Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech


One of the longest periods in the political history of the 20th century is the Cold War between the alliance of the Western countries and the Soviet Union. The latter was politically and ideologically separated from the rest of the world with the Iron Curtain. This phrase was first introduced by Winston Churchill in his speech addressed to the American nation on March 5, 1946 (Ryan, 1979). The objective of this paper is to analyze how Churchill in his speech defined the political attitude of the Western countries towards the Soviet Union’s policy. Another objective is to evaluate the possible controversies of the cooperation with the Soviet Union, the position towards the military confrontation, and the importance of addressing the American nation.

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Western principle of national political self-determination and the expansion of the Soviet doctrines

After World War II, the support of the democratic regime in the Western countries was bigger than ever before. The results of the War proved the dangers of the ideologically blinded forms of governing a state. Any type of expansion, including political, military or ideological was condemned. The colonies all over the world started to proclaim their national sovereignty, and the political self-determination was highly supported. However, the former War ally of the West, the Soviet Union was not in favour of those principles.

In World War II, the Soviet Union together with allies freed the Eastern European countries. However, following the end of the War, it was imposing the socialist ideology on them. The Soviet doctrines can be interpreted differently, but its strong ideological presence and pressure of expansion did not agree with the Western democratic orientations.

Churchill’s concerns about Eastern Europe and cooperation with the Soviet Union

Churchill was concerned that the nations of the Central and Eastern Europe, including Austria, Germany, Bulgaria and other countries may be exposed “not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow” (Churchill, 2009, p. 2). During the War, the alliance with the Soviet Union seemed to be justified by the purpose of defeating the common enemy. However, after its end, the world required political unity in order not to face the same problems again. Therefore, in Churchill’s perspective, the Western allies could either introduce the Iron Curtain between the socialistic and free-market democratic worlds or try to use all the pressure they can, including military confrontation (Wright, 2007).

The attitude towards military confrontation in the speech given in the USA

After all the tragedies that different nations faced during World War II, the idea of another military confrontation could hardly be supported by the people. The unity of Europe, according to Churchill, could not be achieved through another war (Churchill delivers Iron Curtain speech, 2016). He emphasized that all nations should work with the mindful objective of “pacification of Europe within the structure of the United Nations” (Churchill, 2009, p. 2). When referring to the Soviet admiration of strength, Churchill also understood that both the Soviet Union and the US had nuclear weapons at their disposal. That was one of the reasons for him to give his speech in America. Another confrontation could have had enormously hazardous consequences for the humanity. He admitted that the US was “at the pinnacle of world power” (Churchill, 2009, p. 1). Therefore, America was the only country powerful enough to counteract the Soviet expansion.


In his Iron Curtain speech, Winston Churchill emphasized the dangers of the Soviet expansion in the Eastern Europe and the necessity of democracy. He disregarded the idea of the military confrontation, stating that the US was the only country influential enough to create an opposition to the Soviet Union.


Churchill delivers Iron Curtain speech. (2016). Web.

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Churchill, W. (2009). Iron curtain speech. New York, NY: Great Neck Pub.

Ryan, H. B. (1979). A New Look at Churchill’S ‘Iron Curtain’ Speech. The Historical Journal, 22(04), 895-920.

Wright, P. (2007). Iron curtain: from stage to Cold War. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

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