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(950 posts)
Sun Feb 4, 2024, 08:29 AM Feb 2024

On This Day: Stalin in powerful position as Yalta talks with FDR, Churchill commence - Feb. 4, 1945

(edited from Wikipedia)
Yalta Conference

The Yalta Conference, held 4–11 February 1945, was the World War II meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union to discuss the postwar reorganization of Germany and Europe. The three states were represented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and General Secretary Joseph Stalin. The conference was held near Yalta in Crimea, Soviet Union, within the Livadia, Yusupov, and Vorontsov palaces.

Intended mainly to discuss the re-establishment of the nations of war-torn Europe, within a few years, with the Cold War dividing the continent, the conference became a subject of intense controversy.

Yalta was the second of three major wartime conferences among the Big Three. It was preceded by the Tehran Conference in November 1943 and was followed by the Potsdam Conference in July of the same year, 1945.


During the Yalta Conference, the Western Allies had liberated all of France and Belgium and were fighting on the western border of Germany. In the east, Soviet forces were 40 mi from Berlin, having already pushed back the Germans from Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria. There was no longer a question regarding German defeat. The issue was the new shape of postwar Europe.

Each of the three leaders had his own agenda for postwar Germany and liberated Europe.

Roosevelt wanted Soviet support in the Pacific War against Japan, specifically for the planned invasion of Japan, as well as Soviet participation in the United Nations. Roosevelt wanted the Soviets to enter the Pacific War against Japan with the Allies, which he hoped would end the war sooner and reduce American casualties.

Churchill pressed for free elections and democratic governments in Central and Eastern Europe, specifically Poland.

Stalin demanded a Soviet sphere of political influence in Eastern and Central Europe as an essential aspect of the Soviets' national security strategy, and his position at the conference was felt by him to be so strong that he could dictate terms. According to US delegation member and future Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, "it was not a question of what we would let the Russians do, but what we could get the Russians to do".

Accordingly, Stalin stipulated that Polish government-in-exile demands were not negotiable, and the Soviets would keep the territory of eastern Poland that they had annexed in 1939, with Poland to be compensated for that by extending its western borders at the expense of Germany.

The Soviets wanted the return of South Sakhalin, which had been taken from Russia by Japan in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, and the cession of Kuril Islands by Japan, both of which were approved by Truman. In return, Stalin pledged that the Soviet Union would enter the Pacific War three months after the defeat of Germany.

Furthermore, the Soviets agreed to join the United Nations because of a secret understanding of a voting formula with a veto power for permanent members of the Security Council, which ensured that each country could block unwanted decisions.

The Soviet Army had occupied Poland completely and held much of Eastern Europe with a military power three times greater than Allied forces in the West. The Declaration of Liberated Europe did little to dispel the sphere of influence agreements, which had been incorporated into armistice agreements.

Also, the Big Three agreed that all original governments would be restored to the invaded countries, with the exceptions of Romania and Bulgaria, and Poland, whose government-in-exile was also excluded by Stalin, and that all of their civilians would be repatriated.


On March 1, 1945, Roosevelt assured Congress, "I come from the Crimea with a firm belief that we have made a start on the road to a world of peace". However, the Western Powers soon realized that Stalin would not honor his promise of free elections for Poland.

Because of Stalin's promises, Churchill believed that he would keep his word regarding Poland and he remarked, "Poor Neville Chamberlain believed he could trust Hitler. He was wrong. But I don't think I am wrong about Stalin."

After the Second World War ended, a communist government was installed in Poland. Many Poles felt betrayed by their wartime allies. Many Polish soldiers refused to return to Poland because of the Soviet repressions of Polish citizens.

By March 21, Roosevelt's Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Averell Harriman, cabled Roosevelt that "we must come clearly to realize that the Soviet program is the establishment of totalitarianism, ending personal liberty and democracy as we know it". Two days later, Roosevelt began to admit that his view of Stalin had been excessively optimistic and that "Averell is right."

The Soviet Union had already annexed several occupied countries as (or into) Soviet Socialist Republics, and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe were occupied and converted into Soviet-controlled satellite states.

(edited from article)
The Yalta Conference at seventy-five: Lessons from history
February 7, 2020
by Daniel Fried, ambassador to Poland during the Clinton administration

... Yalta was not simply the failure of one US president at one meeting. The road to Yalta was the product of the doctrine of isolationism and the original “America First” movement that reflected conviction by great parts of the US political left and right that the United States had no vital interests in European security. Roosevelt’s foreign policy was constrained by the isolationists’ political power and, as a result, the United States left Britain and France, weakened by World War One, to deal with Hitler and Stalin on their own.

The consequences were catastrophic. It took the German conquest of France in June 1940 to substantially weaken the political power of the isolationists. By then, good outcomes were unobtainable. The United States was playing catch up from a bad position. When the United States entered World War Two in December 1941, it needed Stalin to defeat Hitler.

... core values may have more viability than it seems, especially in the long term ... The Yalta Conference failed but Yalta Europe was not forever. The strategic vision that Roosevelt spelled out in the Atlantic Charter and sought to realize at Yalta—even if miserably—now seems the right one.

That vision, in fact, provided the basis for US policy toward Poland and Central Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. That policy sought to fulfill the promise of the Atlantic Charter for all of Europe—and this time was more successful. Nor is that narrative over. With respect to Ukraine, a country also seeking a future with an undivided Europe, those debates and those tensions apply to this day.


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