The famous Fulton Speech made by Winston Churchill in 1946 was a resonant and well-prepared action. Although it was officially entitled “The Sinews of Peace,” it is mostly known as “The Iron Curtain Speech.” Its role cannot be underestimated, as it triggered waves of criticism and questions about the threat, which was announced in the speech. The questions concerning the actual meaning behind Churchill’s words about the Soviet Union and his choice of an audience are still open to debate.
Fears of the Communist Influence
To begin with, Churchill claimed that the Soviet Union “desires the fruit of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines” (Muller, 1999, p. 8). These Communist expansionist attempts were the major concern for the Western world, as everyone saw the aggressive efforts of the Communists to widespread their ideology. Churchill said later in the speech that “this is certainly not the Liberated Europe we fought to build up” (Muller, 1999, p. 9). The West was eager to build a democratic world, where freedom of speech and thought had value. Churchill made a plain comparison of the USSR as an example of a country of tyranny, which he named among the greatest threats to the global peace. Thus, Churchill wanted to stress that the post-war actions of the Soviet Union were dangerous for the global strive for liberty and freedom.
Furthermore, Churchill admitted the necessity of Russians to secure western borders from any possible German aggression, but at the same time, he raised concern about Eastern Europe. Surely, this concern was also connected with the massive influence of the Communist parties. Churchill criticized police governments and provided justification for his belief by saying that those parties gained power in the Eastern Europe and “are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control” (Muller, 1999, p. 9). Therefore, the “Iron Curtain” occurred, and it did not seem to be reasoned by any possible outside aggression.
Churchill also mentioned the respect for military strength that was common for the Russians. However, it did not sound as if he wanted to conflict with the Soviet Union. Churchill highlighted that Western countries cannot “offer temptations to a trial of strength” (Muller, 1999, p. 12). War was another source of human pain, and British politician talked about it as the last thing that anyone desired. He claimed that wisdom is in collaborating, and the speech was aimed at suggesting ways of working on a union.
The Choice of Audience
The Fulton speech was targeted not only at the American audience but at the global community. Muller (1999) stated that before the trip to Fulton, Churchill addressed Truman saying that he had a message to deliver to the US and the world. Probably, choosing the USA as the venue for the speech was the best solution, because Churchill believed it was the most powerful nation in the world at that moment, and it had an opportunity to create an international force unit that would protect global justice and peace.
On the other hand, many people disagreed with Churchill’s position, as he clearly stressed the highest value of English-speaking people, and that might be the reason behind choosing Fulton (Sebestyen, 2014). This theory got heavily criticized because of its racist undertone, but it is still worth considering.
To sum up, the Fulton speech deserves public attention because it addressed grave issues that global community faced after the Second World War. The Churchill’s message was clearly based on a fear of the Communist’s influence, which gained enormous popularity those days. This ideology was contrary to the values and ideals the Western world fought for. Hence, this speech and the following debates were inevitable.
Muller, J. W. (1999). Churchill’s “IronCcurtain” speech fifty years later. Missouri, CO: University of Missouri Press.
Sebestyen, V. (2014). 1946: The making of the modern world. Stuttgart, Germany: Pan Macmillan.