Cold War, the struggle for power and influence in the years after World War II between the Communist nations led by the Soviet Union (the East) and the Western allies headed by the United States (the West). Cold War tensions began to moderate in the 1960's, and a "thaw" was said to be setting in. In the 1970's, the phrase "Cold War" (coined by Bernard Baruch in 1947) generally fell into disuse, but the East-West rivalry continued, as did the conditions that caused it. The Cold War ended with the collapse of the eastern European Communist regimes in the late 1980's and the breakup of the Soviet Union into 15 independent countries in 1991.

The origins of the Cold War and the motives of its antagonists are the subject of much controversy among historians. There are three principal interpretations:

Highlights of the Cold War
1946-1948 Communists take over Eastern Europe.
1947 Truman Doctrine announced by United States.
1948-1949 Berlin blockade set up by Soviet Union.
1949 NATO pact signed by 12 countries.
1949 Communists win control of China.
1950-1953 Korean War--first use of UN troops in battle.
1953 Death of Stalin alters Cold War.
1955 Summit conference held in Geneva.
1960 Soviet Union downs U-2 spy plane.
1961 German Communists build Berlin Wall.
1961 Castro announces he is a Communist.
1964 United States bombs bases in North Vietnam.
1975 Communists win Vietnam War.
1979 Soviet Union invades Afghanistan.
1989 Communist rule comes to an end in several Eastern European countries.
1989 German Communists open Berlin Wall.