The Cold War was a pivotal era in United States history. It was the bitter battle between the United States and the Soviet Union that started immediately following World War II. During World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union were allies, but their relationship was tenuous. The United States was suspicious of Stalin and his communist government, while the Soviets resented the fact that the United States did not assist the Soviets in a timely manner when requested during World War II. The Soviets blamed the deaths of millions of Russians on the United States’ delay.

Tensions increased between these two superpowers, and the two countries grew to distrust each other. The Soviets pressed forward with their plan to take over the world with its communist ideologies, and the United States pressed forward with plans of containment, a policy to keep communism from spreading to other countries.

The relationship transformed into a bitter standoff that lasted from 1947 to 1991. This period was characterized by a series of events that would bring the world to the brink of war and potentially lead to the destruction of the world. Although the United States and the Soviet Union never fought each other directly, their political and ideological influences were the source of many conflicts during the Cold War era.

Interactive exercise. Assistance may be required. The Cold War lasted nearly 50 years, and during that time, there were several U.S. presidents. Scroll over each image in the timeline to learn more.

In this lesson, you will be able to describe the U.S. responses to Soviet aggressions during the Cold War. The following sections will examine issues and events that shaped the United States’ foreign and domestic policies regarding the Cold War.