Kitchen Debate: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Kitchen Debate was a series of impromptu exchanges (through interpreters) between then U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the opening of the American National Exhibition at Sokolniki Park in Moscow on July 24, 1959. For the exhibition, an entire house was built that the American exhibitors claimed anyone in America could afford. It was filled with labor-saving and recreational devices meant to represent the fruits of the capitalist American consumer market.



The Kitchen Debate was the first high-level meeting between Soviet and U.S. leaders since the Geneva Summit in 1955. As recounted by William Safire who was fortuitously present as the exhibitor's press agent, it took place in a number of locations at the exhibition but primarily in the kitchen of a suburban model house, cut in half so it could be viewed easily[1].

It has also been called “splitnik,” a play on words of the Soviet Union’s satellite Sputnik. The two men discussed the merits of each of their respective economic systems, capitalism and communism. The debate took place during an escalation of the Cold War, beginning with the launch of Sputnik in 1957, through the U-2 Crisis in 1960. Most Americans believed Nixon won the debate, adding to his domestic prestige. It was recorded on color videotape, a new technology pioneered in the U.S.; during the debate Nixon pointed this out as one of the many American technological advances. He also boasted achievements such as dishwashers, lawnmowers, supermarkets stocked full of groceries, Cadillac convertibles, makeup colors, lipstick, spike-heeled shoes, hi-fi sets, cake mixes, TV dinners, and Pepsi-Cola. It was Nixon’s emphasis on America’s household appliances, such as the dishwasher, that helped give the event its title, “The Kitchen Debate.”

Both men argued for their country’s industrial accomplishments, with Khrushchev stressing the Soviets’ focus on “things that matter” rather than luxury. He satirically asked if there was a machine that "puts food into the mouth and pushes it down". Nixon responded by saying at least the competition was technological, rather than military. In the end, both men agreed that the United States and the Soviet Union should be more open with each other. However, Khrushchev was skeptical of Nixon's promise that his part in the debate would be translated into English and broadcast in the U.S.

The kitchen was designed for Florida builder All-State Properties by architect Andrew Geller at Raymond Loewy Associates. Following the debate the company was inspired to market affordable second homes.

Television broadcast and American reaction

In the United States, three major television networks broadcast the kitchen debate on July 25. The Soviets subsequently protested, as Nixon and Khrushchev had agreed that the debate should be broadcast simultaneously in America and the Soviet Union, with the Soviets even threatening to withhold the tape until they were ready to broadcast. The American networks, however, had felt that waiting would cause the news to lose its immediacy.[2] Two days later, on July 27, the debate was broadcast on Moscow television, albeit late at night and with Nixon’s remarks only partially translated.[3]

American reaction was initially somewhat mixed, with the New York Times calling it “an exchange that emphasized the gulf between east and west but had little bearing on the substantive issue” and portrayed it somewhat as a political stunt.[4] The newspaper also declared that public opinion seemed divided after the debates.[5] On the other hand, Time Magazine, also covering the exhibition, praised Nixon, saying he “managed in a unique way to personify a national character proud of peaceful accomplishment, sure of its way of life, confident of its power under threat.”[6]

In spite of the undiplomatic nature of the exchange, Nixon ultimately gained popularity after his trip to Moscow, after a generally lukewarm relationship with the public.[7][8] The trip raised Nixon’s profile as a public statesman, greatly improving his chances for receiving the Republican presidential nomination the following year.[9]


  1. ^ Safire, William. "The Cold War's Hot Kitchen," The New York Times, Friday, July 24, 2009.
  2. ^ Richard H. Shepard. "Debate Goes on TV over Soviet Protest" New York Times, July 26th, 1959
  3. ^ Associated Press. "Soviet TV Shows Tape of Debate." New York Times, July 28th, 1959
  4. ^ "News of the Week in Review" New York Times, July 26
  5. ^ "Moscow Debate Stirs U.S Public" New York Times, July 27, 1959
  6. ^ "Better to See Once" Time Magazine, August 3rd, 1959
  7. ^ Paul Kengor. "The Vice President, Secretary of State, and Foreign Policy." Political Science Quarterly Vol. 115, No. 2 (Summer 2000) 174-199. pg 184
  8. ^ Bruce Mazlish. "Toward a Psychohistorical Inquiry: The Real Richard Nixon" Journal of Interdisciplinary History Vol 1, No. 1 (1970) pp 49-105
  9. ^ "Now the Summit" New York Times, August 3rd, 1959

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The Kitchen Debate was an impromptu debate (through interpreters) between Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow, on July 24, 1959.


Nixon: There are some instances where you may be ahead of us, for example in the thrust of your rockets for the investigation of outer space. And there may be instances, for example color television, where we are ahead of you...
Khrushchev: In what are they ahead of us? Wrong! Wrong! We are ahead of you in rockets as well as in the other technique. I do not capitulate.

Khrushchev: If I do not know everything, then I would say that you know nothing about communism; nothing except fear of it.

Khrushchev: Let us compete. The system that will give the people more goods will be the better system, and victorious.

Nixon: To me you are strong and we are strong. In some ways, you are stronger. In others, we are stronger. We are both strong not only from the standpoint of weapons but from the standpoint of will and spirit. Neither should use that strength to put the other in a position where he in effect has an ultimatum. In this day and age that misses the point. With modern weapons it does not make any difference if war comes. We both have had it.

Khrushchev: For the fourth time I have to say I cannot recognize my friend Mr. Nixon. If all Americans agree with you then who don't we agree [with]? This is what we want.

External links

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and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev|thumb|right]]

The Kitchen Debate were interpreter talks between U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon and President Khrushchev at the American National Exhibit on July 24, 1959 in the Russian capital, Moscow The talks were called the "Kitchen debate" because the USA has built a model home (and kitchen) in Moscow.[1]. Nixon and Kushchev debated each others technology as both countries were still committed to the Cold War with each other. Russia had the better rockets as they had just launched the first salellite called Sputnik. However America had colour television and washing machines, although Krushchev said Russia had washing machines too.[1]


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