On This Day, 1959 – Khrushchev Becomes First Soviet Premier to Address U.N. General Assembly

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Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev greeted by United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld* (left) at UNHQ in New York City, Sept 18, 1959 (photo: UN Photo)

Sept 18, 2012 – On this day 53 years ago, Nikita Khrushchev became the first Soviet premier to address the U.N. General Assembly, where he presented a solution to the Berlin crisis, called for the admission of the People’s Republic of China, and pleaded for universal disarmament.

Khrushchev told the then 82-nation member General Assembly that tensions in Berlin could be ameliorated if the U.S. signed a peace treaty with East Germany and Allied troops were withdrawn from West Berlin, though he made no such reference to a similar withdrawal of Soviet troops from East Berlin, according to the book Khrushchev in America.

On PR China, he told delegates that Beijing’s exclusion from the U.N. directly contributed to the Cold War and its admission would reduce East – West tensions (PRC was admitted to the United Nations in 1971 and recognition of the Republic of China (Taiwan) was withdrawn).

He concluded with a vigorous call for global disarmament.

“The new proposal of the Soviet Government is prompted by the sole desire to ensure truly lasting peace among nations,” he said.

“We say sincerely to all countries: In contrast to the ‘Let us arm!’ slogan, still current in some quarters, we put forward the slogan ‘Let us completely disarm!’ Let us rather compete in who builds more homes, schools and hospitals for the people; produces more grain, milk, meat, clothing and other consumer goods; and not in who has more hydrogen bombs and rockets. This will be welcomed by all the peoples of the world,” Khrushchev implored.

That was three years before the Cuban missile crisis.

Russia currently has an estimated stockpile of 10,000 nuclear warheads while the U.S. has about 8,000.

– Denis Fitzgerald 

*Exactly two years later, on Sept 18, 1961, Hammarskjöld would lose his life in a plane crash along with 15 others in then Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia)