Photo: Nixon and Khrushchev’s “Kitchen Debate” in 1959.
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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. It was the first high-level meeting between Soviet and U.S. leaders since the Geneva Summit in 1955. 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.
The two men discussed the merits of each of their respective economic systems, capitalism and communism. It was recorded on Ampex color videotape, a new technology pioneered in the U.S by the Ampex company.; during the debate Nixon pointed this out as one of the many American technological advances.
Both men argued for their countrys 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.