Timeline of U.S.-Russian Relations

1922 to Present

St. Basil Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow
St. Basil Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow. Getty Images/Ian Walton

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) is established. Russia is by far the largest member.

Formal Relations

The United States formally recognizes the USSR, and the countries establish diplomatic relations.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

Shoe Fits

Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev uses his shoe to bang on his desk at the United Nations while the American delegate is speaking.

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.


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. This effort was known as "detente."

Space Cooperation

American and Soviet astronauts link their Apollo and Soyuz spacecrafts in Earth orbit.

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.

Olympic Politics

The United States and 60 other countries boycott the Summer Olympics (held in Moscow) to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

War of Words

U.S. President Ronald Reagan begins to refer to the Soviet Union as an "evil empire".

More Olympic Politics

The Soviet Union and a handful of countries boycott the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.


A nuclear power plant in the Soviet Union (Chernobyl, Ukraine) explodes spreading contamination over a huge area.

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.


A group of hard-liners stage a coup against Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. They take power for less than three days.

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.

Loose Nukes

The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program launches to help former Soviet states secure vulnerable nuclear material, referred to as "loose nukes."

More Space Cooperation

The first of 11 U.S. space shuttle missions docks with the Soviet MIR space station.

Space Cooperation Continues

Russians and Americans occupy the jointly built International Space Station for the first time.


U.S. President George Bush unilaterally withdraws from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed by the two countries in 1972.

Iraq War Dispute

Russia strongly opposes the American-led invasion of Iraq.

Kosovo Confusion

Russia says it will veto an American-backed plan to grant independence to Kosovo.

Poland Controversy

An American plan to build an anti-ballistic missile defense system in Poland draws strong Russian protests.

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.

Conflict in South Ossetia

A violent military conflict between Russia and Georgia highlights a growing rift in U.S.-Russian relations.

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Porter, Keith. "Timeline of U.S.-Russian Relations." ThoughtCo, Nov. 25, 2014, thoughtco.com/timeline-of-us-russian-relations-3310271. Porter, Keith. (2014, November 25). Timeline of U.S.-Russian Relations. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/timeline-of-us-russian-relations-3310271 Porter, Keith. "Timeline of U.S.-Russian Relations." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/timeline-of-us-russian-relations-3310271 (accessed December 17, 2017).