Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Kitchen Debate (24 July 1959)

Impromptu exchange between U.S. Vice President Richard M. Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the American National Trade and Cultural Exhibition in Moscow on 24 July 1959. Dubbed the "Kitchen Debate" because the two leaders engaged in a debate over technology and the quality of life in each other's countries in front of a model U.S. kitchen display, the repartee was covered by media throughout the world. Although some of their comments were in jest or were lighthearted, as the discussion progressed both men became more belligerent. Nixon had just begun his visit to the USSR and had started his tour of the exhibit shortly before he encountered Khrushchev. Their encounter had not been preplanned. The debate occurred amid growing U.S.-Soviet tensions that began with the launching of Sputnik 1 in 1957 and would culminate in the 1960 U-2 Crisis.

Nixon stayed in the USSR for eleven days, and on 1 August 1959 he gave an unprecedented speech on Soviet television in which he criticized communism and warned that its ideology should not be spread abroad. A month later, Khrushchev made his historic visit to the United States, the first for a Soviet leader. The Kitchen Debate not only demonstrated the simmering tensions between the superpowers but also showcased the growing technological rivalry between the two nations, which was most pronounced in the incipient Space Race.

Paul G. Pierpaoli Jr.


Further Reading
Wicker, Tom. One of Us: Richard Nixon and the American Dream. New York: Random House, 1995.
 

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