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History

The U2 incident

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By the late 1950s tension had increased between the two superpowers, the USSR and USA. A summit was arranged in Paris to try to sort things out, but shortly before it was due to take place an American U2 spy plane was shot down over Russia and the summit collapsed.

The U2 incident and the Paris summit of 1960

By the end of the 1950s, there was massive tension in the Cold War:

  • The arms race - both sides accepted the need for some kind of Nuclear Test Ban treaty.
  • Berlin - the Russians were furious that many East Germans were fleeing to the west through West Berlin.
  • Cuba - the Americans were worried because Fidel Castro, a Communist, had seized power there in 1959.
  • A summit meeting was arranged for Paris to try to sort things out.

On 1st May 1960 - thirteen days before the summit - an American U2 spy plane was shot down over Russia and the pilot, Gary Powers, was captured. At first, the Americans tried to say that it was a weather plane, but they were forced to admit that it was a spy plane when the Russians revealed that much of his plane had survived, and that they had captured Gary Powers alive.

When the summit met on 14 May, the first thing Khrushchev did was to demand that the US president, Eisenhower, apologise. When Eisenhower refused, Khrushchev went home.

The Cold War had just become substantially more dangerous.

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