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WI: Nixon + Brezhnev die in a car crash?

Veridian

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This is a goodie that may or may not be a preview of things to come. During the June 1973 summit at Camp David between President Nixon and General Secretary Brezhnev, the former, knowing full well of the latter's affinity for cars, gifted him a custom-made Continental as a sign of goodwill. Brezhnev then immediately insisted on trying out his new toy to the President's reluctance, taking along Anatoly Dobrynin for the joyride.

Herein lies the problem: Brezhnev was unfamiliar with both the car and the narrow, winding roads of Camp David, something that could've very nearly ended in disaster. Both Dobrynin and Nixon mention this incident and that possibility in their memoirs:

Anatoly Fyodorovich said:
At Camp David, Nixon gave him a Lincoln Continental of the latest model, knowing his passion for collecting foreign cars (Brezhnev had broadly hinted at this through the confidential channel in advance). Brezhnev was very pleased with the new gift and eager to try it immediately to show Nixon his driving prowess (I accompanied them to interpret). The general secretary was a good driver, but he was unfamiliar with the Lincoln and its powerful engine. I warned him about it but he was itching to start. He put his foot hard down on the gas pedal at once. The car jerked violently. Both Brezhnev and Nixon (the president was in the front seat, I was in the rear) nearly hit their heads against the windshield when Brezhnev had to hit the brake because of a sharp curve in the road. The winding roads of Camp David are clearly not suitable for auto racing, and usually only carry small, battery-driven cars. Nixon was shocked, but still managed to say tactfully, 'Mr. General Secretary, you drive very well.' Brezhnev took this at face value...
Richard Nixon said:
I also presented him with an official gift commemorating his American visit: a dark blue Lincoln Continental donated by the manufacturer. It had black velour upholstery and 'Special Good Wishes--Greetings' engraved on the dashboard. Brezhnev, a collector of luxury cars, did not attempt to conceal his delight. He insisted upon trying it out immediately. He got behind the wheel and enthusiastically motioned me into the passenger's seat. The head of my Secret Service detail went pale as I climbed in and we took off down one of the narrow roads that run around the perimeter of Camp David. Brezhnev was used to unobstructed driving in the center lane in Moscow, and I could only imagine what would happen if a Secret Service or Navy jeep had suddenly turned a corner onto that one-lane road.

At one point there is a very steep slope with a sign at the top reading, 'Slow, dangerous curve.' Even driving a golf cart down it, I had to use the brakes in order to avoid going off the road at the sharp turn at the bottom. Brezhnev was driving more than fifty miles an hour as we approached the slope. I reached over and said, 'Slow down, slow down,' but he paid no attention. When we reached the bottom, there was a squeal of rubber as he slammed on the brakes and made the turn. After our drive he said to me, 'This is a very fine automobile. It holds the road very well.'

'You are an excellent driver,' I replied. 'I would never have been able to make that turn at the speed at which we were traveling.'

Diplomacy is not always an easy art.
So suppose if the Continental went off the curve, or as Nixon said, collided with another vehicle. What would the consequences be?

First and foremost, the U.S. is stuck with President Agnew for the time being - how long does he have? Does Beall feel the need to speed up or slow down the ongoing investigation into his kickbacks? How does the abrupt death of Nixon affect the brewing Watergate scandal and his reputation? On the flip side of things, who would likely succeed Brezhnev as leader? Other thoughts? Et cetera, et cetera.
 

napoleon IV

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Agnew's doomed. It's worth noting that IOTL the story broke in August 1973 and he resigned in October. The Justice Department would announce that a sitting President can't be indicted (like they did IOTL about Nixon), but by the time that happens the press will have the story and Congress will be involved. As for Nixon, I suspect that him dying does take some some of the interest in Watergate away, and Angew's scandal will take center stage. Given that the Watergate investigation was well underway however I don't think Nixon's reputation will improve that much (the big discussion about his death will probably be what would have happened re: Watergate if he had lived).

As for the Soviet Union Andrei Kirilenko has the best chance of succeeding Brezhnev. However it should be noted that the favorite candidate to succeed a General Secretary hasn't always won (for instance few saw Stalin or Khrushchev taking power), so there is always the possibility that someone else could win. As General Secretary Kirilenko would try to pursue some economic reform and détente, however the Politburo would probably block/severely water down most of his economic reforms and détente is likely to deteriorate as time goes on. Additionally Kirilenko's health, particularly increased dementia caused by atherosclerosis, would further reduce his effectiveness as a leader. Depending on how long Kirilenko lives (he lived until 1990 IOTL, but spent most of the 80s in retirement) this could lead to an even longer Era of Stagnation.
 

Yokai Man

Well-known member
Agnew's doomed. It's worth noting that IOTL the story broke in August 1973 and he resigned in October. The Justice Department would announce that a sitting President can't be indicted (like they did IOTL about Nixon), but by the time that happens the press will have the story and Congress will be involved. As for Nixon, I suspect that him dying does take some some of the interest in Watergate away, and Angew's scandal will take center stage. Given that the Watergate investigation was well underway however I don't think Nixon's reputation will improve that much (the big discussion about his death will probably be what would have happened re: Watergate if he had lived).

As for the Soviet Union Andrei Kirilenko has the best chance of succeeding Brezhnev. However it should be noted that the favorite candidate to succeed a General Secretary hasn't always won (for instance few saw Stalin or Khrushchev taking power), so there is always the possibility that someone else could win. As General Secretary Kirilenko would try to pursue some economic reform and détente, however the Politburo would probably block/severely water down most of his economic reforms and détente is likely to deteriorate as time goes on. Additionally Kirilenko's health, particularly increased dementia caused by atherosclerosis, would further reduce his effectiveness as a leader. Depending on how long Kirilenko lives (he lived until 1990 IOTL, but spent most of the 80s in retirement) this could lead to an even longer Era of Stagnation.
In case of a longer Era of Stagnation scenario,would the 1989 Revolutions still happen or do things get bloody?
 

napoleon IV

Ignore Norms, All Dinosaurs Have Different Shapes
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In case of a longer Era of Stagnation scenario,would the 1989 Revolutions still happen or do things get bloody?
It's really hard to say because there's so many factors: who succeeds Kirilenko, and what are their policies? How have political changes in the US and USSR affected the international landscape? What is the US-USSR relationship like? Etc. The problem is that 1989 is 16 years after the POD, and by that point there are so many butterflies released that you could make an argument for things going in many different directions.
 
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