Dwight Eisenhower and Nikita Khrushchev met at Camp David in September for what was the first visit by a Soviet leader to the United States.
Khrushchev came with his family and took the opportunity to tour the country, exploring the cornfields of Iowa and Hollywood, where he delivered one of his legendary tirades to an audience that included Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.
The summit concluded with a statement that the two superpowers are working to engage in talks on disarmament and on the state of Berlin that the Cold War had divided.
The handsome rookie in the White House, John F. Kennedy, learned about Nikita Khrushchev’s faded experience in June 1961 under the baroque frescoes of the former imperial palace at Schönbrunn, Vienna’s Versailles.
The summit would turn out to be an icy encounter in keeping with the Cold War era, which was further cooled by the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba that occurred shortly before. Berlin was at the top of the agenda, but two months later the wall dividing the city would be built.
A year later, the Cuban missile crisis erupted, bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war.
The Vietnam War cast a long shadow over the Moscow summit in May that brought Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev together. A few days before his trip, the president of the United States had ordered massive bombings in Hanoi.
But the summit would prove key to ushering in the period of détente between the two superpowers when they signed the SALT and ABM arms control treaties.
In a joint statement they said that peaceful coexistence was the only basis for mutual relations in a nuclear age.
The two men met twice more while in power, underscoring the thaw in ties. But relations would later cool down again with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
In four years, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev had four summits.
Their first encounter took place in Switzerland in 1985, where Reagan, still berating the “evil empire” and preparing to establish a space defense system, suggested that he and Gorbachev go for a walk “to get some fresh air” around the Lake Geneva.
When they returned, there was talk of “chemistry”. Reagan found Gorbachev “very comfortable, very easy to be with,” his wife Nancy later recalled, a factor that, with their mutual appreciation, allowed them to reverse the arms race.
A year after Geneva, the two superpowers met again in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik to discuss the elimination of their nuclear arsenals.
But the talks collapsed when Washington refused to reverse development of its “Star Wars” missile defense project, deemed unacceptable by the Kremlin.
However, since then, the summit has been seen as the harbinger of a significant de-escalation and a turning point in the Cold War.
It led to a treaty in 1987 under which both powers would eliminate their short- and intermediate-range nuclear missiles. Thousands of these weapons were discarded in what was the first major weapon reduction by rivals.
Boris Yeltsin was received as “a friend” by his American host George Bush during his first visit to the United States since the collapse of the USSR.
The two strove to forge a close personal relationship as a basis for economic cooperation between their countries, but also to further reduce their nuclear arsenals.
The summit marked Yeltsin’s entry onto the world stage and the first meeting of the UN Security Council dedicated to the post-Cold War period.
Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin held eight summits during their terms, which coincided for most of the 1990s.
Their summits included one in Hyde Park, New York in 1995, where at times the two men, who had many disagreements over the years, seemed to get along like old friends.
The summit had not brought any major agreements, but a comment from Yeltsin at a press conference lightened spirits and caused Clinton to burst into uncontrollable laughter.
“What I was writing was that today’s meeting with President Bill Clinton was going to be a disaster,” Yeltsin told reporters.
“Well now for the first time I can tell you that you are a mess.”
Clinton spent several moments trying to compose herself as she wrapped a friendly arm around Yeltsin. The Russian, for his part, had the serene smile of a comedian who has just torn down the house.