U-2 Incident

On May 1, 1960, two weeks prior to the United
States-Soviet Summit in Paris, a U-2 high altitude
reconnaissance airplane was shot down while flying a
spy mission over the Soviet Union. The Eisenhower
administration was forced to own up to the mission,
and Khrushchev canceled the Paris Summit. As a
result, The Cold War between the United States and
the Soviet Union continued for over 30 years.
Shortly after the end of World War II, United States
and the Soviet Union emerged as the two superpowers.
These two former wartime allies found themselves
locked in a struggle that came to be known as the Cold
War. Eisenhower saw the Cold War in stark moral
terms: "This is a war of light against darkness,
freedom against slavery, Godliness against atheism."
But the President refused to undertake an effort to
"roll back" Soviet gains in the years after WW II.
Early in his administration he embraced a policy of
containment as the cornerstone of his administration\'s
Soviet policy. Eisenhower rejected the notion of a
"fortress America" isolated from the rest of the
world, safe behind its nuclear shield. He believed
that active US engagement in world affairs was the
best means of presenting the promise of democracy to
nations susceptible to the encroachment of
Soviet-sponsored communism. Additionally, Eisenhower
maintained that dialogue between the US and the Soviet
Union was crucial to the security of the entire globe,
even if, in the process, each side was adding to its
pile of nuclear weapons.
The death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, two months
into the Eisenhower presidency, gave rise to hopes of
a more flexible, accommodating Soviet leadership. In
1953, Eisenhower delivered a speech underscoring the
potential human cost of the Cold War to both sides.
Hoping to strike a more compatible tone with Georgi
Malenkov, Stalin\'s successor, Eisenhower suggested the
Soviets cease their brazen expansion of territory and
influence in exchange for American cooperation and
goodwill. The Soviets responded coolly to the speech,
especially to the US\'s insistence on free elections
for German unification, self-determination for Eastern
Europe, and a Korean armistice. The two sides would
not meet face-to-face until the Geneva Summit of 1955.
At the Summit, Eisenhower asserted, "I came to Geneva
because I believe mankind longs for freedom from war
and the rumors of war. I came here because my lasting
faith in the decent instincts and good sense of the
people who populate this world of ours." In this
spirit of good will, Eisenhower presented the Soviets
with his Open Skies proposal. In it he proposed that
each side provide full descriptions of all their
military facilities and allow for aerial inspections
to insure the information was correct. The Soviets
rejected the proposal. Eisenhower was disappointed,
but not surprised. In truth, the Open Skies proposal
would have benefited the US much more than the
Soviets: the Russians already knew the location of
most American strategic defense facilities, it was the
Americans who stood to gain new information.
On the heels of the unproductive Geneva Summit, came
a 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary that strained
US-Soviet relations even further. In the face of such
Soviet aggression, Democrats in Congress were
insisting that the Eisenhower administration had
allowed a "missile gap" to develop. Their accusations
became more piercing in October 1957 when the Soviets
launched a space satellite called Sputnik. Panicked
Americans feared that a rocket that could deliver a
satellite into space could as easily deliver a nuclear
Eisenhower took a measured approach to the launching
of Sputnik. He refused to be swept up in the rush to
increase weapons production and defense spending. His
goal, he made clear, was to end what he considered a
wasteful arms race, not accelerate it. To that end,
Eisenhower instructed US negotiators to continue
working with their Soviet counterparts on an agreement
to ban nuclear testing in the atmosphere. In 1959
Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed
to a September meeting in the United States to further
discussions regarding a test ban and arms reductions.
Eisenhower held out great hopes for Khrushchev\'s US
visit. As he began to look toward his final year in
the White House he knew time was running out on his
opportunity to end the Cold War. Khrushchev\'s visit
yielded promising results as the two sides agreed to
meet again in May 1960 in Paris, a city that held fond
memories for Eisenhower. But the promise of Paris
would be buried in the wreckage of a downed spy plane
called the U-2.
Since 1956, Eisenhower had authorized theU-2, an
ultra-light, high-flying spy plane, to conduct secret
reconnaissance missions over the Soviet Union.
Ironically, Eisenhower approved of the flights in
order to obtain information that would crush rumors of
Soviet military superiority. The data gathered by the
U-2 might also help silence Eisenhower\'s critics,