Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech Review

Winston Churchill’s “Sinews of Peace” speech was delivered at Westminster College with the aim of charting out the relations among the Allies after World War 2. The speech was delivered in the US because of the country’s crucial role in winning the war and consequent emergence of the US as an undisputed world superpower. Moreover having lost the British elections, the wartime prime minister’s words had lost some traction in his homeland, the former superpower. Indeed the US was to address Churchill’s concerns by enacting the Truman Doctrine two years later that was to later lead to independence for the Baltic States(Encyclopaedia Britannica, undated). The cold war pitting US (and NATO) versus Russia was to last forty six years.

Churchill’s speech aimed to invigorate the British-American alliance and to chart out the alliance’s direction in the face of increasingly cold relations with Soviet Union, a former ally. This cooling relationship can be traced to Stalinismand Russia winning the “Great Patriotic War” during World War 2. Having tasted the “fruits of war” after defeating Germany toregain its lost territories and extend into new ones to be in control of most of Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union put up the “Iron Curtain” – military tanks – seemingly with a view to protecting and expanding its territories and spreading thecommunist ideology.

This flew in the face of the Allies’ principles that included self-determination as captured by the League of Nations and championed during World War 2(Encyclopaedia Britannica, undated). Notably, Woodrow Wilson had listed self-determination as an important objective in a postwar world. Hence the Allies championed self-determination as a means to achieve peace during and after the war.

Stalin’s government aim to expand its powers with a view to spreading its socialist doctrines was likely to make world peace as envisioned by the British-American alliance elusive. Churchill hence speaks about Stalin’s tyrannical tendencies versus a person’s free will to political choice. He posits the latter as one of the ways for “the permanent prevention of war and the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all countries” and the former as a challenge that must be dealt with pronto (The Churchill Centre, 1946).

By acknowledging “Russia’s need to be secure on her western borders”, Churchill is alive to Germany’s aggression, which was the cause of the two world wars. Indeed he is sympathetic to Russia’s plight, welcoming the country “to her rightful place among the leading nations of the world” and encouraging the “growing contacts” between Russians and the alliance people (The Churchill Centre, 1946).  So if the “Iron Curtain” was solely a deterrent to Germany’s invasion, Churchill would seemingly have no qualms about it.

But he notes that the “Iron Curtain” locks in Eastern Europe laying the foundation for unfettered Russian expansion of its powers and doctrines. Notably, Churchill qualifies this as Russia’s pursuit of “fruits of war” rather than a “desire for war” (The Churchill Centre, 1946). He is consistent in viewing Russia’s defense of its western border as moral but its tyranny in Eastern Europe as immoral.

Churchill does not advocate for war with Russia by saying that the Russia’s admire strength. Rather he is advocating for the building of a strong United Nations with a peacekeeping force to act as a deterrent to the rise of fascism, communism and other doctrines and conditions that may seemingly lead to war.

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