that the USSR was technologically advanced, as it beat the U.S. to this feat. The U.S. saw this as an embarrassment, and ramped up their commitment to their space program.
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    Second Taiwan Strait Crisis

    Mao wanted to show the PRC’s superiority in form of government, and therefore planned to crack down on nationalists. This decision was after rising Sino-Soviet tensions, as Mao believed the soviets just wanted control over the PRC. Mao started bombing Taiwan on August 23rd, 1958.
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    Second Taiwan Strait Crisis (continued)

    The US was under the impression that the USSR knew exactly what Mao was doing, when this was not true. Khrushchev sent a letter to Eisenhower to tell him to not engage, that the USSR was in solidarity with the PRC. The crisis showed that the PRC had independence among the communist countries.
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    Congo Crisis

    The Congo Crisis stemmed from the Congo gaining its independence. It experienced many internal issues, and its first government had failed within the first two weeks of its creation. The UN sent intervention forces, while the USSR provided Lumumba weapons. The Congo Crisis established that the UN was able to send troops during civil unrest if the legitimate government of that area requested it.
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    Kennedy as President

    Kennedy was in office from 1961-1963. He played a major role in relations with Khrushchev. Most notably, how he handled the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was also known to have unpredictable policies.
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    Berlin Wall Constructed

    The open border between West and East Berlin led to many problems for East Berlin. Many skilled workers found jobs in the West with higher wages, and many West Berliners would come to east Berlin to but goods at the cheaper, government subsidized prices. Khrushchev wanted to separate states, but the Western powers declined. To stop people moving from east to West Germany, Khrushchev built a wall on the night of August 12th. The wall was an example of the idea of Brinksmanship.
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    Cuban Missile Crisis

    A period of 13 days, the Cuban Missile Crisis was caused by a buildup of weapons in Cuba only 100 miles from the U.S. The USSR assured US officials that the weapons were for defensive use only, but the rapid buildup of weapons concerned the US. The U.S. created a boat blockade around Cuba to prevent any more weapons entering the country. The ensuing days marked possibly the highest tension in the Cold War, during which many U.S. advisors argued that the U.S. drop nuclear bombs.
  • Sino-Soviet Split

    Sino-Soviet Split
    Starting in 1958, The PRC became increasingly independent of the USSR. Khrushchev stopped soviet nuclear programs in the PRC, which was attributed to soviet efforts to sign a test-ban treaty. Then, when conflict between India and China occurred on their borders, the USSR would not support the PRC.
  • Sino-Soviet Split (continued)

    Sino-Soviet Split (continued)
    This was because India was geopolitically important to the USSR, but Mao did not appreciate this. Both sides used harsher rhetoric in 1960 against each other. Khrushchev suspended funding to many projects in China and recalled advisors. The split was complete in 1963 when the USSR signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
  • Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

    Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
    An attempt at peaceful coexistence, the test ban treaty banned nuclear testing in space, underwater, and in the atmosphere. This agreement was between the U.S. and the USSR, and was somewhat a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
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    Brezhnev as Soviet Leader

    Brezhnev led the USSR from 1964-1982. Many see him as a leader who renewed Cold War tensions after a period of détente. This was mainly due to the Brezhnev doctrine. However, he appeared to soften USSR policies during SALT I and SALT II, but tensions were again heightened after the USSR invasion of Afghanistan under Brezhnev.
  • Brezhnev Becomes New Soviet Leader

    Brezhnev Becomes New Soviet Leader
    Khrushchev’s leadership came to an end after many soviets viewed his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis and Berlin Crisis as failures. In addition, the soviet standard of living had not increased as Khrushchev had promised. Leonid Brezhnev was then appointed the First Secretary, and he quickly reversed many of Khrushchev’s policies.
  • Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

    Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
    The US and the USSR found themselves on common ground when they both decided they did not want nuclear capabilities to spread to more countries. They wanted to keep the capabilities for those countries who could be “trusted to be rational actors.” The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty stopped the U.S. or USSR from sharing nuclear capabilities with any more countries.
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    Prague Spring

    Alexander Dubcek took control of Czechoslovakia and immediately announced liberalizing policies. He wanted to maintain socialism in Czechoslovakia, but “with a human face”. This included allowing freedoms of speech, press and movement. Brezhnev worried that this would cause a split in the Soviet Bloc, and that the socialist movement would fall apart. On August 20th, the USSR sent tanks into Czechoslovakia with other Warsaw pact countries. The Brezhnev doctrine was the result of this conflict.
  • Brezhnev Doctrine

    Brezhnev Doctrine
    A result of the Prague Spring, the Brezhnev Doctrine communicated that the USSR would ensure that any existing communist governments would not be overthrown by international or external powers. This Doctrine also worked to complete the Sino-Soviet split.
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    SALT I

    The first Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT I) froze the number of ballistic missile launchers. These talks also led to the signing of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which limited ABM systems that could exist. Finally, the two countries agreed that new submarine-launched missiles (SLBMs) could only be phased in as the older versions of SLBMS and intercontinental ballistic missiles were phased out.
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    Nixon as US President

    Nixon served from 1969-1974. He is known for his work in normalizing Sino-U.S. relations. He also had to work with Brexnhev to work towards détente, though he was not known for his negotiation abilities.
  • US-PRC Establish Relations

    Nixon travels to China to meet with Mao Zedong. China subsequently sent 2 pandas to the U.S., now known at “panda diplomacy”. The normalization in relations led to Sino-Soviet relations breaking down. The relations between the U.S. and China caused the Treaty of Friendship to lapse in 1979.
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    These talks followed SALT I and focussed on limiting the number of warheads that each power possessed to 2,250, along with prohibiting any new weapon programs. Both sides followed the terms set forth in the agreement, however the US Senate never officially ratified the agreement due to political concerns.
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    Angola Crisis

    The Angola crisis was a proxy war in Angola between three groups. The conflict began as the Angolan Civil War, before international powers got involved. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) was supported by the USSR, and a marxist party. The National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) was supported by the US, and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) was an offshoot of this group. All three were fighting for Angolan independence.
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    Jimmy Carter as U.S. President

    When Jimmy Carter was elected president, there was a shift in US priorities. Carter ran on a human-rights focussed agenda. Carter immediately condemned Guatemalan death squads. He also took harsher stances towards the USSR, citing human rights issues as the reason. This somewhat embarrassed the USSR, and cause some tensions to raise.
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    Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan

    In December 1978, the USSR agreed with Afghanistan to send assistance and advisors to Afghanistan to help them modernize. These forces were opposed by the Mujahideen. Amin became the new leader, and the USSR worried that he would try to take the country out of the Soviet Sphere and therefore lessening the USSR’s international influence in comparison to the US. In December 1979, under cover of the Brezhnev doctrine, the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan.
  • Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars)

    Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars)
    Also known as the Star Wars, the Strategic Defense Initiative was a massive increase in military spending by the U.S. It was a missile defense system that could protect the US from potential nuclear attacks. The announcement of the Strategic Defense Act worried the USSR.
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    Invasion of Grenada

    Along with other Caribbean Nations, the US invaded Grenada. The US quickly set up occupation. The US claimed that it was threatened by the Marxist Regime on the Island. The invasion upset the USSR.
  • Able Archer 83

    Able Archer 83
    This was a NATO military exercise that the Soviets interpreted as a true attack. This was prompted by Reagan withdrawing at the last moment. The USSR reacted by readying Warsaw Pact countries for conflict and preparing to send nuclear submarines to the U.S. The U.S. realized, somewhat belatedly, that the USSR interpreted the military exercise as a possible attack, and sent an envoy to calm the matter and explain that the U.S. way not attacking the USSR.
  • Reagan Doctrine

    Reagan Doctrine
    This was an aggressive doctrine on communism. The Reagan doctrine switched the US policy from containment of communism to rollback. This doctrine led to supporting anti-communist movements in Nicaragua and Afghanistan.
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    Gorbachev as Soviet Leader

    Gorbachev is said to be more or less the nail in the coffin for the USSR. His economic policies spelled disaster, and he reversed the Brezhnev doctrine. These changes led to protests and political movements in the soviet bloc countries that ultimately led to the dissolving of the USSR.
  • Chernobyl

    When a routine test of the power plant at Chernobyl led to a complete meltdown, vast amounts of radioactive particles were released. The USSR tried to cover the accident up, but winds had carried the radioactive particles throughout Europe. A plant in Sweden was the first to note higher than normal radiation. The Chernobyl disaster and attempted cover up was an embarrassment for the USSR.
  • INF Treaty

    INF Treaty
    A treaty between Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty banned these types of nuclear weapons in Europe. This occurred in Washington, when Gorbachev visited the US.
  • Sinatra Doctrine

    Sinatra Doctrine
    This policy announced by Gorbachev was known as the “Sinatra Doctrine” because it promised more peace and autonomy to countries in the Soviet Bloc. It followed the ideas of Frank Sinatra, that one should “follow their own path”.
  • Fall of Berlin Wall

    Fall of Berlin Wall
    In October, protests raged in East Germany, people wanted reforms. However, Honecker, East Germany’s leader at the time, refused to implement any social change, even after being encouraged by Gorbachev to do so. On December 1st, the East German government changed its constitution to allow other political parties.
  • Fall of Berlin Wall (Continued)

    Fall of Berlin Wall (Continued)
    Two days later, the government had fallen apart, and a provisional government was put in place until West and East Germany could be reunited. The wall fell on November 9th, 1989, and East Germany was incorporated into the FRG on October 3, 1990.
  • Fall of the Soviet Union

    Fall of the Soviet Union
    Warsaw pact countries progressively became more autonomous as the power of the USSR dwindled. Gorbachev was kidnapped in August 1991, and announced that Gorbachev was sick and could not govern. The kidnapping was meant to prevent the USSR from further dissolving, but it just resulted in protests across the country as people believed the cover-up was untrue.
  • Fall of the Soviet Union (Continued)

    Fall of the Soviet Union (Continued)
    The coup collapsed after three days. From August to September, ten republics declared themselves independent. The Commonwealth of Independent States replaced the USSR, with Russia the largest member.