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How Ping-Pong Diplomacy Thawed the Cold War

The two superpowers had met on the battlefield during the Korean War, but no official American delegation had set foot in the People's Republic in over 20 years. By 1971, however, both nations were looking to open a dialogue with one another. China's alliance with the Soviet Union had soured and produced a series of bloody border clashes, and Chairman Mao believed ties with the Americans might serve as a deterrent against the Russians. U.S. President Richard Nixon, meanwhile, had made opening China a top priority of his administration. In 1967, he had written, "We simply cannot afford to leave China forever outside the family of nations."

To get to know the Soviet Union ... Richard Nixon travels through the country

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Thu Feb 17th, 2022 at 12:05:40 PM EST
Series of Kitchen Debates - Nikita Khrushchev and VP Richard Nixon (1959)

In 1959, the Soviets and Americans agreed to hold exhibits in each other's countries as a cultural exchange to promote understanding. This was a result of the 1958 U.S.-Soviet Cultural Agreement. The Soviet exhibit in New York City opened in June 1959, and Vice President Nixon was on hand the following month to open the US exhibit in Moscow. Nixon took Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev on a tour of the exhibit. There were multiple displays and consumer goods provided by more than 450 American companies. The centerpiece of the exhibit was a geodesic dome which housed scientific and technical experiments in a 30,000 square-foot facility. The Soviets purchased the dome at the end of the Moscow exhibition.

William Safire was the exhibitor's press agent, and he recounted that the Kitchen Debate took place in a number of locations at the exhibition, but primarily in the kitchen of a suburban model house which was cut in half for easy viewing. This was only one of a series of four meetings that occurred between Nixon and Khrushchev during the 1959 exhibition. Nixon was accompanied by President Eisenhower's younger brother Milton S. Eisenhower, former president of Johns Hopkins University.



'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Thu Feb 17th, 2022 at 12:06:10 PM EST
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Did former U.S. President Richard Nixon really live in the USSR as a child?

According to the author of the book `Nixon: A Life', Jonathan Aitken, compared to his other overseas trips, Nixon's journey to the Soviet Union as Vice President in 1959 was the one that made the most impact on his strategic thinking. Officially, the trip aimed "to give the U.S. senior representation at the first-ever American trade exhibition to be held in Moscow". There were "low expectations for the mission so far as issues of substance were concerned", but Nixon himself apparently thought differently, spending six months preparing for the trip, taking Russian lessons, meeting experts, and studying relevant literature.

John A. Farrell, the author of another biography, `Richard Nixon: The Life', claims he was briefed on 132 topics, yet quoting the future president as saying that "all the briefings in the world could not have prepared me for Khrushchev's unexpected, unpredictable conduct."

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Following his arrival in Moscow, and the famous "Kitchen Debate", where he "clashed" with the Soviet leader, Nixon then visited Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Novosibirsk, and the Ural industrial locations of Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) and Degtyarsk. Accompanied by his wife Patricia and Milton S. Eisenhower (the President's brother), Nixon visited the Uralmash heavy machine production plant, Pervouralsk New Pipe Plant, the border of Europe and Asia and the Degtyarskiy copper mine.



'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Thu Feb 17th, 2022 at 12:06:43 PM EST
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