Summit Conferences - Harry s. truman



The death of President Roosevelt in April 1945 marked the beginning of a ten-year hiatus in American involvement with summit conferences. Roosevelt's successor, Harry S. Truman, did take part in the Potsdam Conference with his Russian and British counterparts; he hosted Clement Attlee and Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King in November 1945 for talks about sharing nuclear secrets; and he reluctantly welcomed Attlee again in December 1950, when the British prime minister insisted on personal discussions regarding a rumored American decision to use atomic weapons in Korea. But it was clear that Truman did not share his flamboyant predecessor's fondness for dramatic initiatives (such as summit conferences) in foreign affairs. Much more a team player, Truman preferred to find men whom he respected and trusted, then authorize them to carry on the business of diplomacy. President Truman's one major summit conference, Potsdam (which had been scheduled prior to his accession), was enlightening. He enjoyed meeting Stalin and Churchill on equal terms, and he gained a measure of confidence from the experience; but the methodical, straightforward Missourian was repelled by the frequent deviations from the agenda and the lapses of his fellow leaders into propaganda speeches. Truman's distaste for personal diplomacy and the deepening rift in Soviet-American relations temporarily banished the summit conference from the American diplomatic repertoire. By 1947 even the regular meetings of diplomatic chiefs, the Council of Foreign Ministers, had degenerated into self-serving rhetorical exercises. Thereafter, the Cold War inhibited communication of any kind between East and West. Only once, during the 1948 presidential election, did Truman seriously entertain the possibility of a personal meeting with Stalin.



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