Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech Analysis
Question 1: Churchill believes the Soviet Union “desires the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines.” How might those expansionist desires challenge the Western principle of national political self-determination, a cause it championed during World War 2?
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Churchill did not believe that Soviet Russia wanted another war. In fact, he claimed that they desired “the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines” (Churchill, 1995, p.301). Although he admired the Soviet people for what they did during World War II, he was unsure about the future intentions of Soviet Russia and “its international Communist organization” (Churchill, 1995, p.300). Thus, he expressed the possibility of Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe and other regions. the soviet principles of dictatorship and communism did not coincide with the values of the post-war Western world. That is why the efforts had to be taken not to let communism penetrate Europe. Churchill believed that the United Nations could become a force strong enough to avoid Soviet expansion or another war and preserve the Western principle of political self-determination. He suggested that the UN needed to become “an international armed force” with squadrons based in their countries but guided by the world organization (Churchill, 1995, p.299).
Question 2: Churchill’s speech acknowledges, “Russia’s need to be secure on her western borders,” but at the same time, it raises concerns about Soviet actions in Eastern Europe. Is Churchill inconsistent? Or does he provide concrete justifications for those concerns?
Churchill used a metaphor of an “iron curtain,” which became historical. He tried to explain the future separation of Eastern European countries under Soviet influence. The term was used to differentiate democratic and communist intentions. Churchill considered communism dangerous because he found the threat of communism in any war. Churchill was sure it was necessary to prevent the expansion of Soviet power. In fact, both parties were confronting one another. Stalin was not going to let the Western democratic influences penetrate the Soviet Union, at the same time, Churchill stressed the necessity of avoiding communist influence in Europe. Nevertheless, Churchill admitted that despite active propaganda, communist parties failed the elections in some Western European countries (Applebaum, 2012).
Question 3: In his speech, Churchill asserts, “There is nothing they (the Russians) admire so much as strength, and nothing for which they have less respect for than military weakness.” If he isn’t advocating a direct military confrontation with the Soviet Union, then what is he saying?
Probably Churchill meant that Russians value strength because it can be applied to solve the problems connected with war. His words about the admiration of strength by the Russians area regard the power the country revealed during the war. As for the military weakness, it usually results in defeat. Thus, Churchill could mean than Soviet Russia had no respect for politically weak countries because they were not equal.
As for the military confrontation, I do not believe that Churchill could directly advocate it. I suppose he aimed to stress the necessity of the union of Western states to form a strong coalition. Such a coalition would be able to confront any threat, not necessarily from the communist world.
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Question 4: Churchill delivered this speech to an American audience, but after reading it, one might conclude it could have been given in any western country. Why did he pick the US?
In his speech, Churchill stated that the United States was “at the pinnacle of world power” at that time (Churchill, 1995, p.298). Probably, it was the reason why he decided to deliver the speech addressed to all English-speaking peoples in the United States. Churchill considered America a country which, together with primacy in power, “also joined an awe-inspiring accountability to the future” (Churchill, 1995, p.298). He spoke of the importance of strengthening the commonwealth of English-speaking countries, probably meaning the particular relations between the British Empire and the United States. He acknowledged that in the after-war conditions, this alliance could exist only under the guidance of the United States, which came into the leading positions of the richest state during World War II. Churchill praised the power of the United States and justified its ownership of the atomic bomb.
Applebaum, A. (2012). Iron Curtain: The crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-56. London, UK: Penguin Books.
Churchil, W. (1995). The Iron Curtain Speech. In M,A. Kishlansky (Ed.). The Sinews of Peace. (pp. 298-302). New York, NY: Harper Collins.