Quotations: Origins of the Cold War

This page contains a collection of Cold War quotations, made by political leaders, notable figures and historians, pertaining to the origins of the Cold War (1945-1949). These quotations have been researched and compiled by Alpha History authors. We welcome contributions and suggestions for these pages. If you would like to submit a quote, please contact Alpha History.

“There are at the present time two great nations in the world… the Russians and the Americans… Their starting point is different and their courses are not the same, yet each of them seems marked out by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe.”
French historian Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835

“As long as Stalin was running the Soviet Union, a Cold War was unavoidable.”
John Lewis Gaddis, historian, 1988

“I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of man. Harry [Truman] says he’s not… I think that if I give him everything I possibly can, and ask nothing from him in return… he won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.”
Franklin Roosevelt, US president, August 1941

“If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many [of each other] as possible.”
Harry Truman, US Senator, 1941

“[After the war] you will have the greatest navy in the world. You will have, I hope, the greatest air force. You will have the greatest trade. You will have all the gold.”
Winston Churchill, British prime minister, to Franklin Roosevelt, 1944

“The peace of the world depends upon the lasting friendship of the three Great Powers, but His Majesty’s government feels we should be putting ourselves in a false position if we put ourselves in the position of trying to rule the world, when our desire is to serve the world and preserve it from a renewal of the frightful horrors which have fallen upon the mass of its inhabitants.”
Winston Churchill at Yalta, February 1945

“We must come clearly to realise that the Soviet program [in eastern Europe] is the establishment of totalitarianism, ending personal liberty and democracy as we know it.”
Averell Harriman, US ambassador to Moscow, March 1945

“The Soviet Union has become a danger to the free world. A new front must be created against her onward sweep. This front should be as far east as possible. A settlement must be reached on all major issues between West and East in Europe, before the armies of democracy melt.”
Winston Churchill, 1945

“We have to get tough with the Russians. They don’t know how to behave. They are like bulls in a china shop. They are only 25 years old. We are over 100 and the British are centuries older. We have got to teach them how to behave.”
Harry Truman, US president, April 1945

“This war is not as in the past. Whoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his own social system. Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach. It cannot be otherwise. If now there is not a communist government in Paris, this is only because Russia has no an army which can reach Paris in 1945.”
Joseph Stalin, Soviet dictator, April 1945

“Marshal Stalin as a negotiator was the toughest proposition of all. After something like 30 years’ experience of international conferences… if I had to pick a team for going into a conference room, Stalin would be my first choice. Of course, the man was ruthless, and of course, he knew his purpose. He never wasted a word. He never stormed, he was seldom even irritated. Hooded, calm, never raising his voice, he avoided the repeated negatives of Molotov which were so exasperating to listen to. By more subtle methods, he got what he wanted without having seemed so obdurate.”
Anthony Eden, British politican who attended Potsdam, writing in 1965

“[The Soviet Union was] trying not only to extend their boundaries and their control over neighbouring states but also beginning to revert to their revolutionary effort throughout the world.”
Herbert Feis, historian

“Stalin invited us to supper but in the hallway, we stopped before a map of the world on which the Soviet Union was coloured in red, which made it conspicuous and bigger than it would otherwise seem. Stalin waved his hand over the Soviet Union and, referring to what he had just been saying against the British and the Americans, he exclaimed, ‘They will never accept the idea that so great a space should be red, never, never!'”
Milovan Djilas, Yugoslav politician

“I can deal with Stalin. He is honest but smart as hell.”
Harry Truman, US president, July 1945

“We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied… after Noah and his fabulous Ark.”
Harry Truman, July 1945

“Looking at the world as a whole, the drift for many decades has been not towards anarchy but towards the reimposition of slavery. We may be heading not for general breakdown but for an epoch as horribly stable as the slave empires of antiquity… the social structure that would probably prevail in a state which was at once unconquerable and in a permanent state of ‘cold war’ with its neighbours.”
George Orwell, English writer, October 1945

“We shall not realise our objectives… unless we are willing to help free peoples to maintain their free institutions and their national integrity against aggressive movements that seek to impose upon them totalitarian regimes. This is no more than a frank recognition that totalitarian regimes imposed on free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace – and hence the security of the United States.”
George Kennan, US diplomat, February 1946

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the [European] continent.”
Winston Churchill, March 1946

“The seeds of totalitarian regimes are nurtured by misery and want.”
Harry Truman, US president, March 1947

“I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities, or by outside pressures. I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies, in their own way. I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid, which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes.”
Harry Truman, March 1947

“A highly possible Soviet breakthrough might open up three continents to Soviet penetration. Like apples in a barrel infected by one rotten one, the corruption of Greece would infect Iran and all to the east. It would also carry infection to Africa through Asia Minor and Egypt, and to Europe through Italy and France, already threatened by the strongest domestic Communist parties in Western Europe. The Soviet Union was playing one of the greatest gambles in history at minimal cost. It did not need to will all the possibilities. Even one or two offered immense gains. We and we alone were in a position to break up the play.”
Dean Acheson, Secretary of State under Truman, March 1947

“Let us not be deceived: we are today in the midst of a cold war. Our enemies are to be found abroad and at home. Let us never forget this. Our unrest is the heart of their success. The peace of the world is the hope and the goal of our political system. It is the despair and defeat of those who stand against us.”
Bernard Baruch, US businessman, April 1947

“But what is Europe now? It is a rubble-heap, a charnel house, a breeding ground of pestilence and hate. Ancient nationalistic feuds and modern ideological factions distract and infuriate the unhappy, hungry populations. Is there then to be no respite? Has Europe’s mission come to an end? Are the States of Europe to continue forever to squander the first fruits of their toil upon the erection of new barriers, military fortifications and tariff walls and passport networks against each other? Are we all, through our poverty and our quarrels, forever to be a burden and a danger to the rest of the world?”
Winston Churchill, May 1947

“The United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace.”
George Marshall, US Secretary of State, June 1947

“Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist… Any assistance that this government may render in the future should provide a cure rather than a mere palliative. Any government that is willing to assist in the task of recovery will find full cooperation [from the United States]… Governments, political parties or groups which seek to perpetuate human misery in order to profit politically or otherwise will encounter the opposition of the United States.”
George Marshall, June 1947

“Although the shooting war is over, we are in the midst of a cold war which is getting warmer.”
Bernard Baruch, US businessman, October 1947

“Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy.”
Winston Churchill, 1948

“Trying to maintain good relations with a Communist is like wooing a crocodile. You don’t know whether to tickle it under the chin or beat it over the head. When it opens its mouth, you cannot tell whether it is trying to smile or preparing to eat you up.”
Winston Churchill, 1949

“The Soviet Union, unlike previous aspirants to hegemony, is animated by a new fanatic faith, antithetical to our own, and seeks to impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world… With the development of increasingly terrifying weapons of mass destruction, every individual faces the ever-present possibility of annihilation should the conflict enter the phase of total war.”
US National Security Council Report 68, January 1950