Cold War Timeline

Timeline of Significant Events

1945 Yalta Conference
1945 Potsdam Conference
1947 Truman Doctrine
1947 Marshall Plan
1948 Berlin Blockade and Airlift
1949 Creation of NATO
1950 Korean War
1953 Stalin Dies, Malenkov Takes Over
1955 Malenkov Ousted, Khrushchev Takes Over
1955 Warsaw Pact Formed
1956 Hungarian Revolution
1956 Suez Crisis
1959 Cuban Revolution
1960 U-2 Incident
1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion
1962 Berlin Wall Construction
1962 Vietnam War Begins
1962 Cuban Missile Crisis
1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty
1964 Khrushchev Deposed, Brezhnev Takes Over
1968 Prague Spring
1972 SALT I Signed
1973 Vietnam War Ended
1973 U.S. Helps Overthrow Chilean Government
1973 Yom Kippur War
1975 Vietnam Unified
1978 Camp David Accord
1979 SALT II (not signed)
1979 Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan
1979 Iran-Iraq War Begins
1982 Brezhnev Dies, Yuri Andropov Takes Over
1983 Reagan Proposes Strategic Defense Initiative
1984 Andropov Dies, Konstantin Chernenko Takes Over
1985 Chernenko Dies, Gorbachev Takes Over
1986 Summitry
1989 Soviets Withdraw From Afghanistan
1989 Berlin Wall is Taken Down
1990 Boris Yeltsin Democratically Elected
1990 German Re-Unification
1991 Collapse of the Soviet Union

Summary of Events Prior to Yalta

Prior to the First World War, Russia could be characterized by its numerous political and national movements. The revolutionary and economic reforms that were established as a result of these movements were irreconcilable, however military strength was a prominent force on the side of the Soviet Union. During the civil war, the Bolsheviks were able to consolidate their power within Russia, surprising much of Western Europe and threatening the principles of democracy and capitalism. As a result of the Bolshevik victory, the Western nations sent aid to the "White" or anti-communist forces, but despite this, the Bolsheviks were able to retain their power. Some historians speculate that the Western nations support of the Whites may have been the start of the Cold War. This new government, being the first of its kind to employ socialist ideals, had a weak start because during this point in time, Russia was suffering badly from its losses in the First World War. In order to remove itself from the global conflict, the Russian government signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, allowing the Russian government to remove itself from an unpopular war but, at the same time, it portrayed the government having a weak resolve. The events which proceeded the signing of the Treaty are referred to as the Continental Revolution, as this is the point where international communist movements began to spread and disturb other national bodies. Further worsening their relationship with the West was the Soviet actions during this time period, as they gave massive support to the communist movements through the formation of Comintern, a governmental body which specifically dealt with the overthrow of capitalism in other nations.

After the passing of Lenin and the rise of Stalin, the Soviet Union began to employ the first of its infamous Five Year Plans in an attempt to catch up to the rest of the world industrially. The results of the First Five Year plan was appalling, being given the name the Homolodor or "Death by Starvation", where millions were left dead by starvation or were shot to death for various crimes. The Soviet government, fearing the creation of a "middle peasant" in Ukraine, began imposing harsh quotas upon the people to prevent the creation of a new class, stamp out nationalism in the people, and furthermore feed the people in the industrializing urban centers. Aside from starving to death, the peasants in the Ukraine were executed for various offenses such as: hiding food, moving from village to village without a passport, being a prominent family, et cetera. Also during this time period it was illegal to even mention famine in Ukraine. The brutality shown towards the Ukrainian people offended Western Nations, further deteriorating the relations between the Soviet Union and the Western World. During the Great Depression, the Soviet Union was economically stable, however in many of the Western Nations there was widespread political unrest and a bipolarization of the masses. The governments, attempting to stave off the extremist movements, ultimately ended up bringing the fascist movements and communist movements together. This uniting of fascist and communist movements would manifest itself in later agreements between the Soviet Union and Germany.

In 1922, the Soviet Union and the Weimar Republic joined forces and denounced the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and the treaties signed after the First World War in the Treaty of Rapallo. Also in the Treaty of Rapallo was the agreement for each side to help out the other economically, allowing each side to help the other rebuild from their losses, especially militarily (the Treaty of Rapallo allowed for a military build-up on each side). The Soviet Union was ultimately able to come out of isolation with the Treaty of Rapallo, and what the Western Nations feared worse then the spread of communism was an alliance between Germany and Russia, however events were conspiring in Germany that would ultimately prevent this. With the aid of Germany, the Soviet Union was able to bring itself up to superpower status militarily, however despite this there was no clear side that the Soviet Union was on. Over in Germany Hitler had risen to power and, under Lenbensraum wanted Soviet land to allow for the expansion of Germany, making the Soviet Union nervous. Further complicating the situation was the fact that Hitler denounced the Treaty of Rapallo, but when the Soviet Union turned to the West for an alliance the West didn't take the Soviet Union seriously, forcing the Soviet Union into signing an agreement with Hitler that would become known as the Soviet-Nazi Non-Aggression Pact.

In 1941 Hitler, after finishing off the French and English forces in France, set his sights on Russia as they were viewed as the pinnacle of Nazi hatred, they were Slavic, communist, and possessed fertile land that the Nazi's needed to expand into. The results of this hatred for Russia was the implementation of Operation Barbarossa, a widespread, 4 million man assault on the Soviet Union that was intended to defeat the Soviet Union in less than a year. After making much progress during the first year, the Soviet forces were able to hold off the German forces outside Moscow as the wniter set in. The German army, suffering from inadequate winter equipment and problematic supply lines were forced back a little bit during the winter, but when summer arrived they resumed their offensive. This new offensive was directed towards Stalingrad and the oil pipelines that the Soviet Union held, however after fighting in unfavourable conditions for a protracted period of time the Soviet forces were able to repel the German forces and were able to advance towards Berlin. Around this time, the Soviet, American, and British governments met in Tehran, Iran to discuss the opening of a second front, showing that by this time the Western Nations and the Soviet Union were able to set aside their differences to allow for the destruction of a common enemy. With the three nations working together the Allied forces were able to defeat the German armies and retake Europe.

IB colloquium
Social Studies Notes


Yalta Conference

The first major development of the Cold War was the Yalta Conference, an important conference held in the Crimea that intended to discuss the formation of the United Nations, the creation of new states (that had been previously Axis satellite states) under the principle of self-determination, the dismemberment of Germany into zones of occupation that the victorious nations could administer to, the reparations that were to be extracted from Germany, as well as war crimes, the new boundaries for nations, and a timetable for subsequent meetings. This conference was important as t set the stage for the development of the Cold War and allowed for the Soviet Union to make large territorial advances, effectively allowing for it to expand its influence over other nations.

Potsdam Conference

Following the events of the Yalta Conference, the Potsdam Conference showed the true start to the Cold War as relations between the two emerging superpowers began to deterorate. The contents of the Potsdam Conference were similar in spirit to the Yalta Conference, with the exception that in this case the specifics of the plan were nailed out, especialy when dealing with the German economy and the newly created zones of occupation. The Americans, now being in possession of the atomic bomb, viewed the Soviet Union as a minor threat at this point; and as such refused to make any more economical concessions towards them to aid in the reconstruction of the Soviet economy. Joseph Stalin, not being amused by this change in attitude, resumed his pre-war stance of the capitalist West, which then led to the decline in relations between the two superpowers.

Truman Doctrine

In order to prevent the Soviet Union from expanding its influences, President Harry Truman launched an aggressive foreign policy whose intent was to, quite simply, "free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures". This meant that the American government would send economic and even military aid to nations who were being threatened by outside influences, namely communist movements, despite the will of the people. Originally, this plan was intended for the communist movement in Greece, however after a short while this plan was applied to almost all nations suffering from a communist uprising or socialist movement. As a direct result of this plan, the American Secretary of Commerce Henry Wallace was removed from his post for being supportive of the Soviet Union and for being opposed to the Truman Doctrine.

Marshall Plan

If the Truman Doctrine were to be considered a book, then the Marshall Plan would be considered a chapter of that book as it carried forth the ideas of the Doctrine but was more European centered than Truman’s idea. Created by George Marshall, who was the Secretary of State at the time, this plan focused mainly on rebuilding the Western European economies, so as to prevent a popular discontent and eventually avoid a communist uprising in Europe. By promising aid to the weakened governments, the Americans were able to assert their viewpoints over much of Western Europe, who desperately needed the money to get back on their feet. As a result of the Marshall Plan, and more importantly the mindset of maintaining a balance of power, the Soviet Union offered their version of the Marshall Plan, Comecon, to the countries of Eastern Europe.

Berlin Blockade & Airlift

In 1948, the Soviet Union attempted to drive Western Influences from their foothold in Berlin through the implementation of a blockade, an event that would later become known as the Berlin Crisis, a move which increased global tensions and threatened the resumption of war in Europe. The first major cause of the crisis was the simple fact that each side had different views for Germany, the Western Nations wished to rebuild Germany and unify it to help in the reconstruction of Europe, while the Soviet Union wished for Germany to remain weak to prevent any future threat from them. This conflict of interest, when combined with the fact that the American government refused to send any more aid to the Soviet Union caused the Soviet Union to cut off access to the Berlin for the Western Powers. In response to the Soviet blockade, the American and British government’s airlifted supplies into Berlin, an operation that was known as Operation Vittles. The operation ended a year after the Soviet government called off the blockade (which was around year after the start of the blockade) in the hopes to let a surplus develop if the Soviet government attempted another blockade. During this event, there was the constant threat of a war breaking out between the two rival sides, making this a prime example of brinksmanship for the Cold War.

Creation of NATO

The last significant event of the 1940’s was the creation of NATO, an organization that consisted of the Western capitalistic powers whose common aim was peace in Europe and the containment of communism. After the civil war in Greece and the communist coup d’état in Czechoslovakia (which the Soviet government did not have a hand in but supported fully), the West became afraid of the expanding communist movements and as such began making a series of treaties to aid in their defense. Essentially, what this meant was that if the Soviet Union were to attack any member nation in NATO, it would be considered an attack on the whole organization and as such would result in the Soviet Union fighting against all of NATO. In response to the formation of NATO, the Soviet government would create their own military organization, the Warsaw Pact, to counter this treaty under the mindset of balance of power.


Korean War

The first major event of the 1950’s was the Korean War, which was one of the United Nations most successful missions in the repulsion of an aggressor nation, in this case being North Korea. With minor skirmishes between the North and South Koreans acting as a precursor to the war, the North Korean sent a massive offensive southward into South Korea with the hopes of unifying the two sides. Armed with Soviet weapons, the North Korean forces drove southward and conquered much of Korea; however with the aid of American forces the Southern army was able to march northward towards China. The Northern army then drew support from neighboring China and was then able to push the American forces back towards Seoul. This back and forth battle repeated itself for the duration of the conflict, with one side making territorial advances only to lose their ground when the enemy regrouped and surged them. In July, 1953, the conflict came to an end with little ground being exchanged and a large amount of destruction in the wake of the opposing sides. This conflict could be considered a proxy war between the Soviet Union and the Americans as it showed each superpower supporting a different side for dominance in the region. As a result of the conflict, SEATO was formed to prevent the spread of communism in Asia and the Sino-Soviet agreement was reached to prevent capitalism from spreading.

Nikita Khrushchev

After the death of Stalin in 1953, Gregory Malenkov became the leader of the Soviet Union for a brief stint until being ousted from power by Khrushchev in 1955 through a series of political maneuverings. Now at the helm of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev began to denounce the former ruler (Stalin and not Malenkov) and soon found himself facing an attempted oust from power by the very people who brought him there. In a move that was strikingly reminiscent to that of Stalin he removed his opponents from the Party to aid in the consolidation of his own power. During his rule Khrushchev began to gravitate towards a period of de-Stalinization (as it was called) through the relaxing of the grip of Moscow on the satellite states. However, in Hungary the leader began talking about the abandonment of the Warsaw pact and the implementation of democracy, and as such Khrushchev deployed the Red Army to help crush these new ideas. Also in the spirit of de-Stalinization were his attempts to ease censorship over the media, which resulted in the printing of critical pieces of literature, although critics to this move suggested that some of the books remained banned and as such was counter-productive. Khrushchev was also renowned for his efforts at peaceful coexistence with the Western Nations, easing in a period of relaxed tension during this segment of the Cold War. Other things that Khrushchev had accomplished in his early years was the removal of Molotov as foreign minister, the increased emphasis on consumer goods, and also closed down COMINFORM to help relax the relations with Yugoslavia. After the U-2 spy plane was shot down (for more information see below in the appropriate section); Khrushchev began to have a deteriorating relationship with the West once more, as seen through his attack on the United Nation’s presence in the Congo. After the Bay of Pigs invasion, Khrushchev began to deploy nuclear missiles to Cuba, as the United States government had already placed Jupiter missiles in Turkey, setting the stage for a dramatic stand-off between the two rival superpowers. The two leaders of the nations, Khrushchev and Kennedy, were able to reach an agreement where they could back down while still saving face, and furthermore this skirmish led to the installation of a hotline between Moscow and Washington. In 1964 Khrushchev would be forced into resigning by the Central Committee, allowing Leonid Brezhnev to take his place.

=Creation of Warsaw Pact

The Warsaw Pact, an alliance between the Soviet satellite states that was intended to prevent an attack from the Western Nations and acted to rival NATO on the Western side. Similar to NATO in the idea of collective defense, the Warsaw pact was used as a tool of the Soviet Union to exert its control over the other member nations. Despite its original purpose of maintaining influence over its member nations, the Warsaw pact was used by its members to bargain with and even threaten the Soviet Union lest the pact be dissolved. This alliance was created under the purpose of balance of power, as by this point in time the Western nations had already formed an alliance which meant that they held superiority over the Soviet Union.

Suez Crisis

Partway through his rule, Nasser began the construction of the Aswan Dam, believing that once constructed it would allow for greater agrarian production to take place. Due to the increasing ties with the Soviet Union (as seen through the weapons purchase with Czechoslovakia after the Western Nations refused to deal if the Egyptian government would not meet their stipulations), the United States government, under Eisenhower, withdrew its funds from the construction of the Aswan Dam, infuriating Nasser and setting forth a series of events that would result in a global crisis. In retaliation for Eisenhower’s decision, Nasser decided to nationalize the Suez Canal so as to increase revenue for the funding of the dam. This decision however had negative impacts on the major shareholders of the dam, namely people from France and Britain. Further complicating the situation was the growing fear that Nasser would form an Arab alliance that would inevitably result in the halt of Middle Eastern oil to the nations of Western Europe. This fear manifested itself in the formation of an alliance between England, France and Israel, who planned on preventing such an occurrence from happening through the use of armed force, which led to secret plans being developed for an assault on Egypt. On October 29th, 1956 these secret plans were implemented, which resulted in the Israeli invasion of Egypt and subsequent French and English invasions two days later. After only a few days of conflict, it became quite evident that this attack was unwarranted and on November 7th the French, English and Israeli governments agreed to withdraw their troops from the region.

Cuban Revolution

The last major event of the 1950’s was the Cuban revolution that resulted in the overthrow of the Batista dictatorship. In 1956, after mounting an unsuccessful attempt on one of the barracks on the island, Fidel and most of the other revolutionaries were captured and sent to prison or were killed, something which did not deter Fidel in his hopes to pry the American interests out of Cuba. After being released from prison for his revolutionary activities and furthermore after being exiled to Mexico, Fidel began to regroup his forces and trained an army in the hopes of taking back Cuba for the Cubans. On December 2nd, 1956 he and his fellow guerillas landed on Cuba, with only a few of the prominent leaders making it to the refuge of the mountains. Batista, attempting to crush the support for Fidel, began attacking towns that supported him, the results of which were an increasing support for Fidel and his movement. With this growing support for his rival Batista sent his armed forces into the mountain regions with the intent of settling the revolution once and for all, and so with the support of tanks and planes Batista’s men marched towards the mountains where Castro forced them to retreat. With the failure of the mountain campaign and after realizing that his defeat was imminent, Batista fled Cuba for Spain leaving Cuba open for Castro’s army, which easily took over the rest of the island.


U-2 Incident

The first major incident of the 1960’s was when the U-2 plane was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960, an event which would lead to a further deterioration in relations between the two superpowers that would not be restored for some time. While flying over the Soviet Union, the Soviet’s were able to shoot down and furthermore recover the American spy plane, to which the United States adamantly refused to acknowledge, further infuriating Khrushchev. As a result of the American’s action, a conference which has supposed to be held in Paris was cancelled by the Soviet Union, further increasing the tensions between the two superpowers.

Bay of Pigs Invasion

Also eluded to earlier but not fully explained was the Bay of Pigs Invasion that was staged by the Americans in an attempt to overthrow the newly established Castro regime and replace it with a pro-American regime. After the revolution, Castro had become intolerant, and after his policies crippled the upper and middle classes, there was a large-scale migration of people out of the country. Those who had differing viewpoints to Castro were imprisoned, and members of the government who publicly disagreed with him were often fired, creating a considerable list of people who were displeased with Castro. The American government, using tactics that were similar to the ones used in Guatemala, began taking covert actions to form an exiled government and began to make anti-Castro propaganda campaigns in Cuba to help rouse a popular discontent. Furthermore, the Americans planned to create an anti-Castro military network within Cuba to aid in the overthrow of Castro, and furthermore the assassination of Fidel. By taking in the aid of former Cuban mobsters, a plan was set in motion that would lead to the attempted assassination of Fidel. The original plan, an assault on Trinidad, was scrapped on the orders of Kennedy, and instead the Bay of Pigs was chosen to land the invading forces, a major fault that could have altered the course of the mission. Furthermore, the original plan, which had been to bomb the airfields with 16 B-26’s, was changed to have only 8 B-26’s, meaning less damage could be inflicted upon the target. Also failing was the attempt to have the Cuban army revolt, which was a key aspect in their plan to overthrow the regime, and was supposed to be done through the broadcasting of propaganda from a small island near Cuba. After three days, the entire invading force of Cubans was defeated and captured, meaning that the whole operation was a failure, and furthermore led to a change in tactics by the CIA, who instead focused more on economic attacks than physical ones.

Berlin Wall Constructed

In 1961 the Berlin Wall was constructed largely as a result of the increasing amount of East Germans escaping into West Berlin or West Germany (approximately 2.6 million of the 17 million citizens from 1949 to 1961). Construction of the wall began the 12th of August when the order was given to erect a barricade to prevent a crossing over into West Berlin. Teams of workers soon arrived at the walls location and began making makeshift barricades to stop the initial waves of immigrants from crossing over. By August 16th, work began on an actual wall made out of concrete to prevent people from crossing, employing border guards to prevent any citizen from attempting to make their way between the two sides. Only six days after the concrete wall was constructed, the first person attempted to cross from East Berlin into West Berlin and was promptly shot by the border guards. This did not discourage people however, as numerous other attempts were made to get across the border, with varying degrees of success. With the Soviet desire to keep Eastern Germany weak and with the prosperous Western Germany lying right next door, the mass exodus showed that the Soviet style of governance was wholly unpopular and furthermore showed the Soviet Union that the Western nations could easily lure those in the Eastern bloc away from communism. This mass migration was extremely detrimental to the East Germans as this resulted in the loss of many skilled workers, something which could not be stood for, thus in order to prevent the loss of any more people the decision came to physically block the pathways into Western Germany and West Berlin. It should be noted that during this event, the Soviet government was originally opposed to the construction of the wall, however after much goading by the East German government the Russian government allowed for its construction.

Vietnam War

Changing the looking glass over to Indochina, the French were beginning to withdraw their forces form Vietnam after suffering a critical military defeat at one of their mountainous outposts. The French government decided to sever their ties with Indochina, and after this move the political climate began to shape Vietnam in the following years. After being divided into North and South Vietnam along the seventeenth parallel, the North side became increasingly communist, and as such the Southern side became supported by the American government (for fears that when the two sides were unified once again after the elections would make the country entirely communist). The American regime, which had suppressed the people rights from its conception, managed to convince the American government that an attack from the North was imminent and that aid should be sent to aid in the combat. Not seeing Diem as a fit leader however, the Americans began to rethink their Vietnamese policies during a time when the communist North was trying to place political pressure on the weakened government. Seeing that this was not working the North Vietnamese government then gave the okay to the revolutionary groups to use violence to bring about the unification of the country. This attacking revolutionary group, named the National Liberation Front, consisted of both communist and non-communist forces, indeed their common chord among its members was the dislike for the current Diem government. The American government, after sending advisors to Vietnam and taking into account the opinions of those who were in Washington, sent limited aid to the Diem government in the hopes that it would suffice for the current situation (the Washington perspective and Vietnamese perspective were greatly different, so this was seen as the middle ground in this situation). With widespread disapproval with the Diem regime becoming more apparent, Kennedy and his staff began to make other plans for Diem, he instead allowed for the military overthrow of Diem, who later was assassinated after the military takeover was complete. After the incident at the Gulf of Tonkin, where an American ship was purportedly sank by the North Vietnamese, the American administration, under Johnson, approved for the deployment of American soldiers to Vietnam to fight the communist forces. The Vietnamese, not counting for American intervention in the conflict, redrew their strategy for winning the war, which was going to be through the implementation of guerilla tactics, and eventually tire the Americans out. On the home front, the American public grew dissatisfied with the war effort in Vietnam, and soon the Johnson administration was coming under fire from the anti-war activists. With the mounting casualties and limited success, President Johnson declined to be re-nominated for President and furthermore suggested that he go and bargain with the North Vietnamese forces. Before any definitive agreement was arranged however, Richard Nixon won in the election and decided to move ahead with a widespread bombing campaign in Vietnam, a move which the American public greatly disapproved. This renewed effort at defeating the communists was wasted however, and by 1973 the Nixon administration was brought to the bargaining table and eventually agreed to withdraw their forces.

Cuban Missile Crisis

Coming Soon... Notes on the Cuban Missile Crisis

Partial Test Ban Treaty

Also in 1963, the Partial Test Ban Treaty was signed by the American and Soviet governments, prohibiting the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, in space, underwater, or in any other environment where the radiation could go into the atmosphere. This treaty, which had an unlimited lifespan, was an important event of the Cold War as it showed each side coming to the table to work for a common good, namely the disarmament of each side’s nuclear arsenal.

Leonid Brezhnev

After Stalin died and Khrushchev was able to rise to power, Brezhnev was sent to Kazakhstan to rule as he was viewed as a minor threat to Khrushchev. In 1964 however, after ousting Khrushchev from power, he was able to secure his position at the helm of the Soviet Union, where he introduced the policy of the Brezhnev Doctrine, whereby he gave justification to support any failing communist state in the world if it was needed by the communists. This policy would have many consequences later on in the history of the Soviet Union. He would remain in power until his death in 1982, where he was replaced by the next leader of the Soviet Union, Yuri Andropov and later Konstantin Chernenko.

Prague Spring

The final major event of the 1960’s was the events that occurred during the Prague Spring incident where the Soviet Union crushed an uprising in Czechoslovakia as a result of the Brezhnev Doctrine. Originally, this movement began when the Czech government, in a similar manner to their Hungarian counterparts, began to relax their control over the populace and moved farther away from the far left position of the Soviet Union. This movement, adopting the slogan “Socialism with a Human Face” was promptly put down by Soviet Union and their tightly controlled way of life resumed for the people of Czechoslovakia.


Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty I

To get the ball rolling in the 70’s, the first major event that had occurred was the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (SALT I) in 1972, an incredibly important document which was the first step in a series of many which resulted in the gradual reduction in nuclear arms. This monumental agreement showed a reduction in tensions which had began to occur since Khrushchev was in power and would pave the way for better relations between the two superpowers and allowed for a greater sense of diplomacy between the two nations. This treaty, which limited the production of anti-ballistic missiles and other such weapons, only had a five year lifespan, and soon after its conception talks were underway for a second treaty.

Vietnam War Ends

The following year, the Nixon administration finally accepted defeat in the Vietnamese conflict (which by this point had expanded to include Cambodia as it was viewed as a safe haven for the Vietnamese), ending the major American proxy war. This defeat, which flew in the face of the fear of the Domino Theory, was a major setback to the American administration as it sowed the government’s ineptitude and furthermore resulted in the creation of the Revisionist viewpoint on the Cold War, which was quite critical of the American government.

Overthrow of Chilean President

Also occurring in 1973 was the United States government sponsored overthrow of Chilean President Allende, who was a socialist leader in South America. After the Marxist victory in Chile, Nixon became infuriated, and after going through a few plans the American government resorted to economic sabotage and the sponsoring of General Augusto Pinochet, a brutal dictator who would rule Chile for 17 long years. The justification for such a move, which essentially violated the will of the majority, something which the United States advocated, was the fear that communism spreading to one country would mean that it would spread to many others, resulting in the fall of capitalism. Also worrisome to the United States was the fact that this socialist movement was occurring in South America, a region that was largely viewed as being in the American sphere of influence.

Yom Kippur War

To round off the year of 1974, the Yom Kippur War, or rather the attack on Israel by Syrian and Egyptian forces occurred, plunging the Middle East into yet another conflict. Since the creation of the Jewish state, the neighboring Arabic nations surrounding Israel have been staunchly opposed to Israel, and as such there have been numerous conflicts between the Jewish and Arab worlds. In the Yom Kippur crisis, the Syrians began to launch an offensive into Israel from the North while they were worshipping, all the while Egypt was moving in for an offensive against Israel from the South in a desperate bid to retake the East side of the Suez canal. After the initial victories of the Arab forces, the Israeli forces were able to regroup and counter the assault, eventually advancing into the enemy’s territory and making major gains on each front. The United Nations was brought in near the end of this conflict to attempt to broker a peace between the two sides, although the major negotiations were made at the Camp David accord, which will discussed further on.

Vietnam Reunification

Two years after the American withdrawal from Vietnam, the North Vietnamese forces were able to overcome the South Vietnamese forces, unifying the Pacific nation and effectively showing the triumph of communism over capitalism in this situation. Despite all the American involvement in the region, the Domino Theory proved to be somewhat correct and communism was able to spread a little but farther into Southeast Asia, thus delivering a damaging blow to the American government for their failure at containing communism.

Camp David Accord

As mentioned earlier, the Camp David Accord, occurring in 1978, was a major step forward in the conflict between the Syrian, Egyptian, and Israeli forces that had been fighting for a few years. After first recognizing the major conflicts in the Middle East over the previous 30 years and stating the intentions of bringing peace to the region, the Accord moves on to state what would happen to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and furthermore what would happen to the participants in the conflict. This peace settlement, which intended to bring peace in the Middle East, ultimately failed to do so, as seen by the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip.

Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty II

After the signing of the first SALT agreements, talk was already being made for the creation of a second limitation treaty, and although this treaty was never ratified by the United States Congress, the spirit of this treaty still stood. The main aim of this agreement was to limit the amount of strategic missiles that each side possessed, as well as bombers and other associated vehicles required for their firing. However, despite the progress that had been made in the relations between the two nations, the invasion into Afghanistan by the Soviet Union jeopardized and ultimately caused the treaty to be abandoned, damaging the relationship that had been building between the two nations (although by no means returning things to the way they were before détente).

Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan

While still remaining on the topic of the Afghan Invasion on the SALT II agreement, the causes and effects of this invasion should also be discussed as this event was important in the development of the Cold War. There were three main causes for the invasion, first and foremost, under the Brezhnev Doctrine the Soviet government was supposed to help struggling communist governments rise to power, which was a major concern in Kabul as most of their support came through the military. Also contributing to the decision was the fact that the Soviet Union wanted to expand southward toward the oil reserves in the Gulf, something which was considered vital to the Soviet economy. Regardless of their reasons however, forces were deployed to reinforce the communist regime in Kabul, a move that would result in nothing but thousands of deaths and a weakening of the Soviet Union by the time it was finished. As with the American proxy war in Vietnam, the rebel army used mainly guerilla tactics, bogging down the Soviet army and forcing them into a protracted war in which there was no hope in winning, especially because of the fact that there enemy was receiving aid from nations such as Britain and the United States, not to mention Saudi Arabia who infused vast amounts of money into Afghanistan due to petro-dollar Islam. After much political pressure and a decade of little progress, the Soviet Union was forced into resigning from the conflict, leaving the weakened Kabul regime to fend for itself and lose its grip to the mujahedeen fighters. One of the most important effects of the Soviet invasion was the weapons and hardware supplied to the mujahedeen fighters were then used in the ongoing conflict with the United States, returning Afghanistan to a battle against a militarily superior enemy.

Iran-Iraq War

To round of the decade, the final event that occurred that is worth discussing would be the war between Iran and Iraq, as although the superpowers were not directly involved aid was sent to the opposing forces that would eventually result in a scandal. The entire conflict started largely as a result in a conflict over the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, however, the fact that Iran was Shi’a and fundamentalist while the Iraqi government is Sunni and secular, creating a bit of tension between the two opposing sides. Further exacerbating the situation was the Iranian attempt to undermine the Iraqi government by trying to pit the Shi’a majority against the government, a move which resulted in the Iraqi government shaping up their military. As a result of this conflict, each nation’s oil exports were reduced drastically as each side bombed the enemy’s pipelines and oil refining equipment. Along with the economic toll, each side suffered a great deal of casualties as a result of the fighting, with some estimates pegging the death toll at well over 100,000 casualties per side. Neither side really one the conflict, as after the fighting began Iraq’s major partner, the Soviet Union, withdrew its support for Iraq, leaving this country to fight for itself. More information regarding the scandalous events of the conflict will be presented at a later time.


Yuri Andropov

The first of the major events of the 1980’s were the major changes of power that occurred in the Soviet Union shortly after the death of Leonid Brezhnev. His successor, Yuri Andropov, advocated for the reform of the Soviet system, although it is debatably if he would have followed through with his plans for change, as before he could set anything in motion he passed away only a few years after taking power.

Strategic Defense Initiative

During Andropov’s ascendency to power, President Ronald Reagan proposed his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) which was supposed to act as a protection system that could destroy incoming enemy missiles. Although this plan eventually failed, it achieved a greater purpose as it further bogged down the Soviet economy and showed the inability of the Soviet system to keep up with the Americans, as by this point the Soviet Union did not have the money or technology to compete with the American space program.

Konstantin Chernenko

After Yuri Andropov passed away, his successor was named and Konstantin Chernenko ascended to power in the Soviet Union. After being passed over for the position when Yuri Andropov came to power, Chernenko was not afforded enough time to implement any real policy in the Soviet Union as, just like his predecessor, he passed away a only a year after coming to power, setting the stage for the rise of Gorbachev.

Iran-Contras Affair

Taking another brief pause from the changes in power within the Soviet Union, right before Chernenko passed away and Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, the United States government faced a major scandal that involved the warring Iranians and Iraqis. In the Iran-Contras scandal in 1985, the United States government, under Reagan, sold weapons and hardware to the Iranians government, the Iranians needing weapons to fight off the Iraqi forces and the United States requiring the money to fuel the Contras in Nicaragua. The problem that lies in this little situation was the fact that the Iranians were openly hostile to the Americans, and more importantly Congress had prohibited sending any aid to the Contras forces, and as such there was an investigation into the event. This investigation concluded that many higher ups in the government had known and fostered the deal, but no evidence was obtained which implicated the President in the situation. As a result of this investigation, those who were involved were charged and imprisoned for disobeying the Congress; however under the Bush (Senior) administration those who were convicted had their sentences pardoned.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Retuning once more to the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev ascended to power in 1985, and as a result of his ascension he forced the older party hardliners to resign from their posts so that they could be replaced with more liberal people. He also saw that the Soviet system suffered greatly from corruption and made it one of his personal goals to root out and removed the corruption from the system. To further the overhaul of the existing structure (perestroika) Gorbachev advocated for the implementation of market reforms as well as more openness with the people (glasnost), something which he had hoped to use to remedy the economic situation in the Soviet Union, although these initiatives did not work out as planned. Gorbachev was instrumental in the collapse of the Soviet Union, and it was believed that he had intentionally done what he had done to minimize the impacts of the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, he refused to use tanks to control his Eastern European brethren and granted them more freedom, a move which resulted in the dissolution of the Soviet empire. As a final note it should be stated that due to his reforms Gorbachev became widely unpopular with the masses and the communist party members, which reached its peaks during the information boycott and coup d’état respectively. During the coup, which occurred near the end of Gorbachev’s rule, the party hardliners trapped Gorbachev in the Crimea and assumed control of the Soviet Union to prevent Boris Yeltsin from rising to power. This plan, which had moderate success in the beginning, lost steam fast and soon those who had joined the coup found themselves trying to make amends to Gorbachev near the events conclusion. Despite their attempt to maintain power, Boris Yeltsin was able to rise to power and many of those who had joined the coup ended up committing suicide after the failure.


During Gorbachev’s rule of the Soviet Union, there was increased sense of summitry between the two superpowers that resulted in a few more treaties being signed, namely the ICBM and INF treaties. These treaties, which were significant in that they actually called for a reduction in weapons as opposed to the mere limitation of them, and furthermore resulted in the reduction of military within the Soviet Union. These treaties, originating from the original meeting at Reykjavik, were a major step forward for the two superpowers as they moved towards the abolition of nuclear weapons and the maintenance of international security.

Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Further showing his devotion to achieving international peace and security, or possibly removing the Soviet Union from a bad position both domestically and internationally, General Secretary Gorbachev removed the Soviet forces from Afghanistan, ending the decade of death and destruction and finishing off the major Soviet proxy war. This end to the conflict resulted in a greater relaxation in tensions between the two superpowers and effectively ended the Afghani communist regime, which survived for a little while after the Soviet withdrawal but eventually succumbed to the mujahedeen fighters. This would end up being the last of the Soviet Unions military campaigns into foreign lands.

Berlin Wall Falls

The final event of the 1980’s would be the destruction of the Berlin wall, a symbolic event which represented the beginning of the end of the cold war as each side began tearing down their walls and accepting the other side and the division between Eastern and Western Europe ending. This event was also symbolic of the end of the division between East and West Germans, allowing each side to come together in the newly unified state. It should also be noted that around this time period Poland and Hungary was able to break from the Soviet Union, spelling the end of the Soviet Union.


Boris Yeltsin Elected President of Russia

In 1990, Boris Yeltsin was elected President of Russia in the first free Russian election, and as the newly emerged leader of the Russian Republic he faced the task of finishing what Gorbachev had started, the breaking apart of the Soviet Union into its base countries and bringing the Russian economy out of the slump it was in. Among his other achievements he was able to aid in the unification of Germany, which will be discussed next, and the end of the Warsaw Pact, effectively signaling the end of the Cold War.

German Reunification

Also occurring in 1990 was the removal of the East German state in favour of a more unified Germany, an event which resulted largely from the overwhelming support for such a decision in the German parliament. The Eastern side of Germany, which had been largely crippled while under Soviet rule, was barely able to hold on economically near the end of its existence; however it was able to achieve the similar economic miracle that West Germany achieved after the war and was able to rebound economically.

Soviet Union Collapses

With the return of the German state, only one event remains to be discussed, namely the complete dissolution of the Soviet empire and the Warsaw pact. Shortly after Poland and Hungary left the group, Lithuania became an independent state, after which in 1991 the rest of the countries within the Soviet Union left, ending the Cold War and the Warsaw pact and allowing us to move towards a greater cooperation of nations, as seen through Russia supporting the Americans and the United Nations in their efforts in the Gulf Coast.

Coming Soon...
Information on the Cuban Missile Crisis
Major Editing in each Section
Reuested topics (if any)