U-2 Affair

(1960) Confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

On May 1, 1960, the Soviet Union shot down a U.S. U-2 reconnaissance plane and called the flight an "aggressive act." The U.S. denied Soviet claims that the pilot, F. Gary Powers, had stated that his mission was to collect Soviet intelligence data. Nikita Khrushchev declared that the Soviet Union would not take part in a scheduled summit conference with the U.S., Britain, and France unless the U.S. immediately stopped flights over Soviet territory, apologized, and punished those responsible. Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower agreed only to the first stipulation, and the conference was adjourned. Powers was tried in the Soviet Union and sentenced to 10 years in prison; in 1962 he was exchanged for the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel.

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▪ United States-Soviet history
      (1960), confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union that began with the shooting down of a U.S. U-2 reconnaissance plane over the Soviet Union (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) and that caused the collapse of a summit conference in Paris between the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France.

      On May 5 the Soviet premier Nikita S. Khrushchev (Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeyevich) told the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. that an American spy plane had been shot down on May 1 over Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg), referring to the flight as an “aggressive act” by the United States.

      On May 7 he revealed that the pilot of the plane, Francis Gary Powers (Powers, Francis Gary), had parachuted to safety, was alive and well in Moscow, and had testified that he had taken off from Peshāwar, in Pakistan, with the mission of flying across the Soviet Union over the Aral Sea and via Sverdlovsk, Kirov, Arkhangelsk, and Murmansk to Bodö military airfield in Norway, collecting intelligence information en route. Powers admitted working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

      On May 7 the United States stated that there had been no authorization for any such flight as Khrushchev had described, although a U-2 probably had flown over Soviet territory. The Soviet Union refused to accept that the U.S. government had had no knowledge of the flights and on May 13 sent protest notes to Turkey, Pakistan, and Norway, which in turn protested to the United States, seeking assurances that no U.S. aircraft would be allowed to use their territories for unauthorized purposes. On May 16 in Paris Khrushchev declared that the Soviet Union could not take part in the summit talks unless the U.S. government immediately stopped flights over Soviet territory, apologized for those already made, and punished the persons responsible. The response of President Dwight D. Eisenhower (Eisenhower, Dwight D.), promising to suspend all such flights during the remainder of his presidency, did not satisfy the Soviet Union, and the conference was adjourned on May 17.

      Francis Gary Powers was tried (August 17–19) and sentenced to 10 years' confinement, but he was exchanged for the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel on Feb. 10, 1962.

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Universalium. 2010.

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