Cold War timeline: 1970 to 1979

This Cold War timeline contains important dates and events from 1970 to 1979. It has been written and compiled by Alpha History authors. If you would like to suggest an event or development for inclusion in this timeline, please contact Alpha History.


March 5th: The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty comes into effect.
March 18th: American-backed general Lon Nol seizes power in Cambodia. He overthrows Norodom Sihanouk, the former royal turned social democrat who had forged ties with the Soviet Union and China.
April 30th: US and South Vietnamese troops conduct their first incursion into Cambodian territory.
June 15th: Sixteen Soviet citizens attempt to flee Russia by hijacking a small civilian plane and piloting it to Sweden. The plot was uncovered by the KGB and they were arrested before boarding the plane. All were tried for treason and given long prison terms.
August 12th: The Soviet Union and West Germany sign the Treaty of Moscow, a non-aggression pact.
October 21st: A United States Air Force plane makes an emergency landing in Soviet Armenia. The crew is held for three weeks before being released.
October 24th: After several attempts, Marxist politician Salvador Allende becomes the president of Chile.
November 12th: Andrei Amalrik, a Moscow-born writer, is sentenced to three years in a labour camp for “defaming the Soviet state”.
December 7th: Poland and West Germany sign the Treaty of Warsaw, a non-aggression pact that also resolves a disputed border.


February 11th: The US, Soviet Union and 92 other nations sign the Seabed Treaty, banning the testing or deployment of nuclear weapons on the ocean floor.
February 20th: The US Emergency Broadcast System is accidentally initiated at 9.33am. Millions of Americans wait to hear news of a possible attack before the broadcasts are shut down after 40 minutes.
April 24th: In Washington DC, a protest against the Vietnam War attracts more than 400,000 people.
August: The KGB attempts to assassinate Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn with an unnamed biological agent. Solzhenitsyn becomes gravely ill but survives.
May 15th: Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat launches a reform movement that purges the government of pro-Soviet officials and policies.
May 19th: The Soviet Union launches an unmanned probe to explore Mars.
May 25th: Leading Soviet space scientist Anatoli Fedoseyev disappears while visiting Paris. He appears the following month in London and announces his defection.
June 13th: The New York Times begins publishing extracts from the ‘Pentagon Papers’, a leaked dossier highlighting US policy failures in Vietnam.
June 30th: Three Soviet astronauts on the Soyuz 11 capsule are suffocated while reentering the atmosphere. Their deaths end manned space exploration in the USSR for two years.
July 15th: US president Richard Nixon announces his intention to visit the People’s Republic of China early in 1972.
August 9th: The Soviet Union and India sign a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, in part due to US military aid to Pakistan.
September 3rd: The foreign ministers of the US, USSR, Britain and France sign the Four Powers Agreement on Berlin. This agreement, which came into effect in June 1972, restored communication and transit between parts of Berlin.
September 11th: Former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev dies in Moscow, aged 77.
September 22nd: National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger becomes the US Secretary of State.
October 25th: The United Nations General Assembly passes a resolution recognising the People’s Republic of China.


January 20th: The Pakistan government announces its intentions to research and build nuclear weapons.
February 21st: US president Richard Nixon arrives in China, where he holds meetings with Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and other Chinese leaders.
February 21st: An unmanned Soviet probe, Luna 20, lands on the Moon.
April 10th: The US, the Soviet Union and 107 other nations sign the Biological Weapons Convention, agreeing to ban production of these weapons.
May 26th: The signing of the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I), freezing production of ballistic missile launchers.
June 3rd: The Soviet Union, US, Britain and France sign the Four Power Agreement on Berlin. This agreement recognises the existence of two Germanys and the Allied presence in West Berlin.
July: American actress Jane Fonda causes controversy by touring communist North Vietnam. Fonda is photographed sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun.
July 8th: The US signs a trade deal with Moscow, agreeing to sell the Soviets 10 million tons of wheat and corn at subsidised prices. This deal proves highly controversial, pushing up food prices considerably in the US.
July 18th: Following on from his reforms of May 1971, Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat orders 20,000 Soviet advisors out of the country.
September 1st: American chess player Bobby Fischer defeats Soviet player Boris Spassky 12-8, to become the first American-born world champion.
September 2nd: Ice hockey teams from Canada and the Soviet Union begin the Summit Series, playing four games apiece in each country. The series was won 4-3 by Canada, amid claims of cheating, rough play and gamesmanship.
December 21st: The signing of the Basic Treaty, with East Germany and West Germany recognising each other as sovereign states. This marks the beginning of Ostpolitik.
December 22nd: The government of Australia formally recognises East Germany and announces the resumption of diplomatic relations.


January 27th: The signing of the Paris Peace Accords formally ends American military involvement in the Vietnam War.
March: The last American combat troops leave Vietnam. A small contingent remains in Saigon to protect American diplomats and civilians.
June 24th: Leonid Brezhnev becomes the first Soviet leader to address the American people on television. Amongst other topics, Brezhnev speaks about the recent improvement in US-Soviet relations.
September 11th: Salvador Allende, the elected socialist leader of Chile, is overthrown and murdered by a CIA-backed coup.
October 6th: Egyptian forces launch a surprise attack on Israel, triggering the Yom Kippur War.
October 9th: The Soviet Union is almost drawn into the Yom Kippur War after one of its ships is sunk by the Israeli Navy. The US later threatens intervention, if the Soviets attack Israel.
November 21st: The Soviet Union refuses to allow its football team to play a World Cup qualifier against Chile, a protest against the September 1973 coup. As a consequence, the Soviet team is expelled from the World Cup by FIFA.


April 24th: West German government employee Gunter Guillaume is revealed to be an East German spy.
May 7th: Implicated the Gunter Guillaume affair, Willy Brandt resigns as West German chancellor.
May 28th
: The American soda drink Pepsi Cola goes on sale in the Soviet Union. It is the first major US company to sell products there.
June 27th: Leonid Brezhnev and Richard Nixon hold a six-day summit in Moscow.
July 7th
: West Germany wins the FIFA World Cup, defeating the Netherlands.
August 9th: US president Richard Nixon resigns after the Watergate scandal. Gerald Ford is sworn in as president.
September 12th: Ethiopian ruler Haile Selassie is removed from power by the Derg, a left-wing military junta.
November 23rd: Leonid Brezhnev and new US president Gerald Ford hold a two-day summit in Vladivostok. They reach in principle agreement on a new strategic arms limitation treaty (SALT).


April 17th: The Khmer Rouge, a communist group led by Saloth Sar or Pol Pot, seizes power in Cambodia. The immediately order civilians to evacuate the capital Phnom Penh.
April 30th: North Vietnamese troops seize control of Saigon, bringing the Vietnam War to an end.
June: Communist groups seize power in African nations Angola and Mozambique. Both countries eventually fall into civil war.
July 17th: The US and USSR undertake their first joint space mission, the Apollo-Soyuz project, marking the end of the ‘Space Race‘.
August 1st: The signing of the Helsinki Accords, with 35 states agreeing to improve relations and communication with communist nations.
November 29th: The Pathet Lao, a nationalist-communist group, seize power in Laos.


January 11th: Ice hockey team the Philadelphia Flyers defeat HC CSKA Moscow 4-1. The match is marred by tension and a threatened walk-off by the Soviet team.
March 24th: In Argentina, a military junta headed General Jorge Videla overthrows president Isabel Peron.
April 29th: A bomb explodes at the gate of the Soviet embassy in Beijing. Four Chinese civilians are killed.
June 25th: The socialist government in Poland raises food prices, sparking several days of strikes.
June 29th: East Germany hosts a multilateral conference for European communist parties. It is attended by representatives from 29 different parties.
July 2nd: North and South Vietnam are formally reunified. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is proclaimed.
September 6th: A Soviet military pilot, Viktor Belenko, defects to the US after landing his MiG jet in Japan. Belenko is later given US citizenship by an Act of Congress.
September 9th: The death of Chinese leader Mao Zedong.
November 2nd: Jimmy Carter is elected as 39th president of the United States, defeating the incumbent Gerald Ford. Carter carries fewer states (23 to Ford’s 27) but wins a greater share of electoral votes.


January 6th: A group of 242 Czechoslovakian citizens publish “Charter 77“, an open letter criticising the pro-Soviet government for failing to protect human rights. Several people involved in drafting or signing the charter are persecuted, arrested and jailed.
January 20th: Jimmy Carter is inaugurated as US president.
March 17th: In an address to the United Nations general assembly, Jimmy Carter promises his foreign policy will focus on protecting human rights around the world.
June 30th: The South-East Asian Treaty Organisation (SEATO) is formally dissolved.
September 21st: The ‘London Club’ nuclear non-proliferation agreement lays down guidelines for the sale and transfer of nuclear materials and equipment. The agreement is signed by the US, USSR and 15 other nations.


April 7th: US president Jimmy Carter suspends production of a planned neutron bomb.
April 14th: Around 20,000 Georgian nationalists protest in the capital Tbilisi, in response to a proposal to give the Georgian and Russian languages equal status.
April 20th: Korean Air Lines Flight 902 makes an emergency landing on a frozen lake in northern Russia, after being shot and crippled by Soviet air defences. The passengers and crew are rescued by Soviet helicopters and later released.
April 28th: The president of Afghanistan, Mohammed Daoud Khan, is assassinated by the socialist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan.
April 30th: The formation of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan under Nur Muhammad Taraki, a socialist politician.
May 18th: Yuri Orlov, a prominent Russian scientist, is sentenced to seven years in a labour camp for criticising the Soviet government. His imprisonment provokes outrage and protests around the world.
June 21st: Four Iranian helicopters are shot down by Soviet air defences after straying into Soviet airspace during an exercise.
September 17th: After almost two weeks of negotiations at Camp David, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli leader Menachem Begin sign a landmark peace agreement.
December 25th: After weeks of tension and skirmishes between Vietnamese troops and the Khmer Rouge, Vietnam launches an invasion of Cambodia.


January 1st: The United States and the People’s Republic of China formally commence diplomatic relations.
May 4th
: Margaret Thatcher becomes the prime minister of Great Britain, after the Conservative Party wins a general election.
June 2nd: Pope John Paul II becomes the first pope to visit a communist country, arriving for nine days in his native Poland.
June 18th: US president Jimmy Carter and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev sign the SALT-II treaty, limiting nuclear weapons.
June 18th: The Sandinistas, a Marxist guerrilla movement, seize control of Nicaragua.
July 3rd: Carter authorises the CIA to provide aid and equipment to the mujahideen in Afghanistan.
November 4th: Iranian students invade the US embassy in Tehran and detain 53 Americans. This marks the start of the Iranian hostage crisis.
November 9th: US defence computers at NORAD report an incoming Soviet nuclear attack, leading the mobilisation of planes and missile crews. Cross-checking soon reveals the “attack” was triggered by a training simulation, mistakenly uploaded to NORAD’s computers.
November 15th: Margaret Thatcher addresses the House of Commons and exposes art historian Anthony Blunt as a former Soviet spy.
December 24th: Soviet forces invade Afghanistan to support the weakening communist government there.

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This page was written by Jennifer Llewellyn, Jim Southey and Steve Thompson. To reference this page, use the following citation:
J. Llewellyn et al, “Cold War timeline 1970-1979”, Alpha History, accessed [today’s date],