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In 1983, American President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” He talked about the ways that the Soviet government stopped its people from going to church, locked up people who didn’t like the country’s leaders, took away people’s choices, used its power to control the countries of Eastern Europe, and tried to spread communism around the world.

Reagan described the fight between the East and West as a war between good and evil and said that communism would someday end up in the “ash heap of history.”

Reagan’s complaints about the Soviet Union were all at least partly true. But all countries and governments have done things that turn out to be bad, including the United States. Although the people of the Soviet Union may have lived in fear, Soviet schools were good and more people in the Soviet Union could read than anywhere else in the world. While Americans voted and had the Bill of Rights, racism was an ongoing problem.

Clearly, no country is perfect, but was there something especially wrong with communism and the Soviet Union? Was President Reagan right about that place and time in history? Was the Soviet Union actually an evil empire?


During the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union tried to outdo the other with bombers, missiles, ships, and guns.  The Kitchen Debates of 1959 were different. They were one of the only times the leaders of the two great countries actually met to debate face to face.

In 1959, the Soviets and Americans had agreed to hold exhibits or shows in each other’s countries to try to help their people understand each other. The Soviet exhibit was in New York and the American exhibit in Moscow.  Over 450 American companies had provided things they made to show what life in the United States was like. Over 450 American companies had provided things they made to show what life in the United States was like. 

Vice President Richard Nixon went to Moscow when the American show opened and took Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev on a tour of the exhibit. The Kitchen Debate is the name that is given to their conversations at these tours.  The American exhibit had many new inventions, like televisions, refrigerators and dishwashers, that few Soviet homes had.  In front of the news cameras Nixon tried to convince Khrushchev that the capitalist, or free market system was better than communism.  Clearly the exhibit showed the good things that competition could bring to regular people. Nixon said that the Soviets should “not be afraid of ideas.” 

Khrushchev was not impressed. He said that the Soviets would have all of the same things in a few years. He argued that the Soviets built things to last for many years. It is true that ever since the 1920s, the United States was, more and more, turning into a consumer-driven economy in which new inventions were being replaced often. Just think of the pace at which companies like Apple or Samsung produce phones that make last year’s model old. This is not always good, but Khrushchev’s claim that building things to last for many years was not great either. The Soviet model of building for the future often meant boring, gray concrete buildings and science that Americans thought of as old-fashioned.

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Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Vice President Richard Nixon at the Kitchen Debate.

In the United States, three major television channels showed the Kitchen Debate. Some people thought it was just a political show, but many people were impressed with Nixon, and how he argued with the Soviet leader. The debates made Nixon more famous, and helped him become the Republican presidential candidate the next year. 

In the end the Kitchen Debate did not change the opinions of leaders on either side of the Iron Curtain. It did, however, show how different capitalism and communist were, and how different the lives of the people who lived with these two systems were. 

Although leaders in the Soviet Union were not about to become a free market economy or democracy, the same could not be said for the people of Eastern Europe. They were unhappy and there were revolutions in both Hungary and Czechoslovakia.


Soviet premier Joseph Stalin had said “Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach.” When the Soviet Army marched across Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, Stalin’s dream of growing communism became real. When the war ended, the Soviets set up communist governments in the puppet states of the Eastern Bloc. Like the American army, which stayed in West Germany, Soviet soldiers stayed in East Germany and the Warsaw Pact countries of the East. But having Soviet soldiers and communism in their countries did not make the people of the Eastern Bloc happy.

The Hungarian Uprising of 1956 was a revolt against the government of Hungary and the laws the Soviet Union made them follow. It was the first major attack on Soviet control since the Red Army drove the Germans out of Hungary at the end of World War II.

The revolt began as a protest by thousands of students who marched through the capital city of Budapest. When some of the students entered the radio building to try to broadcast the student’s ideas for change, the government police attacked them. One student was killed. As the news of what had happened spread, violence broke out throughout the country.

The revolt took the Hungarian communist leaders by surprise and they lost control of the country. A new government got rid of the old communist leaders and their police, said it would leave the Warsaw Pact, and promised free elections. Things settled down in Hungary and began to return to normal.

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A Soviet T-54 tank on the streets of Budapest during the crackdown against the Hungarian Uprising.

At first the Soviets said it would take its soldiers out of Hungary, but Soviet leaders changed their minds and moved to stop the revolution. A large Soviet army entered Hungary. The Hungarians fought back for a week before being crushed by the Soviet invasion. Over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed, and 200,000 Hungarians left the country. A new Soviet-backed, communist government returned and stopped all public protests. They arrested thousands of people who had been part of the first rebellion and passed laws to stop people from even talking about what had happened.


About ten years after the failed Hungarian Revolution, the government of another member of the Eastern Bloc briefly fought against Soviet rule. The Czechoslovakian government began to open up the economy and political system. This short period was called the Prague Spring, named for the country’s capital city.

The Soviets did not like these changes and sent half a million Warsaw Pact soldiers and tanks into Czechoslovakia to force the government there to go back to Soviet-style communism. Across the country, people worked against the Soviets. They painted over and turned street signs to confuse the Soviets. They broke laws and one protester, Jan Palach, set himself on fire in Prague’s Wenceslas Square to protest for freedom of speech. While the Soviet army had thought that it would take four days to take over the country, the resistance held out for eight months.

In the end, however, the hope for real change was crushed by the Soviet army. It would be another 20 years before the people of Czechoslovakia enjoyed basic rights.


In the case of the revolutions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union had to use its army to get what it wanted. Normally, however, in the Soviet Union and the world’s other communist countries, the government used fear and surveillance, or spying, to control the people.

In most dictatorships, both communist and non-communist, the normal police departments are helped by the secret police. In the Soviet Union, the secret police were called the KGB. In East Germany, they were known as the Stasi, in China as the Juntong, and in North Korea as the State Security Department. No matter what they are called, they all work the same way. The people of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, Vietnam, Cuba and North Korea knew they were being watched, that the secret police were listening to their phone calls, reading their mail, and keeping track of where they traveled, where they shopped, and who they talked to. If they did something the government didn’t like, they knew the secret police would find out.

To protect themselves, people promised the secret police that they would keep an eye on their neighbors. After the Cold War ended, historians read the Stasi’s files and found that almost every person in East Germany had been so afraid of the secret police that they had promised to tell them about the neighbors.

If the secret police thought that someone was planning a protest, sharing information that would hurt the government or trying to leave the country, that person would be arrested, tortured, put in jail or killed. People in the communist world were afraid of the “midnight knock of the secret police.”  They heard about family members and friends who had just disappeared. 

Most secret police forces had a system of secret camps or jails for these political prisoners. In China, this system was called Laogai which means “reform through labor.” In reality, reform meant punishment. Prisoners who were let out were a warning to their friends and family of the power of the government. 

The most famous of all labor camps in the communist world, however, were the Gulags of the Soviet Union.


The Gulag was started by Vladimir Lenin right after he took over Russia and turned it into the Soviet Union.  It was a collection of forced labor camps. The camps held a wide range of prisoners, from regular criminals to people who had worked against Lenin and the communist government. Large numbers of people were sent to the Gulag without a trial by groups of three government judges called troikas. The Gulags reached its peak during Joseph Stalin’s rule when more than 100,000 people were sent to the Gulags.

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Prisoners in the gulag system work to build a canal.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature, survived eight years in the Gulag and made the camps famous with his book “The Gulag Archipelago” in 1973. The author compared the camps to an archipelago, a chain of islands, and he wrote about the Gulags as places where people worked to death. Most of the people who entered the Gulag did come out alive but being alive did not mean a return to normal life. Former prisoners were usually not allowed to move into large cities or see their families again.  Even after they were released, the government was still afraid their ideas might spread.  


After the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States and the Soviet Union took a step back from the edge of war and leaders on both sides decided that the arms race, space race, and always acting like they were about to go to war was not smart. By the early 1970s, the two countries had started to lower the chance of war and work together in science and culture. This time is known by the French word Détente.

The leaders most involved with Détente were President Richard Nixon and his National Security Advisor Dr. Henry Kissinger. They did not think of the Cold War as a moral struggle about good and evil. Both of them saw the world and the fight between the United States and Soviet Union in terms of realpolitik.  That is, they thought the fight between East and West was about what each side needed and could get. Both superpowers had needs such as security, ports and raw materials, allies, honor.  Nixon and Kissinger thought that the capitalist and communist countries could share the world so long as leaders found ways for both sides to get what they needed.

The most clear example of Détente were meetings held between the leaders of the two superpowers and the treaties, or agreements, that came from these meetings. Among these agreements were the Partial Test Ban Treaty which ended all nuclear tests in the air, underwater or in space. Only tests underground were allowed. Later, the Outer Space Treaty banned nuclear weapons in space, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty slowed the spread of nuclear weapons.

While Kennedy and Johnson in the 1960s did their part to or lessen the Cold War, most of the Détente treaties happened after Nixon became president in 1969. The United States and Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) in 1972. This treaty limited each country’s total number of nuclear weapons, ending the arms race. In the same year that SALT I was signed, the Biological Weapons Convention and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty were also signed. To follow up on their work, the two countries began working on a second treaty to limit nuclear weapons, known as SALT II.

In 1975, the leaders of the major countries in both the East and West met and produced the Helsinki Accords, which dealt with many topics. The Soviet Union had started the discussion and the agreement was signed by 35 countries from Europe and North America. The accords were a big political win for Leonid Brezhnev, the new leader of the Soviet Union, because the United States promised to respect the borders of the countries of Eastern Europe. However, the accords also said countries must respect human rights, something the communists were not known for, and the West often pointed to the agreement when criticizing the secret police in the Soviet Union and other communist countries.

Détente went beyond politics and weapons. In July of 1975, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project became the first international space mission when three American astronauts and two Soviet cosmonauts connected their spacecraft. To prepare, American and Soviet engineers from NASA and the Soviet space agency had worked together for five years.

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The famous handshake between American astronaut Gibson and Soviet cosmonaut Dezhurov after their two capsules successfully connected.

A lot more trade was done between East and West during the years of Détente. One of the most important was the large amount of wheat sent from America to the Soviet Union each year, which the Soviet Union needed because their large government farms were not able to grow enough food. Even as the United States stood ready with nuclear weapons to defend against Soviet attack, American farmers were feeding the people of their worst enemy.

President Nixon and Dr. Kissinger were excited to find ways to manage the Cold War, but in the Soviet Union, Détente was seen differently. Leonid Brezhnev, the leader of the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1982, wanted to use this quiet period to get the Soviet Union ready to grow. In 1979, he ordered an attack on Afghanistan, one of the Soviet Union’s southern neighbors. Like all other foreign attacks into this huge country of mountains, the Soviets failed.  But the Soviet attack on Afghanistan was a big reason President Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980, chose to end Détente.

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Soviet Primer Leonid Brezhnev and President Richard Nixon


As old colonies became independent after World War II, the Third World started to appear in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. This became a major battleground of the Cold War as the United States and the Soviet Union tried to spread their ideas to these countries. Across the Third World, the two superpowers faced off in many proxy wars

We’ll begin with Latin America. The United States had a long and often bad relationship with its southern neighbors. The Monroe Doctrine told European nations not to get involved in Latin America while the Roosevelt Corollary said that the United States would. America had taken half of the land of Mexico at the end of the Mexican-American War of the 1840s, taken Puerto Rico after the Spanish-American War, and had interfered in Cuba, Panama, and the various banana republics of Central America even before the Cold War began.

It was mostly about business. Americans wanted land for coffee, sugar and fruit plantations in Central America and the Caribbean. But the Cold War changed the rules of the game. The United States no longer needed to support governments that would be okay with American businesses Now, the most important thing was that Latin American leaders fight communism.

The United States began to support strongmen, who were bad to their people, violated human rights and made themselves rich.  Fulgencio Bautista of Cuba and Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic were two of the worst. While some Americans did not like this, leaders in Washington who liked the idea of containment and believed in the Domino Theory thought it was necessary.

Another Latin American country affected by the Cold War was Chile.  For many years Chile had been a model in South America of good, democratic government. Elected presidents had held office and turned over power peacefully. The army stayed out of politics.

That changed in 1973. The new president, Salvador Allende tried to make changes that were very similar to changes communist leaders had made in other places. Cuba’s Fidel Castro visited Chile and supported Allende. But Allende was different in that he did not want a revolution. He believed in working slowly through elections. In normal times the United States might have ignored Allende, but in the middle of the Cold War the CIA saw Allende as a dangerous example. If Chile took a peaceful path away from capitalism, other nations might want to do the same.

Augosto Pinochet, the commander-in-chief of the Chilean army led a coup and took power from Allende. Although the United States had not helped Pinochet, the CIA knew what Pinochet was planning. Pinochet correctly thought that if the CIA did not try to stop him, they also wanted to get rid of Allende.

Allende shot himself just before being taken prisoner by Pinochet’s soldiers. Pinochet went on to rule Chile as a dictator for the next 17 years. His secret police murdered over 2,000 people, but he was very anti-communist so the United States supported him.

Panama was another Latin American country where America supported an anti-Communist leader. Manuel Noriega, the dictator of Panama, had been paid by the CIA for years. He was in the drug trade, but America paid him to let the CIA set up listening stations in his country to spy on communists.


In Central America, the Cold War had even more dangerous effects. In the 1970s and 1980s wars started between the poor and the rich who owned the land. These problems started hundreds of years before the Cold War and these wars would have happened even without the Cold War. But the Cold War made the civil wars in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua worse because they were like mini versions of the Cold War. Basically, the Americans and Soviets picked sides and we saw the wars in Central America as representative of our larger struggle.  If our side was losing in the civil war, we thought we must be losing the Cold War.  That’s why these wars are known as proxy wars, because they were proxies, or representative of the larger Cold War.  Like pouring gas on a fire, guns, money, and helpers from the United States and Soviet Union made the wars much longer and many more people died than might have if not for the help of the American and Soviets. The wars were especially hard on the poor. 

As they tried to stop communism in Latin America, the CIA and the army’s School of the Americas taught Latin American army officers how to torture and kill. In 1996, the Pentagon was forced to show the books that were used at the School of the Americas. These books taught Latin American army leaders how to kill civilians, lock people up without trials, torture, and threaten people. War crimes and human rights violations such as these made many Americans upset, but as we tried to stop the spread of communism, some felt that anything was ok, as long as communists did not win.

The Soviet Union did the same. They sent helpers, guns, and money to help their side in the proxy wars. They even sent tanks to Nicaragua to help their side. In general, the Soviets helped the poor and the Americans sided with the landowners, government and military.  In the end, most of the people who died were poor, or union members, teachers, students, human rights workers, writers, priests, and nuns who had worked to help the poor.

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Photos, crosses, and protesters laying outside the entrance to Fort Benning, the home of the School of the Americas, to remember the victims of violence in Central America perpetrated by graduates of the school.


Of all the people trying to stop the wars and to protect innocent people, Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador was the most trusted and was the strongest.

In 1977, the same year that Romero became archbishop, his friend Rutilio Grande was killed by government soldiers. Grande was a Jesuit priest who had been working in the countryside and his death changed Romero. He tried to get the government to investigate, but they would not listen. Romero began speaking out against the war, poverty, how the things were not fair, and how the army was torturing people.

Romero also spoke against the United States for giving money to the army in El Salvador and wrote to President Jimmy Carter in 1980, telling him that more American money would just make things worse. Carter ignored Romero and money continued to be sent to the Salvadoran government.

In 1980, Romero gave a sermon in which he called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to follow God’s higher order and to stop following the government’s orders to kill or violate basic human rights. The next evening, Romero was shot in the heart. The archbishop died instantly.

Primary Source: Photograph
Monsignor Oscar Romero

Romero’s funeral mass in a San Salvador cathedral was attended by more than 250,000 people from all over the world. Even during the ceremony, smoke bombs exploded on the streets near the cathedral and there were rifle shots from the buildings nearby, including the National Palace. Some 30 to 50 people were killed. Some people said government soldiers had fired the shots, but no one is sure.

The wars of Central America were long, terrible and made worse by the Cold War. Today, most people look back with sadness and regret the part that the great powers played in the killing. In El Salvador, Oscar Romero stood up to powerful forces to demand peace and basic human rights in the same way that Gandhi had done many years before. He is still a beloved hero of common people across Latin America and an international symbol of how the Cold War hurt people in the Third World.

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Young soldiers in El Salvador in 1990.


The Middle East was a place with many problems for the United States during the Cold War, and it still is today. America is most worried about protecting Israel and being able to get the oil from around the Persian Gulf.

Israel was created in the land of Palestine at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea after World War II as a new country for the Jewish people who had lived through the Holocaust. The United States officially recognized Israel in 1948. This gave us a strong new friend, but also created many enemies. The United Nations had tried to negotiate borders for the new country, but the non-Jewish Palestinians who had lived there for hundreds of years did not like the plan. The Jewish settlers went to war and millions of Arabs ended up moving away. Upset that the Americans helped the new Jewish country, Israel’s Arab neighbors turned to the Soviet Union for help.

In the end, the United States ended up dealing with problems in many Middle Eastern countries because of the Cold War.  When the Soviet Union attacked Afghanistan in 1979, the Americans gave weapons to the Afghan people fighting back. When Iran and Iraq went to war, the Americans helped Iran while the Soviets helped Iraq. In 1983, the radical group Hezbollah set off a bomb at the marine apartments in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 241 American marines. The attack was probably revenge for America’s actions in the region.

However, over time it became clear that America’s main reason to be in the Middle East were Israel and oil, not the containment of communism. After the Cold War ended, the Middle East was the first place the United States went to war and more Americans have died fighting in the Middle East in the past 30 years than every other corner of the world combined.


There is little doubt today that communism as an economic system and dictatorship as a form of government are both evil because they limit freedom. As the world’s strongest communist country, Reagan’s nickname “Evil Empire” fits the Soviet Union well. Soviet leaders, their armies, and secret police killed thousands of people.

Like the famous City Upon a Hill, the United States stood strong throughout the Cold War as a land of freedom and hope in the face of communism. However, to protect the freedom of the world, especially of the Third World, Americans did terrible things also.

The Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater said once that “moderation in the protection of liberty is no virtue; extremism in the defense of freedom is no vice.” What do you think? If beating communism was a good thing, was it ok to do anything to win? Was the Soviet Union “evil” in a way that the United States was not?

Perhaps it is also worth looking at the question from the view of the people of the Third World who ended up like pawns in a great chess match. Was the Soviet Union any more evil or more of an empire than the United States?

What do you think? Was President Reagan right? Was the Soviet Union an evil empire?



BIG IDEA: While communist nations used fear to manipulate and control their people, the desire to prevent the spread of communism led the United States to side with dictators in the Third World who violated human rights. Beginning in the 1970s, American and Soviet leaders tried to relax tensions.

There were few chances for the United States and Soviet Union to actually meet face to face and debate their ideas. Once chance was the Kitchen Debates between then-Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premiere Nikita Khrushchev in 1959. Nixon showed off a model American kitchen and all the good things that capitalism allowed people to buy. Khrushchev was impressed, but did not change his mind about the benefits of communism.

Twice, people in Eastern Europe tried to fight to get rid of their communist governments. In 1959, people in Hungary rebelled and in 1968, people in Czechoslovakia rebelled. In both cases, the Soviet Union sent its own troops to put down the rebellions and restore communists to power.

One way communist governments maintained control was through fear. People who disagreed or tried to organize opposition to the government were arrested, thrown in jail, or sometimes they simply disappeared. People knew that the secret police might appear at any moment and had power to kidnap political opponents, so most people tried to avoid criticizing their leaders or doing anything that might put themselves in danger. The result was an obedient and unhappy people.

In the 1970s, American leaders decided that there was little chance of getting rid of communism. The initial worries about communism spreading had ended. Therefore, they decided, they should tried to find ways to get along and coexist peacefully. The United States and Soviet Union signed a series of treaties to ban the testing of nuclear weapons, and to start to reduce their total number of warheads. The two nations even worked together to have their spacecraft dock in orbit and their astronauts shake hands in space. This period of cooling tensions was called Détente, but ended when the Soviets invaded their neighbor Afghanistan.

Both the United States and Soviet Union tried to convince other nations to join their side. This meant that Americans supported anti-communists governments around the world. Sometimes, we supported people who were dictators and terrible leaders, such as in Chile and Panama, simply because they were anti-communist. These conflicts were proxy wars, because they stood in for actual fights between the superpowers.

In Central America, when the poor started a revolution against the wealthy landowners, the Soviet Union supported the poor and the United States ended up supporting the rich people who controlled the government. Because both superpowers were giving money and weapons to their side, the civil wars lasted a long time and thousands of people died who might have lived if the Cold War had not been raging. Similar problems happened in the Middle East. In Afghanistan, the United States gave weapons to the same people who we eventually had to fight after 9/11.



Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Russian political dissident and author of “The Gulag Archipelago”

Dr. Henry Kissinger: National Security Advisor to President Nixon. He believed in realpolitik and was instrumental in the negotiations with the Soviet Union and China that were part of the détente policy.

Strongman: A leader, often from the military, that rules a country as a dictator. The United States often supported these leaders in Third World nations because they opposed communism.

Salvador Allende: Democratically elected president of Chile who proposed communist-like policies and was deposed in 1973. The CIA is seen as complicit in his overthrow.

Augosto Pinochet: Military general in Chile who led a coup against democratically elected Salvador Allende. He ruled Chile for 17 years and murdered more than 2,000 people. The US supported him because he opposed communism.

Manuel Noriega: Panamanian strongman who was supported by the CIA. He was involved in the drug trade and was eventually removed in a US military invasion and put on trial for drug trafficking.

Sandinistas: Communist revolutionaries in Nicaragua who took control in the 1970s and were opposed by the American-backed Contras.

Contras: Anti-communist guerrilla group who were supported by the CIA and fought against the communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua. They were known for human rights violations and using drug trafficking as a means of financial support.

FMLN: Communist revolutionary group in El Salvador in the 1970s and 1980s. They were opposed by the United States.

Oscar Romero: Catholic archbishop in El Salvador who spoke out against violence during his country’s civil war. He was assassinated by right-wing militants.

Gamal Abdel Nasser: Nationalist leader of Egypt who was supported by the Soviet Union and led his country during the Suez Crisis.


Realpolitik: Policies based on practical rather than moral or ideological goals.

Proxy Wars: Wars that were not fought between the United States and Soviet Union. However, the superpowers supported either side and the wars were viewed as a stand-in for real face-to-face conflict.


The Gulag Archipelago: Book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn recounting his experiences as a political prisoner in the Soviet Union’s gulags.


KGB: The spy organization and secret police of the Soviet Union

Stasi: The secret police of East Germany

Juntong: The secret police of communist China

State Security Department: The secret police of North Korea

Gulag: The prison system in the Soviet Union based on labor camps which housed thousands of political prisoners

Troika: A group of three judges. The troikas in the Soviet Union provided a quick way to convict political prisoners without allowing for fair trials.

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project: A Soviet and American project to launch satellites that would link up in orbit. The project culminated in 1975 and represented progress in scientific cooperation.

School of the Americas: School run by the US Army to train Latin American military leaders. Some of the school’s graduates have gone on to commit human rights violations in their home countries or lead drug trafficking organizations.


Israel: Nation in the Middle East created in 1948 largely by Jews who escaped the Holocaust. It is a strong ally of the United States but has a violent history with its Arab neighbors.


Kitchen Debate: A series of debates between Vice-President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow about the relative merits of communism and capitalism.

Hungarian Uprising: Revolution by Hungarians in 1956 against Soviet domination. The uprising was crushed when forces from the Soviet Union invaded Hungary.

Prague Spring: An uprising in Czechoslovakia in 1968 in which the government and citizens attempted to reform the economy and political system. The uprising was ended when the Soviet Union sent in its military to restore communists to power.

Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan: Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The Soviets failed, partially due to support the United States gave to Afghan freedom fighters.

Assassination of Oscar Romero: 1980 assassination of Oscar Romero while he was celebrating mass. He had recently urged militants to stop committing human rights violations.

Suez Crisis: 1956 conflict between Egypt and the combined forces of Israel, France and the United Kingdom after Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal. President Eisenhower refused to support France and the UK.


Partial Test Ban Treaty: 1963 treaty banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere, under water and in space.

Outer Space Treaty: 1967 treaty stating that space would only be used for peaceful purposes.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: A treaty signed in 1968 by all but four countries in the world. Nations promise not to acquire nuclear weapons (if they don’t already possess them) and in exchange they may use nuclear technology for civilian purposes.

SALT I & SALT II: Treaties signed between the United States and Soviet Union in 1972 and 1979 agreeing to reduce the number of nuclear warheads in their arsenals.

Biological Weapons Convention: Treaty signed by almost every nation in the world agreeing to eliminate all biological weapons.

Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty: 1972 treaty between the United States and Soviet Union agreeing to limit the development of missiles that could intercept incoming ICBMs.

Helsinki Accords: 1975 agreement between the major nations of the Free and Communist Worlds. It guaranteed respect for boundaries, thus cementing the communist takeover of Eastern Europe, but also committed nations to respect human rights.

Détente: A policy of engaging the Soviet Union in negotiations used by Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter in the 1970s. It assumed that the end of the Cold War was not imminent so negotiation rather than confrontation was the best policy.

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