Summit Conferences - Kennedy and johnson



Anxious to prove his maturity to Khrushchev and the American people, President John F. Kennedy met the Russian leader at Vienna in 1961. Kennedy's apparent conviction that private discussions, avoiding bombastic public rhetoric, with someone such as Khrushchev would result in rational discourse foundered on the Soviet leader's desire to intimidate the young American president. Although Vienna proved a most unhappy experience, Kennedy's personal approach to diplomacy undoubtedly would have led to other such adventures had he lived. It is unlikely, however, that any repetition of the Vienna debacle would have occurred. With one notable exception, summit conferences from 1961 to the present have been carefully scripted.

President Lyndon Johnson was inclined toward face-to-face decision making. However, after a proposal in early 1965 for a U.S.–Soviet summit became enmeshed in Moscow's criticism of the U.S. bombing campaign against North Vietnam, Johnson, wary of possible political repercussions and unwilling to permit the Soviets a forum for attacking U.S. involvement in Vietnam, contented himself with one perfunctory meeting with the Russians, the so-called Glassboro Summit in New Jersey (1967). Even so, it appeared that some form of personal contact between national leaders had become an essential duty of office. If that was so, Richard Nixon elevated this ritual to something approaching high art.



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