The Vice President of the United States, Richard Nixon, was the most active Vice President in recent times, and with his extensive travels on behalf of the United States government and his pragmatic turn of mind, his approach to the Soviet Union and communism was close to Eisenhower's. In 1959, Nixon visited the Soviet Union and found his host, Khrushchev, friendly but filled with bluster. Khrushchev had little understanding of U.S. politics and began discussions with Nixon by denouncing a resolution by the U.S. Senate that had established "Captive Nations Week." Khrushchev called the resolution an insult and a serious "provocation." Nixon remained calm while defending the Eisenhower Administration positions, and he was persistent in expressing support for democracy and the rights of people to express themselves freely.
In touring Moscow on the weekend, Khrushchev and Nixon, with an army of aids and reporters, came upon some Russians relaxing, sunbathing and swimming, and for Nixon's benefit Khrushchev joyfully asked them if they felt they were slaves or captive people. The people happily answered no, and Nixon laughed.
The issue arose of the American proposal for inspecting missile sites for the sake of disarmament, and Khrushchev said that this might be done after the United States "liquidated its overseas bases." Nixon said that the money that each of their nations were spending on missiles was unfortunate, and Khrushchev agreed. Nixon said the United States and the Soviet Union would be better off if they stopped talking about a balance of power and emphasized instead that "both are powerful and want a future of peace rather than war."
Later in their discussions, Nixon answered Khrushchev's accusations of U.S. aggression by bringing up Khrushchev's statement in Poland that the Soviet Union would support revolution everywhere in the world. Khrushchev complained that the U.S. did not understand Marxists, that Marxists did not believe in terror. Revolution, he said, had to come from the masses.
The discussion turned to Germany. Khrushchev accused the West of trying to "engulf East Germany and make all of Germany an ally of the West." Khrushchev expressed the Soviet Union's displeasure with what he called the "occupation regime" in West Berlin (in the middle of East Germany). The Berlin Wall had not yet been built, and Khrushchev was aware of the mischief that U.S. agents were creating in East Germany, including encouraging East Germans to defect who had been educated at state expense. East Germany was losing vital people who could earn more in the West, in addition to enjoying the West's freedoms. Khrushchev wanted a secure border between East and West Germany. He said that the Soviet Union was open to proposals, including the withdrawal of Allied forces from Berlin and Soviet forces from East Germany and Poland.
Khrushchev was invited to tour the United States, and eventually he accepted. Anti-communists welcomed him to the U.S. with demonstrations and called him the "Butcher of Budapest." Eisenhower met with Khrushchev at his summer retreat at Camp David, and there the two leaders laid plans for attending a summit meeting in Paris.
Then on May 2, 1960, the Soviet Union shot down a U-2 spy flight from Turkey, and the United States was caught lying. Eisenhower took responsibility for the flights, and on May 14, as scheduled, he journeyed to Paris for the summit meeting. Khrushchev had to maintain appearances among his fellow Russians regarding Russian security. He could not appear friendly with Eisenhower given Eisenhower's admission that he had approved the U-2 flights. He canceled Eisenhower's planned trip to the Soviet Union and canceled his plan to attend the Paris summit. The thaw in the Cold War appeared to have been canceled.
Copyright © 2000-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.