Webcast Commemorates 76th Anniversary of ‘Iron Curtain’ Speech and Links Present to the Past

U.S. Army Col. Jeff McCausland (Ret.) drew a correlation between World War II and the crisis in Ukraine during a special webcast commemorating the 76th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s “The Sinews of Peace” speech on the Westminster College campus.

“The farther back you look, the further ahead you can see,” McCausland summarized in his assessment of global affairs today, paraphrasing Churchill.

Hosted on March 5, 2022, by Timothy Riley, the Sandra L. and Monroe E. Trout Director and Chief Curator of America’s National Churchill Museum, the webcast titled “Lessons in Statecraft: ‘The Sinews of Peace’” drew a worldwide audience of nearly 300 people. The webcast was free and open to the public.

Heralded as one of Churchill’s most significant post-war speeches, “The Sinews of Peace” is remembered today for the phrase “an iron curtain has descended across the continent,” which served as a warning about the “expansive and proselytizing tendencies” of Soviet Russia.

Together, McCausland and Riley sought to answer the following questions: Did “The Sinews of Peace,” later known as the “Iron Curtain” speech, provide a blueprint for how the United States and its allies would wage the Cold War? How does Churchill’s famous warning about the threat of Soviet Russian aggression from 76 years ago resonate today as the world turns its attention to the crisis in Ukraine?

Riley introduced the event with a discussion of the significance of Westminster College’s long-standing place in world affairs.

“The Cold War is a subject studied here at Westminster College and at the Museum, not only because Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech arguably marked its beginning,” Riley said, “but for the fact that a litany of world leaders, including Margaret Thatcher, President Reagan, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev have followed Churchill to Fulton to help close the war … in the 1980s, in the 1990s, and even into the present day.”

Riley then examined how Churchill carefully organized and wrote his “Iron Curtain” speech, showing on camera the original manuscript with handwritten edits, which can be viewed in its entirety at the Museum.

Further into the event, McCausland pointed out that strong parallels exist between Churchill’s time and today. He added that a primary difference, however, is that now an information war is waging.

Riley and McCausland also compared the leadership styles of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, citing similarities between Churchill and Zelenskyy.

Toward the end of the discussion, McCausland said he thinks the current situation with Russia began about 17 years ago when Putin gave a Russian state of the nation address. McCausland said Putin was quoted as saying the end of the Soviet Union was the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century.

He added that after 2004, Putin sought to accomplish three important objectives in leading up to the current situation in Ukraine: to undermine the United States and ideas of a liberal democracy, to drive a wedge between the United States and Western alliances, and to reassert political control over countries that once comprised the Soviet Union.

In the webcast, McCausland also discussed humility and self-awareness as important characteristics to maintain in leadership. He said both are a strong part of the American consciousness.

In drawing a correlation between the present and the past, McCausland said Missourian and writer Mark Twain is often quoted as saying, “History may not repeat itself, but it may rhyme occasionally.”

He ended his remarks with advice for all concerning Churchill’s prophetic “Iron Curtain” speech. McCausland concluded, “I like to say, learn from the past; prepare for the future.”

This program, which can be found on the website of America’s National Churchill Museum, was made possible, in part, by the Edwin Malloy, Jr. Endowment for America’s National Churchill Museum.

 

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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is a Media and Content Strategist at Westminster College in Fulton, MO. A 1992 graduate of the College, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communication in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.