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THE NATION: Peaceful Coexistence

6 minute read

All of a sudden, it seemed, the much-talked-of “peaceful coexistence” was busting out all over. In the U.S.S.R. last week, Pravda displayed a photograph of President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon in a smiling huddle with First Deputy Premier Frol Kozlov at the opening of the Soviet fair at the New York Coliseum. In the U.S., newspapers showed nine camera-laden U.S. Governors traipsing gaily through Moscow and Leningrad and Kozlov sightseeing around Manhattan with New York’s Mayor Robert Wagner. While New Yorkers were jamming into the Coliseum to look over Soviet wares ranging from Sputnik models to calendar-realism paintings, workmen in Moscow’s Sokolniki Park were putting last touches on the U.S. exhibition, to be officially opened later this month by Vice President Nixon.

Caviar. In Moscow’s Mayakovskaya Square, 30 Yale students on a determined good-will expedition sang songs, answered questions about the U.S. in serviceable Ivy League Russian. Over at the usually solemn Tchaikovsky Conservatory, two members of the Yale group, U.S. Jazzmen Dwight Mitchell (piano) and Willie Ruff (bass), fractured a cheering, stomping crowd of Russians. In Manhattan, customers waited in long lines to buy tickets for the Russian Music and Dance Festival, scheduled to open this week at Madison Square Garden.

In Leningrad, the nine Governors-sat down to a caviar-to-strawberries feast hosted by the city’s top Red, drank toasts to peace, friendship, good relations, mutual understanding, culture, trade, U.S. youth, Soviet youth, U.S. women and Soviet women, broke out in I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad and Auld Lang Syne. And in Moscow, Dennis Michael O’Connor, 26, U.S. exchange student at Moscow University, and Mary Louise McMahon, 22, lately arrived from Tenafly, N.J., got married in the city’s only Roman Catholic Church. Why get married in the U.S.S.R.? Explained O’Connor: “We just thought it would be a wonderful and memorable thing to do.”

From the Other World. Plainly, the Iron Curtain had parted a bit. In fact, it parted back in early 1958, but it took a while for traffic through the slit to build up. In January 1958, after nearly three years of on-and-off negotiations, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. signed an elaborate cultural-exchange agreement. A few days later, to get the new era off to a brisk start, Moscow sent Mikhail (“Smiling Mike”) Menshikov to Washington to replace dour Georgy Zarubin as ambassador. During 1958 the U.S. sent to the U.S.S.R. 82 separate exchange projects with 953 members—scientists, engineers, artists, entertainers, businessmen, farmers, athletes—and the U.S.S.R. sent to the U.S. 68 projects with 516 members. The cultural-exchange mood boomed the flow of U.S. tourists to the U.S.S.R. from some 4,000 in 1957 to an estimated 15,000 this year (TIME, June 22). No longer do Russians gape at the U.S. visitors as rarities from a mysterious other world.—

Nor, in fact, do U.S. critics any longer pant breathlessly over the mere novelty of Russian cultural performances or industrial exhibits. And as for the visits of the big Redwigs, the U.S. has toughened considerably in the half year since Soviet First Deputy Premier Anastas Mikoyan got an openhanded, almost fawning reception from business and civic leaders across the land.

Vast Ignorance. But the big fact about Peaceful Coexistence, 1959—the fact beyond Kozlov’s toothy public grin and the U.S. Governors’ convivial good will—is that it is a deadly serious part of cold war. Washington encourages a strictly reciprocal exchange in an attempt to dent the vast and dangerous Soviet ignorance of the U.S., make Russians more restlessly aware of the gulf between U.S. and Soviet standards of living. Washington tolerates Kozlov-level visits because the President wants the Kremlin hierarchy to know firsthand that the U.S. is united and deadly serious in its intention to oppose Communist advances.

The Russians play the game for the propaganda value, i.e., one picture of a grinning Frol Kozlov toasting a grinning Dwight Eisenhower cannot help taking the heart out of would-be satellite rebels. Moreover, the Russians want credits and trade to build up their industrial strength. And while they talk peace, they make it clear in closed-door sessions that peace means a world where there is no opposition to their threats and bullying.

Nobody knows the game better than Vice President Nixon, which is why Nixon’s Moscow visit this month will be more than ceremony and a clamor for equal time on Red television. His will be the second most important official voice of the U.S., making it clear behind closed doors that the U.S. does not bluff easily.

“Worse Than Stalin.” Just what the U.S. can expect when the Geneva conference resumes next week—and how little the public Kozlov grin showed the true face of Soviet policy—was plain this week when New York’s ex-Governor Averell Harriman, U.S. Ambassador to Moscow in 1943-46, reported, in LIFE and in memos to top Administration policymakers, on his talks with Premier Nikita Khrushchev (see FOREIGN NEWS). To Harriman, Khrushchev seemed to be dangerously cocky, dangerously ignorant of the West. Even after discounting Khrushchev’s performance as tactical bluffing in part, Harriman found him “shocking, worse than Stalin.” Khrushchev’s two biggest threats:

¶ If the West continues to insist on the right of free access to Berlin, that will mean war. ”but it will be your war.” ¶ The U.S.S.R. has set up in Communist China an array of rockets with enough range to hit Formosa and destroy the U.S.’s Formosa-guarding Seventh Fleet; it will also back Red China in any invasion of Formosa.

Khrushchev’s loud and boastful talk, as Washington saw it, was largely part of his running war of words that stretched as far back as his threats in the Indo-China crisis (1954) and Quemoy (1955). which were met firmly by the U.S. and did not lead to war. But in the midst of the cultural thaw, the parted-curtain mood, the flutter of peace doves, these threats had to be kept in mind as a continuing clue to Soviet policy.

* Colorado’s McNichols, Florida’s Collins, Idaho’s Smylie, Illinois’ Stratton, New Jersey’s Meyner, North Carolina’s Hodges, North Dakota’s Davis, Utah’s Clyde, West Virginia’s Underwood.

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