Later that evening Khrushchev stated to his aides: " He is very young not strong enough; too smart and too weak. " Yet Reeves argues that the wall provided a compromise in Berlin for both the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and helped avoid a nuclear war over this issue. “[I] talked about how a nuclear exchange would kill 70 million people in 10 minutes, and he just looked at me as if to say, ‘So what?’”. With Berlin and the Third World uppermost in his mind, Kennedy proposed that neither superpower attempt to upset the existing balance of power in any region where the other was already involved. Entering the year 1961, Berlin was still divided. zones. Arriving at Vienna. “He had no real idea how tough it was going to be… He went in there unprepared and Khrushchev walked all over him.”, “This man is very inexperienced, even immature,” Khrushchev told his interpreter. “He was the young guy and he wanted Khrushchev to believe that he was serious,” Reeves says of the 44-year old, who had been president for fewer than five months. Khrushchev with President Kennedy at the U.S. Embassy during their summit meeting in Vienna, 1961. Khrushchev continued his relentless attacks on Kennedy and American policies. The atmosphere improved during lunch. According to Richard Reeves, a journalism professor at the University of Southern California and author of President Kennedy: Profile of Power, the main problem was that Kennedy wasn’t properly prepared to take on the more experienced Khrushchev at the June 1961 summit in Vienna. “John Kennedy read and studied history,” he says, and would have learned from the first experience that he needed to prepare. Kennedy knew that Khrushchev likely saw him as a weak military leader for not seeing the Bay of Pigs invasion through, and he wanted to use his signature charisma to change his mind. By and large, his advisors agreed that Khrushchev would try to intimidate Kennedy. Kennedy responded: " Then, Mr. Chairman, there will be a war. “Compared to him, Eisenhower is a man of intelligence and vision.”. The summit didn’t produce any concrete policy decisions, partly because the summit hadn’t had any set agenda or goals in the first place. Depends who you ask. Kennedy ignored warnings from his advisors not to do things like, say, debate communist ideology with a 61-year-old Soviet. So he just beat the hell out of me.” (Reston used Kennedy as an anonymous source in his article; he recorded these quotes in his notes. Kennedy had gotten a pre-summit commitment from Khrushchev that they would discuss a nuclear test ban, but they weren’t actually able to agree on one. Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images, According to a State Department memo, Khrushchev said that if the U.S. challenged the Soviet position in divided Berlin, the U.S.S.R. “must respond and it will respond,” eerily threatening that “It is up to the U.S. to decide whether there will be war or peace.” Kennedy reacted with a statement even more chilling: “Then, Mr. Chairman, there will be war. Yet despite Kennedy’s desire to be taken seriously, “he really didn’t listen closely to his own advisors,” Reeves says. President Kennedy meeting with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the Vienna Summit in June, 1961. Credit: Corbis/Getty Images) “The meeting proved in the long run to be enormously valuable,” he says. ), “I never met a man like this,” Kennedy remarked to another reporter, Hugh Sidey of Time magazine. Therefore, the wall wasn’t something that Kennedy was interested in preventing. When the formal meetings were over, Kennedy insisted on a short private meeting with Khrushchev. At that meeting, Khrushchev stated: " Force will be met by force. “It was that relationship which led to things which, I would argue, kept the peace.” Though they never met in person again, Kennedy and Khrushchev continued to communicate and develop their relationship, with both coming to understand that neither wanted nuclear war. Obviously Kennedy’s ego took a hit with this summit. “Worst thing in my life,” Kennedy told a New York Times reporter. Twice a week we compile our most fascinating features and deliver them straight to you. In advance of his meetings with the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, Kennedy's advisors attempted to prepare the President for what would doubtless be a challenging event. This disclosure “sent Khrushchev into near ecstasy,” writes Michael Beschloss in The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev. The French people received President Kennedy, and even more so Jackie, with great warmth. Frederick Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, argues in his book Berlin 1961 that Kennedy could have prevented this if he were tougher on Khrushchev in Vienna. Republic. “Like Putin now, Khrushchev...wanted to be seen as equals with the United States,” Reeves says. Later in the day, Dave Powers commented to the President how calm he looked during Khrushchev's attacks. 'He just beat the hell out of me,' Kennedy said. Their first meeting took place in Vienna at the residence of the US Ambassador to Austria in the early afternoon of June3, 1961. But did it actually have a negative impact on U.S.-Soviet relations? All Rights Reserved. Kennedy responded: " What did you expect me to do... take off my shoe and hit him over the head with it? The trip to Europe began with a stop in Paris for consultations with French President De Gaulle. The decision to sign a peace treaty is firm and irrevocable, and the Soviet Union will sign it in December, if the US refuses an interim agreement. " Germany - Germany - Results of the Congress of Vienna: The men who, in the nine months from September 1814 to June 1815, redrew the map of Europe were diplomats of the old school. Kennedy spent a lot of time defending aspects of the pre-World War II status quo, like British imperialism, that he didn’t actually want to defend. By and large, his advisors agreed that Khrushchev would try to intimidate Kennedy. Other articles where Vienna summit is discussed: 20th-century international relations: Policies of the Kennedy administration: … held a summit meeting in Vienna in June 1961. The meetings with De Gaulle also went well. It is up to the US to decide whether there will be war or peace. Khrushchev’s aggression during the talks surprised Kennedy as well as Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who was shocked Khrushchev raised the possibility of war—something neither leader wanted. The meeting featured a spirited debate between Khrushchev and Kennedy about their respective economic systems. “He savaged me.”. Khrushchev insisted he would sign a peace agreement with Germany with or without US approval, and without regard for US rights in West Berlin. That’s not to say Reeves thinks Kennedy would’ve repeated his Vienna mistakes if he’d had a second summit with Khrushchev.

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