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Determining the Facts

Reading 1: The Invitation to Nikita Khruschev to Visit the United States

The President's News Conference, August 3, 1959

THE PRESIDENT: I asked this morning for this special press conference on the subject of the impending exchange of visits between Mr. Khrushchev and myself....
 Sometime back, I suggested to the State Department that I believed in the effort to melt a little bit of the ice that seems to freeze our relationships with the Soviets, that possibly a visit such as I now have proposed would be useful....
 Now, at this identical time, an identical statement is being issued in Moscow....
 [Eisenhower reading:] The President of the United States has invited Mr. Nikita Khrushchev, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, to pay an official visit to the United States in September. Mr. Khrushchev has accepted with pleasure.
 The president has also accepted with pleasure Mr. Khrushchev's invitation to pay an official visit to the USSR later this fall.
 Mr. Khrushchev will visit Washington for 2 or 3 days and will also spend 10 days or so traveling the United States. He will have informal talks with the president, which will afford an opportunity for an exchange of views about problems of mutual interest.
 On his tour of the United States, Mr. Khrushchev will be able, at first hand, to see the country, its people, and to acquaint himself with their life.
 President Eisenhower will visit Moscow and will also spend some days traveling in the Soviet Union. This will provide further opportunity for informal talks and exchange of views about problems of mutual interest with the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR.
 On his tour of the Soviet Union, President Eisenhower likewise will be able at first hand to see the country, its people, and to acquaint himself with their life.
 Both governments express hope that the forthcoming visits will help create better understanding between the U.S. and the USSR and will promote the cause of peace. [Ends reading]

THE PRESIDENT: Now, one or two other items...
The heads of state were notified just recently about this impending visit...on balance, they think it's a very good thing to do....
 In the meantime, I might tell you that this morning I have taken considerable trouble to inform some of the leaders of Congress, and those that I've heard from have been quite favorably disposed toward this plan.
 I want to make this clear: by no means am I intending to be or can I be any spokesman for the Western powers in my talks with Mr. Khrushchev. I can be a spokesman only for America and for its government. Nevertheless, I have already suggested that prior to these meetings, I go to meet our friends in Europe and to discuss with them problems of mutual interest....

Q. Fletcher Knebel, Cowles Publications: Could you say, sir, was it just two items of correspondence, you invited him and he accepted, or was there more than that?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'd say it is a little bit more complicated than that. [Laughter]

Sterling F. Green, Associated Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

The President's News Conference at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, August 12, 1959

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. This is one way to get some of you people to come up to see the famous battlefield, isn't it? I have no announcements. We'll go to questions.

Q. John M. Hightower, Associated Press: Mr. President, what results do you hope to achieve in your talks with Premier Khrushchev?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I would hope for a bettering of the atmosphere between the East and the West. I do not by any manner of means intend or plan that this meeting can become a real negotiation of basic problems between the West and the East, because I have no intention of attempting to be the spokesman for the West.
 You will recall that Mr. Adenauer has gone to Moscow, Mr. Macmillan has gone to Moscow, and there have been these private talks between these several countries — Mr. Khrushchev and the prime ministers of these two countries. I am trying to do my best to see whether we can't bring about a somewhat better situation in the relations between the two and maybe he can learn a little bit more about our country as certainly I can about his....

Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: In recent weeks, sir, we have been invited...to share your hospitality at the White House, and to speak with you personally....also you have now instituted...a new form of diplomacy by travel around the world.

THE PRESIDENT: When you have a situation that has gone on, as we have had this cold war since 1945...it becomes the kind of stalemate that...has the element of almost hopelessness for people....I am trying to end the stalemate and to bring people together more ready to talk....

1. What reasons did Eisenhower give for inviting Khrushchev to the United States?

2. When was the official statement to the press issued?

3. How did Eisenhower try to ensure public support for the trip?

4. Why might the Western powers (France, Great Britain, and West Germany) have been concerned about Eisenhower and Khrushchev meeting? What did Eisenhower say to allay those fears?

5. Traditionally, formal relations between countries was primarily the business of their foreign ministers. Why do you think that changed during the Eisenhower administration? Why do you think that Eisenhower denied that he was negotiating anything?

Reading 1 was abridged and excerpted from Public Papers of the Presidents: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1959 (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1960), 560-575.

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