West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, oldest elected Statesman ever to function in office (according to British historian Roy Jenkins) was in Washington ahead of the much-anticipated Summit between President Eisenhower and Chairman Khruschev of The Soviet Union in Paris in May. He was there to discuss the situation in Germany, which had now become something of a hot-button issue between East and West. Adenauer was a staunch Anti-communist and Germany had been divided since 1945, with the East belonging to the Soviet Union and the West being part of NATO. As the chief architect of Germany post-war recovery and renewed participation in world affairs, Adenauer regained West Germany’s sovereignty, and obtained the right to re-arm as a partner in the NATO defense organization. Primary in Adenauer’s mission to Washington, and in fact his fervent hope at the Paris talks, was to preserve the freedom of the people of West Berlin and their right of self-determination, so this preservation was crucial to any further agreement affecting the city.
Germany was divided, but Berlin was inside East Germany, making it a divided city within a divided country. Over the years there had been numerous flare-ups of tensions between East and West over this issue. One of the earliest was the set of circumstances which brought about the famous Berlin Airlift of food and medicine to the people of West Berlin shortly after the end of the War. In the years after there were other attempts and other provocations, but none led to an actual shooting war. When asked if he felt there would come a time when a provocative action would lead to a nuclear war, Adenauer firmly stated that he did not feel Khruschev neither wanted or needed a war, as the Soviet Union was still in the process of reconstruction and there was a 7-year plan afoot to achieve full reconstruction.
The irony of all this – and it couldn’t be foreseen during this episode of Meet The Press, is that the summit meeting would never materialize, due to the embarrassing situation brought on by the shooting down of a U.S. Spyplane (the U-2) over Russia in the days leading up to the meeting. Whatever building blocks had been put into place prior to the Summit were immediately torn down and the Cold War intensified – in 1961, a wall was put up separating East Berlin from West Berlin and any thoughts of reunification were rendered impossible.
Here is that Meet The Press interview with Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, from March 20, 1960.