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U.S. foreign policy/Timelines

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A timeline (or several) relating to U.S. foreign policy.

The diplomatic history of the United States oscillated among three positions: isolation from diplomatic entanglements (but with economic connections to the world); alliances with European and other military partners; and unilateralism, or becoming entangled in the world but operating on its own decisions.

see U.S. foreign policy

Timeline of United States diplomatic history

18th century

  • 1776 - Declaration of Independence signed in July
  • 1776 - Plan of 1776 sets out basic principles of foreign policy regarding neutral rights
  • 1776 - three commissioners sent to Europe to negotiate treaties
  • 1777 - European officers recruited to Continental Army, including LaFayette, De Kalb, von Steuben, Kosciusco
  • 1777 - December. France recognizes U.S. after victory at Saratoga
  • 1778 - Treaty of Alliance with France; France and U.S. agreed to come to each others aid in event of British attack from the present time and forever; France joins war with Britain; treaty abrogated in 1800
  • 1778 - Carlise Peace Commission sent by Britain; offers Americans all the terms they sought in 1775, but not independence; rejected
  • 1779 - Spain enters the war as an ally of France (but not of U.S.); John Jay appointed minister to Spain; he obtains some money but not recognition
  • 1779 - John Adams sent to Paris to negotiate peace terms with Britain
  • 1780 - Russia proclaims "armed neutrality" which helps Allies
  • 1780-81 - Russia and Austria propose peace terms; rejected by Adams
  • 1781 - Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens and Thomas Jefferson named to assist Adams in peace negotiations; Congress insists on independence; all else is negotiable
  • 1782 - Netherlands recognizes U.S. independence and signs treaty of commerce and friendship; Dutch bankers loan $2 million for war supplies
  • 1783 Treaty of Paris ends American Revolutionary War; U.S. boundaries confirmed as Canada on North, Mississippi River on west, Florida on south.
  • 1784 - British allow trade with U.S. but forbid some U.S. food exports to West Indies; British exports to U.S. reach £3.7 million, imports only £750,000; imbalance causes shortage of gold in U.S.
  • 1784 - New York based merchants open the China trade, followed by Salem, Boston, Philadelphia merchants
  • 1785 - Adams appointed first minister to Court of St. James (Britain); Jefferson replaces Franklin as minister to France
  • 1789 - Jay-Gardoqui Treaty gave Spain exclusive right to navigate Mississippi River for 30 years. Not ratified because of western opposition.
  • 1793-1815 - Major worldwide war between Britain and France (and their allies); U.S. neutral until 1812 and does business with both sides
  • 1795 - Jay Treaty with Britain. Averts war, opens 10 years of peaceful trade with Britain; opens British colonies in West Indies to smaller American trading ships; British eventually evacuate western forts; boundary lines and debts (in both directions) to be settled by arbitration. Barely approved by Senate (1795) after revision; intensely opposed, became major issue in formation of First Party System
  • 1795 - Treaty of Madrid established boundaries with the Spanish colonies of Florida and Louisiana and guaranteed navigation rights on the Mississippi River.
  • 1796 - Treaty of Tripoli; Peace treaty with Barbary State of Tripoli. U.S. says the American government is non-religious in origin and practice. Violated in 1801 by the Basha of Tripoli which led to the First Barbary War.
  • 1797 - XYZ affair; humiliation by French diplomats; threat of war with France.
  • 1798-1800 - Quasi-War. Undeclared naval war with France; Adams ends it with the Murray delegation, disrupting Federalist Party

19th century

  • 1800 - Treaty of Monfortaine with France ends the Quasi-War and ends alliance of 1778
  • early 1800s - Barbary Wars: Algiers, Morocco, Tripoli, and Tunis require U.S. to pay protection money; U.S. Navy sent in and forces abandonment of tribute. Other states demanded tribute until 1815 when Decatur again prevailed.
  • 1803 - Louisiana Purchase from France for $15,000,000.
  • 1806 - Essex Case; British reverse policy and seize American ships trading with French colonies; U.S. responds with Non-Importation Act stopping imports of some items from Britain
  • 1806 - Napoleon issues Berlin Decree, a paper blockade of Britain
  • 1806 - Monroe-Pinkney Treaty with Britain; rejected by Jefferson
  • 1807-1809 - Embargo Act of 1807, forbids exports in order to pressure Britain, but fails
  • 1807-12 - Impressment of 6000 sailors from American ships with U.S. citizenship into the British Navy; Britain ignores vehement American protests
  • 1812 - President James Madison calls for Declaration of War against Britain; causes are impressment, violation of neutral rights, support on hostile Indians in Northwest; War Hawks led by Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun support him, beginning the War of 1812.
  • 1814 - December 24: Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812, providing status quo ante bellum; no change in territory
  • 1815 - January. Americans celebrate victory at New Orleans over main British army and gain sense of winning "second war of independence"
  • 1819 - Adams-Onís Treaty: Spain cedes Florida; U.S. to pay $5,000,000 for claims against Spain; U.S. gives up claims to Texas and Spain gives up claims to Oregon; boundary with Mexico fixed
  • 1823 - Monroe Doctrine. European powers will not be permitted further American colonization.
  • 1837 - Caroline Affair; Canadian military enters U.S. territory to burn a ship used by Canadian rebels; U.S. vehemently protests
  • 1838 - "Aroostook War" re: Maine-Canada border; no combat
  • 1842 - Webster-Ashburton Treaty-settled Maine-New Brunswick border and rest of U.S. Canadian border, settling Aroostook War and Caroline Affair.
  • 1844 - Oregon Question; U.S. and Britain at sword's point; "54-40 or fight" is American slogan
  • 1844 - Treaty of Wanghiya with China; American merchants permitted Canton and Amoy
  • 1845 - Polk Doctrine, Manifest Destiny.
  • 1845 - Annexation of Republic of Texas; Mexico breaks relations in retaliation
  • 1845 - Slidell Mission fails to avert war with Mexico
  • 1846 - Oregon Settlement splits the area at 49th parallel with Britain; war averted; compromise gives British Columbia to Britain, and Washington, Idaho and Oregon to U.S.
  • 1846 - Mexican-American War begins; U.S. seizes New Mexico and California
  • 1848 - Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo- settled Mexican-American War, Rio Grande is border of Texas, Territory of New Mexico & rest of west ceded to US, including California; U.S. to pay Mexico $15,000,000 and assumed $3,250,000 liability against Mexico.
  • 1848 - Bidlack Treaty: US guarantees the neutrality of the isthmus and Colombian sovereignty of the isthmus (Panama).
  • 1850 - Clayton-Bulwer Treaty. U.S. and Britain agreed that both nations were not to colonize or control any Central American republic, neither nation would seek exclusive control of Isthmian canal, if canal built protected by both nations for neutrality and security. Any canal built open to all nations on equal terms.
  • 1853 - Gadsden Purchase: Purchase of 30,000 square miles (78,700 km²) in southern Arizona for $10,000,000 for purpose of railroad connections
  • 1854 - Kanagawa Treaty; Matthew Perry to Tokyo in 1853; returning 1854 with seven warships; treaty opened two Japanese ports and guaranteeing safety of shipwrecked U.S. seamen.
  • 1857 - Nicaragua; U.S. Navy forces the surrender of filibusterer William Walker, who had tried to seize control of the country.
  • 1861 - Lincoln proclaims blockade of Confederate States of America, giving it some legitimacy but shutting down 95% of its trade
  • 1861-65 - Lincoln threatens war against any country that recognizes the Confederacy; no country does so
  • 1864-65 - Maximilian Affair: In defiance of the Monroe Doctrine, French Emperor Napoleon III placed Archduke Maximilian on Mexican throne, U.S. warns France against intervention, with 50,000 combat troops being sent to the Mexican border by President Johnson; Maximillian overthrown and executed
  • 1867 - Alaska Purchase: U.S. purchases Alaska from Russia for $7,200,000.
  • 1868 - Treaty on Naturalization with North German Confederation marked first recognition by a European power of the right of its subjects to become naturalized U.S. citizens.
  • 1868 - Burlingame Treaty established formal friendly relations with China and placed them on Most Favored Nation status, Chinese immigration encouraged. Reversed in 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.
  • 1872 - Alabama Claims. During the Civil War, Confederate raider CSS Alabama built in Britain prolonged war, says US; demands damages; awarded $15,500,000 by international tribunal.
  • 1882 - Chinese Exclusion Act prevented Chinese laborers from entry; law was often circumvented by smugglers and "paper sons" using fake documents; repealed 1943
  • 1893 - Hawaii; January 16 to April 1. Business community overthrows Queen and proclaims provisional government; U.S. Marines landed to protect American lives; Hawaii and President Harrison agree to annexation but treaty withdrawn by President Cleveland who rejects annexation
  • 1898 - De Lôme Letter: Spanish minister wrote disparagingly of President William McKinley
  • 1898 - Explosion sinks battleship "Maine" in Havana harbor; cause --whether accident, or caused by Cubans or Spanish--remains unknown; American attention focused on Cuba
  • 1898 - McKinley demands immediate reforms in Cuba; Spain stalls
  • 1898 - Teller Amendment: US declares it will not annex Cuba
  • 1898 - Spanish-American War declared in late April
  • 1898 - Combat ends with armistice Aug. 12 after US capture of Cuba, Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico
  • 1898 - Treaty of Paris ends the war; opposed by William Jennings Bryan, but ratified by Senate
  • 1898 - Hawaii; July 7. The Newlands Resolution in Congress annexes the Hawaiian Republic, with full U.S. citizenship for inhabitants regardless of race
  • 1899-1901 - "Philippine Insurrection" under Aguinaldo; rebels kill thousands of Filipinos who support American government; ends with capture of Aguinaldo in 1901
  • 1899-1900 - Open Door policy for equal trading rights inside China; promoted by U.S. and accepted by Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Russia and Japan

20th century

  • 1900 - U.S. forces participate in international rescue in Peking, in Boxer Rebellion
  • 1900 - Imperialism issue in presidential campaign. McKinley defeats Bryan in landslide
  • 1901 - Hay-Pauncefote Treaty. U.S. agreement with Britain nullifying Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850; guarantee of open passage for any nation through proposed Panama canal.
  • 1901 - Platt Amendment, to protect Cuba's independence from foreign intervention. The amendment effectively makes Cuba a U.S. protectorate and allowed for U.S. intervention in Cuban affairs in 1906, 1912, 1917, and 1920. Permits U.S. to lease Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Abrogated in 1934.
  • 1902 - Drago Doctrine. Foreign Minister Drago of Argentina announced policy that no European power could use force against any American nation to collect debt, supplanted in 1904 by Roosevelt Corollary to Monroe Doctrine.
  • 1903 - Big Stick Diplomacy. Theodore Roosevelt refers to U.S. policy as "speaking softly and carrying a big stick", applied the same year by assisting Panama's independence movement from Colombia. U.S. forces sought to protect American interests and lives during and following the Panamanian revolution over construction of the Isthmian Canal. U.S. Marines were stationed on the Isthmus (1903-1914)
  • 1903 - Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty with Panama; leased strip of land increased to 10 miles (16 km) wide.
  • 1903 - Hay-Herbert Treaty resolved the Alaska Boundary Dispute between the United States and Canada in favor of U.S.; Canada angry at Britain.
  • 1906 - Algeciras Conference. Roosevelt mediated the First Moroccan Crisis between France and Germany, essentially in French favor.
  • 1908-9 - U.S. negotiates arbitration treaties with 25 countries (but not Germany
  • 1911 - Reciprocity treaty with Canada fails on surge of Canadian nationalism led by Conservative party.
  • 1911-1920 - Mexican Revolution; hundreds of thousands of refugees flee to US; Taft recognizes Madero regime; Madero assassinated by Huerta, not recognized by US
  • 1912-41 - China. U.S. forces sent to protect American interests in China during chaotic revolution. In 1927, the United States had 5,670 troops ashore in China and 44 naval vessels in its waters.
  • 1914 - Veracruz Incident a standoff between U.S. and Huerta; Congress authorizes force in president's discretion; ABC Powers try to mediate; U.S. seizes Vera Cruz; Huerta breaks diplomatic relations; war seems near
  • 1915 - British passenger liner RMS Lusitania torpedoed off Irish coast by German submarine; 1200 dead include 128 Americans; Theodore Roosevelt demands war; Wilson issues strong protest
  • 1915-34 - Haiti. U.S. forces maintained order and control customs revenue during a period of chronic political instability.
  • 1916-24 - Dominican Republic; American naval forces maintained order and control customs revenue during a period of chronic and threatened insurrection.
  • 1916 - Pancho Villa raid into U.S.; punitive expedition under John J. Pershing chases Villa deep into Mexico; verge of war
  • 1917-1919 - Woodrow Wilson propounds Wilsonianism, an idealistic foreign policy designed to end the causes of war by destroying militarism and building a world organization (the "League of Nations) that can resolve disputes and even intervene militarily.
  • 1917 - Zimmerman Telegram. Germany proposes military alliance between Germany and Mexico against US. Publication outrages American opinion; Mexico rejects proposal.
  • 1917 - April. U.S. Declares war on Germany and Austria (but not Turkey); stays independent of Britain and France
  • 1917 - Lansing-Ishii Agreement. U.S. recognized Japan's claim to special interests in China, particularly in contiguous territory. Objection to Japan assuming German Asian territories.
  • 1918 - Fourteen Points. Statement of American war aims by Woodrow Wilson, served as basis for Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations.
  • 1919 - Versailles Treaty- Wilson one of "Big Four" negotiators at Paris peace talks; signed by Wilson but not ratified by Senate.
  • 1919 - League of Nations- part of Versailles Treaty; U.S. did not join.
  • 1922 - Washington Naval Conference held in Washington, D.C. concluding in the Four-Power Treaty, Five-Power Treaty, and Nine-Power Treaty. Major naval disarmament
  • 1924 - U.S. led conference results in the Dawes Plan. Eased reparations for Germany and improvement of its economic situation.
  • 1926-33 - Nicaragua; The coup d’etat of General Chamorro aroused revolutionary activities; U.S. Marines intermittently in control until January 3, 1933.
  • 1927 - Naval Disarmament Conference in Geneva; failure to reach an agreement.
  • 1927 - Clark memorandum repudiates Roosevelt Corollary to Monroe Doctrine.
  • 1928 - Kellogg-Briand Pact, multilateral treaty outlawing War by moral force of 60 signatory nations.
  • 1929 - Young Plan reduces amount of reparations due from Germany to $8.0 billion over 58 years.
  • 1930 - Smoot Hawley Tariff raised U.S. tariffs on imports; 1000 economists protest it will worsen depression; retaliation by Canada and others.
  • 1931 - Stimson Doctrine U.S. will not recognize Japanese takeover of parts of China; policy endorsed by the League of Nations.
  • 1932 - Lausanne Conference cancels 90% of reparations owed by Germany; remainder is never paid
  • 1933 - Montevideo Conference. Franklin D. Roosevelt declares the "Good Neighbour Policy", U.S. opposition to armed intervention in inter-American affairs.
  • 1933 - London Economic Conference, to deal with Great Depression, fails when the U.S. withdraws.
  • 1933 - Diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Union.
  • 1935 - Neutrality Act of 1935; when war breaks out prohibits all arms shipments (allowing shipment of oil, steel, chemicals); U.S. citizens can travel on belligerent ships only at own risk
  • 1936 - Neutrality Act of 1936; no loans to belligerents
  • 1937 - Spanish Civil War; U.S. neutral;
  • 1937 - Neutrality Act of 1937; 1935 laws apply to civil wars
  • 1937 - War between Japan and China; U.S. strongly sympathetic to China; Roosevelt does not invoke neutrality laws
  • 1941 - Atlantic Charter. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill agree (1) no territorial gains sought by U.S. or Britain, (2) territorial adjustments must conform to people involved, (3) people have right to choose their own govt. (4) trade barriers lowered, (5) there must be disarmament, (6) there must be freedom from want and fear (4 Freedoms of FDR), (7) there must be freedom of the seas, (8) there must be an association of nations.
  • 1943 - Cairo Conference. FDR, Churchill and Chiang Kai-shek meet to make decisions about postwar Asia: Japan to returns all territory; Korea to be independent
  • 1943 - Casablanca Conference. FDR and Churchill meet to plan European strategy. Unconditional Surrender of Axis countries demanded, USSR aid and participation, invasion of Sicily and Italy planned.
  • 1944 - United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference held in July in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire; International Monetary Fund and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank) created to aid nations devastated by the war and to stabilize the international monetary system.
  • 1944 - Dumbarton Oaks Conference held in August in Washington. United Nations was formulated, followed up by San Francisco Conference. Security Council veto powers established.
  • 1945 - Feb 4-11 Yalta Conference with Stalin and Churchill; agreement on division of Eastern Europe
  • 1945 - Surrender of Germany (V-E Day) and Japan (V-J Day)
  • 1945 17 July-2 Aug. Potsdam Conference; President Harry S Truman meets with Stalin British PM Clement Attlee; tells Stalin of atomic bomb; gives Japan last warning to surrender; Germany (and Austria) divided into 4 zones of occupation; Korea divided at 38th parallel
  • 1945 - 26 June United Nations Charter signed in San Francisco. U.S. becomes a founding member and has veto on the Security Council along with Soviets, Britain, France and China
  • 1945-1947 - Marshall Mission to China tries and fails to force coalition government of Nationalists and Communists
  • 1947-1989 - Cold War, the period of tension and hostility between Soviet bloc and US/West Europe/Japan
  • 1947 - General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Signed in Geneva by 23 nations including the US, membership has since increased, for the purpose of eliminating trade barriers of all kinds on industrial and agricultural goods.
  • 1948 - "European Recovery Plan" (called Marshall Plan); U.S. gives out $12.4 billion to rebuild and modernize Western European economies, 1948-51. Increased trade between Europe and the USA; no repayment asked for.
  • 1948 - Berlin Blockade imposed on June 24 by the Soviet Union, blocking rail and highway traffic into western sectors of Berlin, followed by Operation Vittles, U.S. airlifted massive amounts of food, fuel and supplies into city. Soviet blockade lifted on May 12, 1949.
  • 1949 - The United States along with eleven other nations signed the North Atlantic Treaty, creating NATO, a military alliance with the purpose of countering the USSR and its allies.
  • 1950 - NSC-68 outlines aggressive American strategy to pressure Soviets in Cold War; defense budget to triple
  • 1950-53 - Korean War; U.N. orders defense of South Korea against invasion by North Korea. (USSR boycotting UN and did not veto.)
  • 1950 - Korea. UN/US/South Korean forces invade North Korea in October, with UN plans to unify the country in a Rollback strategy to end Communism in Korea
  • 1950 - Korea. Chinese armies invades, pushing US/UN forces back below 38th parallel
  • 1950 - Korea. Battle lines stabilize near 39th parallel; General Douglas MacArthur proposes to continue rollback strategy; he is fired by Truman; MacArthur tells Congress, "there is no substitute for victory." General Omar Bradley, Chairman of the Join Chiefs, responds, "this strategy would involve us in the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time and with the wrong enemy." [1]
  • 1951 - ANZUS Treaty unite Australia, U.S. and New Zealand in a defensive regional pact; Britain not included
  • 1952 - Korea. GOP presidential candidate General Dwight D. Eisenhower promises "I shall go to Korea," implying he will end the war
  • 1953 - Korea. Eisenhower warns China he will use nuclear weapons against it unless an armistice is signed; armistice is signed; uneasy truce continues for over 50 years
  • 1953 - "New Look", is Eisenhower's plan to shift emphasis away from expensive land forces to cheap nuclear weapons.
  • 1953 - Iran: U.S. and Britain support Shah's coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq
  • 1954-1977 - SEATO alliance in Southeast Asia. South Vietnam not a signatory
  • 1954 - Baghdad Pact. Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) initiated by U.S. Members were U.S., Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Turkey; U.S. military aid.
  • 1954 - Guatemala: Military overthrows left-wing government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán with U.S. approval.
  • 1957 - Eisenhower Doctrine stated that the U.S. would use armed force upon request of imminent or actual aggression, applied in Lebanon that year successfully.
  • 1957 - U.S. embarrassed when Soviets launch Sputnik space satellite and leapfrog U.S. in high technology
  • 1958 - U.S. foreign aid appropriation, $3.2 billion for military and economic aid; lending authority of the Export-Import Bank raised to $7 billion; U.S. admits 32,000 Hungarian refugees from 1956 revolt
  • 1959 - Cuba Castro comes to power. first of 1 million Cuban exiles go to US, concentrating in Miami
  • 1960 - Khrushchev cancels summit conference with Eisenhower after American U-2 spy plan shot down over USSR and pilot captured
  • 1960 - Act of Bogotá makes social reform a prior condition for U.S. economic aid
  • 1960 - Cuba: U.S. suspends sugar quota; (sugar was 80% of Cuban exports to US); Soviet Union agrees to buy Cuban sugar and provide oil; Cuba seizes $1.5 billion of American properties; U.S. imposes complete trade embargo (except food, medicine);
  • 1961 - President John F. Kennedy launches space race, promising Americans on the moon; they landed July 20, 1969
  • 1961 - Cuba: U.S. breaks diplomatic relations as Castro aligns with Soviet Union
  • 1961 - Alliance for Progress. inter-regional agreement funded by U.S. to modernize region, bring prosperity and counter the appeal of the Cuban revolution.
  • 1961 - Bay of Pigs invasion in April; 1400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles invaded Cuba and were defeated at the Bay of Pigs landing zone; captured, and ransomed by Kennedy; U.S. greatly embarrassed
  • 1961 - Berlin Crisis. Soviets give East Germany control over East Berlin; in August the Berlin Wall is built to stem wave of refugees escaping to the Western side. Kennedy proclaims "Ich bin ein Berliner" ("I am a Berliner") to cheering West Berliners.
  • 1962 - Organization of American States (OAS) excludes Cuba, sets up trade embargo; dropped in 1975
  • 1962 - Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy on October 22 announced that there existed Soviet missiles in Cuba and demanded their removal while imposing an air sea blockade. Soviet missiles are withdrawn on condition that U.S. won't invade Cuba.
  • 1963 - Partial Test Ban Treaty. U.S. and Soviet Union agreed not to conduct nuclear tests in space, in the atmosphere or underwater. Underground tests permitted; signed by 100 nations, excluding France and the China.
  • 1964 - Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gives President Lyndon B. Johnson Congressional approval to act in Vietnam; repealed in 1970.
  • 1965 - Indonesia; Military coup against Sukarno's pro-Communist government brings Suharto government to power, friendly to U.S.; large numbers killed
  • 1965 - Intervention in Dominican Republic.
  • 1968 - Tet Offensive by Viet Cong in Vietnam fails to topple pro-US government, but causes political crisis inside U.S. Johnson rejects military call for more soldiers; quits presidential race to work for peace.
  • 1968 - Peace movement splits Democratic party; Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy denounce Johnson, and each other. Kennedy is assassinated and violence marks Democratic National Convention, which nominates Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. Nixon wins presidential election
  • 1969 - Richard Nixon (president 1969-74) and Henry Kissinger (National Security Adviser 1969-75, Secretary of State 1973-77]] introduce détente policy for friendship with Soviet Union and China
  • 1972 - Nixon visits China in dramatic breakthrough
  • 1972 - SALT signed by Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev of USSR
  • 1973 - Paris Peace Treaty ends the American role in Vietnam; POW's returned
  • 1973 - The draft abolished; US adopts an all-volunteer military
  • 1973 - Chile, military coup against Salvador Allende given U.S. approval
  • 1975 - North Vietnam invades and conquers South Vietnam; over 1 million refugees eventually come to the US.
  • 1978 - Camp David Accords - Anwar Sadat of Egypt, Menachem Begin of Israel, and President Jimmy Carter meet to determine "land for peace" exchange in Mideast
  • 1979-89 - Afghanistan War (1978-92); Soviet invasion installs puppet regime; U.S. works with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in funding, training, and arming Muslim mujahideen insurgency; end of détente
  • 1979 - Renewal of Cold War. After Afghanistan, President Carter agrees détente has failed; calls for boycott of Moscow Olympics in 1980 and increase in military spending; sense of "malaise" or weakening in national and international affairs troubles Americans
  • 1979-90 - Nicaragua; U.S. supports the Contras fighting against the pro-Communist Sandinista government; Sandinistas forced to call democratic election in 1990 and are defeated
  • 1979-81 - Iran becomes an Islamic Republic after the overthrow of U.S.-backed Shah; militants seize 63 American diplomats for 444 days during the Iran hostage crisis; U.S. seizes $12 billion in Iranian assets; American rescue effort fails; on Jan 20, 1981 hostages and assets are freed.
  • 1980 - Cuba; 125,000 Cuban refugees arrive in U.S.; another 159,000 arrive 1981-90; plus 181,000 1991-2000
  • 1980-88 - Iran-Iraq War. U.S. neutral in war between Iraq and Iran; U.S. flags oil tankers to protect flow of oil in Persian Gulf.
  • 1981 - President Ronald Reagan escalates "Second Cold War" with heavy new military spending and research in new weapons, esp. "Star Wars"; forward strategy for Navy;
  • 1986 - Iran-Contra Affair White House officials sell weapons to Iran and give the profits to Contras; President Reagan embarrassed
  • 1989 - End of Soviet Empire; fall of Berlin Wall; all East European satellites break away from Moscow
  • 1989 - NATO; NATO seeks new role; begins expansion to east with membership for Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic
  • 1990 - Panama; U.S. invades to oust Manuel Noriega
  • 1991 - Gulf War; U.S. leads a UN-authorized coalition to repel an Iraqi invasion out of neighboring Kuwait.
  • 1991-2003 - Iraq sanctions; U.S. and Britain maintain no-fly-zones in the north and south of Iraq with periodic bombings.
  • 1991-1993 - START accords with Russia to limit nuclear weapons
  • 1991 - Failed Communist coup in Moscow; end of Communism in USSR; end of USSR; Gorbachev ousted by Yeltsin; Germany provides Russia massive financial aid, with some from US
  • 1993 - Oslo agreements between Israel and PLO (each recognized the other's right to exist) win U.S. support; plans for PLO rule in Gaza Strip and West Bank
  • 1992-93 Somalia mission. President George H.W. Bush sent 28,000 U.S. troops to a UN mission to distribute food in war-torn Somalia in 1992; Congress voted approval; Somali warlord Mohammed Aidid attacked and killed some UN troops, and the UN ordered him captured; on Oct 13, 1993, 18 American soldiers were killed and 80 wounded in a botched raid; Congress cut off funding and the troops were withdrawn
  • 1993 - Bosnia; U.S. threatens military intervention against Serbian army in Bosnia
  • 1993 - NAFTA Clinton and a bipartisan coalition passes the North American Free Trade Agreement, a free trade pact with Canada and Mexico; labor unions opposed it, but the chief impact was an increase in trading farm products
  • 1994 - Bosnia; NATO and U.S. begin bombing campaign against Serbian army; cease fire negotiated by former President carter in December
  • 1994 - Haiti; U.S. uses threats of force to oust a military dictatorship in Haiti and restores the elected President Aristide
  • 1994 - Vietnam; President Clinton lifts 18-year trade embargo created to force return of "missing" POWs
  • 1998 - Northern Ireland; U.S. diplomat George Mitchell brokers peace agreement

21st century

  • 2001 - Al-Qaeda terrorists launch 9-11 Attack against U.S. President George W. Bush, with strong backing in Congress and NATO, declares "War on terrorism"
  • 2001 - U.S. and NATO forces invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban; they remain in place, 2008
  • 2003 - Bush and neoconservative advisers propose to follow Wilsonianism in foreign affairs by aggressively promoting democracy in the Middle East, and by isolating rogue states that comprise the "Axis of Evil," comprising Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
  • 2003 - US-led coalition invades Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Troops remain to fight insurgency against the UN-approved elected government.
  • 2006 - George W. Bush signs the United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act into a law