It is ironic, given Churchill’s condemnation of Chamberlain’s deal at Munich, that when he came back from Yalta, he told the Cabinet he thought Stalin was a man you could trust to stick by his word. That didn’t last long. By the time FDR had died in April 1945, Churchill was already beginning to worry about the future. The new President, Truman, seemed to think that Stalin could be trusted – just as Churchill was moving in the opposite direction. We tend to blur the time frame for the Cold War, which means we miss the fact that from the summer of 1945 the USA began removing its troops from Europe; the plan was to have them all out, with the exception of any needed to occupy Germany, bu about 1947. Those who argue that the US in some way wanted the Cold War need to pay more attention to the detail. By the time he was forced from office in July 1945, Churchill was seriously worried that Stalin might be another Hitler.
Churchill liked to portray himself, as his admirers do, as being far-sighted; there is a lot in that, as the last post suggested, but he was not infallible. He went through phases with Stalin, and early 1945 was one of the optimistic ones. However, earlier, in December 1943 he had wondered, when talking to the future British Prime Minister, whether history would judge him harshly. In characteristic fashion he was worried that just as British statement of the seventeenth century, with one eye on Spain, had missed the rise of the threat from France, he might be thought to have been so focussed on Germany that he had missed the rise of the Soviet Union; there was something in that.
Something of the alarm we see in his famous Iron Curtain speech, given on the hills of old Missouri at Westminster College, Fulton came from this sense that he had been a little slow; well, all one can say is that if he was, others were far slower. George Kennan began to catch on in 1946, and by 1947 the rest of State had done so, and with the declaration of the Truman Doctrine in 1947 it became clear that the USA was going to abandon isolationism and save the world. Because the world had sat and waited and hoped for the best in the late 1930s, it was easier to get a consensus in the late 1940s that it should not do so again.
But even then there were those, and there remained those, who argued that the Soviets just wanted to live and let live. Well that wasn’t wrong, except by that Stalin meant that others should pose no threat to him; he showed what he meant by that when parties sympathetic to him took power in most of eastern Europe between 1947 and 1949. Stalin’s idea of security was that the USSR should be the supreme world power. He found some useful idiots in the West who failed to see what he was about, but we were fortunate in the calibre of men at the top in Britain and the USA. Attlee and Truman may have lacked the glamour and style of Churchill and FDR, but they had read the lessons of history aright.
We owe them, and the generation which manned the outer frontiers of civilization during the Cold War a great debt. It is harder to commemorate as there are no great battles – just the constant vigilance which alone guarantees freedom. We should salute them.
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Authored By nebraskaenergyobserver