In 1955 the United States and the Soviet Union were matching steps in a race to develop missiles tipped with thermonuclear weapons. American officials were frustrated and alarmed by their inability to learn the scale and progress of the Soviet program, which directly threatened the security of the United States, and they were convinced that serious arms control measures required reliable means for mutual inspection. The result: President Dwight D. Eisenhower's dramatic Open Skies proposal, advanced-and rejected-at the Geneva summit of 1955. Vetoed by Nikita Khrushchev, Eisenhower's proposal to allow mutual aerial inspection between the United States and the U.S.S.R. was accepted as policy only after satellite photography became feasible. But at the time of the 1955 summit, it was a stunning, if transient, psychological and political victory for the United States and its president. W. W. Rostow was an active participant in this important episode in American history, and his is the first authoritative account of how Eisenhower's Open Skies proposal came to be.
His insider's knowledge, combined with data from hitherto unexploited documentary sources, vividly brings to life the discussions and events that preceded the president's proposal. Rostow explores the diplomatic forces that led to Eisenhower's reluctant acceptance of a summit with the Soviets. He tracks the origins of the Open Skies concept to an obscure meeting organized at Quantico Marine Corps Base by presidential adviser Nelson Rockefeller. He describes the tensions between Rockefeller and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles that complicated Eisenhower's task in mounting the initiative for Open Skies and explains the differences between Eisenhower himself and Rockefeller over postsummit policy that provoked the latter's resignation. He examines Soviet motives and objectives at Geneva. Finally, Rostow reflects on the meaning of this fascinating episode in American history, in particular its importance to later arms control negotiations.