Biden-Putin was able to recall the 1961 Kennedy-Khrushchev summit

President Biden’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Wednesday coincides with the 60th anniversary of the disastrous Vienna meeting between Khrushcheon leaders Nikita Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy in June 1961. Don’t expect to draw attention to the facts.

Still, it couldn’t provide Biden with a more useful warning than the story of that two-day conference, the first such superpower summit of the television era. My book, “Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the most dangerous place on earth.”

Kennedy’s unjustified confidence and inadequate preparation came to a meeting like Biden just a few months after he took office and clashed with Khrushchev’s idealistic decisions and brutal rhetorical attacks. Moscow leaders relentlessly struck Kennedy’s determination to protect the interests of Europe, especially the United States in Berlin, which was a decisive issue in the Cold War.

Khrushchev strengthened his conviction that Kennedy was fundamentally weak and indecisive. Invasion of the Bay of Pigs An operation that Kennedy reluctantly supported and then halfway after Cuba’s asylum just two months ago.

Khrushchev also emerged from Vienna with confidence that his East German allies could move to permanently close the border between East and West Berlin, which was bleeding refugees to work and prosperity in the West. I did. Two months later, the East German army began building the Berlin Wall with Soviet support for the next 28 years as a symbol of what the crippled system could impose when free leaders did not resist. Will continue.

As a result, in October 1962, a little over a year later Cuban Missile CrisisProbably the narrowest escape the United States has escaped from a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Kennedy hoped that by agreeing to build the Berlin Wall, he could ease tensions with Moscow and proceed with nuclear weapons negotiations, but instead Khrushchev recognized Kennedy’s weaknesses. I was convinced that I could move nuclear weapons within 90 miles of the US border without it.

After the Congress of Vienna, Kennedy summoned legendary New York Times journalist James “Scotty” Reston to a private room at the US Ambassador’s residence, sharing “harsh conditions” and “seriousness” with him.

“The worst thing in my life,” Kennedy told Reston. “He hit me.”

Kennedy thought about the resulting danger. “If he thinks I’m inexperienced and lacking in guts, we won’t go anywhere with him until we get rid of those ideas.”

In a report from The New York Times in Reston, he protected the confidentiality of his sources, and the president wrote, “I was surprised at the rigidity and resilience of Soviet leaders.” He wrote that Kennedy left Vienna pessimistically on the overall issue and “certainly got the impression that the German issue would be very close.”

On top of that, he turned out to be right.

Fast-forwarding towards today, it would be naive to conclude that the much shorter meeting between Biden and Putin on Wednesday would not pose the same danger after the collapse of the military alliance between the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.

Undoubtedly, Biden’s many years of experience in Moscow will help with his composure. acknowledgment That Putin is a “killer”. Kennedy came to Vienna at the age of 43 as the youngest president ever elected in the United States, and Biden came to Geneva at the age of 78 as the oldest.

But the danger lies in the Biden administration’s comprehensible focus on China as a conflict of our time and the inadequate realization of Russia’s growing challenges.

Recently, as Michael McFaul, US Ambassador to Moscow during the Obama administration I have written According to the Foreign Ministry, Russia “is not as weak and devastated as it was in the 1990s. It has revived with far more military, cyber, economic and ideological forces than most Americans admit.”

“Putin has invested heavily in nuclear modernization, but the United States has not. He has also spent enormous resources on upgrading Russia’s conventional troops,” McFaul said. It was.

These troops have helped rescue the Syrian murderer Bashar Al-Assad regime and are poised to cause further damage near the Ukrainian border: “Several measures, including the number of tanks that pose a serious threat to Europe. It surpasses NATO in. Cruise missiles and troops at the NATO-Russian border. ”At the same time, Russia-backed influential operations on cyber and US and other Western democracy are escalating.

White House officials have been working hard to limit the time Biden and Putin meet, and he will not allow Putin to attend the joint press conference thereafter. They lowered expectations for “deliverables” and emphasized that they were leaders in “meetings” rather than “summits.” (One U.S. official calls it “more cave” given how far the relationship has sunk.)

President Biden knew that power was in the numbers, and it was also wise to precede the Putin meeting by first rallying the Democratic allies in a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and their signature. New Atlantic CharterAnd this weekend with G7 partners, and finally with NATO member states and European Union leaders.

In Geneva, Biden aims to provoke a strategic stability dialogue that wants to create more predictability in its relationship with Moscow. Authorities also want the ambassadors of each country to return to their posts, relax restrictions on each other’s diplomatic and consular activities, and release one or more Americans in Russian prisons.

However, the most important tests may not be reported until a few years later by historians studying declassified documents. What does Biden say, say or not, to curb or even encourage Putin’s destructive ambitions?

As Russian chess grandmaster and political activist Garry Kasparov I have written In The Wall Street Journal, “History has repeatedly shown that soothing a dictator convinces him that you are too weak to oppose him and induces further aggression. “

Perhaps that fact is the strongest link from Vienna 60 years ago and Geneva this week, though there have been many other changes.

Frederick Kempe is a best-selling author, award-winning journalist, and president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, one of the most influential world affairs think tanks in the United States. He has worked for The Wall Street Journal for over 25 years as a Foreign Correspondent, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, and the longest editor of the European edition of this treatise. His latest book, Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Krusichov, and the Most Dangerous Places on Earth, is the New York Times bestseller and is published in more than 12 languages. Follow him on Twitter @FredKempe and subscribe to Inflection Points here. Every Saturday he looks at last week’s top stories and trends.

Biden-Putin was able to recall the 1961 Kennedy-Khrushchev summit

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