Case Study: Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech

There are many ways to get a feel for the events of the 20th Century.  One way is through the analysis of primary source documents.  Few documents set the stage for the second half than Winston Churchill’s 1946 speech in Fulton, Missouri.  Officially entitled “The Sinews of Peace”, it came to be known as “The Iron Curtain Speech”, in which Churchill laid out the challenges for the West in general, and the US and Britain in particular, regarding what would soon be known as the Cold War.  Your assignment this week is to not just read Churchill’s speech, but read between the lines to answer the following questions in a well written 2-3 page document:

  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?
  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 being inconsistent? Or does he provide concrete justifications for those concerns?
  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?
  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?