CHURCHILL OUT OF HIBERNATION, WEEK 37
In the wake of World War II’s triumphant conclusion, and his own defeat as Prime Minister, Winston Churchill stepped out onto the world stage and embraced his new role as an elder statesman, whose words carried the weight of experience. THE SINEWS OF PEACE, his first volume of post-war speeches, collected many of those initial words. We unpack it next, in our expedition around his book-length works.
Invited in 1946 by President Harry Truman to deliver a series of lectures at Fulton, Missouri’s Westminster College, Winston Churchill seized the opportunity to make one powerhouse speech that would return him to the center of world events. In May 1945, while still Prime Minister, he had telegrammed to Truman on the subject of Russia: “An iron curtain is drawn upon their front.” The phrase had first been used by the German Foreign Minister, Count Schwerin von Krosigk, ten days earlier in a widely reported broadcast to the German people. Churchill now made this phrase the centerpiece of his Fulton speech, which he formally titled: “The Sinews of Peace.”
“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent,” Churchill pronounced seventy-five years ago this month, on March 5, 1946. “Behind that line…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 many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow… It is because I am sure that our fortunes are still in our own hands and that we hold the power to save the future, that I feel the duty to speak out now.”
Reaction to Churchill’s unflinching warning about Russia was almost as hostile as the reaction in Britain had been to his early warnings about Hitler. The hostility in 1946, however, was worldwide. Churchill was attacked once again as a warmonger, an attention seeker, an egoist—out of office and out of touch with the new peacetime, postwar world. Although he had called in his speech for a “new unity in Europe” to combat the Soviet threat, and had set out his belief that a military confrontation could be avoided, the only unity his speech initially engendered was international opposition.
Churchill, however, was content. The Soviet threat disturbed him profoundly; the opinion of the world did not. Time, he knew, was unfortunately on his side.
We wish you healthy, quick vaccination, as we strive to combat our own grave threat with new unity .