Meet the Press   |  March 30, 2014

Memories of Cold War Return to Iowa Town

NBC News' Kevin Tibbles visits a small Iowa town where U.S.-Russian relations are on residents' minds.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> and we are back. now to "meeting america," it's a new "meet the press" feature that takes you around the country to get opinions on important issues. scholars of international relations don't often cite a september 1959 trip to kuhn rapids, iowa as a key turning point in the u.s. soviet relationship. but the visit by crew chev to learn more about the american way of life turned out to be a unique moment in cold war history . kevin tibbles went back and found half a century later, fears of a new cold war have returned.

>> they say more than 22,000 square miles of corn are planted each year in the wide open windy plains of iowa . so it was here 55 years ago at the height of the cold war as the threat of nuclear attack menaced east and west that a strange if not feared visitor blew into the tiny town of coo n rapids seeking to feed his people.

>> it was a beautiful fall day during our harvest.

>> viz garst lis by was just years old. the visitor was nikita khrushchev and his family. her grand dad, the agricultural innovator roswell gashesst was going to help the soviets develop modern farms of their own at one of the largest farms in iowa , his. a gesture that may have helped to melt tensions.

>> i'm sure mr. stevenson is constantly thinking as i am of how our nations can be best live in peace without war.

>> mrs. khrushchev practiced some detente of her own.

>> i got into a scuffle with another young kid who was here that day and mrs. khrushchev strolled by, caught us fighting. ripped us apart by our collars and got her fingers right in our face. see little brothers and sisters , must not fight.

>> all these years later both nikita and roswell are gone but that cold wind of suspicion between the united states and what is now simply russia is back. here in coo n rapids they wonder if we're rewinding to that scarier time.

>> 60 years later we certainly ought to have learned something. 1959 , we were all fearful that you know, a nuclear war would end the world as we knew it. 60 years later, we haven't really improved that much.

>> at the coo n rapids enterprise, more than 130 years of history is bound and stored and today dusted off. that day on the farm is documented. it's how people communicated back then.

>> there's nobody that's really engaged with mr. putin on a personal basis, and that's what garsk and khrushchev were able to forge and that's what seems to be missing at this point.

>> at the afternoon coffee ritual, talk and laugher is all about local sports and march madness . but putin 's push into crimea has raised some eyebrows.

>> it's an international law no, no.

>> but for pharmacist done pomeroy it's not enough to divert attention away from local issues like school closings and poverty.

>> i'm not just huge on us constantly worrying about whether our neighbors have raked the leaves in their yard. you know? i'd rather solve our own problems at home.

>> just a few miles down the road and across the tracks, parched farmers wind down their day.

>> khrushchev came here to iowa and he kind of was a very positive visit.

>> i think what we wanted to happen with russia went out the window about six or seven years ago with putin .

>> at the rush in or the russian, diplomacy is conducted the midwestern way over a beer and a marriage. in owner's troy and tanya mount, east meets west .

>> it's all about money. it's all about politics. they don't care about people. are you serious? i have family there. they have to deal with this situation, you know? and i wish i can help them, but i can't.

>> and what would those twos men all those years ago in black and white have said about that?

>> our relationship is in tatters. we are really rapidly anti-russian right now, and i think they're really rabidly anti-u.s. right now.

>> reporter: for "meet the press," kevin tibbles.