One day after concluding their summit meeting in Washington, D.C., Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and President Dwight D. Eisenhower offer their opinions as to the importance and meaning of their talks. Both men were optimistic that progress had been made in easing Cold War tensions.
From September 15 to September 27, Nikita Khrushchev visited the United States, capping his trip with a two-day summit with President Eisenhower. For many people in America, the Soviet Union, and around the world, Khrushchev’s trip and summit with Eisenhower were viewed as hopeful harbingers of easing Cold War tensions. On September 28, the two men suggested that significant progress had been made in improving the U.S.-Soviet relationship. Khrushchev spoke to a crowd of thousands of Russians and declared that he was very satisfied with his meeting with Eisenhower. “I got the impression that he sincerely wanted to liquidate the ‘Cold War’ and to improve relations between our two great countries.” However, there were, he warned, “forces in the United States working against us and against the easing of international tensions.” These people, Khrushchev declared, should be “exposed and publicly whipped. Let those who want to continue the Cold War be angry. They will not be supported by reasonable people.” Khrushchev also sent a message to Eisenhower thanking him for his hospitality, and noting, “Our acquaintance with the life of American people was highly interesting and useful.” Eisenhower, during a press conference in Washington, echoed Khrushchev’s optimism. The Soviet leader, he believed, was a “dynamic and arresting personality.” Although no specific agreements had been reached, Eisenhower felt that the talks were useful and would lead to a better relationship in the future.
In September 1959, U.S. relations with the Soviet Union were better than they had ever been since the end of World War II. In the United States and Russia, people greeted the words of their leaders with optimism and hope for a peaceful future. Those hopes seemed dashed, however, when in May 1960 the Soviets shot down an American spy plane over Russia. The resulting charges and countercharges between the two nations ruined any plans for another Eisenhower-Khrushchev summit. By the time Eisenhower left office in January 1961, the relationship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was as bad as it had ever been.