Foreign Policy in National Elections

July 28, 1960

Report Outline
Foreign Policy in the 1960 Campaign
Foreign Affairs in Past Elections
Pre-Campaign Debate on Foreign Issues

Foreign Policy in the 1960 Campaign

Effect of Cold War Revival On U.S. Politics

Injection of foreign affairs into the 1960 presidential election campaign was made virtually certain when the comparative amity that had come to mark United States relations with the Soviet Union was suddenly shattered in mid-May. Abrupt renewal of the cold war in a form more virulent than ever, a fortnight after downing of the American U-2 spy plane deep within Russia, upset all efforts of the Eisenhower administration to lead the free world toward accommodations with the Communists that might improve prospects of preserving peace. When this country became the target of a stream of threats and insults from behind the Iron Curtain, it was obvious that the Republicans would find it impossible to campaign as the “party of peace” and that the Democrats in all probability would try to wring advantage from the discomfiture of their political opponents.

Soviet Premier Khrushchev had not stopped at breaking up the summit conference at Paris and threatening countries in which the United States maintains air bases. He proceeded, June 27, to pull the Communist delegations out of the Geneva disarmament conference, though letting the long negotiations on a nuclear test ban go on at least for the time being. Meanwhile, President Eisenhower, whose projected good-will visit to Russia had been canceled by the Kremlin, flew to the Far East only to have a Japanese invitation to visit Tokyo withdrawn at the last moment in the face of massive leftist demonstrations which made it impossible to guarantee his safety. The Reds then took direct aim at this country when Khrushchev early in July proclaimed the demise of the Monroe Doctrine and threatened to rain rockets on the United States if it undertook military intervention in Cuba.

Khrushchev's continued hurling of insults against President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon stirred resentment among Americans and restored in part the prestige lost by the administration through its handling of the U-2 incident. If the Soviet premier should go on to provoke a real international crisis, Democrats without question would unite with Republicans behind the President, for past experience has shown that in cases of grave national emergency, politics will stop at the proverbial water's edge. But if no outright crisis develops, the administration's conduct of foreign affairs is bound to be a leading issue of the campaign. It could hardly be otherwise in view of recent events. Furthermore, this country's leadership of the free world makes it all but impossible to exclude foreign policy from campaign consideration.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Campaigns and Elections
Cold War
U.S. at War: Cold War