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Outline of the Cold War

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The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Cold War:

Cold War – period of political and military tension that occurred after World War II between powers in the Western Bloc (the United States, its NATO allies and others) and powers in the Eastern Bloc (the Soviet Union and its allies in the Warsaw Pact). Historians have not fully agreed on the dates, but 1947–1991 is common. It was termed as "cold" because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two sides. Based on the principle of mutually assured destruction, both sides developed nuclear weapons to deter the other side from attacking. So they competed against each other via espionage, propaganda, and by supporting major regional wars, known as proxy wars, in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Participants in the Cold War[edit]

Cold War participants – the Cold War primarily consisted of competition between the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc. While countries and organisations explicitly aligned to one or the other are listed below, this does not include those involved in specific Cold War events, such as North Korea, South Korea, and Vietnam. It also does not include countries such as China which, while not aligned to either blocs, still played an influential part in the Cold War.

Eastern Bloc[edit]

Eastern Bloc – the communist side of the Cold War conflict, including the Soviet Union and its satellite states in Eastern Europe. Organizations that the Soviet Union created in order to solidify its control over Eastern Europe, and which tied the Eastern Bloc together, included:

Western Bloc[edit]

Western Bloc – the United States and countries allied with it against the Soviet Union and the rest of the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. As part of its Containment policy, the United States backed a series of regional alliances:

History of the Cold War[edit]

Main article: Timeline of events in the Cold War


Origins of the Cold War – the Cold war was a major part of the aftermath of World War II, and was caused by frictions in the relations between the Soviet Union and the allies (United States, United Kingdom, and France) that emerged during and after the Second World War.

Creation of organisations in response to the Cold War[edit]

Cold War organisations – throughout the Cold War a series of organisations were created to either further the goals of individual and groups of states, or to act as intermediaries in reducing the tension.

Key areas of competition during the Cold War[edit]

  • Nuclear arms race – competition for supremacy in nuclear warfare between the United States, the Soviet Union, and their respective allies during the Cold War.
  • Space Race – 20th-century competition between two Cold War rivals, the Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States (US), for supremacy in spaceflight capability. It had its origins in the missile-based nuclear arms race between the two nations that occurred following World War II, enabled by captured German rocket technology and personnel.
  • Cold War espionage
  • Cold War propaganda
  • Proxy wars

Cold War conflicts[edit]

Conflicts related to the Cold War – there were a number of conflicts during the Cold War, and none of them escalated to direct fighting between the superpowers (which would have constituted a hot war). Some of them were:

Proxy wars[edit]

Proxy wars of the Cold War – while the superpowers never engaged each other directly, they fought a series proxy wars throughout the period of Cold War, with one, or both sides arming or otherwise supporting one side against another.

Periods of heightened tension[edit]

US-USSR confrontations during the Cold War – while open conflict did not break out between the two superpowers during the Cold War, there were some very intense confrontations that seemed likely to trigger World War III. As the Cold War stretched on, the main concern became the possibility of a nuclear exchange—the ultimate fear characterizing East-West tensions. Some of these confrontations included:

  • Berlin Blockade (1948–1949) – while located wholly within the Soviet zone of Allied-occupied Germany after World War II, Berlin was not considered to be part of the Soviet zone. The major city (and former Nazi capital) was jointly occupied by the Allied powers and subdivided into four sectors. On 24 June 1948 to 12 May 1949, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies' railway, road, and canal access to Berlin. Not to be outdone, the Western Allies organized a massive air lift and flew up to 8,893 tons of necessities into the city each day.[1][2][3]
  • Berlin Crisis of 1961 – the USSR demanded the withdrawal of Western armed forces from West Berlin. After the West Bloc refused, the East German government put up the Berlin Wall to block traffic between the Western and Eastern sectors of Berlin.
  • Cuban Missile Crisis (October 16–28, 1962) – 13-day confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union concerning Soviet ballistic missile deployment in Cuba. Along with being televised worldwide, it was the closest the Cold War came to escalating into a full-scale nuclear war.[4]
  • Able Archer 83 (1983) – NATO exercise mistaken by parts of the Russian military as cover for an attack. The USSR responded by readying its forces for war.


End of the Cold War – While many observers state the 1989 Malta Summit was the end of the Cold War, it was December 1991 before the Presidents of the United States and the Soviet Union formally recognised the conflict's end, with the Soviet Union also being dissolved at that time. Some key events leading up to the end include:


Cold War foreign policy and diplomacy[edit]

Persons influential in the Cold War[edit]

Military personnel[edit]

National leaders[edit]

United States[edit]

Soviet Union[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Journey Across Berlin (1961). Universal Newsreel. 1957. Retrieved 22 February 2012. 
  2. ^ Air Force Story, The – Cold War, 1948–1950 (1953). Universal Newsreel. 1953. Retrieved 22 February 2012. 
  3. ^ Nash, Gary B. "The Next Steps: The Marshall Plan, NATO, and NSC-68." The American People: Creating a Nation and a Society. New York: Pearson Longman, 2008. P 828.
  4. ^ Len Scott; R. Gerald Hughes (2015). The Cuban Missile Crisis: A Critical Reappraisal. Taylor & Francis. p. 17. 

External links[edit]

Educational Resources