Revision Diary

U2 Crisis


U2 incident, 1960.



You ought to know about the story of the U2 crisis and its results.




The U2 Crisis, 1960


•   By 1960, Cold War tension was at an all-time high:

•   Russia was winning the space race (Sputnik 1957/Gagarin 1961) and had a HUGE army in eastern Europe.

•   The Communists had taken over Cuba in 1959, and China was very aggressive, demanding that Russia get tough with the West.

•   Russia wanted the Americans out of West Berlin.

•   The Americans wanted an 'open skies' agreement giving them the right to fly over Communist countries.

•   A Summit meeting was arranged for May 1960 in Paris to try and sort all this out.


•   1 May 1960: Soviets shot down an American U2 spy plane over USSR, and captured pilot Gary Powers.

•   (neither Russian planes nor guns could get high enough to shoot down a U2 plane, but the U2 got shot down by accident when a Russian gun trying to shoot it down blew up a Russian plane trying to shoot it down)

•   At first the Americans claimed it was a weather plane, but they were shown to be liars when the Russians put Gary Powers on trial as a spy - the Americans had to admit he was a spy.


•   When the Paris summit met 14 May 1960, Khrushchev immediately demanded  apology + end to spying flights.

•   Eisenhower agreed to end spy-flights, but refused to apologise, so Khrushchev walked out.



Results of the U2 Crisis

•   The Paris summit was ruined - Cold War tension increased

•   Eisenhower’s planned visit to Russia was cancelled


In America:

•   America came off badly (had been caught lying) = propaganda victory for USSR.

•   Eisenhower lost prestige.   In 1961 the Americans elected a new president (Kennedy), who promised to get tougher on Communism.


In Russia

•   Attitudes hardened - Khrushchev demanded that US left West Berlin


Revision Focus

This is a Paper 1 topic, so concentrate on learning:

1.   WHAT happened

2.   EFFECTS/ Importance



e-book on the U2 Crisis.



Online revision sheet  




•    The U2 incident