Less than a year after the end of World War II, the great wartime leader of
Britain, Winston Churchill gave a speech at Westminster College, in Fulton,
Missouri. After receiving an honorary degree and being introduced by President
Harry Truman, he delivered a historic speech.

Churchill said, “ It is my duty to place before you certain facts about the
present position in Europe. 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, Bucharest, and Sofia; all these famous
cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet
sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet
influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control
from Moscow”.

It was in this 1946 speech that the term “Iron Curtain” was first used to
describe the growing East-West divide in postwar Europe between communist and
democratic nations. The “Iron Curtain” was a result of the policy of
isolation set up by the Union of Soviet Republics (USSR) after World War II that
involved rigid censorship and travel restrictions. It acted as a barrier to
communication and the free exchange of ideas between the USSR (and its satellite
states) and the rest of the world.

In June of 1948, Josef Stalin ordered the blockade of West Berlin’s roads
and railways. There was no way of traveling by land into the city. The only
access to West Berlin was through a twenty-mile air corridor.

Nikita Krushchev came to power in the Soviet Union in 1955. His policy was
liberalization, or “deStalinization.” The concept was a shake-up of the
Communist Party. He even preached that a “peaceful co-existence” with
capitalist nations was possible. The cold war relaxed for a few years and
Austria was even given true independence in 1955. Hungary successfully revolted
against Russian occupation in 1956 and held a free election for a new
government. Unfortunately, Khrushchev was not about to give up on Berlin.

The “Iron Curtain” became even more real on August 14, 1961. This was the
morning that the world woke up to learn that a barbed wire fence dividing the
Eastern sector of Berlin from the three Western sectors had been erected
overnight. The purpose was to stop East Germans from fleeing to the West. More
than three million had fled since the war. The news caught Western leaders by
surprise. There had been a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the three Western
powers in Paris in July 1961, but no one mentioned the possibility of a Berlin
wall. After hasty consultations, the three Western allies decided that there was
nothing that could be done. Military action would have been unthinkable, because
it would have led to a confrontation in which the West would have had to back
down. The wall of barbed wire was soon replaced with brick. Mines peppered the
ground. Automatic machine gun turrets were installed that shot anything that
moved near the wall. East Berlin was effectively a prison. President Kennedy
issued a statement condemning the erection of the wall as a violation of written
and unwritten agreements. The wall remained as a symbol of the “Iron Curtain”.
The wall came down and the curtain lifted during 1989 through 1991, when
Communist governments fell in Eastern Europe and the USSR.

In April 1951 a paper known as NSC-68 was published which detailed the United
States objectives and programs for national security. The paper was written
primarily by the U.S. State Department’s, Paul Nitze. It was written in the
aftermath of the Soviet explosion of their first atomic weapon. The report
predicted the Soviets could launch a nuclear attack on the United States by
1954. There was worry about he Soviet Union’s recommended an increase in U.S.
spending for nuclear and conventional arms. Paul Nitze worked in investment
banking before entering government service. He served as vice chairman of the
U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey (1944-46). He was the head of policy planning for
the State Department (1959-53). He also served as Secretary of the Navy
(1963-67) and Deputy Secretary of Defense (1967-69), as a member of the U.S.
delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) (1969-73), and
Assistant Secretary of Defense for international affairs (1973-76). For over
forty years, Nitze was one of the chief architects of U.S. policy toward the
Soviet Union.

At a National Security Council meeting on January 31, 1950, President Truman
met with Defense Secretary Louis A. Johnson, Secretary