The Fruit of the Kennedy-Khrushchev Meetings– The Berlin Wall

The Fruit of the Vienna Summit–
The fruit of weak foreign policy

Barack Obama insists that the Kennedy-Khrushchev meetings were a success but, he forgets who won.

John F. Kennedy met with Nikita Khrushchev on June 4, 1961.

39 days later, on August 13, 1961, the Soviet Union constructed the Berlin Wall.

When finished the Berlin Wall was approximately 155km (97 miles) in length around the circumference of former West Berlin. It became the site of over 900 shootings, causing 239 deaths and another 200 injuries.

Barack Obama cited John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Vienna Summit with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev as a triumph of American diplomacy in defending his proposed policy of meeting with the world’s worst dictators without preconditions.

Not only is Barack Obama wrong about appeasing dictators today, but as Scott Johnson reported in The Weekly Standard, Obama is wrong about the success of appeasement back in 1961, as well:

In Portland on May 18, Obama cited John F. Kennedy’s 1961 summit with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna among the series of negotiations that led to America’s triumph over the Soviet Union in the Cold War. The Vienna summit, however, disproves Obama’s assertion regarding the unvarying value of meetings between enemy heads of state about as decisively as any historical episode can refute a thesis. In addition to poor judgment, Obama has demonstrated that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Kennedy first addressed the subject of a possible summit with the Soviet Union in the second Kennedy-Nixon debate. Unlike Obama, Kennedy expressly rejected a summit without preconditions. Indeed, Kennedy expressed his agreement with Nixon that he “would not meet Mr. Khrushchev unless there were some agreements at the secondary level–foreign ministers or ambassadors–which would indicate that the meeting would have some hope of success, or a useful exchange of ideas.” In the third debate, Kennedy suggested that the strengthening of American conventional and nuclear forces should precede any summit.

Once in office, Kennedy more or less discarded his previously expressed conditions for a summit. In a letter written in February and secretly delivered to Khrushchev in March 1961, Kennedy expressed his willingness to meet Khrushchev “before too long” for an informal exchange of views. After the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Kennedy sensed that discussions without an agenda or prior agreement might be disadvantageous to the United States. He let the matter drop, but Khrushchev accepted the invitation on May 4. The meeting was to occur in Vienna late that spring…

The parties reached no agreement on any set agenda or proposals prior to their meeting in Vienna on June 3 and 4. The meetings were therefore confined to the informal exchange of views referred to in Kennedy’s February letter. By all accounts, including Kennedy’s own, the meetings were a disaster. Khrushchev berated, belittled, and bullied Kennedy on subjects ranging from Communist ideology to the balance of power between the Soviet and Western blocs, to Laos, to “wars of national liberation,” to nuclear testing. He threw down the gauntlet on Berlin in particular, all but threatening war.

Scott Johnson concludes:

…What harm can possibly come of a meeting between enemies? There are many, like Obama, who say that no harm can come from talking. To paraphrase JFK’s June 1963 Berlin speech, let them come to study the Vienna conference.

39 days after the Vienna Meetings the Soviet Union erected the Berlin Wall.
Obama must have missed this.

Hat Tip Thanos and the Baron

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