White House (2013)
(Below: JFK's promise in 1962 that the US would reach the moon in the 1960s; the speech was
politically motivated - an attempt to draw attention away from the Bay of Pigs, Civil Rights,
Vietnam, and also Berlin and the stalled nuclear test-ban treaty with the USSR . . . we also see
JFK's legendary sense of humor on display . . .)
Before the Vienna Summit, President Kennedy met with his counterpart in France, Charles de Gaulle. The meeting was brief; de Gaulle was actually a little put-out by the meeting with the "rookie" president. JFK, on the other hand, thought he was in the presence of a great man (de Gaulle was the last of the major leaders of WW II that was still alive), and was very receptive to any advice offered. De Gaulle's advice would shape the rest of his presidency: listen to your advisers before you make up your mind, but once you've made up your mind, do not listen to anyone. JFK truly believed in the "Great Man" interpretation of history, and he very badly wanted to be such a man. At that point, he decided that he, not his advisers, would have the "total perspective" on any situation, and in effect (although he never used the title), he would be "The Decider". But before he could return home to the role that he envisioned, he needed to deal with the General Secretary of the Soviet Union.
Krushchev came to the Vienna Summit intent on bullying and intimidating America's youngest-elected president. He was in a foul mood early after his arrival, seeing and hearing Vienna's enthusiastic response to Kennedy compared to his relatively silent reception. What put Krushchev in an even more foul mood was the first "photo op", where JFK controlled the setting, and the "taller", more urbane and handsome JFK stole the show, so to speak, the day before the summit officially started. JFK came to Vienna in order to meet Krushchev face-to-face, and to get a "feel" for him; he hoped to be able to forge a far more productive and useful relationship with Krushchev compared to President Eisenhower.
The "Battle of the Egos" started, and it was "Advantage Krushchev", especially when the discussion tracked towards competing ideologies. Krushchev believed the new President was out of his league in terms of ability and strength of leadership - unlike with Eisenhower, Krushchev honestly believed he was dealing with an "easy mark" in JFK. It didn't help matters at all that JFK didn't acquit himself very well in his first high-profile international appearance (remember, memories were fresh of Vice-President Nixon more than holding his own with Krushchev in the "Kitchen Debates" of 1959); after Vienna, he told some of his advisers that his exchange with Krushchev was the "roughest thing in my life." It was the first time that JFK had met someone with whom he couldn't have a meaningful exchange of ideas. For political cover at home, JFK decided to portray Krushchev as a "Mad Man", bent on starting World War III.
(Below: A short segment detailing part of JFK's official summary of the Vienna Summit . . .
now, with some context, you can critically appraise at least some of JFK's comments)
(Below: again facing political pressure at home, JFK gave a speech in West Berlin on 26 June,
1963; here we see and hear JFK at his finest with his ability to inspire millions of people)
In the spring of 1963, JFK was able to determine from a few experts on Krushchev that the USSR would be willing to negotiate and ratify a test-ban treaty as long as the verification wasn't too strict. In the summer of 1963, JFK was able to not only introduce the nuclear test-ban treaty in the Senate, but it was also easily ratified by a vote of 80 - 19, despite the vehement public protests of the Joint Chiefs.
By the summer of 1963, JFK and Krushchev had reached a point where they were able to reach some level of compromise on a few foreign policy issues, most notably with the nuclear test ban treaty . . . the main reason why both leaders reached that point was due to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the only time in U.S. History where part of our military reached "Defcon 2" . . . it was also the event that shaped JFK's relationship the most with his advisers; here he had his first historically significant opportunity to use the advice from Charles de Gaulle, and to have a chance to enter the pantheon of the "Great Men in History."