U2 Crisis 1960

There was a summit meeting between US President Dwight Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in the US in 1959. The two leaders agreed to meet again in Paris the following year.

What was on the agenda for the Paris Summit of May 1960?

Discussions on the agenda for the Paris summit in 1960, were a nuclear test ban treaty, Berlin and Cuba

  • Nuclear weapons and the need for a Test Ban Treaty: both sides knew the destructive potential of nuclear weapons and wanted to avoid turning more of the planet into radioactive no-go areas.
  • Berlin: The Soviets were exasperated that East Berliners were escaping to the West in significant numbers.
  • Cuba: The Americans were concerned that the recent revolution in Cuba had created a communist government on their doorstep.

The U2 Incident

The American military wanted to spy on the Soviets to discover evidence of this missile building. President Eisenhower agreed to the spy missions because he believed it would show that there was no missile gap between the USSR and USA.

Just thirteen days before the Paris Summit, on 1 May 1960, an American U2 spy plane, piloted by Gary Powers, was shot down over the USSR. The USA claimed that the U2 was a weather monitoring plane that had lost its way. However, the film that the Soviets retrieved from the plane clearly indicated that Powers had been on a spying mission.

When President Eisenhower arrived in Paris for the summit meeting, Khrushchev demanded he apologise for the mission, and when Eisenhower refused Khrushchev walked out.


The Paris Summit ended in failure:

The Paris summit ends with no test ban treaty, no deal on Berlin or Cuba. America lied which increased tensions between the USA and USSR
  • There was no agreement on a Test Ban Treaty.
  • The US was embarrassed as it was shown to be using espionage and that it had lied about the U2’s mission. They no longer held the moral high ground in the Cold War.
  • No deal was reached over the future of Berlin or Cuba and both would remain major sources of tension for the remainder of the Cold War.
  • The relationship between the USA and the USSR deteriorated even further, heightening Cold War tensions.