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Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Aleksei Kosygin

Hopes for better U.S.-Soviet relations run high as U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin in Glassboro, New Jersey, for a three-day summit. The meeting ended inconclusively, however, as issues such as Vietnam and the Middle East continued to divide the two superpowers.

The Johnson-Kosygin meeting was the first time a Soviet premier had met with an American president in the United States since Nikita Khrushchev visited with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1959. Relations between the two nations were tense.

The Middle East was a continuing source of difficulty, as the United States provided massive military and economic support to Israel, and the Soviet Union duplicated that effort with a number of Arab nations. Less than three weeks prior to the meeting in Glassboro, the Israeli army had scored a smashing victory against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in the Six-Day War.

The Vietnam War was another Cold War diplomatic quagmire. By mid-1967, the United States had many fighting men in South Vietnam, while the Soviets were providing large amounts of military aid to North Vietnam. The summit between Johnson and Kosygin, it was hoped, might lessen the tensions.

Both Johnson and Kosygin set a positive tone in their public statements. Johnson noted that the United States and Soviet Union had a responsibility to act “reasonably and constructively” in order to make it “possible for other countries to live in peace with each other, if this can be done.” Kosygin responded by declaring, “I want friendship with the American people and I can assure you we want nothing but peace with the American people.”

Privately, however, the summit was not considered a success. The Soviets proved inflexible on the major issues. They branded the Israelis as the aggressors in the Middle East and demanded that Israel evacuate the lands seized during the Six-Day War.

Concerning Vietnam, the Soviet stance was plain: peace would come when the United States left Vietnam. The Johnson administration publicly declared that the meeting was “very good and very useful.” The talks were supposed to continue during a Johnson visit to the Soviet Union in 1968, but a brutal Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague Spring” revolution led to the cancellation of that trip.

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