Eisenhower with Khrushchev, 1959.


IN JULY 1958, when for a time a summit conference seemed imminent, James Reston of The New York Times explained why the conference would be held in spite of American misgivings. "The truth is," he wrote, "that President Eisenhower has agreed to attend what he and his principal advisers profoundly and unanimously believe to be the wrong meeting at the wrong time and place on the wrong subject. The explanation is equally simple. It is that British public and parliamentary opinion forced the President's reluctant acquiescence, just as pressure from the British Labor Party was the decisive factor in arranging the last summit meeting with Premier Khrushchev in July 1955, at Geneva."

Whether or not Mr. Reston was right in attributing so much influence to British opinion, it is certainly true that during the last decade British politicians and the British press have been more enthusiastic supporters of summit conferences than have those of any other Western country; and there is no reason for doubting that this enthusiasm reflected the prevailing public opinion in Britain. After Winston Churchill first proposed a "parley at the summit" in an election speech in February 1950, and more particularly after his speech in the House of Commons on May 11, 1953, calling for an informal and private "conference on the highest level," support for summit conferences and faith in them as a means of resolving the tensions of the cold war increased rapidly.

The initiative in working for such conferences came from a few Conservative leaders and from a Left which was substantially united on this issue. The Conservative rank and file did not show the same enthusiasm, and it was noticeable that in the debate following Mr. Churchill's speech in 1953 most of the backbench Conservative speakers virtually ignored that part of his speech proposing a summit conference and preferred to take up other themes. But whether or not they continued to have private doubts and reservations, by the late 1950s there was little public opposition in

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