Excerpt of K Blows Top by Peter Carlson
(Page 2 of 4)
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Having spent his entire life around politicians, Lodge quickly sized up
Khrushchev as a master of the breed. His personal magnetism was immediately
felt, he later recalled. Here was a natural politiciana man who,
on entering a room full of strangers, would, after a few hours, have persuaded
some, charmed and amused others, and frightened still more, so
that by the end of the day, he would have over 50 percent of their votes.
The premier informed the ambassador that they had both been generals
during the war but Khrushchev had been a higher-ranking general.
Therefore youre my subordinate, he said, smiling, and Ill expect you
to behave as befits a junior officer.
Lodge laughed. Yes, sir, he said. He stood at attention and saluted
crisply. General Lodge, reporting for duty, sir!
Theyd been bantering for only a few minutes but already the short, fat
Russian dictator and the tall, skinny Boston Brahmin had created a comedy
Team - a cold war version of Laurel & Hardy or Abbott & Costello.
Lodge escorted Khrushchev outside, where they climbed into the waiting
limousine, accompanied by Menshikov, Soviet foreign minister Andrei
Gromyko, and Khrushchevs translator, Oleg Troyanovsky. After a journey
of a few hundred yards, the limo stopped. Theyd reached their destination
the White House.
Inside, Eisenhower and Nixon were waiting for them. Grinning,
Khrushchev presented the president with a gift. Hed wanted to give it to
Ike back at the airport in front of the TV cameras, but his aides talked
him out of it. Eisenhower opened the elegant wooden box and found a
model of the Lunik II space capsule that had recently hit the moon.
The president was astounded. Was this man really rubbing his nose in
the moon shot twice on the same afternoon? This seemed, at first, a
strange gift, he later wrote, but then it occurred to me that quite possibly
the man was completely sincere.
Eisenhower led his guests into a room where they could sit comfortably
on armchairs and couches. There wasnt enough time for substantive
discussions, he said, but at least they could talk about what issues they
would discuss at Camp David when Khrushchev returned from his road
trip. Obviously, Ike said, Berlin would be one topic.
Khrushchev agreed and suggested another issuedisarmament. We
believe that you do not want war, he said, and we assume that you also
believe this about us.
I see no profit in mutual suicide, Ike replied.
The main thing is to establish trust, Khrushchev continued. Probably
we cant take each others word at this time but we must try to bring
about trust. There is no other way.
As the meeting went on, one topic flowed into another. Khrushchev
mentioned the speech that he was scheduled to deliver at the United Nations
in a few days but refused to reveal any details about it.
Here is my speech, he said, tapping his jacket pocket, and no one is
going to see it.
But there was one speech that the chairman did want to discussthe
speech Nixon had delivered the previous day. Khrushchev had read a
translation on the plane.
Sitting across the room, Nixon said he was proud to hear that.
The speech was clearly calculated to arouse anti - Soviet animosity,
Khrushchev said, angrily. After having read that speech, I am surprised to
find on arriving here that people in the United States welcomed us with
such tolerance and obvious friendliness, he said. In the Soviet Union,
there would have been no welcome whatsoever if I had, in advance, publicly
spoken against the visitor.
That, Ike said, is the basic difference between our two systems.
It was the perfect comeback. But Nixon, being Nixon, couldnt resist
Excerpted from K Blows Top, by Peter Carlson, available now from PublicAffairs (www.publicaffairsbooks.com), a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2009.