Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1960

U.S.-Soviet summit meeting collapses after U-2 spy plane shot down

In the wake of the Soviet downing of an American U-2 spy plane on May 1, Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev lashes out at the United States and President Dwight D. Eisenhower at a Paris summit meeting between the two heads of state. Khrushchev’s outburst angered Eisenhower and doomed any chances for successful talks or negotiations at the summit.

On May 1, 1960, the Soviets shot down a CIA spy plane and captured the pilot, Gary Francis Powers. The United States issued public denials that the aircraft was being used for espionage, claiming instead that it was merely a weather plane that had veered off course. The Soviets thereupon triumphantly produced Powers, large pieces of wreckage from the plane, and Powers’ admission that he was working for the CIA. The incident was a public relations fiasco for Eisenhower, who was forced to admit that the plane had indeed been spying on Russia.

Tensions from the incident were still high when Eisenhower and Khrushchev arrived in Paris to begin a summit meeting on May 16. Khrushchev wasted no time in tearing into the United States, declaring that Eisenhower would not be welcome in Russia during his scheduled visit to the Soviet Union in June. He condemned the “inadmissible, provocative actions” of the United States in sending the spy plane over the Soviet Union, and demanded that Eisenhower ban future flights and punish those responsible for this “deliberate violation of the Soviet Union.” When Eisenhower agreed only to a “suspension” of the spy plane flights, Khrushchev left the meeting in a huff. According to U.S. officials, the president was “furious” at Khrushchev for his public dressing-down of the United States. The summit meeting officially adjourned the next day with no further meetings between Khrushchev and Eisenhower. Eisenhower’s planned trip to Moscow in June was scrapped.

The collapse of the May 1960 summit meeting was a crushing blow to those in the Soviet Union and the United States who believed that a period of “peaceful coexistence” between the two superpowers was on the horizon. During the previous few years, both Eisenhower and Khrushchev had publicly indicated their desire for an easing of Cold War tensions, but the spy plane incident put an end to such talk, at least for the time being.

Tags
terms:
Cold War

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Worker protests mount in France

In France, the May 1968 crisis escalates as a general strike spreads to factories and industries across the country, shutting down newspaper distribution, air transport, and two major railroads. By the end of the month, millions of workers were on strike, and France seemed to be ...read more

Warsaw Ghetto uprising ends

In Poland, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising comes to an end as Nazi soldiers gain control of Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto, blowing up the last remaining synagogue and beginning the mass deportation of the ghetto’s remaining dwellers to the Treblinka extermination camp. Shortly after the ...read more

First Academy Awards ceremony

On this day in 1929, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hands out its first awards, at a dinner party for around 250 people held in the Blossom Room of the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California. The brainchild of Louis B. Mayer, head of the powerful MGM film ...read more

U.S. Congress passes Sedition Act

On May 16, 1918, the United States Congress passes the Sedition Act, a piece of legislation designed to protect America’s participation in World War I. Along with the Espionage Act of the previous year, the Sedition Act was orchestrated largely by A. Mitchell Palmer, the United ...read more