Winston Churchill is one of the most famous British politicians of all time. He was born into an upper class family, and served in the British military when he was young. He rose through the ranks of British government after returning from the military and became Prime Minister of Britain following Neville Chamberlain’s resignation in 1940. As an active political member, Churchill warned against the rising powers of Nazi Germany and argued against appeasement. In his “Iron Curtain Speech” he says that “Last time I saw it all coming and I cried aloud to my own fellow countrymen and to the world, but no one paid any attention” ((Churchill, Winston. “Iron Curtain Speech”. 5 March 1946.)). He is strongly anti-communist and uses the comparison of communism to Nazi Germany to convey his message about the iron curtain being cast down upon Eastern Europe.
However, he uses his speech to call upon the English-speaking world to enforce the United Nations agreement and prevent the Soviet Union from expanding their sphere. Stalin critiques this in his Reply to Churchill, where he accuses Churchill of following the same lines as Hitler and creating a system of racial determination to establish who should rule the world ((Stalin, Joseph. Reply to Churchill. 1946.)). Both Churchill and Stalin compare the other to Hitler, indicating a huge amount of animosity between them even though they were on the same side of World War II. What do you think sparked this animosity so quickly after the end of the war? Would there have been a way to avoid this, or was communism just the next enemy to take on after fascism was defeated?
After reading Churchill’s speech and Stalin’s response on it, I wonder what a smart orator Soviet leader was. They both were trying to convince their audience in the idea that another one is a possible threat for the world, but do it in a very different way, and, from my point of view, Stalin is more effective in that.
Churchill introduced some facts, like growing influence of communists parties on the other side of the Iron Curtain, and then just added the claims that it was bad, dangerous for the world piece, destroying, etc. He did’t provide these claims with evidence, he didn’t present clearly why he thought that it was the possible threat for the world, etc.
At the same time, Stalin did his job great almost just by paralleling Churchill’s speech with nazi Germany’s ideology. He even didn’t have to explain it further to reach his audience, probably, not only in Soviet Union, but all other the world by that. This parallel, I think, should be very effective in a post-war world, as everybody remembers nazi’s rhetorics, ideas on which that ideology was built, etc. So, even if Churchill’s speech was about to inspire nations to think about the communists as a potential thread to the world, this passage made Britain look as the country which wants to expand its’ influence to the entire world, supported by english-speaking countries and persuading them to aggressive policy because they have a “traditions” or “values” which have to be spread and destroy other ideologies. Pointing on that, Stalin did a clever hook in maybe not making soviet ideology more popular, but at least in showing his opponent being the worst of two evils.
1. The Soviet Union suffered casualties from the German invasion several times greater than the US and UK put together. These caualties included men lost during the invasion, in battle, and then in the slave labor camps. Stalin feels this expense of the Soviet people that was essential to the eradication of Hitler’s regime, and the subsequent freedom thereby returned to Europe, has been overlooked.
2. Communism is growing as a natural result of the negative effects of fascism and the dependability that communism offered. Communists proved themselves as “fighters against fascist regimes” and concerned with the freedom of the people.
3. Accuses Churchill of believing the “common people” are easily manipulated and therefore takes a condescending stance towards them. Stalin states that the opposite is true and that the common people have opinions and views on politics of their own, that they are able to “stand up for themselves”. He points out that this ability was demonstrated when they (the “common people”) voted Churchill and his party out and voted for the Labor party instead. They preferred “Left democratic parties” to conforming with fascism and the extremists who cooperated with it.
1. How does this document expose the enduring strain between the wartime Allies and cultivate tensions leading to the Cold War?
2. How come the Allies did not see it imperative to maintain good relations with the Soviet Union after the severe costs of WW2?
I found Stalin’s tone in this document significant. He talks in a condescending, reticent, and provoking manner. It seems as if he is attempting to incite the other European nations to initiate war against Russia. He compares Churchill’s words to Hitler’s in terms of “racial theory”, saying that Churchill only speaks to English-speaking nations. This accusation separates the English speaking nations from the non-English speaking nations, but holds Churchill responsible.
1) Churchill emphasizes that it is the West’s task to ensure the prevention of another world war.
2) He calls upon a variety of organizations, including the legal offices, the United Nations, and each of the powers to prepare and assemble the proper tools and plans for what is to come. Churchill notes that he had previously wished for the same actions to take place following the first world war.
3) It was Churchill’s phrase, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent” that made people realize that things were going to change between the democratic West and the Communist East.
1) From where do you think Churchill’s premonitions derived from and why?
2) Why would many people refer to Churchill’s speech as the beginning of the Cold War?
I thought it was interesting that Churchill titled his speech “The Sinews of Peace.” A sinew is something that is a part of a structure to give it strength. I find it ironic that Churchill named his speech after something that is uniting peace when it actually tacitly started a war.
1. Churchill acknowledged that the Soviet Union did not want war, they wanted “the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines.” It is important to note that neither the west nor the Soviet Union wanted another war. It would preposterous to think that any state involved so heavily in World War II would actively seek war with a superpower less than a year after the conclusion of the war in Europe. It is very easy to see how a state would want to assert its power and influence in Europe so soon after the end of the war however, which is exactly what started the Cold War.
2. Churchill also mentioned the balance of power in his speech. He recalled how no one wanted to match or check Germany’s military buildup and fascism in the early 1930’s, and how World War II might have easily been avoided if Germany had been kept in check instead of being allowed to gain strength and momentum. Churchill said that the balance of power could easily be maintained in such a way that it would keep the Soviet Union in check if “the population of the English-speaking Commonwealth be added to that of the United States, with all that such cooperation implies in the air, on the sea, all over the globe, and in science and in industry, and in moral force, there will be no quivering, precarious balance of power to offer its temptation to ambition or adventure.”
3. In his response to Churchill, Stalin compared the west to Hitler and his racial theory, possibly confusing Churchill’s mention of the English-speaking Commonwealth with a declaration of English speakers as a dominant race. Churchill also compared the Soviet Union to Hitler’s Germany in his speech when he mentioned the balance of power. Stalin also conflated Churchill’s emphasis on freedom and democracy with a desire to take over Europe as Hitler did. Churchill clearly emphasized these principles in his speech as the ultimate goal in Europe, not domination by English speakers.
1. How could Stalin accuse Churchill of being a collaborator with fascism, when Stalin backed the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939? Did that not make Stalin a collaborator with fascism?
2. How true are Churchill’s claims that he rose the alarm about Hitler’s Germany gaining power and why did no one listen to him?
It is interesting that Stalin would point the finger at the west and compare their ideology to Hitler’s racial theory when he was guilty of killing millions of his own people and facilitating Hitler’s early success with the Nazi-Soviet Pact.