Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971) emerged as the new Soviet leader by prevailing in a bitter series of Moscow power struggles after Josef Stalin's death in 1953. In a famous speech in 1956, Khrushchev denounced Stalin and called for greater cooperation between Communism and capitalism. His desire to enact reforms led to unrest in other Communist nations, which desired greater reforms than Khrushchev would allow.
Khrushchev's initial conciliatory stance towards the non-Communist world suggested a possible thawing in the Cold War, but when, in 1960, Soviet forces shot down an American U2 spy plane within Soviet airspace, Khrushchev once again took a hard line against the United States. He sought to intimidate young American President John F. Kennedy, but his tense confrontation with Kennedy in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis ended in seeming defeat with the withdrawal of Soviet weapons. Khrushchev, weakened by the Missile Crisis, fell from power in 1964 when a conspiracy of rival party leaders pushed him into forced retirement.