1960: Paris Summit

Paris Summit Conference on the future of Berlin, 1960

On May 17th 1960 the leaders of the Soviet Union, USA, Great Britain and France met in Paris to discuss the situation in Berlin. The Soviet Union wanted Berlin to be designated as a ‘Free City’ with minimal military presence from other powers, and also wanted to conclude a Peace Treaty with East Germany. The Western Powers were determined not to allow West Berlin fall under Soviet Influence and had repeatedly pointed to the agreements made in the war time summits. This summit was an opportunity to try and agree some kind of compromise.

The 1960 Paris Summit on the future of Berlin was overshadowed by the U2 incident

However, the summit barely got going. On May 1st the USSR announced that it had shot down an American U2 Spy Plane. The Americans denied the claim, only to have to back track and admit that a plane had flown over Soviet Territory when Khruschev ordered photographic evidence to be released. Upon his arrival at Paris for the summit talks, Khruschev demanded a public apology for the incident from the US President, Eisenhower, and also demanded assurances that the US would never violate Soviet Air Space again. Eisenhower refused to apologise and rejected the demands for assurances.

With this the talks appeared to be doomed. Berlin couldn;t be discussed until the U2 incident had been dealt with. The French President attempted to bring the leaders back to the table for further discussion. Khruschev returned to a press conference and repeated that he wanted to discuss a peaceful settlement in Berlin but that he would only do so after the US apologised for the spy plane. Eisenhower, again, refused.


Source: Eisenhower speaking at the laying of the cornerstone of the CIA headquarters in 1959

“I HAVE MADE SOME NOTES FROM which I want to talk to you about this U-2 incident. . . .

“The first point is this: the need for intelligence-gathering activities.

“No one wants another Pearl Harbor. This means that we must have knowledge of military forces and preparations around the world, especially those capable of massive surprise attacks.

Source: Eisenhower at the Paris Summit, May 1960

We pointed out that these activities had no aggressive intent but rather were to assure the safety of the United States and the free world against surprise attack by a power which boasts of its ability to devastate the United States and other countries by missiles armed with atomic warheads. As is well known, not only the United States but most other countries are constantly the targets of elaborate and persistent espionage of the Soviet Union.

The Paris Summit and the U2 incident made it clear that espionage was ongoing and that both parties were suspicious of each other. It led to an escalation of the Cold War.

Cold War
Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam ConferencesStalin and Truman: ideological differencesSoviet Satellite States
Cominform and ComeconUS Involvement in Europe Post WW2Truman Doctrine
Marshall PlanBizoniaBerlin Airlift
NATO: Origins and HistoryThe arms race and Mutually assured destructionSoviet rule in Hungary
DestalinizationHungarian RevolutionBerlin: Refugee Crisis
Khruschev's challenge to the west over Berlin1960: Paris SummitKennedy and the Berlin Crisis
Berlin WallPresident Kennedy visit to BerlinCuban Missile Crisis: Why were missiles there?
Cuban Missile Crisis: Why did Kennedy respond as he did?Cuban Missile Crisis: Resolution and analysis
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