ON THIS DAY    23 February      Graphics version >>   BBC News >>
Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
1959: Macmillan and Khrushchev talk peace

VIDEO : The Soviet Union `welcomes' Harold Macmillan

Britain and the USSR have expressed a willingness to expand Anglo-Soviet trade and cultural ties during the first official meeting between British prime minister Harold Macmillan and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev.

On the second day of his ten-day visit to the USSR - the first by a British prime minister since Sir Winston Churchill during the war - Mr Macmillan was driven to the Moscow Kremlin this morning for talks.


"In spite of the difficulties and obstacles, let us combine for peace"

Harold Macmillan, British Prime Minister

It was later revealed the two sides spoke of "cultural matters of interest between the two countries" and ways to encourage the exchange of literature, film and study.

Yesterday, during informal talks in Semyonovskoye, 60 miles south-east of the capital, neither side could agree on establishing a demilitarised "free" city in west Berlin or on unifying Germany.

They also discussed ways of stopping nuclear testing and reducing arms in general, although no actual agreement is expected.

This evening, the British delegation held a dinner for Mr Khrushchev at the British Embassy opposite the Kremlin on the other side of the Moscow River.

In a cordial atmosphere of goodwill, Mr Macmillan welcomed his host with a speech praising the achievements of the Soviet Union and looking back on the war years when the two nations were allies against fascism.

"When I reflect on the present situation in the world, I wonder whether we have not at least as great a common interest today. That common interest is peace. Somehow, in spite of the difficulties and obstacles, let us combine for peace."

In two days' time, Mr Macmillan will play host to the Soviet leader at a dacha, or country house, lent to him by the USSR's government on the outskirts of Moscow.

Mr Macmillan has a busy schedule ahead of him, with visits to the ballet, concerts, universities, art galleries, atomic stations, factories and farms.

In Context
A few days later, Mr Khrushchev famously snubbed the British delegation by refusing to join them on a visit to Kiev claiming he had to go to his dentist for a filling.

America's Vice-President Nixon made his historic visit to Moscow some five months later.

But this was just a brief thaw in the Cold War that had begun between East and West in 1947 and worsened as more countries developed nuclear weapons.

Peace talks in Paris in 1960 collapsed after the USSR shot down a US spy plane over its air space.

Then two years later, the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

During Macmillan's visit no agreement was reached towards reuniting Germany and in 1961 the building of the Berlin Wall ensured east and west would remain firmly separate for almost 30 years.

Harold Macmillan was committed to curbing the arms race and played a major role in negotiating the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963, the first important treaty signed between the US, USSR and Britain since the end of the war.


Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
^^ Back to top |