The origins of the Cold War
are somewhat muddled
due to the fact that one could look at it as a schoolyard fight
between two children; both of them were there, participating in the same conflict, and still two different stories
emerge. Sorting out the truth from both stories is sometimes akin to finding a needle in a haystack
“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron curtain has descended… Behind that line lie all the capitals…of Central and Eastern Europe…all are subject…to Soviet influence and a very high…measure of control from Moscow.” (Churchill 1).
Churchill is more than worried about the possibility of a Soviet empire growing out of the lands in eastern and central europe occupied by Stalin in the aftermath of World War II. “What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines” (Churchill 2). He speaks openly about being vigilant in not repeating the mistakes made by the allied powers prior to World War II. “Last time I saw it coming…but no one paid any attention…we might all have been spared the miseries Hitler let loose upon mankind” (Churchill 2). Churchill compares the situation immediately following World War II to the situation preceding it, where Churchill warned that the practice of appeasement would end in disaster. “Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed…by a policy of appeasement” (Churchill 2).
At the same time, Churchill relates some fears that may be irrational. “In a great number of countries, Communist fifth columns…work in…absolute obedience to the directions they receive from the Communist Center” (Churchill 3). According to Churchill, all communist regimes work in collaboration to achieve their goal of spreading communism to a global scale. It is important to remember that at this time Winston Churchill was no longer the Prime Minister of Great Britain –although he did become the Prime Minster again in 1951- and that time and place (The US instead of the UK) gave him freer reign to express his own personal opinions and fears for the “English speaking peoples” (Churchill 1).
As for the Soviet reaction to this, Stalin makes a formal reply to Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech. The first thing he does is extraordinarily clever. He equates Churchill with Hitler.
“One is reminded of Hitler… He began to set war loose by announcing his racial theory, declaring that only people speaking the German language represent a…valuable nation. Mr. Churchill begins to set war loose…maintaining that only nations speaking the English language are…valuable nations, called upon to decide the destinies of the entire world” (Stalin 1).
Stalin also tries to legitimate his claim over the nations that have been occupied. He explains that the Soviet army’s casualties were far greater than those suffered by allied forces. “The Soviet Union has lost in men several times more than Britain and the United States together” (Stalin 1).
Stalin accuses Churchill of sensationalizing the attempts of the Soviet Union to ensure its future safety. “In a desire to ensure its security…The Soviet Union tries to achieve that these countries should have governments whose relations to the Soviet Union are loyal” (Stalin 1). He immediately follows that with an attack on Churchill and his faculties. “How can one, without having lost one’s reason, qualify these peaceful aspirations…as ‘expansionist tendencies’” (Stalin 1).
Stalin closes his rebuttal by attacking the government and the party of Churchill. He warns the people of the US and Britain to be wary of their leaders. “Churchill sometimes recalls…the common people…patting them on the shoulder in a lordly manner and pretending to be their friend” (Stalin 1). He then turns and tries to slyly infer that communism is rising in Britain. “Millions of these common people…voted Mr. Churchill and his party out…giving their votes to the Labor party” (Stalin 2). This tactic is a testament to Stalin’s political and diplomatic genius.
Both of these speeches contain tinges of implausibility and moments of unabashed mud-slinging. Not unlike children in a playground, one begins to doubt the honesty and motives of each; but this is not a playground, and this conflict will not be forgotten once recess is over. The Cold War will last almost a generation and will carry with it a fear borne out of the end of World War II, nuclear annihilation.