Seventy-three years ago, Winston Churchill gave a speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, which is now remembered primarily for his application of the term “iron curtain” to Stalin’s policies of isolating the peoples of the USSR and Eastern Europe from the rest of the world.
But Roman Bezsmertnyi, the former Ukrainian representative to the Tripartite contact group in Minsk, says that two other insights the British leader offered may be even more important because both remain very much true for the Russia of Vladimir Putin today.
On the one hand, Churchill said, “there is nothing [Soviet leaders] admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness, especially military weakness.” And on the other, he continued by arguing that Russia does not want war. “What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines.”
Bezsmertnyi says that the latter is his “most favorite citation from the Fulton speech” because it provides a key to understanding one of the most important aspects of Russian behavior then and now.
“Do present-day world leaders see this?” he asks rhetorically. “Yes, they do; but unfortunately, the majority of them are already on the financial ‘hook’ to Russia. As a result, they choose a policy of ‘condemnation’” rather than containment and “’deep concern’” instead of concerted action to oppose Moscow.
It’s long past time to recognize the continuing value of Churchill’s words in 1946 and to act on them as did world leaders at that time. “Russia will not change!” Bezsmertnyi says. “It even in the future will conduct its imperial policy,” by non-military means if possible to achieve what most would see as military goals.
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Tags: Cold War I (1948-1991), great power imperialism, History, imperial complex, new Cold War, Putin, Putin's confrontation with the West, Russia, Russian imperialism, Soviet imperialism, Western appeasement, Winston Churchill