February 3, 2024

Ike Writes Churchill about Russia

Seventy years ago, in February 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote a letter from the White House to Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Western relations with the Soviet Union had been in a chaotic state since the death of Stalin the previous year. No new Russian leader had clearly emerged. In a letter that Churchill’s wife Clementine described as “dynamic,” the President of the United States sounded out the British Prime Minister about what might be done.

Dear Winston,

Recent reports that you have been on the firing range personally testing the merits of the new Belgian rifle [being considered for adoption by NATO] would indicate that you are again in the very best of health. Needless to say, your friends here greet such indications with great joy.

My official reports from Berlin are not quite so discouraging as would be expected after reading some of the Molotov outbursts in the daily press. I grow weary of bad manners in international relationships. When abuse grows so flagrant as to include insult, false charges, and outright vituperation, I sometimes wonder whether we help our own cause by allowing the world to believe us meekly ready to sit quietly under such attacks for no other apparent reason than a desperate hope for a crumb of concession out of the propaganda feast the enemy enjoys at our expense.

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The free nations’ case must be better understood by the entire world including ourselves. More and more I come to the conclusion that the salvation of liberty rests upon the unremitting effort of all of us to establish a solidarity among ourselves that in major objectives and purposes will remain firm against any assault. Such an association of free nations must be expanded as widely as possible, even to include very weak nations when those weak nations are exposed directly or indirectly to the threats and blandishments of the Soviets. We are deeply concerned of course with Indo-China, Iran and Egypt. But the entire Moslem world, India and Southeast Asia, as well as our European friends, are all important to us!

Such an association of nations must have clear political, economic and military objectives of its own; while avoiding all belligerence in its attitude, it must still be so firmly confident of its own security that it will have no reason to worry about the possibility that the stupid and savage individuals in the Kremlin will move against us in any vital way. At the very best, of course, to produce such an association of nations will require the finest of leadership. To this we, the larger nations, must contribute. We must be generous, understanding, determined, and always faithful to our pledges. Tactics will vary. In some areas and on some subjects, we will have to use cajolery; in others, firmness. In some situations, some particular one of the principal countries of the coalition should take the lead in the conduct of negotiations; in others, another will have to assume the burden.

Of one thing I am certain. If we could get real unity of understanding and basic purpose among a few of the principal nations of the free world including, of course, West Germany—it would not be long until the common security of all of us was vastly improved and the material fortunes of our countries would be advanced markedly and continuously. The problem, of course, is to achieve much more than mere paper agreement. Our consortium must rest solidly upon a common understanding of the Russian menace and in the clear conviction that only through unity, stubbornly maintained in the face of every inconsequential point of argument and difference between us, can these great things be achieved.

Of course there is no real reason for writing you such a letter as this. Not only do you understand these things better than I—in many instances I have absorbed my ideas from you. But I’ve been thinking a bit of the future. I am sure that when history looks back upon us of today it will not long remember any one of this era who was merely a distinguished war leader whether on the battlefield or in the council chamber. It will remember and salute those people who succeeded, out of the greatness of their understanding and the skill of their leadership, in establishing ties among the independent nations of the world that will throw back the Russian threat and allow civilization, as we have known it, to continue its progress. Indeed, unless individuals and nations of our time are successful—soon—in this effort, there will be no history of any kind, as we know it. There will be only a concocted story made up by the Communist conquerors of the world.

It is only when one allows his mind to contemplate momentarily such disaster for the world and attempts to picture an atheistic materialism in complete domination of all human life, that he fully appreciates how necessary it is to seek renewed faith and strength from his God, and sharpen up his sword for the struggle that cannot possibly be escaped.

Destiny has given priceless opportunity to some of this epoch. You are one of them. Perhaps I am also one of the company on whom this great responsibility has fallen.

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