What would Winston Churchill have thought of COP26?

5th November 2021 in Archives Centre

The "Big Three" at Yalta

The “Big Three” – Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Franklin Roosevelt and Marshal Joseph Stalin – at the Yalta Conference, February 1945. CHPH 1A/F3/40c

Did you know that Winston Churchill was responsible for coining the term summit for high-level meetings? Speaking in Edinburgh as Leader of the Opposition in February 1950, he called for a ‘parley at the summit’ between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies stating that, ‘The idea appeals to me of a supreme effort to bridge the gulf between the two worlds so that each can live their life if not in friendship at least without the hatreds of the cold war.’

Churchill certainly believed in face to face diplomacy. Speaking in America  in 1954 he confirmed that international conferences of this kind were vitally important, ‘that meeting jaw to jaw is better than war’ (a quote that is often incorrectly attributed to him as ‘Jaw-jaw is better than war-war’.

He would have enjoyed welcoming world leaders to Scotland, having failed to get President Roosevelt and Marshal Stalin to meet there in the Second World War, and we can be sure that he would have had his statistical unit, map room and advisers on hand to provide him with the latest information. What his views and conclusions would have been we can never know, though his foundation of Churchill College suggests a continuing hope in the power of science to solve humanity’s problems.

–Allen Packwood, Director of Churchill Archives Centre

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