Wednesday, March 5 marks the 68th anniversary of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s famous iron curtain speech, which defined relations between the United States and Soviet Union for a half century.
“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent,” Churchill told the audience, coining the term that defined the Cold War and ended the honeymoon between the Soviet Union and her Western World War II allies.
The March 5, 1946 speech, called Sinews of Peace, was delivered by Churchill in the gymnasium of Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. Nine months earlier, he had lost his re-election bid in England, and was on a cross-country train trip with Missouri native President Harry Truman, who introduced Churchill to the audience. In 1992, Mikhail Gorbachev gave a speech at the same college declaring the end of the Cold War.
The 68th anniversary of the speech is marked by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Putin’s invasion has put a serious chill on Western-Russian relations, rekindling talk of an era of Russian expansion and tension with Europe.
Read the whole speech here:
President [Franc] McCluer, ladies and gentlemen, and last, but certainly not least, the president of the United States of America:
I am very glad indeed to come to Westminster College this afternoon, and I am complimented that you should give me a degree from an institution whose reputation has been so solidly established. The name “Westminster” somehow or other seems familiar to me. I feel as if I have heard of it before. Indeed now that I come to think of it, it was at Westminster that I received a very large part of my education in politics, dialectic, rhetoric, and one or two other things. In fact we have both been educated at the same, or similar, or, at any rate, kindred establishments.
It is also an honor, ladies and gentlemen, perhaps almost unique, for a private visitor to be introduced to an academic audience by the President of the United States. Amid his heavy burdens, duties, and responsibilities — unsought but not recoiled from — the President has traveled a thousand miles to dignify and magnify our meeting here to-day and to give me an opportunity of addressing this kindred nation, as well as my own countrymen across the ocean, and perhaps some other countries too. The President has told you that it is his wish, as I am sure it is yours, that I should have full liberty to give my true and faithful counsel in these anxious and baffling times. I shall certainly avail myself of this freedom, and feel the more right to do so because any private ambitions I may have cherished in my younger days have been satisfied beyond my wildest dreams. Let me however make it clear that I have no official mission or status of any kind, and that I speak only for myself. There is nothing here but what you see.
I can therefore allow my mind, with the experience of a lifetime, to play over the problems which beset us on the morrow of our absolute victory in arms, and to try to make sure with what strength I have that what has gained with so much sacrifice and suffering shall be preserved for the future glory and safety of mankind.