Timeline of U.S. and Russian Relations

Significant Events from 1922 to Present Day

Side view of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow on Red Square in front of Kremlin.
 Pola Damonte via Getty Images/Getty Images

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.

YearEvent Description
1922USSR BornThe Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) is established. Russia is by far the largest member.
1933Formal RelationsThe United States formally recognizes the USSR, and the countries establish diplomatic relations.
1941Lend-LeaseU.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.
1945VictoryThe 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.
1947Cold War BeginsThe 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.
1957Space RaceThe 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.
1960Spy ChargesThe 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.
1960Shoe FitsSoviet leader Nikita Khrushchev uses his shoe to bang on his desk at the United Nations while the American delegate is speaking.
1962Missile CrisisThe 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.
1970sDetenteA 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."
1975Space CooperationSpace Cooperation
American and Soviet astronauts link the Apollo and Soyuz while in earth's orbit.
1980Miracle on IceAt 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.
1980Olympic PoliticsThe United States and 60 other countries boycott the Summer Olympics (held in Moscow) to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
1982War of WordsU.S. President Ronald Reagan begins to refer to the Soviet Union as an "evil empire".
1984More Olympic PoliticsThe Soviet Union and a handful of countries boycott the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
1986DisasterA nuclear power plant in the Soviet Union (Chernobyl, Ukraine) explodes spreading contamination over a huge area.
1986Near BreakthroughAt 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.
1991CoupA group of hard-liners stages a coup against Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. They take power for less than three days
1991USSR's EndIn 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.
1992Loose NukesThe Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program launches to help former Soviet states secure vulnerable nuclear material, referred to as "loose nukes."
1994More Space CooperationThe first of 11 U.S. space shuttle missions docks with the Soviet MIR space station.
2000Space Cooperation ContinuesRussians and Americans occupy the jointly built International Space Station for the first time.
2002TreatyU.S. President George Bush unilaterally withdraws from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed by the two countries in 1972.
2003Iraq War Dispute

Russia strongly opposes the American-led invasion of Iraq.

2007Kosovo ConfusionRussia says it will veto an American-backed plan to grant independence to Kosovo.
2007Poland ControversyAn American plan to build an anti-ballistic missile defense system in Poland draws strong Russian protests.
2008Transfer 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.
2008Conflict in South OssetiaA violent military conflict between Russia and Georgia highlights a growing rift in U.S.-Russian relations.
2010New START AgreementPresident 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.
2012Battle of WillsU.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.
2013Russian RearmamentRussian President Vladimir Putin rearms the Tagil Rocket divisions with advanced RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles in Kozelsk, Novosibirsk.
2013Edward Snowden AsylumEdward 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.
2014Russian Missile TestingThe 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.
2014U.S. Imposes Sanctions on RussiaAfter 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.
2016Disagreement Over the Syrian Civil WarBilateral 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."
2016Accusation of Russian Meddling in American Presidential ElectionIn 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.