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Cold War (1979–85)

Alliances in 1980:          NATO & Western allies,              Warsaw Pact & other Soviet allies,      nonaligned states,      China and Albania (communist countries not aligned with USSR), ××× armed resistance

Part of a series on the
History of the Cold War

Origins of the Cold War
World War II
(Hiroshima and Nagasaki)
War conferences
Eastern Bloc
Western Bloc
Iron Curtain
Cold War (1947–53)
Cold War (1953–62)
Cold War (1962–79)
Cold War (1979–85)
Cold War (1985–91)
Frozen conflicts
Timeline  · Conflicts

The Cold War (1979–1985) refers to the phase of a deterioration in relations between the Soviet Union and the West arising from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. With the election of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1979, and United States President Ronald Reagan in 1980, a corresponding change in Western foreign policy approach towards the Soviet Union was marked with the abandonment of Détente in favor of Reagan's anti-communist policies towards the USSR, with the stated goal of dissolving Soviet influence in Soviet Bloc countries. During this time the threat of nuclear war had reached new heights not seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In response to the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, US President Jimmy Carter announced a US-led boycott of the Moscow 1980 Summer Olympics. In 1984 the Soviets responded with their own boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California.

Tensions increased when the US announced they would deploy Pershing II missiles in West Germany, followed by US President Reagan's announcement of the US Strategic Defense Initiative.

East and West tensions were further exacerbated in 1983 when Ronald Reagan branded the Soviet Union an "Evil empire".

In April 1983 the United States Navy conducted FleetEx '83, the largest fleet exercise held to date in the North Pacific.[1][2] The conglomeration of approximately forty ships with 23,000 crewmembers and 300 aircraft, was arguably the most powerful naval armada ever assembled. U.S. aircraft and ships attempted to provoke the Soviets into reacting, allowing U.S. Naval Intelligence to study Soviet radar characteristics, aircraft capabilities, and tactical maneuvers. On April 4 at least six U.S. Navy aircraft flew over one of the Kurile Islands, Zeleny Island, the largest of a set of islets called the Habomai Islands. The Soviets were outraged, and ordered a retaliatory overflight of U.S. Aleutian Islands. The Soviet Union also issued a formal diplomatic note of protest, which accused the United States of repeated penetrations of Soviet airspace.[3]

Also during 1983, the civilian airliner Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was downed by Soviet fighter jets near Moneron Island. In November 1983, NATO conducted a military exercise known as "Able Archer 83". The realistic simulation of a nuclear attack by NATO forces caused considerable alarm in the USSR, and is regarded by many historians to be the closest the world came to nuclear war since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

This period of the Cold War would continue through US President Reagan's first term (1981–1985), through the death of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in 1982, the brief interim period of Soviet leadership consisting of Yuri Andropov (1982–1984), and Konstantin Chernenko (1984–1985). This phase in the Cold War concluded with the ascension of reform minded Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985, who brought a commitment to reduce tensions between the East and West, and bring about major reforms in Soviet society.

The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan following the Saur Revolution in that country, ultimately leading to the deaths of around one million civilians.[4] Mujahideen fighters succeeded in forcing a Soviet military withdrawal in 1989.


  • Culture and media 1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Sources 4

Culture and media

Dozens of the board wargames were published covering both historical and hypothetical conflicts at scales ranging from man-to-man to global thermonuclear war. Historical conflicts include the Falklands War, the Iran–Iraq War, the invasion of Grenada, and the Angolan Civil War. The vast majority of titles concerned contemporary World War III "what-if" scenarios wherein the Cold War turns hot and focused on a presumed Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe. Notable games include Ultimatum (1979), The China War (1979), NATO Division Commander (1980), Fifth Corps series (1980), and MechWar 2 (1980), Task Force (1981), Harpoon (1983), Silo 14 (1983), Assault series (1983), Gulf Strike (1983), Firepower (1984), The Third World War series (1984), Air Cav (1985) and Main Battle Area (1985).

In addition, the period witnessed the release of several videogames dealing with the Cold War and Cold War related issues. Examples include Atari's well-known arcade-game Missile Command (1980), the somewhat infamous Raid over Moscow (1984), which lets you blast through soviet airdefence and finally destroy Moscow (hence the name), as well as Theatre Europe (1985) which simulates an all-out conventional, albeit hypothetical, war between the Warsaw Pact forces and NATO troops over control of Central Europe. Some of these games, especially Theatre Europe, advise strongly against the use of nuclear weapons, reflecting a widespread fear of nuclear holocaust at the time.

Two films released in 1983, WarGames and The Day After, dealt with potential all-out nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union. President Reagan was given a private screening of The Day After and was said to be deeply shaken. He revised his posture toward nuclear war in favor of eventual nuclear abolition, at least in part due to his experience watching the film.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Johnson, p. 55
  2. ^ Richelson, p. 385
  3. ^ by Andrew R. Garland,University of Nevada, Las Vegas1983: The most dangerous year
  4. ^ Marek Sliwinski, "Afghanistan: The Decimation of a People," Orbis (Winter, 1989), p. 39.
  5. ^ Mann, James (2009). The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War. New York: Penguin Group. pp. 41–42. 


  • Ball, S. J. The Cold War: An International History, 1947–1991 (1998), a British perspective
  • Beschloss, Michael, and Strobe Talbott. At the Highest Levels:The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War (1993)
  • Bialer, Seweryn and Michael Mandelbaum, eds. Gorbachev's Russia and American Foreign Policy (1988).
  • Brzezinski, Zbigniew. Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser, 1977–1981 (1983);
  • Edmonds, Robin. Soviet Foreign Policy: The Brezhnev Years (1983)
  • Gaddis, John Lewis. Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War (1987, 1989)
  • Gaddis, John Lewis. The United States and the End of the Cold War: Implications, Reconsiderations, Provocations (1992)
  • Gaddis, John Lewis and LaFeber, Walter. America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945–1992 7th ed. (1993)
  • Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History (2005)
  • Garthoff, Raymond. The Great Transition:American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War (1994)
  • Halliday, Fred. The Making of the Second Cold War (1983, Verso, London).
  • Heuser, Beatrice. "The Soviet response to the Euromissile crisis, 1982–83", in Leopoldo Nuti (ed): Reheating the Cold War: From Vietnam to Gorbachev, 1975–1985 (London: Routledge, 2008), ISBN 978-0-415-46051-4, pp. 137–149.
  • Hogan, Michael ed. The End of the Cold War. Its Meaning and Implications (1992) articles from Diplomatic History online at JSTOR
  • Kyvig, David ed. Reagan and the World (1990)
  • Matlock, Jack F. Autopsy of an Empire (1995) by US ambassador to Moscow
  • Mower, A. Glenn Jr. Human Rights and American Foreign Policy: The Carter and Reagan Experiences ( 1987),
  • Powaski, Ronald E. The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917–1991 (1998)
  • Shultz, George P. Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State (1993)
  • Sivachev, Nikolai and Nikolai Yakolev, Russia and the United States (1979), by Soviet historians
  • Smith, Gaddis. Morality, Reason and Power:American Diplomacy in the Carter Years (1986).
  • Westad, Odd Arne The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (2006) ISBN 0-521-85364-8
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