"W e will bury you!" Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971) shouted these dramatic words in a speech in Moscow in 1956. His language struck fear in many U.S. citizens and contributed to Cold War paranoia. However, the line was misinterpreted; the statement referred to a Russian phrase meaning "We will outlast you and attend your funeral [or burial]." Khrushchev himself later complained about the negative reaction: "I once said, 'We will bury you,' and I got into trouble with it. Of course we will not bury you with a shovel. Your own working class will bury you." But the damage had been done, and the line has been quoted out of context for years and years.
Four years later, at a United Nations meeting on September 20, 1960, the Soviet leader lashed out again. (The United Nations is an international organization, composed of most of the nations of the world, created to preserve world peace and security.) After British prime minister Harold Macmillan (1894–1986) made a speech that was critical of the Soviet Union, the red-faced Soviet leader angrily responded by taking off his shoe and banging it on the table and waving it at Macmillan.
These two images of Khrushchev are among the more memorable moments of the Cold War, a forty-five-year rivalry between the two world superpowers, the communist Soviet Union and the capitalist democracy of the United States. Communism is a system of government in which a single political party, the Communist Party, controls nearly all aspects of society. Government leaders are selected by the party leadership. The communist system prohibits private ownership of property; goods produced and resulting wealth are, in theory, shared equally by all citizens. A communist government controls all economic production and does not allow religious practices. A democracy is a system of government in which several political parties compete. Their members are elected to various government offices through general public elections. Capitalism is an economic system in which property and businesses are privately owned. Economic activity operates relatively free of government interventions; competition determines the prices, production, and distribution of goods. Religious freedom is one of the cornerstones of the United States; it is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.
In February 1956, Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, made a lengthy historic speech setting a new course for his nation. Khrushchev strongly denounced the past practices of former Soviet premier Joseph Stalin (1879– 1953), calling them crimes against the people. Stalin's crimes included mass killings of Eastern Europeans in the 1930s. Khrushchev condemned Stalin for placing his own quest for power above the welfare of the people. Breaking from Stalin's precedent, Khrushchev called for peaceful competition with the West.
The speech gave U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969; served 1953–61) some hope that tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union could be eased; it even seemed that the Soviets might loosen their hold on Eastern Europe. However, Khrushchev's speech triggered a dramatic and unexpected outcry against the Soviets by Eastern Europeans. Revealing the truth about the Stalin era sparked a backlash against Soviet rule in Eastern Europe.
Despite the seemingly optimistic prospects in early 1956, Eisenhower's second term as president, beginning in January 1957, coincided with increased tensions worldwide. European crises erupted, and in the Third World—from the Congo in Africa to Cuba in Latin America—the Cold War between noncommunist and communist factions intensified. Third World is a term used to refer to poor underdeveloped or developing nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Most Third World countries are former colonies whose economies are primarily based on agriculture. Latin America includes the entire Western Hemisphere south of the United States. It includes Central and South America as well as Mexico and the islands of the West Indies.
Following the horrific revelations about the Stalin era, Eastern Europeans boldly demonstrated their disdain for communist rule. In June 1956, riots broke out in Poland after workers went on strike; they were protesting wage cuts imposed by the government and harsh working conditions. In an effort to peacefully resolve the crisis, Khrushchev ousted the Stalin-era Polish leaders. He installed a new communist leader, Wladyslaw Gomulka (1905–1982), who promised
worker reforms. Khrushchev quickly became uncomfortable with the reforms and asked Gomulka to limit his efforts. Gomulka had pressed for more expansive social reforms, including greater personal freedoms, than Khrushchev was willing to accept. The new Polish leader refused to back down, and Khrushchev chose not to force the issue.
Seeing Soviet rule being successfully challenged in Poland, students in Hungary decided to press for even greater change in their country. They wanted to eliminate communism altogether and turn Hungary toward neutrality. On October 23, 1956, student demonstrations turned violent in the growing rebellion against the Soviet presence. One week later, Hungarian leader Imre Nagy (1896–1958) announced that Hungary would pull out of the Warsaw Pact and drop the ban on political parties within Hungary. Orchestrated by the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact was a military alliance of Eastern European nations, designed to protect them in case of Western European aggression. The pact also served another
purpose: It gave the Soviets firmer control over the internal affairs of the member countries.
Khrushchev decided events in Hungary had gone too far, and on November 4 he responded with force. Some two hundred thousand Soviet troops and fifty-five hundred tanks launched a bloody surprise attack. Before the revolt, the United States had been encouraging Eastern European nations to follow independent communist paths, much like Yugoslavia. However, Eisenhower did not want to risk nuclear war, so he chose not to assist the Hungarian anticommunist movement. By November 8, after several days of fierce fighting, all public unrest was crushed. The death toll was high: Close to thirty thousand Hungarians and several thousand Soviet troops were killed. In addition, over two hundred thousand Hungarians fled into neutral Austria. Many ended up in the United States. The Soviets arrested and later executed Nagy. With Soviet approval, János Kádár (1912–1989) assumed the Hungarian leadership, the beginning of his more than thirty years in power.
The Hungarian revolt and resulting massive Soviet response caused major repercussions. The incident weakened Khrushchev's standing at home. Soviet communist hard-liners blamed Khrushchev's anti-Stalin speech for the turmoil in Eastern Europe. Khrushchev pulled back his support for reform, or political change, and instead increased Soviet economic aid to Eastern Europe, hoping to avoid more unrest and further use of military force. By June 1957, Khrushchev had prevailed over the internal political challenge, and for the time being, he turned his attention to the skies.
The missile race
Early in the morning of October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the world's first Earth-orbiting satellite, Sputnik I. (Sputnik means "fellow traveler," a phrase often used by Soviet communists to refer to each other. A satellite is an constructed object that orbits, in this case, the Earth.) On November 3, the Soviets launched a satellite carrying a dog named Laika, who lived for ten days, proving that a living creature could survive in space for a period of time. These launches were a start for space exploration, but they were perhaps more important as propaganda (information spread to further one's own cause) victories for Khrushchev and the Soviet Union. The American public was shocked by the rapid technological advances the Soviets had made, though the United States was not too far behind, launching its first successful satellite on February 1, 1958.
Riding a wave of reversed popularity in the Communist Party following the crisis in Hungary, Khrushchev replaced
Nikolay Bulganin (1895–1975) as Soviet premier in March 1958. Khrushchev was the secretary general of the Soviet Communist Party, the real office of power within the Soviet Union, and Bulganin had served as the Soviet premier. Now Khrushchev claimed both titles.
The U.S. scientific community and U.S. officials worried about the Soviets' intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities: Was the United States now vulnerable to nuclear missile attacks? Reports stated that the United States was falling behind in both missile technology and the number of long-range bombers; the threat of massive retaliation by the United States might no longer be an effective deterrent to hostile actions. Fears of a Soviet nuclear missile advantage rose in the American public. With substantial public support, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act in 1958, providing $5 billion for higher education to increase U.S. technological capabilities. An emphasis was placed on science, mathematics, engineering, and foreign languages. Funding increased for additional Strategic Air Command bombers and nuclear weapons. The United States also poured more funding into its space program. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established in October 1958 to guide U.S. space program development.
On July 4, 1956, long before the Soviets launched their first satellite, the United States had begun to make secret espionage, or spy, flights over the Soviet Union, using high-altitude U-2 planes. Flying 12 miles high, they could photograph 750-mile-wide (1,200-kilometer) corridors. Through the U-2 photography, Eisenhower learned more about Soviet missile capabilities, Soviet nuclear testing, and the Soviet space program. The secret surveillance flights and other intelligence-gathering showed that the Soviets had no technological advantage; there was no reason to fear. The Soviets had not deployed intercontinental missiles.
However, Eisenhower could not let the public know that the United States had the advantage over the Soviet Union. Publicizing information about Soviet missile capabilities would reveal the extent of the secret U.S. spy program. As a result, public pressure forced Eisenhower to increase funding for the U.S. missile program, and the existing U.S. advantage grew. Between 1957 and 1960, the United States would triple its stash of nuclear weapons, going from six hundred to eighteen hundred, including Polaris nuclear submarines. Intermediate-range ballistic missiles were sent to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries in Europe to be shared among the Western European nations, including West Germany. NATO is a peacetime alliance of the United States and eleven other nations.
Back-and-forth test-ban proposals
Earlier, the Soviets had found U.S. test-ban proposals unacceptable because the proposals included on-site inspection requirements. The Soviets were unwilling to provide the United States with maps of their military installations. However,
in December 1957, aware of the U.S. buildup, Khrushchev began pressing for a ban on nuclear weapons testing. This time Eisenhower was not interested.
In March 1958, the Soviets proposed a nuclear-free zone in Central Europe, including West Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany. The proposal suggested that the manufacture and deployment of nuclear weapons within this zone be banned. Again the United States and its NATO allies rejected the proposal, claiming West Germany might be left vulnerable to attack by Soviet conventional forces.
Unhappy with NATO's response, Khrushchev decided to put pressure again on West Berlin. By 1958, West Berlin had received $600 million in economic aid from the United States and had become a showcase of democratic capitalism. Close to three million East Germans, many of them young professionals, had moved to the West Berlin zone. Khrushchev believed the rearming of West Germany was in clear violation of postwar treaties. He threatened to end Soviet occupation of East Berlin and give the East German government control over access to West Berlin if the Western allies did not leave West Berlin. The Western allies did not want East Germany to gain the status of an independent nation. Not only would formal recognition of East Germany establish yet another communist nation, but it would potentially greatly hinder future reunification with West Germany into one Germany again. To appease Khrushchev and avoid further problems in Berlin, the United States and Britain agreed to the Soviet test-ban proposal in October 1958. The suspension of nuclear testing would last three years. From May 11 to August 5, 1959, representatives from the four main powers—the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and Britain—met in Geneva to determine the fate of Berlin. Though few agreements were reached, the crisis was averted, and tensions over Berlin declined for the next few years.
Spirit of Camp David
Khrushchev traveled to the United States in September 1959 to meet with Eisenhower. After touring an Iowa corn farm and being turned away from Disneyland because the United States feared for his safety, Khrushchev met with Eisenhower at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, 70 miles from Washington, D.C. Though they made little firm progress, they did agree to keep Berlin as it was for the time being and to meet again in Europe the following spring. The relationship of the two superpower leaders seemed to be on much stronger footing. The improved relations were referred to as "the spirit of Camp David."
The Middle East erupts
The Middle East is a large region that includes parts of southwestern Asia, southeastern Europe, and northern Africa. It extends from Turkey in the north to Sudan in the south and stretches to Iran in the east. It includes Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon, Cyprus, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. The region was critically important to the United States and Western Europe because of its vast oil reserves and its long boundary with the Soviet Union. The boundary could be used to block potential expansion of Soviet influence toward the Persian Gulf. For these reasons, Eisenhower decided to forge an anti-Soviet alliance among Arab states. Britain had long been the dominant colonial power in the region, but its control had declined after World War II (1939–45). (Colonialism refers to a political and economic relationship in which a powerful country maintains control over the people of a poorer or weaker country. Most often the term is used in reference to Western European nations that historically controlled various underdeveloped countries.) Because of its close association with the new nation of Israel, the United States had a problem in filling the regional power void left by Britain. (The United States, through its strong pro-Israel lobby within the United States itself, provided substantial economic support of the new nation.) Attempting to pursue a more neutral approach to the Israel-Arab dispute, the United States helped arrange a defense treaty among willing Middle East nations. (Israel's violent displacement of Palestinian Arab populations in creating the new nation created lasting animosity.) Established in February 1955 and known as the Baghdad Pact, the treaty included Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and Iraq, as well as Great Britain. The United States trusted that this group of nations would serve as a solid barrier to Soviet expansion in the Middle East. However, Egypt would soon prove this wrong.
Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918–1970) was the leader of Egypt. He had overthrown King Farouk (1920–1965) to capture control of the country in July 1952. At first, Eisenhower saw Nasser as a positive influence on Arab stability and signed a treaty with him in 1954. Under the treaty, Britain would withdraw all of its troops from Egypt. However, Nasser desired much more. He wanted to lead a pan-Arab nationalist movement, an alliance of all Arab nations to rid the region of outside political influences. The movement sought to eliminate Israel from the region to regain lost lands and to create a Palestinian state in its place. In 1955, Nasser declined to join the Baghdad Pact. Instead he asked for assistance from the Soviets to attack Israel. By September 1955, Egypt was receiving arms from Czechoslovakia at the request of the Soviets. In April 1956, Egypt formed a military alliance with Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. In May, Nasser extended formal recognition to communist China. Nasser was becoming a hero to the Arab world in his drive to destroy Israel.
On July 19, 1956, Eisenhower responded to Nasser's actions by announcing that the United States would no longer offer financial assistance for the construction of the Aswan High Dam, a key project designed to greatly improve agriculture in Egypt through inexpensive hydroelectric power. On July 26, Nasser responded by nationalizing the Suez Canal, the main shipping link between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. This meant Nasser now controlled the movement of oil shipments from the Middle East to Western Europe. Britain, France, and Israel combined forces to take back the canal: On October 29, Israel launched an attack against Egypt. Two days later, French and British forces attacked with warplanes and paratroopers. Nasser responded by sinking ships in the canal, closing it to shipments. An oil crisis loomed for Europe. Highly upset by the French and British military action, Eisenhower introduced a United Nations (UN) resolution calling for a cease-fire in the region. The resolution was also supported by the Soviets, but Eisenhower feared the attack by Western forces would drive Egypt ever closer to the Soviets. By December 22, Britain and France had withdrawn their troops from Egypt.
Though Egypt's forces had been overwhelmed in the Suez War, Nasser emerged from the conflict with greater prestige. The Western nations, on the other hand, were left divided. Stung by the UN resolution and threats from the Soviet Union, France would leave NATO by 1966 and pursue its own nuclear development program. The last bit of British influence in the Middle East had disappeared as well. As the Soviets passed more weapons to Nasser, Eisenhower went to
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Congress in January 1957 for expanded presidential powers in the region. As a result, the Eisenhower Doctrine was established: The president was granted the right to use force in the Middle East against any form of communist aggression. The doctrine made the United States the dominant foreign power in the region.
Inspired by Nasser's leadership in Egypt, nationalist movements erupted in various Arab countries. In February 1958, Nasser formed the United Arab Republic (UAR) alliance with Syria and Yemen. On July 14, 1958, the pro-Western government of Iraq fell to General Abdul Karim Kassem (1914–1963), who wanted Iraq to join the UAR. That same day, Camille N. Chamoun (1900–1987), the president of the pro-Western Lebanon government, requested U.S. aid to combat an attempted coup d'état, an illegal or forceful change of government, there as well. Eisenhower immediately sent fourteen thousand U.S. troops to Lebanon; he also sent air support for three thousand British troops who were defending Jordan's King Hussein (1935–1999). By placing eleven hundred Strategic Air Command aircraft on alert, Eisenhower warned the Soviets not to get involved in Lebanon.
By October 1958, stability had been restored in Lebanon and Jordan. In addition, Iraq's Kassem dropped his effort to join the UAR and ensured the security of Western oil company property in Iraq. Nevertheless, Iraq did withdraw from the U.S.-inspired Baghdad Pact in 1958. The name of the Baghdad Pact was changed to Central Treaty Organization (CENTO).
By 1961, Nasser's effort at uniting the Arab world was falling apart. Syria withdrew from the UAR, and Egypt became enemies with Syria and Iraq. The Soviet influence in the Middle East was challenged by U.S. influence. After the Suez War, the United States had replaced Britain and France as the most influential Western power in the region. The pro-U.S. governments of Lebanon, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia welcomed the Eisenhower Doctrine. Egypt, Syria, and Iraq looked to the Soviets for military and economic aid. However, the superpowers had trouble making the Middle East countries into dependent states; efforts to resolve the Israel-Palestine dispute would also prove futile. The oil reserves in the region gave these countries a degree of political and economic independence found in few other places. The value of the reserves allowed these countries to be nationalists.
Second Taiwan Strait crisis
In August 1958, the communist People's Republic of China (PRC), also known as Mainland China, had once again begun bombarding the offshore islands controlled by the Republic of China (ROC). Leaders of the ROC had established themselves on the island of Taiwan after being driven from the mainland by Chinese communists. The communists who led the PRC sought to force acceptance of their government as the official representative government of all Chinese people; they wanted diplomatic recognition of the ROC to stop. Khrushchev sent a note to Eisenhower threatening global nuclear war if the United States supported an attack against the Chinese mainland. Ignoring the threat, Eisenhower sent the U.S. Seventh Fleet back to the Taiwan Strait to escort ROC supply ships. The PRC artillery was careful not to hit the U.S. ships, and the United States showed no inclination to become further involved militarily. On October 6, 1958, a cease-fire went into effect when the United States offered the PRC a resolution that involved reduction of ROC forces on the smaller islands being bombarded. ROC president Chiang Kai-shek (1887–1975) consented to the U.S. proposal, and the second crisis in the Taiwan Strait quickly came to an end.
Despite Khrushchev's seemingly strong support of the PRC, Chinese communists in that government viewed his actions with great suspicion. They believed Khrushchev knew full well that the United States had no intention of going to war with the Soviet Union; and they seriously doubted that the Soviets would risk nuclear war on behalf of the PRC. In fact, the break between the PRC and the Soviet Union was widening. The Soviets were becoming increasingly fearful of the belligerent PRC leader, Mao Zedong (1893–1976), and his possible lack of restraint in the future use of nuclear weapons. The Soviets had been providing some assistance to PRC in the development of nuclear capabilities but stopped the assistance in 1959—they feared the PRC might turn its nuclear weapons on the Soviet Union. They also pressed PRC for repayment of a $2.4 billion debt from the Korean War (1950–53), despite the fact that the PRC was struggling economically. In 1958, Mao had introduced a massive economic program to transform the PRC's largely agricultural economy into a major industrial society. The program, called the Great Leap Forward, was a disaster and made the PRC even more reliant on Soviet economic assistance. From the Soviets' perspective, there were now enemies to the east and west: The PRC was a growing threat on the eastern border, and West Germany, supplied with nuclear missiles from the United States, menaced the western Soviet boundary.
For centuries, Britain, France, and Portugal had carved up sub-Saharan Africa into various colonial holdings. (Sub-Saharan Africa refers to the part of the continent that lies south of the Sahara, a region of deserts that extends across northern Africa. It includes all the countries south of Egypt, Libya, and Algeria; most of them are Third World nations, or poor underdeveloped or developing nations whose economies are primarily based on agriculture.) The Europeans who colonized Africa sought access to slaves and natural resources. A well-established region of European influence, the area stayed stable following World War II, remaining quite distant from the superpower rivalry through much of the 1950s. Though the United States generally opposed colonialism, it was evident that the colonial holdings of such Western European allies as Great Britain, France, Portugal, and Belgium had kept Africa relatively safe from communist expansion; the United States and the Soviet Union, therefore, focused on the oil-rich Middle East and other regions. However, by the late 1950s, the process of decolonization gained momentum in Africa. During decolonization, a
country ruled by a foreign power seeks to overturn that rule and gain national independence.
In the summer of 1960, the ongoing conflict between the superpowers shifted to sub-Saharan Africa, at least temporarily. On June 30, 1960, Belgium announced it was granting independence to Congo (from 1971 to 1997 known as Zaire; as of 1997 known as the Democratic Republic of Congo). On July 5, the Congolese army mutinied and attacked its white officers and a number of settlers. Congo's prime minister, Patrice Lumumba (1925–1961), was unable to maintain control as Belgian forces arrived to restore order. In reaction to the presence of the Belgian troops, a separatist movement rose up in the Congolese province of Katanga. (Separatists seek to gain political independence for their region of a country.) With the conflict widening, Lumumba asked for help from the United Nations (UN). A UN resolution called for replacement of the Belgian forces with an international military force on July 15. However, the UN military was unwilling to take on the Katanga separatist movement. Discouraged, Lumumba turned to the United States for assistance but was refused. He was considered too unreliable for long-term relations. Lumumba then approached the Soviets, who immediately responded with equipment and personnel. The United States saw the Soviets' aid as a violation of the UN resolution. Because Lumumba accepted Soviet assistance, U.S. officials considered him a communist and a threat to the region. CIA director Allen Dulles (1893–1969) put a plan in motion to overthrow Lumumba. Relying on pro-U.S. Congolese leaders, the plan led to Lumumba's overthrow in September and his assassination on January 17, 1961.
A Cuban revolution
Cuba was another Third World country that became the focus of Cold War rivalries. From 1934 through 1958, Cuba was ruled by dictator Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar (1901–1973). Maintaining strong ties with the United States, Batista allowed U.S. corporations to dominate the economy of the island, including the sugar industry and oil production. The arrangement led to severe economic problems among the Cuban population. Unemployment and illiteracy were high, and disease was widespread. Because of U.S. corporate involvement in Cuba, only a small percent of the population accounted for most of Cuba's wealth. Young activist Fidel Castro Ruz (1926–) found the situation ripe for a revolt against the dictatorship. Leading the revolution, Castro seized power on January 1, 1959. He proposed to introduce major social and economic reforms. He also promised to reduce illiteracy, improve housing and health care, and combat organized crime. He wanted to end American economic domination. Like President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán (1913–1971) in Guatemala, Castro proposed land reform, the breakup of large estates into smaller parcels for common citizens to own and farm. Alarmed by Castro's plans, U.S. businesses sought help from the Eisenhower administration.
Castro drew the ire of U.S. officials by rounding up hundreds of Batista supporters and executing them, with minimal legal process. Although the United States extended
diplomatic recognition to Castro's government, Eisenhower refused to meet with Castro when Castro made a visit to the United States in April 1959. Castro sought financial aid from the United States to support his reforms, but the United States refused to give such aid. By late 1959, Castro's Cuba nationalized, or took control and ownership of, private businesses and foreign holdings on the island, including American banks.
Eisenhower concluded that Castro was a communist, although Castro was actually a nationalist, not a communist, at the time. Eisenhower saw the new Cuban leader as a threat to Latin America. Unable to obtain American aid, Castro signed a trade agreement with the Soviet Union in February 1960. Eisenhower then decided to initiate a CIA plan to overthrow Castro; the U.S. government would train Cuban refugees to carry out the plan. Upon hearing of the secret plot, Castro turned more fully to the Soviets for help and protection. The Soviet Union responded with economic aid. Castro also signed arms agreements with Eastern European countries. By the summer of 1960, Cuba had become part of the Soviet sphere of influence. Eisenhower responded decisively by reducing and then cutting U.S. imports of Cuban sugar. While Castro was nationalizing foreign land holdings, the United States made it clear that it would never allow the Guantánamo naval base, located on the eastern tip of Cuba, to be seized. Castro responded by nationalizing all other American interests. On September 26, 1960, Castro strongly denounced U.S. policies in a speech before the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. In October, Eisenhower placed an embargo, or trade stoppage, on most U.S. exports to Cuba, and by January 1961 Eisenhower had severed diplomatic ties with Cuba, leaving the island an outpost of Soviet influence in the Western Hemisphere.
Other major changes were brewing as well in the broader Third World arena. In September 1960, the UN General Assembly met at its headquarters in New York City. Seventeen new nations, sixteen of which were former Western colonies in Africa, were accepted as UN members. The UN was becoming an international organization of largely Third World nations, quite different from its original fifty members in 1945, which were mainly European nations. Seizing on the opportunity, on September 24 Khrushchev made a speech to the General Assembly in which he sought to align the Soviet Union with the Third World in opposition to Western colonialism. It was clear that the United States would no longer dominate UN activities.
Following the meeting of Khrushchev and Eisenhower at Camp David in September 1959, the two superpowers had worked toward a summit meeting through early 1960. Key issues were a new U.S. proposal for a test-ban agreement and the Berlin occupation. By late March, in preparation for the summit meeting, the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union had worked out the basic elements of a comprehensive nuclear test ban. The summit meeting was then scheduled for May in Paris. Hope was running high for greater cooperation between the two superpowers.
However, just as a major breakthrough in U.S.-Soviet relations seemed a certainty, shocking news halted diplomatic
progress. On May 7, 1960, Khrushchev announced that on May 1 an American U-2 spy plane had been shot down deep inside the Soviet Union. Since July 1956, over two hundred U-2 missions had been flown. Though he had orders to commit suicide rather than be captured, the American pilot, Francis Gary Powers (1929–1977), was securely in Soviet hands. At first, Khrushchev tried to quietly resolve the matter by giving Eisenhower an opportunity to claim that he personally knew nothing of the spy flights and that any future flights would be stopped. Eisenhower refused to claim personal innocence. Next, Khrushchev, angry that the United States was spying during a period when the superpowers were working on a thawing of relations, asked for an apology. Not wanting to give in to a Khrushchev demand, Eisenhower angrily refused. The Paris summit meeting began as scheduled on May 19, 1960, but with Khrushchev's refusal to participate, little hope of progress existed; the U-2 spy controversy had chilled the diplomatic atmosphere. Eisenhower returned to Washington, D.C., two days later. The test-ban agreement was left uncompleted and the future of Berlin unresolved.
For More Information
Alexander, Charles C. Holding the Line: The Eisenhower Era, 1952–1961. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975.
Divine, Robert A. The Sputnik Challenge. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Dockrill, Michael. The Cold War, 1945–1963. London: Macmillan, 1988.
Kalb, Madeleine G. The Congo Cables: The Cold War in Africa—From Eisenhower to Kennedy. New York: Macmillan, 1982.
Kaufman, Burton I. Trade and Aid: Eisenhower's Foreign Economic Policy, 1953–1961. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982.
Khrushchev, Nikita S. Khrushchev Remembers. Edited by Strobe Talbott. Boston: Little, Brown, 1970.
Khrushchev, Nikita S. Khrushchev Remembers: The Last Testament. Edited by Strobe Talbott. Boston: Little, Brown, 1974.
Linden, Carl A. Khrushchev and the Soviet Leadership. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990.
Van Oudenaren, John. Detente in Europe: The Soviet Union and the West Since 1953. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991.
Words to Know
Capitalism: An economic system in which property and businesses are privately owned.
Cold War: A prolonged conflict for world dominance from 1945 to 1991 between the two superpowers, the democratic, capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union. The weapons of conflict were commonly words of propaganda and threats.
Communism: A system of government in which the nation's leaders are selected by a single political party that controls almost all aspects of society. Private ownership of property is eliminated and government directs all economic production. The goods produced and accumulated wealth are, in theory, shared relatively equally by all. All religious practices are banned.
Democracy: A system of government in which several political parties compete.
Eisenhower Doctrine: A doctrine giving the U.S. president the right to use force in the Middle East against any form of communist aggression.
People to Know
Fidel Castro Ruz (1926–): Cuban premier/president, 1959–.
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969): Thirty-fourth U.S. president, 1953–61.
Nikita S. Khrushchev (1894–1971): Soviet premier, 1958–64.
Patrice Lumumba (1925–1961): Congolese nationalist movement activist; prime minister, 1960.
Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918–1970): Egyptian president, 1958–70.
Joseph Stalin (1879–1953): Dictatorial Russian/Soviet leader, 1924–53.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
The Soviet Union launched Sputnik I on October 4, 1957. It was the first artificial satellite to orbit Earth. The event stunned the American public and U.S. officials, who had thought the United States had a significant technological advantage over the Soviets. At that time, rocket and upper atmospheric research in the United States was primarily conducted by the Department of Defense (DOD). The DOD had been working on Project Vanguard. The goal of the project was to orbit a U.S. satellite by 1957, but the project had fallen behind schedule. Following the successful Soviet launch, the DOD launched its first satellite on February 1, 1958. However, the United States remained alarmed because of the rapid advances in the Soviet space program. Soon, Congress created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which began operations on October 1, 1958. NASA received a $100 million annual budget. The "space race" became a key feature of the Cold War rivalry between the two superpowers.
NASA tackled several avenues of research, including manned and unmanned spaceflight, information-gathering satellites, and aircraft safety research. Landmark successes came quickly: On May 5, 1961, Project Mercury launched the first American in space, Alan B. Shepard Jr. (1923–1998). On February 20, 1962, John H. Glenn Jr. (1921–) was the first U.S. astronaut to orbit Earth. However, continued Soviet advances in the "space race" had led President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963; served 1961–63) to proclaim on May 25, 1961, that a key goal of the United States was to be the first to land a man on the
One of NASA's crowning achievements: Neil Armstrong is the first man to step on the Moon, July 20, 1969.
Moon; the goal date was the end of the 1960s. NASA would spend more than $25 billion during the rest of the decade on Project Apollo. On July 20, 1969, U.S. astronaut Neil A. Armstrong (1930–) became the first man to step on the Moon, fulfilling Kennedy's challenge.
Cooperation with the Soviets began in 1975 while the Cold War still persisted. A test rendezvous (linking up) and docking in space between separately launched American- and Soviet-manned space capsules proved successful. Shortly after the end of the Cold War, in 1993, the Soviet Union and the United States began a joint program to establish the International Space Station. By the late 1990s, American and Soviet astronauts were routinely sharing space quarters for long periods of time.
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