A Timeline of Significant Cold War Events

YearTime on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ “Doomsday Clock”Key events
1945 End of World War II.

Stalin orders work on the Soviet bomb project to be accelerated.
1946 US passes the Atomic Energy Act (“McMahon Act”) – refuses to share nuclear secrets with the UK.
19477 minutes to midnightUK resumes work on an independent British bomb.
1948-49 Berlin airlift.
19493 minutes to midnightFirst Soviet bomb test.The People’s Republic of China is formed.
1950 Klaus Fuchs was arrested and later convicted of spying for the Soviets.

Korean War begins.

First UK atomic bomb test.
First US hydrogen bomb test.
19532 minutes to midnightStalin dies.

US executes Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for spying for the Soviets.

First Soviet hydrogen bomb test.
1956 UK and France invade Egypt during the Suez Crisis – NORAD suspects that Soviet movements might trigger a NATO First Strike.

The eventual retreat of the British clearly signifies the collapse of the UK as a Great Power.
1957 Soviets launch Sputnik.First UK hydrogen bomb test.
1958 Nikita Khrushchev becomes leader of the Soviet Union.
19607 minutes to midnightFirst French atom bomb test.

First US Polaris missile launched by USS George Washington.

NORAD goes on high alert due to a false alarm for a Soviet ICBM launch.
1961 Kennedy elected US President.

Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space.

East Germany starts building the Berlin Wall.

US sending military advisors to Vietnam.

Bay of Pigs attack.

SAC places its entire force ready to launch when equipment failure causes loss of communications with multiple Ballistic Missile Early Warning System sites.

Soviet Union explodes the ‘Tsar Bomba’ with a 50 Mt yield.
1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Soviet submarine B-59 comes close to using a nuclear torpedo.

US agrees to supply Polaris missiles for British nuclear submarines.
196312 minutes to midnightTest Ban Treaty signed by US, Soviet Union and UK.

President Kennedy is assassinated.
1964 First Chinese atom bomb test.
1967 First Chinese hydrogen bomb test.
19687 minutes to midnightNon-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is signed by the US, Soviet Union and UK.

First French hydrogen bomb test.
196910 minutes to midnightNearly all of the world’s nations come together to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Apollo 11 landed on the Moon.
197212 minutes to midnightUS and Soviet Union signed an Interim Agreement on limiting strategic offensive arms, and an Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.
19749 minutes to midnightFirst Indian atom bomb test.

Glomar Explorer lifts one third of the wreck of K-129, a nuclear-armed Soviet diesel-electric ballistic missile submarine.
1975 End of the Vietnam War.
1979 US and Soviet Union sign an Agreement in SALT II talks.

Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

NORAD false-alarm for large-scale Soviet First-Strike attack – a training program was mistaken for a real event.
19807 minutes to midnightUS agrees to supply Trident missiles for British nuclear submarines.
19814 minutes to midnightRonald Reagan elected US President.
1983 Russia shot down KAL 007, a Korean airliner.

NATO Exercise Able Archer causes Soviet Union to suspect preparations for a US First Strike attack.

Soviet false-alarm of a US First-Strike attack that could have triggered massive retaliation was prevented by Petrov.

Carl Sagan and the TTAPS Study reveal the concept of Nuclear Winter to the public.

US invasion of Grenada, a member of the British Commonwealth.
19843 minutes to midnightDialogue virtually stops between the US and Soviet Union.

US seeking a space-based anti-ballistic missile capability.
1985 Gorbachev becomes Soviet leader.

KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky smuggled out of Russia by MI6.
1986 Chernobyl disaster.
1987 US and Soviet Union sign Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty
19886 minutes to midnight 
1989 1989 End of the Berlin Wall.
199010 minutes to midnightReunification of Germany.
199117 minutes to midnightSTART I talks – US and Soviet Union agree to reduce their nuclear arsenals.

Yeltsin dissolves the Soviet Union.

Formal end of The Cold War.

As I write this article in August 2020, the Doomsday Clock now stands at 1 Minute and 40 Seconds before Midnight. Could the global situation be any more serious than when we are now breaking down the final 2 minutes into seconds?

The risks of a civilisation-ending nuclear war remain, with thousands of warheads still being deployed by the nuclear states.

Climate Change has emerged as a significant existential threat for the human species, and governments seem unwilling to make the changes needed to mitigate that threat.

The internet-driven media is now corrupted with fake news, propaganda and psychological manipulation, while political leaders are rejecting the negotiations and institutions that could protect civilisation for the long-term.

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