Cold War glossary

A glossary of terms found when studying the cold war

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Cold War Glossary
Arms race: The competitive build up of nuclear weapons between the USA and the Soviet
Atomic bomb: The first nuclear weapon an explosion is created by splitting atomic nuclei
and this leads to a huge release of energy.
B52: The strategic US heavy bomber that had the capacity to carry nuclear weapons and
was the mainstay of US nuclear forces in the 1950s.
Baikonur Cosmodrome: The Soviet missile testing site in Kazakhstan.
Bay of Pigs: Where an Americanorganised invasion by Cuban exiles 1720 April 1961,
landed and was defeated by Castro's forces.
Berlin airlift: The response by the USA and UK to a Soviet blockade of all land and canal
routes in the city. 2.3 million tonnes of supplies were shipped by air to the Western sector
from June 1948 to May 1949.
Checkpoint Charlie: The border site between East and West Berlin scene of famous
standoff between American and Soviet troops in October 1961.
CIA: Central Intelligence Agency that conducts US intelligence and counter intelligence.
COMECON: The Soviet version of an economic communitythe Council for Mutual
Economic Cooperation was Moscow's answer to the Marshall Plan.
Containment: The policy to contain soviet influence to the extent it reached at the end of
the Second World War
Contras: Counterrevolutionary forces backed by the USopposed to Nicaragua's left
wing Sandinista government.
Cruise: US missiles.
Cuban Missile Crisis: October 1962 The Soviet Union placed nuclear weapons on
Cuba and the US responded with a blockade.
DEFCON: Indicates US defence conditions on a scale of five (the lowest state of alert) to
one (war).
Détente: A thaw in relations between the US and the Soviet Union from 196975.
Glasnost: Policy initiated by Gorbachev in the Soviet Union in the 1980s. It increased
freedom of speech, association and the press.
Hungarian Revolution: Mass uprising that was crushed by Soviet troops and tanks 34
November 1956.

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Hydrogen bomb: A nuclear weapon hundreds of times more powerful that the atomic
bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
ICBM: Intercontinental ballistic missiles nuclear weapons with a range of more than 5,600
kilometres (3,500 miles).
IRBM: Intermediaterange ballistic missiles nuclear weapons with a range of between 960
kilometres (600 missiles) and 5,600 kilometres (3,500 miles) away.
Iron Curtain: The term used by Churchill in 1946 to describe the EastWest split between
communist and democratic nations becoming apparent in Europe.…read more

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Red Army: Armed forces of the Soviet union.
Refusniks: Soviet Jews and others who were denied exit visas and were persecuted for
leaving the USSR.
Rolling Thunder: Bombing campaign against North Vietnam.
SALT: Strategic Arm Limitation Talks in the late 1960s and 70s. SALT I limited each
country's ballistic missile defence and froze the deployment of ICBM launchers.
SALT II: Set limit on the number of strategic missile launchers and other systems each
country could deploy.…read more

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Vietnamisation: Nixon's administration decision to turn over control of the Vietnam War
to South Vietnam while US troops withdrew.
Warsaw Pact: Eastern European defence organisation established in Warsaw Poland on 14
May 1955 a counter to the USled NATO.
Yalta: Meeting of the big three leaders Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill in Yalta 411
February 1945.
Zero Option: Proposal by the Western German peace movement that all European
intermediaterange nuclear forces be banned.…read more


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