Timeline of U.S. and Russian Relations

Significant Events from 1922 to Present Day

St. Basil's Cathedral against a blue sky

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Through most the final half of the 20th century, two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, were embroiled in a struggle—capitalism versus communism—and a race for global domination.

Since the fall of communism in 1991, Russia has loosely adopted democratic and capitalist structures. Despite these changes, remnants of the countries' frosty history remain and continues to stifle U.S. and Russian relations.

Year Event Description
1922 USSR Born The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) is established. Russia is by far the largest member.
1933 Formal Relations The United States formally recognizes the USSR, and the countries establish diplomatic relations.
1941 Lend-Lease U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt gives the USSR and other countries millions of dollars worth of weapons and other support for their fight against Nazi Germany.
1945 Victory The United States and Soviet Union end World War II as allies. As co-founders of the United Nations, both countries (along with France, China, and the United Kingdom) become permanent members of United Nations Security Council with full veto authority over the council's action.
1947 Cold War Begins The struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union for domination in certain sectors and parts of the world is dubbed the Cold War. It will last until 1991. Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill calls the division of Europe between the West and those parts dominated by the Soviet Union an " Iron Curtain." American expert George Kennan advises the United States to follow a policy of " containment" toward the Soviet Union.
1957 Space Race The Soviets launch Sputnik, the first manmade object to orbit the Earth. Americans, who had confidently felt they were ahead of the Soviets in technology and science, redouble their efforts in science, engineering, and the overall space race.
1960 Spy Charges The Soviets shoot down an American spy plane gathering information over Russian territory. The pilot, Francis Gary Powers, was captured alive. He spent nearly two years in a Soviet prison before being exchanged for a Soviet intelligence officer captured in New York.
1960 Shoe Fits Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev uses his shoe to bang on his desk at the United Nations while the American delegate is speaking.
1962 Missile Crisis The stationing of U.S. nuclear missiles in Turkey and Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba leads to the most dramatic and potentially world-shattering confrontation of the Cold War. In the end, both sets of missiles were removed.
1970s Detente A series of summits and discussions, including the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, between the United States and the Soviet Union led to a thawing of tensions, a "detente."
1975 Space Cooperation American and Soviet astronauts link the Apollo and Soyuz while in earth's orbit.
1980 Miracle on Ice At the Winter Olympics, the American men's hockey team scored a very surprising victory against the Soviet team. The U.S. team went on the win the gold medal.
1980 Olympic Politics The United States and 60 other countries boycott the Summer Olympics (held in Moscow) to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
1982 War of Words U.S. President Ronald Reagan begins to refer to the Soviet Union as an "evil empire".
1984 More Olympic Politics The Soviet Union and a handful of countries boycott the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
1986 Disaster A nuclear power plant in the Soviet Union (Chernobyl, Ukraine) explodes spreading contamination over a huge area.
1986 Near Breakthrough At a summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev came close to agreeing to eliminate all nuclear weapons and share the so-called Star Wars defense technologies. Although the negotiations broke down, it set the stage for future arms control agreements.
1991 Coup A group of hard-liners stages a coup against Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. They take power for less than three days
1991 USSR's End In the final days of December, the Soviet Union dissolved itself and was replaced by 15 different independent states, including Russia. Russia honors all treaties signed by the former Soviet Union and assumes the United Nations Security Council seat formerly held by the Soviets.
1992 Loose Nukes The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program launches to help former Soviet states secure vulnerable nuclear material, referred to as "loose nukes."
1994 More Space Cooperation The first of 11 U.S. space shuttle missions docks with the Soviet MIR space station.
2000 Space Cooperation Continues Russians and Americans occupy the jointly built International Space Station for the first time.
2002 Treaty U.S. President George Bush unilaterally withdraws from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed by the two countries in 1972.
2003 Iraq War Dispute

Russia strongly opposes the American-led invasion of Iraq.

2007 Kosovo Confusion Russia says it will veto an American-backed plan to grant independence to Kosovo.
2007 Poland Controversy An American plan to build an anti-ballistic missile defense system in Poland draws strong Russian protests.
2008 Transfer of Power? In elections unmonitored by international observers, Dmitry Medvedev is elected president replacing Vladimir Putin. Putin is widely expected to become Russia's prime minister.
2008 Conflict in South Ossetia A violent military conflict between Russia and Georgia highlights a growing rift in U.S.-Russian relations.
2010 New START Agreement President Barack Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev sign a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty to cut the number of long-range nuclear weapons held by each side.
2012 Battle of Wills U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Magnitsky Act, which imposed U.S. travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill, widely seen as retaliatory against the Magnitsky Act, that banned any United States citizen from adopting children from Russia.
2013 Russian Rearmament Russian President Vladimir Putin rearms the Tagil Rocket divisions with advanced RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles in Kozelsk, Novosibirsk.
2013 Edward Snowden Asylum Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and a contractor for the United States government, copied and released hundreds of thousands of pages of secret U.S. government documents. Wanted on criminal charges by the U.S., he fled and was granted asylum in Russia.
2014 Russian Missile Testing The U.S. government formally accused Russia of having violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by testing a prohibited medium-range ground-launched cruise missile and threatened to retaliate accordingly.
2014 U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Russia After the collapse of the Ukraine government. Russia annexes the Crimea. The U.S. government imposed punitive sanctions for Russia's activity in Ukraine. The U.S. passed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, aimed at depriving certain Russian state firms of Western financing and technology while also providing $350 million in arms and military equipment to Ukraine.
2016 Disagreement Over the Syrian Civil War Bilateral negotiations over Syria were unilaterally suspended by the U.S in October 2016, after a renewed offensive on Aleppo by Syrian and Russian troops. On the same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that suspended the 2000 Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement with the U.S., citing the failure by the U.S. to comply with the provisions thereof as well as the U.S.' unfriendly actions that posed a "threat to strategic stability."
2016 Accusation of Russian Meddling in American Presidential Election In 2016, American intelligence and security officials accuse the Russian government of being behind massive cyber-hackings and leaks that aimed at influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election and discrediting the U.S. political system. Russian President Vladimir Putin denied favoring the eventual winner of the political contest, Donald Trump. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that Putin and the Russian government meddled in the American election process, which led to her loss to Trump.
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Porter, Keith. "Timeline of U.S. and Russian Relations." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/timeline-of-us-russian-relations-3310271. Porter, Keith. (2021, February 16). Timeline of U.S. and Russian Relations. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/timeline-of-us-russian-relations-3310271 Porter, Keith. "Timeline of U.S. and Russian Relations." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/timeline-of-us-russian-relations-3310271 (accessed March 28, 2023).