Chamberlain set out on two missions to meet with Hitler: One at Berchtesgaden and another at Godesberg. Chamberlain's background was in business and he felt as though Hitler could be handled like any other negotiation. The key to success was to determine his opponents bottom line; and, if possible, give it to him. Once Hitler is satiated, he will cease to be a problem. When Hitler revealed that the Sudentenland was his final territorial request, Chamberlain came to believe it was a small, if unseemly, price to pay for the prevention of a continental war. It never occurred to Chamberlain, as was feared by Churchill, that Hitler was lying. He asked for the bottom line and got it. What Churchill would have taken with an enormous grain of salt, Chamberlain gladly swallowed without issue. By the time the four powers (Britain, France, Italy, and Germany) met at Munich, Czechoslovakia's fate was already sealed. The Munich Conference was about how to give Hitler his prize rather than whether or not he deserved it.
Chamberlain's return from Munich is well known. In seeing the popular roar of exhilaration, Chamberlain began to believe that his bargain with Hitler would secure his political fortunes. The public was relieved war was averted, the House was relatively content with the status quo, and the remaining voice of dissention in the cabinet, Duff Cooper (First Lord of the Admiralty), gave his resignation. Churchill's response was to be expected: "How Could honourable men with wide experience and fine records in the Great War condone a policy so cowardly? It was sordid, Squalid, sub-human, and suicidal ....The sequel to the sacrifice of honour." (p.355) When reviewing the Munich Agreement, Churchill told the House of Commons, "There can never be absolute certainty that there will be a fight if one side is determined that it will give way completely."(p.369)
The Munich Conference did little to dispel Stalin's long-held feeling that the western powers were conspiring against him. Stalin was looking for a political and military agreement between the Soviet Union and Britain and France. The time was coming when Stalin's patience with the western powers would end. Stalin was seeing his neighborhood shrink before his very eyes and the idea of having Nazi Germany knocking at his front door was simply unacceptable. Munich was the final blow to any possible alliance. "I think we may take it that M. Molotov will not volunteer any new proposals in the near future," cabled Ambassador Seeds. The Soviet attitude to western powers and their ability to deal affectively with international crises can be summed up by Litvinov's last speech to the League of Nations on September 21, 1938: "A fire brigade was set up in the innocent hope that, by some lucky chance, there would be no fires. ... every State must define its role and its responsibility before its contemporaries and before history. That is why I must plainly declare here that the Soviet Government bears noresponsibility whatsoever for the events now taking place, and for the fatal consequences which may inexorably ensue."
And ensue they did. After Litvinov was replaced by Molotov the German diplomatic corps was quickly put into action. Hitler, as well as Britain and France, had achieved a major goal of his foreign policy in Munich by isolating the Soviet Union from the international diplomatic scene. As an even better position, this isolation was gained with Britain and France seen as the ones responsible. This created a feeling that a non-aggression treaty with the Nazis would be the only protection for Stalin. Ribbontrop was prepared to put his personal efforts to bear on the Soviet leader and with his enthusiasm convince Stalin of the possibilities of a treaty with Nazi Germany. He was a success; and in August of 1939 the Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed.
Churchill had begged the Chamberlain government to make every attempt to form an alliance with the Soviet Union and France to deter a German repproachment. Manchester suggests it was Churchill who had proposed a "Grand Alliance" resembling that one which won the Great War. He was certain that a unified and resolute front could cause Hitler to back down. Churchill even held some belief that such a show of force might cause a defection within the German Army when confronted with the possibility of war with such an alliance.
The Germans, with their eastern front pacified, entered Poland on September 1, 1939. Churchill recognizes the government's commitment to Poland must be kept and war is declared on September 3, 1939. Churchill gives a speech to the House of Commons which is cause for a packed House. (p.539)
When the time came for Churchill to take power he was fully aware that he was a man of his time. Although a relic of a past British Empire struggling to remain alive, it was an image that the people of Great Britain seemed most comfortable with. It was his ability to rouse the public spirit and his staunch belief in the British resolve that led him to tackle the impossible war that raged on in 1939. Churchill knew the realities and was able to communicate the dire consequences: "But if we fail, then the whole world --- Will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand year, Men will still say: 'This was their finest hour'." (p.686)