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The Russia-America Conflict
David Reavill
 March 20 2024 at 02:41 pm
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How Cold War I Began British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Harry S. Truman, and USSR Leader Joseph Stalin were planning post-World War II peace at the Potsdam Conference. ** This month marks the 78th anniversary of the most impactful political speech of the 20th Century. It was delivered on March 5, 1946, in Fulton, MO, in the heartland of America. The venue was tiny Westminster College, hardly the place one thinks of for a historic address to the nation. But it all fit the “down-home” approach of America’s President, Harry S. Truman. True to his casual style, Truman invited the newly retired Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill, to speak at the local college. At the bottom of the formal invitation, Truman penned: “This is a wonderful school in my home state. If you come, I will introduce you. Hope you can do it.” It’s doubtful that Truman, or anyone else, had any idea what lay in store for them that spring morning when Churchill laid out for America what their future would be. The speech was no off-the-cuff greeting for the citizens of what is now labeled “fly-over country.” Instead, it was the well-reasoned perspective of someone who was perhaps the most insightful historian of his day. Churchill went on to write some of the most insightful tomes on Western history and received a Nobel Prize for his work. Churchill gladly accepted Truman’s invitation and made the most of this opportunity to inform America of the unfolding conflict between the Soviet Union and the Western Democracies, which we would know as the “Cold War.” Winston Churchill delivers his “Iron Curtain” Speech. ** In the most significant part of his speech, Churchill famously warns: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest, and Sofia are famous cities, and the populations around them are what I call the Soviet sphere. All are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, an increasing measure of control from Moscow.” “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic…” is a phrase that would echo in the minds of all of us who were alive during the 1950s and 60s. Churchill had drawn a line from Poland to Italy and pronounced that it was the Iron Curtain between freedom and tyranny. In this, he was genuinely prescient; for the next 45 years, the Soviet Union did, indeed, dominate all of those countries to the east of that line. Unfortunately, Churchill, who died in 1966, would not live to see the fall of the Iron Curtain. Today, each of those “ancient capitals” is free, no longer under the oppressive dictatorship of the old USSR. All but Belgrade, Serbia’s capital, have now aligned with NATO, the principal force of Western Democracies. As incredible as it would have been for Churchill to believe, today, there is no Iron Curtain or Soviet Union, for that matter. Both dissolved in December 1991. When the USSR ceased to exist, its control over those Eastern European Countries also fell apart. Beginning in 1992, the old Soviet Union was no longer. In its place, the emerging Russian Federation retreated to its historic borders, no longer exerting control over other nations and peoples. Today, Russia is a vast country, representing 11 time zones. Like many countries of this scope, several minority populations live within its confines. However, the dominant ethnic group is Russian, which shares a common language, history, and culture. Stalin Builds an impenetrable “Iron Curtain.” Joseph Stalin was at the pinnacle of power in the Soviet Union, from its “founding” in the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 until he died in 1953. Through a series of offices, which initially included a role supporting Vladimir Lenin, he shared power with Lenin, Trotsky, and Sverdlov. Stalin proved to be the ultimate political survivor throughout the tumultuous history of the early years of the USSR. As Lenin’s health failed (he suffered a severe stroke in 1922), Stalin stepped in to become the General Secretary of the Communist Party. For the next 30 years, Stalin ruled the USSR with an Iron Fist. He was at the helm during the First World War, then famine, the Great Depression, and World War II, and he was still in power as the “Cold War” began. Joseph Stalin ** He often led the Soviets through significant course changes as his view of global politics changed. An outstanding example is his first alliance with Adolph Hitler’s Germany. Stalin signed the Molotov Ribbentrop in 1939, promising not to go to War with Germany. Years later, he reversed that position and became one of the Third Reich’s principal enemies in World War II. However, Stalin’s actions following World War II would have the most lasting effect on America. For the Western powers, the years following the War were a time of satisfaction and peace. A great foe, Nazi Germany, had been defeated. The promise of World War I, the War to end all Wars, had seemingly been achieved. Finally, the American people felt that worldwide peace and harmony were present. You see this even in Churchill’s speech. While calling out the Soviets for dividing the world, he still speaks wistfully of his friend and “wartime comrade, Marshal Stalin,” remembering the days when they fought side-by-side against a common foe. Given what Churchill endured during the War, his insight into the motivation and actions of the Soviet Union is all the more remarkable. He was the only one expressing significant reservations about future relations between the USSR and the West. (In reading the history of the time, only US General George S. Patton seemed to share similar reservations about Stalin, but his voice was cut short by a regrettable accident.) Soviet Ideology Overtaken By Reality While the West basked in the sun of new-found prosperity and freedom as economies transitioned from wartime to peacetime, Soviet citizens experienced the opposite. Stalin understood that his “communist State,” far from being a utopia on earth, had fallen far behind the free enterprise economies of the West. Germany, after all, was one of the most advanced countries on earth; despite the German prewar depression, consumer goods and luxury items far out-distanced what was available back home. What was worse, over a million Soviet Soldiers had experienced the Germans’ lifestyle firsthand as that occupied the country. What was true for the Soviet occupying force was doubly true for Soviets who were prisoners of War under the Germans; they had lived with the Germans for months and even years and saw first the “decadent, capitalist” way of living. Stalin feared that all of the soldiers and POWs might be infected with that “decadent, capitalistic” lifestyle. So he had them put through “filtration camps.” A series of interrogations to ensure that they were still good communists. In all, more than 2 ¾ million endure this re-indoctrination, with about half forced into the Gulag. By the time of Stalin’s death in 1953, 3% of the population were in Labor Camps, mainly in Siberia. The Soviet Gulag. ** The final years of Joseph Stalin and the times that Winston Churchill spoke of are among the most tragic in human history. The suffering, death, and deprivation of the Soviet people are unimaginable. Ironically, Stalin likely felt that his economic system, the Communist vision of Marx and Lenin, would never equal the free market system of America and Western Europe. So he took what he felt was his only remaining option: utter and complete oppression of his people. If the Soviet System could not provide as much as others, Stalin would not allow his citizens to see the Western alternative. His citizens would never learn about freedom. Instead, they would live behind his Iron Curtain. Many mistakenly felt that Stalin’s Iron Curtain was to control invasion from the West. However, for the Soviet leader, it was built to contain the Soviet people. Like all tyrants, Stalin knew that his first order of business was the absolute control of his own population. Follow me here on ThinkSpot for more stories from the ValueSide.

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