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Did Churchill cause the Cold War?


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It is also an honour, ladies and gentlemen, perhaps almost unique … that the President has travelled a thousand miles to dignify and magnify our meeting here to-day…

The President has told you that it is his wish, as I am sure it is yours, that I should have full liberty to give my true and faithful counsel in these anxious and baffling times. I shall certainly avail myself of this freedom … Let me however make it clear that I have no official mission or status of any kind, and that I speak only for myself.

A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory. Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and its Communist international organization intends to do in the immediate future …

… We understand the Russian need to be secure on her western frontiers by the removal of all possibility of German aggression. We welcome Russia to her rightful place among the leading nations of the world … It is my duty however, for I am sure you would wish me to state the facts as I see them to you, to place before you certain facts about the present position in Europe.

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in some cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.

The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to pre-eminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy.

Turkey and Persia are both profoundly alarmed and disturbed at the claims which are being made upon them and at the pressure being exerted by the Moscow Government. An attempt is being made by the Russians in Berlin to build up a quasi-Communist party in their zone of occupied Germany by showing special favors to groups of left-wing German leaders.

From what I have seen of our Russian friends and Allies during the war, I am convinced that there is nothing they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness, especially military weakness. For that reason the old doctrine of a balance of power is unsound. We cannot afford, if we can help it, to work on narrow margins, offering temptations to a trial of strength. If the Western Democracies stand together in strict adherence to the principles of the United Nations charter, their influence for furthering these principles will be immense and no one is likely to molest them. If however they become divided or falter in their duty and if these all-important years are allowed to slip away then indeed catastrophe may overwhelm us all.

Source 1 - Extracts from Churchill's Iron curtain speech given in the USA in March 1946

1 The troubled debate about the Soviet Union's intentions and United States foreign policy continues. The Soviet's disregard of Allied agreements about Persia and alarming first-hand accounts from American journalists of conditions in Manchuria have heightened the feeling of concern. Mr Churchill's dramatically blunt review of the world situation in his speech at Fulton, Missouri, has made a very profound impact on the country and is being widely and heatedly discussed …

2 Reactions to this situation vary. Tough-minded Conservatives in the War and Navy Departments talk about the inevitability of a showdown with the Soviet Union and hint that it may be better now than later. Internationalists clutch at United Nations Organisation with a new devotion born of desperation, while others turn, half fearfully and half hopefully, to another conference of the three Great Powers as a final attempt to hammer out a new basis of co-operation.

4 It is generally assumed that both President Truman and His Majesty's government were privy to Mr. Churchill's speech in Missouri, and that fact, in addition to Mr. Churchill's own exceptional appeal to Americans, has resulted in the keenest attention being paid to the speech throughout the country. Although the bulk of the press and of Congress are clearly unwilling to endorse it as an adequate solution to present troubles, it has given the sharpest jolt to American thinking of any utterance since the end of the war.


7 But Americans really listen to Mr, Churchill and there is little doubt that the speech will set the pattern of discussion on world affairs for some time to come. While it is now plain that proposals tending towards an Anglo -American alliance can hardly expect approval if they come from British spokesmen, it seems possible that similar opinions if expressed by Americans might find a more positive reception, especially if Soviet expansionist tendencies continue. And if Mr Churchill's views are not at this stage acceptable to the generality of press and Congressional opinion, President Truman and Admiral Leahy were described as very warn in ' their compliments to Mr Churchill after he had spoken.

Source 2 - Extract from a Foreign Office report on the effects of Churchill's Iron Curtain speech in the USA
The counterblast [to Churchill's speech] has come, but it is ostensibly directed only against Mr. Churchill personally. For once His Majesty's Government and official British foreign policy are spared although I doubt whether the Soviet public draws the distinction and is much comforted by this....

2. Pravda, only paper appearing today, carried on the back page a two and a half column summary of Mr. Churchill's speech which is on the whole fair and full …

4. Most significant omission however was Mr Churchill's reference to his unavailing warnings before the war [when Churchill warned of the dangers of Hitler and opposed Appeasement]. This is replaced by comment that he made 'monstrous comparisons' [ie comparing the USSR in the 1940s with Germany in the 1930s]. His reference to Russian admiration of strength was also dismissed as a cynical statement designed to support his propaganda for an Anglo-American alliance.....

5. On the front page Pravda carries a two and a half column editorial entitled "Churchill rattles the sabre [threatens war]" bitterly attacking his speech. He is accused of having concealed his true views during the war and now returned to his old prejudices against the Soviet Union and the bogey of Bolshevik expansion dating from the time when he was a leading foreign interventionist. His conception of an Anglo-American military alliance is castigated as a reactionary plot against the Soviet Union, which would mean the end of the Big Three and of the United Nations Organisation.

6. The Pravda article has caused a sensation in Moscow. It is being read everywhere with unusual interest and there is considerable disquiet among the general public. Mr Churchill had been built up here during and after the war as a friend of Stalin and the Soviet Union and he enjoyed the sincere regard and indeed affection of the Soviet public.

7. My own impression is that the Soviet authorities were much taken aback by this frank statement by Churchill. They seem genuinely alarmed by many recent signs of American rapprochement with Britain …



Finally a gigantic red herring of this is of the greatest help with the Soviet public and possibly also with public opinion in directing attention from Persia, and Manchuria.... In effect Churchill's speech is being used, to justify the warnings about capitalist encirclement contained in recent Soviet propaganda and more particularly in the election speeches here.

Source 3 - Extracts from a Foreign Office report on the reaction to Churchill's speech in the USSR
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