1955 Geneva Summit - History

1955 Geneva Summit - History

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Khrushchev with Eisenhower

The Big Four leaders ( United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom and France met iin Geneva Switzerland for one week of talks in 1955. The talks acheived little, but the atmosphere was positive.The Big Four leaders ( United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and France met in Geneva Switzerland for one week of talks in 1955. The talks achieved little, but the atmosphere was positive.

The United States and the Soviet Union continued to fail to agree on Germany and many other issues. It was thought that a meeting between President Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Bulganin of the Soviet Union might improve relations. Also attending the summit was the British Prime Minister Anthony Eden and French Prime Minister Edgar Faure. The foreign minister of the four countries were in attendance as well as was Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union.

The expectation going into the summit were not high. No advance agreements had been reached. The meeting opened on July 18, 1955, at the Palais Des Nations and took place over six days. The major accomplishment of the meeting was establishing direct communication between the leaders. The session were structured with meeting fo the foreign ministers in the morning and the heads of the states in the afternoon. One of the most moving moments of the war was a throwback to the years of World War II. When NATO was brought up by the Soviets, Eisenhower the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe turned to his old fellow general Marshals Bulganin and Zhukov and said “ The United States will never take part in an aggressive war” Marshall Bulganin turned and said, “ I believe you.”

The primary issue that could not be resolved was the future of Germany and Berlin. The Soviets were willing to discuss the unification of Germany as long as it became neutral. An agreement could never be reached. Eisenhower made a revolutionary proposal- suggesting that both the United States and the Soviet Union reveal every one of their military sites and then allow both countries to fly spy planes over the other's country. The Soviets did not accept the proposals.

Reagan and Gorbachev: The Geneva Summit

The Geneva Summit, the first meeting between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, was held on November 19 and 20, 1985. The two leaders met to discuss the Cold War-era arms race, primarily the possibility of reducing the number of nuclear weapons. Hosted in Geneva, Switzerland, the meeting was the first American-Soviet summit in more than six years.

The Politburo of the USSR had elected Gorbachev its General Secretary only months earlier, following Konstantin Chernenko’s death in March of 1985. Gorbachev was the youngest member of the Politburo upon assuming the position, and he brought with him a fresh approach to many issues, including nuclear diplomacy.

Up to this point, the Soviet military had focused on preparing to win a hypothetical nuclear war with a massive accumulation of nuclear arms (Rhodes 189). Gorbachev, however, embraced the idea of common security. Common security—a response to the mass destruction that would ensue if nuclear deterrence failed—emerged from the thinking and policies of European leaders such as West German Chancellor Willy Brandt and his Ostpolitik, which attempted to normalize relations between his country and Eastern Europe.

The principle of common security asserts that “countries can only find security in cooperation with their competitors, not against them” (Palme Commission). For Gorbachev, this meant working with the United States for bilateral reduction of nuclear arms. Historian Richard Rhodes cites Gorbachev’s address to the 27 th Congress of USSR’s Communist Party as an example. Gorbachev contended that “genuine equal security is guaranteed not by the highest possible, but by the lowest possible level of strategic balance, from which it is essential to exclude entirely nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction” (192).

Like Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan also rejected previous Cold War foreign policy norms. He rebuked the politics of détente that had characterized relations between the two superpowers in the 1970s. To Reagan, détente implied that the Soviet Union “had earned geopolitical, ideological, economic, and moral legitimacy as an equal to the United States” (Gaddis 225). Reagan opposed this stance on account of the USSR’s undemocratic system and totalitarian tendencies, famously referring to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” in 1983.

Reagan also disavowed the long-entrenched concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction held that—for two sides with large nuclear stockpiles—if one side launched a first strike on the other, the other side would retaliate. The resulting nuclear war would totally annihilate both sides. Knowing this, both sides would be deterred from launching a first nuclear strike.

Mutually Assured Destruction implied that it would be dangerous for a nuclear power to construct defenses against enemy nuclear weapons, as the defensively equipped state could then launch a first strike without needing to fear retaliation. Reagan, however, dismissed the idea that “vulnerability could provide security,” and championed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), hoping to render nuclear weapons obsolete (Gaddis 226). Nuclear arms useless against this hypothetical defense system, disarmament could commence. In March 1983, Reagan posed the following question in a televised address:

“What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our Allies?” (“Defense and National Security”)

The new program—quickly dubbed “Star Wars” by the media for its possible use of satellite weapons—triggered Soviet anxieties. George P. Shultz, Reagan’s Secretary of State, wrote, “SDI proved to be of deep concern to the Soviets…The Soviets were genuinely alarmed by the prospect of American science ‘turned on’ and venturing into the realm of space defenses” (Shultz 264).

Thus, both the United States and the USSR had come to share the goal of nuclear arms reduction by 1985, despite differences in how they thought it should be carried out. Reagan and Gorbachev agreed that they would meet in November of 1985 in Geneva to discuss nuclear arms reduction and other issues of international diplomacy, including human rights.

At Geneva, the two men quickly developed a rapport, even as they debated—sometimes quite ferociously—international issues of such grave importance. Gorbachev left a good impression on Reagan, who described the Soviet Secretary General as having “warmth in his face and style, not the coldness bordering on hatred I’d seen in most other senior Soviet leaders I’d met until then” (Gaddis 229).

The first meeting of the two leaders, alone except for translators, took place the morning of November 19. In preliminary remarks, both men expressed a hope for future cooperation and peace but also sparred over the USSR’s involvement in socialist movements around the world (Rhodes 195).

Reagan and Gorbachev joined their delegations for the first plenary session. Gorbachev opened by again declaiming the importance of cooperation and common security among the states going forward. Reagan countered, arguing that the USSR had not given the United States much reason to trust them, with its rhetoric of a “one-world Communist State,” and continued military buildup. On the other hand, he did say that the US was “ready to try to meet Soviet concerns if they were ready to reciprocate” (Rhodes 198).

Reagan then brought up SDI, proposing that the United States and USSR share a defensive system with the other if either were to develop it. Reagan denied allegations that the US was seeking to gain a first-strike advantage, and he argued that SDI could shield the two states from a hypothetical rogue third party with nuclear weapons.

After breaking for lunch, Gorbachev repudiated Reagan’s claim of the Soviet Union as an expansionist “evil empire” before voicing his fears that the development of SDI could lead to an arms race in space. Gorbachev stated as his goal continued strategic parity for the two states, “equal security at lower levels of force,” something which SDI would undermine (Rhodes 202). As such, Gorbachev offered to negotiate on offensive weapons reduction if and only if Reagan abandoned SDI.

Reagan refused on the grounds that SDI technology should not be considered a “space weapon”—merely a defense—and reiterated his offer to share the technology with the Soviets should the United States develop it. Gorbachev did not take the offer seriously. At this point, they had reached a stalemate that continued throughout the next day of negotiations as well.

Despite the lack of tangible progress on specific nuclear arms measures, the Geneva Summit was a breakthrough point for American-Soviet relations. This breakthrough was largely predicated on the personal connection forged between Gorbachev and Reagan. Shultz wrote that between the two men at the final ceremony, “The personal chemistry was apparent. The easy and relaxed attitude toward each other, the smiles, the sense of purpose, all showed through” (606). This attitude, coupled with the shared, ultimately peaceful goal of nuclear arms reduction, allowed for the creation of a joint statement expressing support for this principle. The two men had laid the groundwork for continued cooperation and negotiation in the years to come.

Reagan and Gorbachev next met the following year at the Reykjavík Summit.

Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: Penguin Books, 2007.

Rhodes, Richard. Arsenals of Folly: Nuclear Weapons in the Cold War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.

Shultz, George P. Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State. New York: Scribners, 1993.

Geneva Conference to resolve problems in Asia begins

In an effort to resolve several problems in Asia, including the war between the French and Vietnamese nationalists in Indochina, representatives from the world’s powers meet in Geneva. The conference marked a turning point in the United States’ involvement in Vietnam.

Representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, France, and Great Britain came together in April 1954 to try to resolve several problems related to Asia. One of the most troubling concerns was the long and bloody battle between Vietnamese nationalist forces, under the leadership of the communist Ho Chi Minh, and the French, who were intent on continuing colonial control over Vietnam. Since 1946 the two sides had been hammering away at each other. By 1954, however, the French were tiring of the long and inclusive war that was draining both the national treasury and public patience. The United States had been supporting the French out of concern that a victory for Ho’s forces would be the first step in communist expansion throughout Southeast Asia. When America refused France’s requests for more direct intervention in the war, the French announced that they were including the Vietnam question in the agenda for the Geneva Conference.

Discussions on the Vietnam issue started at the conference just as France suffered its worst military defeat of the war, when Vietnamese forces captured the French base at Dien Bien Phu. In July 1954, the Geneva Agreements were signed. As part of the agreement, the French agreed to withdraw their troops from northern Vietnam. Vietnam would be temporarily divided at the 17th parallel, pending elections within two years to choose a president and reunite the country. During that two-year period, no foreign troops could enter Vietnam. Ho reluctantly signed off on the agreement though he believed that it cheated him out of the spoils of his victory. The non-communist puppet government set up by the French in southern Vietnam refused to sign, but without French support this was of little concern at the time. The United States also refused to sign, but did commit itself to abide by the agreement. 


  1. ↑ Reston, James. Big Four Conference Opens Today West’s Chiefs Complete Strategy on Germany, Disarming, Security, New York Times, July 18, 1955, pg.1 ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
  2. Deadlock. East-West Tensions Stymie Geneva Meet, 1955/10/31 (1955). Universal Newsreel. 1955 . Retrieved February 22, 2012 .
  3. 12 Bischof, Cold War Respite, p. 3
  4. ↑ Staff, ABC News
  5. ↑ Hans J. Morgenthau, p. 559
  6. 12 Bischof, Cold War Respite, p. 239
  7. ↑ Gunter Bischof, 215.
  8. ↑Jack F. Matlock, Jr., pp. 9,149
  9. An Outline of American History: Cold War Aims, <


The stated mission of the 1955 summit was to reduce international tensions. The Geneva Summit was seen as an extremely important building block to better friendships and more open communication between the leaders of "The Big Four". [4] The creation of an international community was introduced as a way to help relieve global tensions and mistrust. This community would form the critical foundation of a unified world in which minimal barriers to trade and common interests would serve to engender diplomacy. [5]

Topics such as East-West trade agreements, tariffs, the arms race, international security and disarmament policy were all addressed to some extent. [6] The most significant proposal made by President Eisenhower was his "Open Skies" plan, which called for an international aerial monitoring system. [7] The intent of this policy was to prevent nations from stockpiling dangerous weapons, and eventually lead to the disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction. Surprisingly, one goal that American political advisers had for the conference was to not make any specific promises or guarantees to the Soviets. In the past, Soviet leaders have misinterpreted American suggestions as whole-hearted promises later on, which could serve to bring more division instead of unity. Since this meeting was the first of its kind, the seeds of unification needed to be planted, nothing else. [8]

The issue of East-West trade agreements was one that needed to be discussed very delicately. [6] All previous East-West trade agreement talks had been anything but diplomatic. In the past, trade agreements had always been an occasion for discourse and heated arguments. Neither the UK nor the U.S. was willing to share control of their trading spheres unless there were obvious strategic advantages of doing so. Nations were at a standstill because no one was willing to compromise for the good of the worldwide community. The problem with peace talks is that although each nation knows the importance and benefits of peace, there is never enough mutual trust to ensure the success of such talks. [3] The talks in Geneva helped break the ice and introduce nations to the benefits of global free trade. Also, simply by meeting and talking, the leaders were able to develop relationships and have an optimistic outlook on a peaceful and cooperative future.

1955 Geneva Summit - History

Nikita Khrushchev was the most intellectually aggressive member of the new collective leadership in the Soviet Union, and the Presidium was coming under his influence. He wanted to lift some of the burden from people under Soviet control, and he wanted to ease Cold War tensions. But he did not trust the West. Ringing in his ears was Stalin's remark that after he died the capitalists would wring the necks of his successors like chickens.

In early 1955, tensions arose over small islands next to the China's mainland that were occupied by Chiang's forces &ndash the islands of Quemoy and Ma-tsu. Communist China was shelling the islands and talking about liberating Taiwan, and Dulles talked about "tactical" atomic bombs. There was talk of bombing China's cities. The majority leader in the Senate, Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, denounced the talk of war among the Republicans. Public opinion in the US was disturbed and unenthusiastic about another war against China. Dulles' strategic policy called "massive retaliation" so far was just making people nervous. The Australians and Canadians were upset with Dulles. But the Soviet Union was not supporting China with a threat of nuclear retaliation should the United States use nuclear weapons. China ended its shelling, and the Eisenhower administration let the crisis pass.

On May 5, 1955, Soviet leaders were made more nervous as the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) joined NATO. On May 14, the Soviet Union signed agreements with its satellite regimes, creating what was called the Warsaw Pact. According to the agreement, each member nation would be defended against "imperialist" interference or military intervention.

In May, Britain and France proposed a conference with Soviet leaders to ease tensions, while the Soviet Union was trying to negotiate a withdrawal of the World War II allies from their occupation of Austria. The suspicions of Secretary of State Dulles were overcome, and the four powers &ndash the US, Soviet Union, Britain and France &ndash signed an agreement that reestablished Austria's independence, with the proviso that Austria would remain "forever neutral" in foreign affairs. The Kremlin pulled its troops out of Austria, and Austria became the first nation divided at the end of World War II to achieve reunification.

Eisenhower was impressed by the Soviet Union's behavior regarding Austria, and he argued in favor of accepting a British and French proposal for a summit meeting at Geneva. He was concerned about the arms race and was hopeful that a summit meeting would help create an atmosphere of trust between the Soviet Union and his administration. Dulles argued against it, and so too did some Republican Party hardliners who were reminded of the Yalta summit meeting.

The summit meeting opened on 18 July 1955. Eisenhower, Khrushchev, and Britain's new prime minister, Anthony Eden, discussed disarmament and European security. Eisenhower announced his "Open Skies" proposal. The British and French were enthusiastic, but Khrushchev was not. He believed that "Open Skies" would help LeMay improve his target data. Also he did not want to expose his bluff concerning the Soviet Union's retaliation capability: the United States had an overwhelming superiority in ability to deliver nuclear weapons. Khrushchev said that Eisenhower's proposal, "Open Skies'" amounted to spying.

Dulles left the Geneva summit impressed by the desire of Soviet leaders for good relations with everyone &ndash what was called the spirit of Geneva. Khrushchev left Geneva still concerned about Soviet competition with the West and what he called their tricks.

1955 Geneva Summit - History

From the Estate of Llewellyn E. Thompson,

United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union

Eisenhower thanks Thompson for his help during the

1955 Geneva “Big Four" Summit to ease Cold War tensions

Dwight David Eisenhower, 1890-1969. General of the Army Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force, World War II 34th President of the United States, 1953-1961. Typed Letter Signed, Dwight D. Eisenhower , one page, 6¾" x 8⅞" , on stationery of The White House, Washington, [D.C.], July 28, 1955. With original envelope.

The end of World War II ushered in a deterioration in the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union and the emergence of the Cold War. Allied against Nazi Germany, the two countries became political and military rivals as the United States, assisting Western European democracies, pushed back against Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. In 1946, in an address entitled “The Sinews of Peace" that he delivered at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, former British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill warned: "Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and its Communist international organisation intends to do in the immediate future, or what are the limits, if any, to their expansive and proselytising tendencies. . . . From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent." The Soviet Unionʼs detonation of its own atomic bomb in 1949 erased American nuclear superiority. Relations between the two countries were strained not only by what the United States viewed as the Soviet Unionʼs failure to keep the agreements that it made at Yalta, but also by the Korean War, which broke out in 1950, and Soviet support for the Communist government in North Korea. When the United States intensified its nuclear research and produced the hydrogen bomb in 1952, the Soviets followed suit in 1953.

The death of Josef Stalin in March 1953, however, and the Korean armistice of July 1953 cooled tensions somewhat as a new regime took control in the Soviet Union. By 1955, the time was ripe for discussions about increasing global security.

On July 18, 1955, the “Big Four,” led by the United States and the Soviet Union, assembled in Geneva, Switzerland. President Eisenhower met with Soviet Premier Nikolai A. Bulganin, British Prime Minister Anthony Eden, and French Prime Minister Edgar Faure. Their foreign ministers, including U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, also attended. Present, too, was Nikita S. Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party—the de facto leader, who held virtually unlimited power inside the Soviet Union.

The purpose of the summit was to reduce international tension, and the relationships that the Big Four made at the meeting gave reason for optimism that the Cold War would thaw with cooperation between the Western democracies and the Eastern Communist block. The Big Four discussed a number of topics, including the unification of Germany, which had been divided into four zones controlled by the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union after World War II global free trade tariffs the arms race and disarmament and international security. Eisenhower proposed an “Open Skies" plan, an international monitoring system aimed at preventing countries from stockpiling weapons, particularly nuclear devices. Ultimately the countries reached no agreements, but the summit nevertheless helped to ease world tension.

In this letter, Eisenhower thanks Ambassador Llewellyn E. “Tommy" Thompson, then the United States ambassador to Austria, for his assistance during the summit . He writes, in full: "Before we entrust the Geneva Conference to the judgment of history, I want to send you this note to tell you of my appreciation of your assistance while we were there. I understand you gave up part of your home leave in order to join us, and I assure you that I am more than grateful for all you did to help us. / With warm regard . . . . "

Thompson (1904-1972) was a career American diplomat who served at a critical time in history as the United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union under Presidents Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson. Thompson joined the Foreign Service in 1928, and during his long and distinguished career he served as the United States Ambassador to Austria from 1955 to 1957. It was during that service that the Geneva Summit occurred. Eisenhower appointed Thompson Ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1957, and Kennedy reappointed him in 1961. He resigned in 1962, but Johnson reappointed him in 1967, and he served until 1969. He also held the posts of Career Ambassador and Ambassador At Large. He was part of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council, or ExComm, which advised Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and he was present at Johnson's summit with Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin at Glassboro, New Jersey, in 1967. He came out of retirement to advise President Richard Nixon on the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) negotiations with the Soviet Union and represented the United States in the SALT talks from 1969 until he died in 1972.

This letter is in fine to very fine condition. It has one horizontal mailing fold, which does not affect Eisenhowerʼs large 3⅞" black fountain pen signature, and a small stain at the upper right, affecting nothing. The original envelope was sent via diplomatic pouch and therefore has no postal markings. It was opened without tearing the flap. There is glue residue from the flap on the back of the envelope and slight edge toning, which is more pronounced on back. The envelope is in fine condition.

Provenance:This letter comes directly from Ambassador Thompson's estate. We are pleased to be able to offer it for the first time on the autograph market.

“Them Bad Russians” Still Haunt America

Nikolai Bulganin, Dwight Eisenhower, Edgar Faure, and Anthony Eden at the 1955 Geneva Summit.

“America it's them bad Russians. Them Russians them Russians. . She wants to take our cars from out our garages. Her wants to grab Chicago. . Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. . America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set,” the poet Allen Ginsberg wrote.

But Ginsberg’s poem “America” was written in 1956, when Cold War fervor gripped the nation. We have come a long way since then -- haven’t we?

Sure we have, Barack Obama assured us, when he lamented that “there have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality. And what I consistently say to them [Russians], and what I say to President Putin, is that’s the past and we’ve got to think about the future, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to cooperate more effectively than we do.”

Obama said this on the Jay Leno show. So he might have meant it as a joke. But he seemed to be perfectly serious.

I try to avoid psychological categories as I observe mythic America. But occasionally the language of psychology is irresistible, at least as metaphor. The impression I get from looking in the television set -- and the Internet -- is that Obama was offering a classic example of projection: denying some characteristic of oneself by ascribing it to someone else. I use “projection” as a metaphor because I’m not talking about Obama as an individual. I’m talking about America, the whole nation, slipping back into a Cold War mentality.

For weeks, the U.S. mass media have been gripped by the drama of Snowden. Would he leave Russia or stay? Would the Russians grant him asylum? Now “them bad Russians” have gone and done it. If Ginsberg were writing “America” today he would add, “Them Russians, she keep the traitor Edward Snowden.” And they’ve got to be punished. That’s certainly the story I get from the media.

It’s the story Russians get too, though apparently many of them think it’s funny. A joke making the rounds there portrays Obama as a jilted suitor: "Obama won't see Putin because Putin is already seeing Snowden."

Some more serious Russian observers dismiss the Obama snub as no danger, and perhaps even a help, to Putin, who is happy to build up his nationalist political base. His effort is helped by stirring up memories of the Cold War, like analyst Sergei Markov’s claim that "Obama is under powerful pressure from the cold war lobby." America still has a “Cold War lobby”? Who knew? That sounds like a projection from the Russian side.

So we’ve got mirror images, each side accusing the other of slipping back to the bad old days. No doubt there’s some truth on both sides.

The ghost of the Cold War certainly still haunts Obama’s America. He was under powerful pressure to cancel the Putin summit or else pay the political price at home, just as Democrats from Henry Wallace to Jimmy Carter paid for being seen as “soft on communism.”

For a short time there was some popular enthusiasm for “hitting the reset button” in U.S.-Russian relations. But that never erased the stronger enthusiasm for bashing “them Russians” whenever there was a chance.

True, the Russians have given their American critics some tragically fat targets for criticism. Their continued anti-gay campaign, done with government encouragement, is to me the most blatant and frightening example. But after recent events in Egypt, who would believe that the U.S. government bases its foreign policy decisions on moral considerations?

The Russian support for Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad is another dismaying example. But that’s obviously a matter of power politics. If the Obama administration saw any real advantage in supporting Assad, they’d do it too. Again, see Egypt (and a host of other countries).

Yet the traditional American story does not allow us to see any kind of equivalence between our own “land of freedom” and “them bad Russians.” Americans insisted on the fundamental difference even in the pre-Soviet days, when an autocratic czar presided over an eastward expansion in many ways similar to, and as cruel as, America’s westward expansion.

The same was true during the post-World War I “red scare” and the pre-World War II days of the early HUAC (the House Committee on Un-American Activities), when America showed itself to be the land of something less than full freedom. (Imagine if the U.S. government had digital technology back in those days.)

But it was surely the Cold War era that fixed in American political mythology the unbridgeable chasm between us and “them bad Russians,” the chasm reflected in the furor over Snowden and in Obama’s remarks on the Leno show.

However the lingering effects of the Cold War narrative are only part of the picture. For the Obama administration, as the Christian Science Monitor headlined, “It's about much more than Edward Snowden.”

As the Monitor noted, the White House statement on the summit cancelation revealed what’s probably the heart of the issue for the president. It “listed arms control, missile defense, trade relations, and human rights as among the issues that would have been discussed by the two leaders but which have not had enough progress to necessitate a summit.” “Progress,” of course, is a code word for significant concessions from the other side.

In the White House no doubt they read the New York Times editorial that appeared just hours before the cancelation, which offered quite a similar conclusion: “There is no reason for Mr. Obama to attend unless Mr. Putin provides solid assurances that he is prepared to address contentious issues in a substantive and constructive way.” “Substantive and constructive” are more code words for Putin making significant concessions to meet Obama’s demands.

Presidents don’t want to meet with less-than-chummy leaders of other countries unless they can count on such concessions. What they worry about most are the media stories that a summit will produce. Unless the headlines are sure to feature code words like progress, substantive, and constructive, the president would rather stay home. Why give the other side a chance to look like America’s equal in all those photo ops if there’s no guarantee of a payoff for our side? The cost-benefit analysis just doesn’t add up.

Dwight Eisenhower was one president who believed that fervently. And for purposes of understanding the current canceled summit it is worth reviving at least the memory of the early Cold War era, the days of Ike and Ginsberg’s “America,” when “summitry” was a topic of constant interest.

For over two years after Josef Stalin died, Kremlin leaders pushed hard, in public and private, for a summit with the U.S. president. Eisenhower resisted just as firmly. He saw no chance that “them Russians” would yield enough ground to repay the cost of giving them a stage to look like his equal.

By the time Ginsberg wrote “America,” though, Eisenhower had met the Soviet leaders, Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin, at Geneva. Why did he go to the summit? “World opinion could be allayed or at least satisfied a bit,” was how Ike explained it to Winston Churchill.

Mostly he was concerned with public opinion in Western Europe. The specter of any move toward neutrality there, spurred by a perception that the Soviets were more peace-loving than the U.S., terrified official Washington. To forestall such a shift, and to bolster pro-U.S. leaders in Western Europe, the president went to the summit.

To assure a PR victory, he grabbed the headlines by offering his “Open Skies” plan, giving each side the right to fly over the other’s land and see its nuclear facilities.

Khrushchev immediately rejected the plan, knowing that it would “have a spectacular appearance which will perhaps deprive the Soviet Union of their propaganda advantage in slogan ‘ban the bomb” and also “allay [American] fear of surprise attack. … Military advisors agree that [the U.S.] would gain more information than would Soviets.”

Those were not Khrushchev’s words. They were written by U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in a cable to the State Department. And they summed up Eisenhower’s own understanding of the big win he hoped to score with “Open Skies.” He wanted that win so badly that he went scurrying to find Khrushchev in his final moments in Geneva, hoping to get the Soviet leader to change his mind. But Khrushchev was already on the plane headed home. He never even considered discussing “Open Skies.”

The story of the Geneva summit shows what presidents are most likely to think about when they schedule, or don’t schedule, or cancel, summit meetings.

It also shows how far the U.S. has come from the Cold War era of the ‘50s in at least one respect. Obama can hardly be too worried about public reaction among America’s closest allies because of the cancelled Moscow meeting. And he is under no international pressure to offer a spectacular new plan for U.S. - Russian cooperation. Our multi-polar world just doesn’t work that way any more.

But the story of the canceled summit shows, too, how much the narrative of the Cold War era still shapes American public perceptions of “them bad Russians.” Even if Obama has freed himself from that narrative, its continuing grip on America means that he must now treat Putin as more of a foe than a friend. So there will be no summit until it seems sure that the American president can come away claiming some kind of victory.

Geneva Summit (1955)

The Geneva Summit of 1955 was a Cold War-era meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. Held on July 18, 1955, it was a meeting of "The Big Four": President Dwight D. Eisenhower of the United States, Prime Minister Anthony Eden of Britain, Premier Nikolai A. Bulganin of the Soviet Union, and Prime Minister Edgar Faure of France. [1] They were accompanied by the foreign ministers of the four powers (who were also members of the Council of Foreign Ministers): John Foster Dulles, Harold Macmillan, Vyacheslav Molotov, and Antoine Pinay. Also in attendance was Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union.

The purpose was to bring together world leaders to begin discussions on peace. [2] Although those discussions led down many different roads (arms negotiations, trade barriers, diplomacy, nuclear warfare, etc.), the talks were influenced by the common goal for increased global security. [3]

1955 Geneva Summit - History

1951 Peace Treaty between Japan and Allies A peace treaty was signed between Japan and all the belligerents, with the exception of the USSR, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Under the terms of the treaty, Japan was forced to give up all its overseas territory.
1951 King Abdulah assassinated King Abdullah of Jordan (formerly Transjordan) was assassinated while praying at the Al Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem. Abdullah had been engaging in secret negotiations with Israel and was killed by a Palestinian extremist. Abdullah was succeeded by his son Emir Talal, who was later declared mentally ill. His son, Crown Prince Ibn Talal Hussein, took over, and ruled Jordan until his death in 1999.
1951 H- Bomb On May 12, the United States detonated a hydrogen bomb on an island in the Pacific. The hydrogen bomb is many times more powerful than an atomic bomb. The Russian development of an A–bomb convinced the US to proceed with development of the H–bomb.
1951 First Electronic Computer The Remington Rand Corporation unveiled the first commercial digital computer, called the "UNIVAC" (Universal Automatic Computer). The "UNIVAC" followed the experimental "ENIAC," which had been developed in 1945. The first "UNIVAC" was sold to the Census Bureau.
1951 US Airforce Orders B- 52 Bomber The US Airforce ordered production models of the B-52 Bomber from Boeing. The B-52 was set to replace the B-36 Bomber. It has eight engines and a total bomb load of 50,000 pounds. The B-52 can fly non-stop for a total of 15,000 miles.
1951 Color TV Introduced CBS introduced the first color television broadcast. The broadcast took place in 5 American cities, and CBS began producing two and a half hours a day.

1952 Czechoslovakia's Slansky executed for High Treason A trial on charges of treason was held in Prague, in which Rudolf Slansky, former Secretary of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party, and ten other prominent party members (most of whom were Jewish) were all convicted and hung.
1952 King George VI Dies, Elizabeth crowned Queen King George of England died on February 6. He had come to the throne following the abdication of his brother Edward VIII. George was succeeded by his daughter, Elizabeth.
1952 Mau Mau Begin Terrorists Actions A state of emergency was declared by the British Governor of Kenya as the Mau Mau began an open uprising against British rule. The British arrested hundreds of Kikuyu tribesman -- among them Jomo Kenyatta, who went on to become the first Prime Minister of Kenya.
1952 King Farouk Adbicates Young army officers, disgusted by widespread corruption in Egypt, staged a revolt against King Farouk. The revolt was led by General Mohammed Neguib and Colonel Gamal Abdul Nasser. Neguib became leader of Egypt. He remained in control until 1954, when Nasser – the real power behind the revolt – took power.
1952 New immigration Quotas The Congress overrode a Presidential veto and vetoed to restrict immigration into the United States to 154,657 immigrants per year. This was the most restrictive policy in American history to date. Foreigners with technical training and high education would receive priority under the law.
1952 Revolt in Bolivia A revolt took place in Bolivia when the Movimento Nacional Revolucionario was deprived of the election of its leader as President. Over the course of the revolution, 3,000 were killed but the MNR succeeded and their leader Vixtgor Paz became President.
1952 Polio Vaccine Invented A vaccine that prevented polio was developed in 1952 by Jonas Salk.
1952 High Court Rules Truman Seizure of Steel Illegal The Supreme Court ruled that the seizure of the steel mills by Truman was illegal. Truman had seized the mills on April 8, after the companies had refused to give the workers the wage increase proposed by the Wage Stabilization Act. He acted under his war powers. The Supreme Court decision on June 2 stated that he had exceeded his power.

1953 Korean Armistice On July 27, after three years, one month, and two days of fighting, the Korean War officially ended. The United States suffered 33,327 deaths and 102,000 wounded. The cost of the war was over $18 billion.

Under the terms of the cease-fire, Korea would be divided at the 38th parallel, as it was the day the Communists attacked. The first truce talks had begun on July 10, 1951. A cease-fire agreement was quickly reached in almost all areas, with the exception of a prisoner-exchange. The United Nations forces refused to return prisoners who did not want to be repatriated. Two more years of fighting ensued and only a threat by President Eisenhower to use nuclear weapons finally brought about an armistice.
1953 Stalin Dies Josef Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, died of a stroke at the age of 73. Stalin was succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev. The new government eliminated some of the most repressive activities of the Stalin regime, including the execution of Laurentia Beria, the head of the Secret Police.
1953 France grants Laos independence France granted Laos independence in all but foreign affairs. A communist national movement called Pathet Lao gained control of northern Laos and set up a separate government.
1953 Rosenbergs Executed Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed on June 19, after being convicted of espionage for selling the formula for the atomic bomb to the Soviets. They were the first civilians put to death under the Espionage Act of 1917.
1953 Comet Crashes On May 2, a "Comet" aircraft crashed outside of New Delhi. This was the third crash in the first year of the Comet's service.
1953 Super Sabre Introduced On May 25, North American aviation test pilot George Welsh flew the "YF Super Sabre" for its maiden voyage. In its first flight, the "Sabre" broke the sound barrier. The F-100 entered Airforce service in 1954 and remained in service until 1972. A total of 2,247 were acquired by the Airforce.
1953 DC-7 Introduced Douglas Aircraft introduced the DC-7 on May 18, 1953. The DC-7 was a derivative of the DC-6. It had a longer fuselage, with new and stronger engines. There were three versions of DC-7 built: A,B, and C variants. The C version was the first plane that could fly non-stop across the Atlantic without difficulty.

U.S.-Soviet Summits

“The failure at Geneva was guaranteed by the absence of an agreed conceptual framework both sides ultimately decided to treat the summit as a get-acquainted session that would be the first step in a new process. This, plus the fact that when the time came, Reagan and Gorbachev tossed aside the agenda and positions carefully structured by their professional aides, made the Geneva summit extraordinary in terms of the mechanics.”

From the epilogue by Dusko Doder

During the Cold War, when the question of an East-West summit meeting was raised, a standard answer from both sides was: “We are prepared to meet at the summit, provided preparations are made for such a meeting.”

In this book, Gordon R. Weihmiller reviews the preparatory phases of eleven postwar meetings between leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union from the 1955 Geneva Heads of Government meeting to the Vienna summit in 1979, analyzing the circumstances, lead-up, and outcome of each. Dusko Doder examines the background and results of the 1985 Reagan-Gorbachev summit, and David Newsom’s foreword notes the relationship of summit preparation to summit success.

Watch the video: Τα Σεπτεμβριανά - 1955 (August 2022).