Letter: Churchill's efforts to end the Cold War

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sir: The orthodox and correct reply to the revisionist theory that Winston Churchill should have made peace with Hitler in 1941 is that any terms then obtainable would have left Britain and her humbly preserved Empire at the mercy of an all-powerful conqueror whose readiness to tear up pieces of paper at a moment's notice was a matter of record and prediction. To seek peace in 1941 would have been to offer total


There is a tendency among the revisionists to counter this by saying: 'But he never even tried] He was too much of a warmonger.'

So, consider Churchill's attitude towards the Cold War. Certainly he drew public attention to its existence and denounced the threats and encroachments of Stalinist Communism. Soon, however, Churchill changed his line, influenced by three new factors - the threat of global destruction arising from the hydrogen bomb, the death of Stalin and the election as US president of his friend Dwight D. Eisenhower. With Eisenhower, he thought, he might 'preside over the ending of the Cold War'.

When first approached, Eisenhower was cautious but not unsympathetic. Churchill followed up by making a speech in the Commons speculating on the possibility of an 'easement' in relations with Russia, and in June 1953 he was about to sail for Bermuda for a meeting with Eisenhower when he was disabled by a stroke. Recovering and undeterred by opposition from the Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, and others in his cabinet, he rearranged the Bermuda meeting for December but failed to persuade Eisenhower and the US Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles.

Still persevering, Churchill in June 1954 again saw Eisenhower, this time in Washington, and though he could not persuade the Americans to make a joint approach to the Russians, he obtained Eisenhower's agreement that there would be no American objection if Churchill decided to go ahead on his own.

Was Churchill at last to have his opportunity? No, because the Russians happened at this moment to come forward with a proposal for a 32-nation conference at Moscow to discuss a Soviet security plan. Soon afterwards he ceased to be Prime Minister.

Considered against this background, the revisionist attacks on Churchill look even more misplaced and absurd.

Yours faithfully,




21 January