Moments in Time

6 May 1992

In 1946, Winston Churchill, former prime minister of Britain, spoke at Westminster College, Fulton Missiouri, and issued what many historians have come to consider the opening volley of the Cold War. Declaring that an "iron curtain" had fallen across Eastern Europe, Churchill challenged both Great Britain and the United States to contain Soviet aggression. Forty-six years later, the Soviet Union had collapsed and Mikhail Gorbachev, who had resigned as president of the Soviet Union in December 1991, stood on the very same campus and reflected on the Cold War.

Gorbachev and his 22-member delegation arrived in Columbia, Missouri, shortly after noon via 'The Capitalist Tool', a private Boeing 727 jet owned by the family of the late Malcolm Forbes. After a 40-minute motorcade to Fulton, college President J. Harvey Saunders escorted Gorbachev, his wife, Raisa; his daughter and Irina Virgahskaya to the campus.

In an event steeped in symbolism, Gorbachev spoke to the more than 20,000 people gathered on the campus and thousands more who listened to the speech live in 132 countries around the world. In his speech, 'The River of Time and the Imperative of Action', he mixed praise for the end of the Cold War with some pointed criticisms of US policy. Gorbachev declared that the end of the Cold War was the "shattering of the vicious circle into which we had driven ourselves" and a "victory for common sense, reason, democracy, and common human values."

In addressing the issue of who began the Cold War, Gorbachev admitted that the Soviet Union had made some serious mistakes, but also suggested that the United States and Great Britain shouldered part of the blame. He decried the resulting nuclear arms race, though he made clear that he believed the United States had been the "initiator" of this folly. With the Cold War over, he cautioned the United States to realize the "intellectual, and consequently political error, of interpreting victory in the cold war narrowly as a victory for oneself."

Gorbachev's speech, and particularly the location at which he delivered it, offered a fitting closure to the Cold War, and demonstrated that scholarly debate about those years would continue. Forty six years, two months and two days after Winston Churchill's monumental speech, Gorbachev had brought Westminster and the world full circle -- proclaiming an end to the Cold War and the beginning of a new era holding the promise of peace.



  Previous 'Moments in Time'

The Adventurer Leonard LeSchack
Mathias Rust
Death of Diana
Resignation of George Tenet
Flight 77 The Pentagon Crash
The Assassination of CIA Man Richard Welch
The Yeti Conspiracy and the CIA
Checkpoint Charlie's Bay of Pig's
George Blake Escapes from Prison