Today in History – July 21, 1955 – Eisenhower Proposes “Open Skies” at Geneva Summit

On this day in 1955, at a four-power summit in Geneva, President Dwight D. Eisenhower called on the United States and the Soviet Union to exchange maps showing the location of every military installation in their respective nations.

The presidential initiative became known as an “Open Skies” proposal since, with such maps in hand, both superpowers would conduct aerial surveillance of each other’s territory to ensure they had complied with any arms accord.

While the French and British expressed interest, the Soviets rejected it. In Moscow, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev branded Eisenhower’s Open Skies as an “espionage plot.” Khrushchev, in fact, did not even go to Geneva. Premier Nikolai Bulganin represented the Soviets.

Eisenhower later said that he knew that the Soviets would not accept his plan. But he believed the United States could nonetheless score a propaganda victory because the rejection would make it look like the Russians had no real interest in pursuing arms control.

Months later, Eisenhower approved the use of the U-2, a high-altitude plane, to spy on the Soviet Union. Though the president was told that the U-2 was impregnable to Soviet defenses, one was shot down in 1960, deep in Soviet territory, causing Khrushchev to cancel a scheduled summit with Eisenhower in Paris.

The plan, though never accepted, laid the foundation for President Ronald Reagan’s later policy of “trust, but verify” in relation to arms agreements with the Soviet Union.

President George H.W. Bush reintroduced the Open Skies concept in 1989, to help build mutual confidence. This time, negotiations proved successful: On March 24, 1992, an Open Skies Treaty was signed in Helsinki by Secretary of State James Baker and foreign ministers from 23 nations.

Source: “Open Skies Treaty Fact Sheet,” Bureau of Arms Control, U.S. Department of State (2005)

Picture: Snipview.com

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About Von Howze

Von is a Vice President, Human Resources at a major Fortune 100 Company in Northern New Jersey, where she has worked for 30 years. Von, a resident of New Jersey, has been a self proclaimed "information geek" since childhood. While she was interested in World History in high school and college, it wasn't until about 15 years ago that her interests turned to American History. Von felt that her passion for research and new found interest in American History was a perfect combination since she felt that the American History taught in schools while she was growing up was diluted. This would provide her an opportunity to show that American History consists of the good, the bad and the ugly. The purpose of learning about it is to learn from it and it should not be revised, distorted nor hidden in order for others to push their own personal agendas. Our history shows us who we have been, who we are and who we could be.

About the Author
Von is a Vice President, Human Resources at a major Fortune 100 Company in Northern New Jersey, where she has worked for 30 years. Von, a resident of New Jersey, has been a self proclaimed "information geek" since childhood. While she was interested in World History in high school and college, it wasn't until about 15 years ago that her interests turned to American History. Von felt that her passion for research and new found interest in American History was a perfect combination since she felt that the American History taught in schools while she was growing up was diluted. This would provide her an opportunity to show that American History consists of the good, the bad and the ugly. The purpose of learning about it is to learn from it and it should not be revised, distorted nor hidden in order for others to push their own personal agendas. Our history shows us who we have been, who we are and who we could be.