Cold War Timeline: A Different Kind of War

The threat of nuclear annihilation restrained the armed forces of the United States and the Soviet Union from directly confronting each other in battle. The closest call came in 1962, when the Soviet Union secretly placed offensive missiles with nuclear warheads in Cuba, and provoked an American naval quarantine that brought the two superpowers to the brink of war. For the most part, the superpowers fought by subverting unfriendly regimes or covertly arming surrogate forces. Both sides regularly provided military advisors to countries or factions they supported.

Even if the armed forces of the superpowers rarely confronted each other, they still saw plenty of action. The Red Army suppressed dissent in East Germany (1953), Hungary (1956), and Czechoslovakia (1968). It also fought a border war with China (1969) and invaded Afghanistan (1979). U.S. forces intervened in Korea (1950), Lebanon (1958, 1982), Vietnam (1961), the Dominican Republic (1965), Cambodia (1970), and Grenada (1983).

At other times the two countries sought common ground or mutual benefit, as when they signed the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty of 1963, shifting all nuclear weapons testing underground; or the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 1972, which restricted an entire class of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear DeterrenceControversy and OppositionAmerica's Wars in Vietnam


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