• Short Summary

    On March 5th, 1946, a phrase was born that has persisted through the years: "the Iron Curtain".

  • Description

    GV & CU dividing wall with barbed wire (2 shots)

    1946: SV & CU Churchill in garden (3 shots)

    GV & CU Wire fence with halt signs (3 shots)

    GV & LV Vienna (2 shots)

    1955: LV & CU Molotov, Macmillan Dulles & Pinay sign Austrian treaty (5 shots)

    1972: LV & CU Tito greeted by Brezhnev in Moscow (4 shots)

    1970: SV & CU Brandt and Stoph waving to crowds (3 shots)

    1941: CU telephone switchboard (2 shots)

    1972: LV & CU people crossing border from West to East Berling, greeting families. (3 shots)

    1972: SV Ministers Kohl (left) and Bahr exchange agreements

    1974: LV & CU East German Embassy building in Bonn with flag flying (3 shots)

    1976: LV wall surrounding Brandenburg gate

    LV & SV Berlin wall & East German observation posts (5 shots)

    1975: Nato tanks on manoeuvred (4 shots)

    1976: East German observation post & wire (3 shots)

    CU PAN railway lines leading to fence (2 shots)

    Initials RH/JH/MR/1810

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: On March 5th, 1946, a phrase was born that has persisted through the years: "the Iron Curtain". It was used by Winston Churchill, the British wartime Prime Minister, speaking to an academic audience at Fulton, Missouri, in the United States. But it was rebroadcast and repeated till it because part of the political language of the western world.

    "From Stetting on the Baltic to Trieste on the Adriatic" Churchill said, "an iron curtain has descended across the continent." And he went on to enumerate the capitals of central and eastern Europe that, in his view, were subject to "a very high and increasing measure of control from Moscow". Even when he used the phrase it was something of an overstatement and an over-simplification. With the events of the past quarter-century it has become more so. But without some remaining relationship to the diplomatic, military and physical facts, it could not have survived as it has.

    Vienna, for instance, was one of the capitals mentioned by churchill. The Soviet presence there--like that of Britain, France and the United States--was the result of the occupation arrangements made at the end of the second world war. After the peace treaty was signed in 1955, all these occupying forces withdrew, and Austria pledged itself to a policy of permanent neutrality. The Iron curtain, as delineated by Churchill, had moved eastwards.

    Yugoslavia, under Marshal Tito, has a communist government but within two years of churchill's speech it was so far from being under the control of Moscow that it was expelled from the then existing communist international organisation, the Cominform. It is not a member of the east European military alliance, the Warsaw Pact, and differed sharply from most other east European countries over the entry of Soviet troops into Czechoslovakia in 1968. The two countries now have independent but friendly relations, and President tito was awarded the Order of Lenin on his 80th birthday in 1972.

    The division between east and west in Europe, which the iron curtain symbolises, shows itself most clearly in the military groupings, and on the ground between East and West Germany. Most of the eastern states are organised in the Warsaw Pact; most of the western, with the United States and Canada, in the North atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO. Negotiations between them, such as the Mutual Balanced Force Reduction talks, have been aimed as reducing the level of each side's forces rather than blurring the line between them. Attempts to do that, such as the Rapacki Plan, proposed by Poland in 1958 for creating a neutral zone free of nuclear weapons in central Europe, have made no progress.

    On the ground, along the frontiers between West and East germany, and West Germany and Czechoslovakia, the "iron curtain" is still a physical reality of barbed wire fences, watch towers, minefields and anti-personnel devices. It has its counterpart in the wall, first erected in 1961, that separates West Berling from the eastern part of the city, which is the capital of East germany, and from other East German territory to the west of Berlin.

    Relations between East and West Germany have been transformed since 1970, when Harr Willy Brandt, then Chancellor of West Germany, crossed the frontier to meet the Chairman of the East German Council of Ministers, Herr Stoph. Two years of intense negotiations brought various relaxations of the barriers between them: the regulation of access routes from the west to West Berlin; the restoration of telephone links between West and East Berling; permission for West Berliners to visit relatives in the eastern part of the city.

    The two states formally recognised earth other's existence by signing a treaty in 1972 and opened embassies in each other's capitals. Trade and financial arrangements were regularised. Both countries joined the United Nations. But Herr Schmidt, the present West German chancellor has complained: "Wall barbed wire, death strips and shooting orders have not lost their inhumanity." apart from official groups, such as sports teams, only pensioners and people who get special permission for short term visits for family reasons are allowed to leave East Germany for the west. Pressed at the Helsinki summit to allow greater freedom of travel, the East German communist Party Secretary, Herr Honecker said: "Security comes first." For East and West Germans, the phrase "iron curtain" is more than a political abstraction. There are 800 miles (1,280 kilometers) of it on the ground.

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