The view of East Berlin - Waiting to see who blinks first.
The view from West Berlin – Forever waiting to see who blinks first.

Click on the link here for Audio Player – CBS Radio Special – The Geneva Conference – May 10, 1959 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

East-West tensions. With the latest set of crises over The Ukraine, it feels like the Cold War all over again. In 1959 tension were easing, a bit. But still, there was always talk of war within fingertip reach. The fear was Nuclear War. Two great superpowers and all the bluster available between them – with the rest of the world stuck uncomfortably in the middle.

And so it came time for a summit – a meeting of these superpowers to discuss, negotiate and to settle differences – or at least try. The sticking point was Berlin. A divided Germany was the bone of contention and generally regarded as the flashpoint, should the Cold War turn into a Hot War.

The Conference was set to begin May 11th to pave the way for a Summit meeting between President Eisenhower and Premier Khruschev. On this broadcast, a CBS Radio News Special, a roundtable discussion took place over what the conference was about, what it hoped to accomplish and what was to be gained and lost in the process.

It’s been told to me, by a number of Russian friends, that the Soviets were just as paranoid of America as Americans were of the Soviets. They were just as afraid we would start a shooting war as we were they would. That overpowering sense of anxiety of not knowing what the other one was up to kept a lot of people up at night, wondering. And listening to this exchange between reporters, you get a fairly clear sense America was perfectly happy to get involved in some armed conflict with the Soviet Union at some point – sooner, rather than later. It was that age of anxiety.

So it was with a degree of bated breath, and low-to-non-existent expectation that the Geneva Conference was scheduled to begin. What would be accomplished was anybody’s guess.

This roundtable discussion, by a group of seasoned CBS News reporters, ended on a hopeful- yet not optimistic note. It was generally agreed the only way to prevent a shooting war was to maintain and increase military strength (i.e., Military-Industrial Complex) as a preventive measure. Posturing was perceived to be the panacea.

Perhaps it still is.

Here is that discussion, as it was first broadcast on May 10, 1959, fifty-five years ago.

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