60 years of leadership, between a lot of frost and some enthusiasm


The 60th anniversary of the summit between John Kennedy and Nikita Kruschev is not a good encouragement for the meeting between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in Geneva tomorrow. The June 1961 summit, the first among the superpowers of the television era, was a disaster for the US president: “it tore me to pieces,” Kennedy told a reporter for the New York Times, sharing after the summit the impression that the Soviet leader he was preparing something for Berlin. Exact impression: Two months later the East Germans began building the wall between the east and west of the city, with Soviet support.

Kennedy had just returned from the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, and the missile crisis in Cuba would soon break out. In short, just bad for the Americans. But the 46th president, Joe Biden, is a veteran of politics, Putin has known him for some time, and in Geneva he presents himself with a precise and pragmatic agenda indicated to the G7 and the NATO summit: if Russia wants to collaborate, well, that’s the message , otherwise the extreme containment of the last 10 years will continue. Since the Second World War the face to face between the tenants of the White House and the leaders of the Kremlin, with alternating fortunes, have marked and shaped the world order.

The global order after the Second World War

In 1943, then at the more famous Yalta summit of 1945, Josif Stalin met President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill: the leaders of the “Big Three” outlined the post-war world order. In February 1945 the Soviet leader promised to enter the war against Japan after the Nazi surrender but did not commit himself to the territorial conquests that the Red Army was reaping in Europe. Roosvelt died a few weeks later and his successor, Truman, arrived in Potsdam for a new summit of the Big Three in July 1945, the ruins of Berlin in smoke and little negotiation experience. The meeting ended – according to most American interpretations – by giving Stalin too much free hand. Among other things, the secretary of the PCUS in Potsdam undertook to call free elections in the countries occupied by the USSR.

The “Cold War”

The sense of having given in too much to Stalin contributed in America to the plebiscite election of the republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, in ticket with Richard Nixon in 1952. After the “Geneva summit” of 1955 with France and Great Britain, Krushev was the first leader Soviet to visit the USA. But relations with the West underwent a drastic deterioration when in 1960 a US spy plane was shot down in the Russian skies: Krushev at the news left the top of the four powers in Paris.

Kennedy e Nikita

In 1961 in Vienna Krushev met the newly elected Democrat John Kennedy, fresh from the election and the failure of the attempt to invade Cuba to overthrow Fidel Castro, an ally of Moscow. The sanguine and shrewd secretary of the Communist Party decided that Kennedy was inexperienced and above all weak and a few months later the Wall appeared in Berlin that will divide East and West until 1989. The tug-of-war on Soviet missiles in Cuba followed in 1962, when Kennedy showed himself more decisive, so as to convince Krushev to back down to avoid a nuclear conflict. The two leaders never met again – the US president was assassinated in 1963 – and there was no new formal US-USSR summit for another six years.

The thaw

Richard Nixon, elected in 1969, embarked on a renegotiation of relations with Moscow and Beijing, de facto redefining the global balance between powers. Re-elected, in 1972 he went to the two enemy countries, becoming the first American president received in the Kremlin and in the palaces of Chinese power. With Leonid Brezhnev he signed the Treaty for the limitation of strategic weapons, the first agreement for the containment of nuclear proliferation. Brezhnev then met Gerald Ford in 1974 and 1975 and already signed with his successor, Jimmy Carter, the second Treaty on Strategic Arms (Salt II). The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan brought about a new chill in US-USSR relations, with the boycott of the Moscow Olympics in 1980.

L’era Gorbachev

The arrival of Mikahil Gorbachev changed everything in relations with the US. At the 1985 Geneva summit with Ronald Reagan the air had changed and at the subsequent meeting in Iceland a real negotiation on bilateral nuclear disarmament began, which would lead to the first agreements in 1987. With George W Bush sire, Gorbachev had eight meetings, he signed Start I for the reduction of strategic weapons and toasted the end of the Cold War in 1989 on a cruise ship: the USSR would have imploded in two years.

The twenty years (for now) of Vladimir Putin

Yeltsin left the Kremlin in the hands of Vladimir Putin in late 1999 and Putin is still there today. The current Russian president initially had positions of great openness towards the West, reflected in the good relations with George W. Bush junior, who in 2001 said of Putin: I looked him in the eyes, I saw his soul ยป. With Bush in 2005, Putin discussed Iran and democracy in Russia in Europe in Bratislava. It wouldn’t last.

When Obama was elected in 2009, Putin was ‘on hiatus’ from the Kremlin, where he had helped place Dmitri Medvedev for a term. Obama seemed to be aiming for a real ‘reset’ on the young Russian president, misunderstanding who controlled the control room in the Kremlin. With Medvedev, however, he signed the new Start. Putin returned to power in 2012, and US-Russia relations were already in sharp decline at that point, only to plunge into the confrontation and freeze with the Ukrainian crisis and the annexation of Crimea in 2014. At the G7 in Beijing in 2016 there it was a brief meeting and Obama allegedly asked Putin to “cut us off” with electoral meddling.

With the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House there was a new turnaround in US-Russia relations, more personal than at the state level, given that the administration of the 45th US president has launched over 50 actions against Russia, in a large part of the sanctioning type. After a series of meetings on the sidelines of international events, The Donald formally met Putin in Helsinki in 2018, with the issue of Russian electoral meddling at the center. In a press conference, Trump questioned the version of American intelligence. Councilor Fiona Hill later said she had thought of faking a medical emergency to terminate the president.

(with source Askanews)


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