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The Kitchen Debate, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1050

Essay

The Kitchen Debate was a series of so-called impromptu dialogues with the assistance of the interpreters between the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and the former US Vice President Richard Nixon at the official opening of the American National Exhibition, Sokolniki Park , in Moscow in 1959. For this exhibition the hall was built in the way that American exhibitors said everyone in America could afford. It was packed with recreational and labor-saving devices that were meant to represent the so-called fruits of the US capitalist consumer market. These days it is quite hard to find someone who believes that communism is a good idea but yet not so long ago when USA and Soviet Union opposed each other in a global competition to establish which economic system provides better life for people, it took on quite symbolic importance that reflected on the values of one system and the other.

The Kitchen Debate as one of the most interesting Cold War confrontations occurred in 1959 when two world leaders engaged into ideological debate. It was the first top level meeting between the two nations since the Geneva Summit. The dialogue took place in various locations throughout the exhibition center but mainly in the kitchen that was cut in half for better viewing.

As Nixon led Khrushchev around the exhibition center, the famous temper of the Soviet leader started to flare. After Nixon showed new American color TV sets, Khrushchev engaged himself into a verbal attack against so-called “Captive Nations Week” — dedicated to praying for “peoples enslaved by the Soviet Union” — as an example of thoughtless provocation.” (New York Times) Khrushchev also mocked US technology on display stating that the Soviet Union could do same kinds of appliances and devices in few short years. Nixon in his turn provoked Khrushchev by saying that the Soviet leader must “not be afraid of ideas” because in reality he does not possess knowledge about everything. The Soviet leader impulsively snapped at Nixon by commenting that he have no slight idea about what communism is, except the fear of it.

Both leaders argued about their country’s industrial achievements. Khrushchev was emphasizing the Soviet’s focus on things that really matter in life rather than luxury. He sarcastically asked if there already exists a machine that “puts food into the mouth and pushes it down”.  Nixon in his turn commented that competition was technological rather than military. In his speech Khrushchev asked how old did America exist and gave quite bold predictions about Soviet economy. He commented that “well then we will say America has been in existence for 150 years and this is the level she has reached. We have existed not quite 42 years and in another seven years we will be on the same level as America. When we catch you up, in passing you by, we will wave to you.” (The Ledger) These words never came to reality. At the end of 20th century USSR had fallen apart. Communism disappeared and the son of Nikita Khrushchev, Sergei, successfully migrated to America to teach International Relations at Brown University.

At the end of the conversation both leaders agreed that USA and Soviet Union should indeed be more open with each other. But Khrushchev was quite skeptical of the promise of Nixon that his part of debate will be translated into English and broadcasted in America. There were three main TV networks that actually broadcasted the Kitchen Debate in the US. Soviets protested as both leaders agreed to broadcast programs simultaneously in both countries. Soviets even threatened to hold back tapes until they were indeed ready for broadcast. American networks felt opposite. They assumed that waiting will cause news to lose its significance and immediacy. Two days later the program was shown on Soviet television late at night with some of Nixon’s remarks partially interpreted.

After the Kitchen Debate USSR had beat America into space with the launch of Sputnik shuttle in 1957 as well as the U-2 crisis that was about to be unfold. Allied with China and having control of much of Europe, Soviet leadership was firmly determined to spread communism and weaken capitalism

America and the USSR had two totally different political and economic systems. They were indeed determined that theirs must shape up the future of the developing world and Europe. There was a huge deal of influence and power was at stake. Liberal democracy and capitalism were the foundation principles of the US and Western allies. The economy was based on pursuit of profit and private enterprise. Country’s political system emphasized freedom of speech, press and religion. Citizens were free to give their vote for any party.

The Soviet Union valued principles of communism that were based theories of Karl Marx who suggested that the country wealth must be collectively owned. Thus, production belonged to the government and the economy was controlled by state. Communist regimes were one party states, therefore, press and media were kept under strict control. There existed various interpretations of communism. Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin extended the writings of Marx and focused on the proletariat dictatorship. Maoism form, for instance, was named after the Chinese leader Mao Zedong who made China a communist state in 1949. Chinese leader focuses mainly on the agrarian peasantry.

Triumph of capitalism took place because of several reasons. One possible answer includes that change in technology lead to change in rules. Soviet Union was left flatfooted when West entered with powerful computers on chip. Capitalism won over because of globalization as well. It became possible for many countries to industrialize very promptly by being open to the world market and letting things and events take its course. Capitalism succeeded because it is “a system that is robust to cynicism”. It basically assumes that each person is out for herself or himself. Most of the past century and a half men have constantly dreamed of something better, of an great economy that drew on man’s better nature. But dreams are unable to keep the system going over the long term while selfishness can.

References

Range Wars: The 1959 Kitchen Debate. (2003, winter). The Ledger. http://www.bos.frb.org/education/ledger/ledger03/winter/range.htm

Richard M Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev 1959 The Kitchen Debate. New York Times http://www.turnerlearning.com /cnn/coldwar/sputnik/sput_re.html

Richard M. Nixon & Nikita Khrushchev The Kitchen Debate http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPWG1i6YqVo

Safire, W. (2009, July 23). The Cold War’s Hot Kitchen. The New York Times.

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