home | 1945-21st century

COLD WAR: 1953-60 (11 of 11)

previous | next

Cold War Mindsets, 1960

On 2 May 1960 the Soviet Union shot down a U-2 spy plane in Soviet airspace that had taken off from Turkey. In the US were Cold War strategists who believed in secrecy – beyond hiding the identity of CIA agents. It was common wartime strategy to protect operations extended to peace time and a defense matter. Military intelligence was wanted regardless of the method involved. The pilot, Francis Gary Powers, had poison with which to take his own life if he were about to be captured, and he had chosen to live, perhaps seeing his death as serving no purpose. The Soviet Union produced the remains of the plane, the captured pilot and the photos of military bases in the Soviet Union taken by the aircraft. If they just had the dead body of the pilot it still would have been an embarrassment for the US. But a few in the US would brand the pilot a coward for deciding to live.

Lying was supposed to be the tactic of communists, and now the US was exposed at playing the deception game. But the photographs were useful for the US government and the defense establishment. They revealed that Soviet nuclear capabilities were significantly less advanced than had been claimed by Khrushchev. They revealed Khrushchev's bluff: the US was superior to the Soviet Union in nuclear weaponry. There was also a domestic political benefit that could have been used as result from the public exposure. The "missile gap" that some Democratic Party politicians were using as an issue against the Eisenhower's presidency was verifiably false. But the Eisenhower administration and Pentagon stayed with a policy of secrecy, and Democrats concerned about national defense would continue with their "missile gap" complaints.

On May 14, Eisenhower journeyed to Paris for his previously scheduled summit meeting with world leaders. Khrushchev had comrades whose opinions he had to consider, and he chose to appear not very friendly with Eisenhower given Eisenhower's admission that he had approved the U-2 flights. Khrushchev canceled his plan to attend the summit meeting. There had also been the plan for Eisenhower's visit to the Soviet Union, and it was canceled.

The thaw in the Cold War appeared to have been canceled. Russians were hanging on to their old Cold War attitudes. Despite recent cultural exchanges and the Voice of America broadcasts into the Soviet Union since 1947, the common Soviet citizen remained patriotic and accepted the claim of his countries leaders that the capitalist nations were encircling their nation and wanting to overthrow the Soviet government. Soviet citizens blamed the capitalist West for the Cold War and saw their government as having consistently pursued peace despite hostility from the West. It was still believed that capitalism was crisis prone and that communist revolution would spread by choice rather than be forced on people.

In the United States, many believed that it was their country's duty to save the world from communism. Many saw international communism – including communism in China – as a monolithic conspiracy from Moscow, that negotiating was a waste of time because nothing was going to change the devious intent of the Communists, and that only military force would deter Communists from the goal of world domination.

Barry Goldwater

"We are confronted by a revolutionary world movement that possesses not only the will to dominate absolutely every square mile of the globe, but increasingly the capacity to do so... And it has now reached the point where American leaders, both political and intellectual, are searching desperately for means of 'appeasing' or 'accommodating' the Soviet Union at the price of national survival." 
                       Barry Goldwater,
            Conscience of a Conservative

Among the hardliners in the US was a senator from Arizona, Barry Goldwater – a senator since 1953. The Republican Party was divided in attitude regarding the nature of the communist threat and also on some domestic issues. Some Republicans still saw their party as controlled by East Coast establishment moderates. Goldwater described Eisenhower as a "dime store New Dealer." Goldwater had differed from Eisenhower's cautious abstention during the Hungarian uprising in 1956. Goldwater believed that the US should have intervened with a force that possessed tactical nuclear weapons. He criticized Eisenhower for his willingness to talk to Khrushchev. He and his admirers were the counterpart of those in France who were charging Charles de Gaulle with being soft on communism while de Gaulle was hoping to defuse hostilities and misunderstandings between the West and the Soviet Union.

Goldwater's aid, Brent Bozwell, wrote a book for Goldwater called Conscience of a Conservative, published in 1960 and the best selling political book since Tom Paine's Common Sense. With this book and another book drawn from the writings of Bozwell, Why Not Victory?, to be published in 1963, Goldwater would carry the torch for those supporting an uncompromising policy regarding communism. In Conscience of a Conservative, communism was described as "growing day by day." Goldwater favored withdrawing diplomatic recognition from all Communist governments including that of the Soviet Union. In Conscience of a Conservative it was written that "Our goal must be victory." And point ten under that subheading declared: "We must – ourselves – be prepared to undertake military operations against vulnerable Communist regimes."

Some others in the United States continued to see negotiations with Moscow as of possible benefit. Vice President Nixon was among them, and he was running for President in 1960 as the Republican Party's nominee. He knew the Russians fairly well, and he was among those who were confident that in the long run capitalism would perform better than the Soviet economic system. Agreeing with Nixon on these matters was his opponent, John F. Kennedy. During their campaign for the presidency where they disagreed regarding the communist menace was a so-called missile gap claimed by Kennedy.

Nixon would lose to Kennedy in November. The divide within the Republican Party would continue on the sidelines as the Cold War guided by President Kennedy and Chairman Khrushchev moved along.


All the Shah's Men, by Stephen Kinzer, 2003

Berlin 1961, by Frederick Kempe, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2011

Eisenhower, the Foreign Policy of Anticommunism and Latin America, by Stephen G. Rabe, 1988 (summarized)

Eisenhower and the Cold War, by Robert A. Divine, (pro-Eisenhower and anti-war), Oxford University Press, 1981 (summarized)

Eisenhower, by Geoffrey Perret, 1999

Diplomacy, Chapter 20, "Negotiating with the Communists: Adenauer, Churchill, and Eisenhower." by Henry Kissinger, 1994

Memoirs: 1950-1963, Volume II, by George F Kennan, 1972

The Cold War: 1945-1987, by by Ralph B. Levering, 1988

Churchill's Cold War: the Philosophy of Personal Diplomacy,
by Klaus Larres, Yale University Press, 2002

A History of 20th Century Russia, Chapter 17, "De-Stalinization (1953-1961)," by Robert Service, 1998

Reflections on a Ravaged Century, by Robert Conquest, 2001

Khrushchev Remembers, (Khrushchev's Memoirs), 1970

Power Faith and Fantasy, America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present,  by Michael B. Oren, 2007

The Cuban Revolution, by Hugh Thomas, 1977

Havana Nocturnal, by T.J. English. (summarized on site)

The Fifties, by David Halberstam, 1993

Senate Speech Joe McCarthy, June 14, 1951, presented by Modern History Sourcebook

Uprising in Hungary, 1956

The CIA in Iran, the New York Times

The Communist Control Act of 1954

The 1947 holocaust in Taipei.

Copyright © 2001-2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.