Eisenhower and Khrushchev meet for talks - HISTORY
Year
1959

Eisenhower and Khrushchev meet for talks

Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev caps his trip to the United States with two days of meetings with President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The two men came to general agreement on a number of issues, but a U-2 spy plane incident in May 1960 crushed any hopes for further improvement of U.S.-Soviet relations during the Eisenhower years.

Khrushchev arrived in the United States on September 15, 1959, for an extended visit and summit with Eisenhower. The first days of the Russian’s visit were a mixture of pomp, tourism, and a few moments of tension. While visiting Los Angeles, Khrushchev became infuriated by comments by the head of Twentieth Century Fox Studio and then threw a tantrum when he was barred from visiting Disneyland because of security concerns. On September 25, however, the real business part of Khrushchev’s trip began as he and President Eisenhower met at Camp David in Maryland to begin two days of talks about the Cold War. Eisenhower indicated that he was going into the talks with high hopes, but also warned that progress would only come if the Soviets were willing to make concessions on several issues, notably Germany and Berlin. Khrushchev and his entourage also seemed optimistic about the talks.

After two days of meetings, the two leaders issued a joint communique. It suggested that both “agreed that these discussions have been useful in clarifying each other’s position on a number of subjects.” They hoped “their exchanges of views will contribute to a better understanding of the motives and position of each, and thus to the achievement of a just and lasting peace.” In particular, they believed that “the question of general disarmament is the most important one facing the world today.” There were no specific agreements or treaties, but both nations did resolve to reopen talks about Berlin and other issues related to cultural exchanges and trade. Eisenhower and Khrushchev also agreed to hold another summit in the near future and the president announced that he would visit the Soviet Union sometime in the next year.

Unfortunately, the hopeful optimism generated by the September 1959 meeting did not last long. In May 1960, the Soviets shot down an American U-2 spy plane over Russia and captured the pilot. The Eisenhower administration compounded the situation by initially disclaiming any knowledge of espionage flights over the Soviet Union. A summit meeting scheduled for Geneva was scrapped, as were plans for Eisenhower to visit to the Soviet Union.

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