The Articles in the Category cover a vast range of history not only in our country but in the world as well. The category is entitled “How We Sold Our Soul”. In many cases our history has hinged on compromises being made by the powers at be. They say hind-sight is 20/20, which is why I am discussing these land mark decisions in this manner. The people that made these decisions in many cases thought they were doing the right thing. However in some instances they were made for expediency and little thought was given to the moral ramifications and the fallout that would result from them. I hope you enjoy these articles. The initial plan is to discuss 10 compromises, but as time progresses I am sure that number will increase.
I have started this series to discuss major conferences or agreements or compromises that were made in history for the betterment of society or so that is what the framers told themselves. In every one of these cases values were compromised in the name of expedition and I believe due to the weak moral character of many of the members involved. This series will be known as “How We Sold Our Soul Series”. The first article in this series will be on the Yalta Conference.
The Yalta Conference was a meeting of three World War II allies: U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. The trio met in February 1945 in the resort city of Yalta, located along the Black Sea coast of the Crimean Peninsula.
Each leader had an agenda for the Yalta Conference: Roosevelt wanted Soviet support in the U.S. Pacific War against Japan and Soviet participation in the UN; Churchill pressed for free elections and democratic governments in Eastern and Central Europe (specifically Poland); and Stalin demanded a Soviet sphere of …
The Yalta Conference, also known as the Crimea Conference and codenamed Argonaut, 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 Premier Joseph Stalin, respectively. The conference was held near Yalta in Crimea, Soviet Union, within the Livadia, Yusupov, and Vorontsov Palaces.
The aim of the conference was to shape a postwar peace that represented not only a collective security order but also a plan to give self-determination to the liberated peoples of Europe. The meeting was intended mainly to discuss the re-establishment of the nations of war-torn Europe. However, 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 1945. It was also preceded by a conference in Moscow in October 1944, not attended by Roosevelt, in which Churchill and Stalin had spoken of European Western and Soviet spheres of influence.
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 65 km (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.
The French leader General Charles de Gaulle was not invited to either the Yalta or Potsdam Conferences, a diplomatic slight that was the occasion for deep and lasting resentment. De Gaulle attributed his exclusion from Yalta to the longstanding personal antagonism towards him by Roosevelt, but the Soviets had also objected to his inclusion as a full participant. However, the absence of French representation at Yalta also meant that extending an invitation for De Gaulle to attend the Potsdam Conference would have been highly problematic since he would have felt honor-bound to insist that all issues agreed at Yalta in his absence to be reopened.
The initiative for calling a second “Big Three” conference had come from Roosevelt, who hoped for a meeting before the US presidential elections in November 1944 but pressed for a meeting early in 1945 at a neutral location in the Mediterranean. Malta, Cyprus, Sicily, Athens, and Jerusalem were all suggested. Stalin, insisting that his doctors opposed any long trips, rejected those options. He proposed instead for them meet at the Black Sea resort of Yalta in the Crimea. Stalin’s fear of flying also was a contributing factor in the decision. Nevertheless, Stalin formally deferred to Roosevelt as the “host” for the conference, and all plenary sessions were to be held in the US accommodation at the Livadia Palace, and Roosevelt was invariably seated centrally in the group photographs, all of which were taken by Roosevelt’s official photographer.
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 (Operation August Storm), as well as Soviet participation in the United Nations. 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.”
Poland was the first item on the Soviet agenda. Stalin stated, “For the Soviet government, the question of Poland was one of honor” and security because Poland had served as a historical corridor for forces attempting to invade Russia. In addition, Stalin stated regarding history that “because the Russians had greatly sinned against Poland”, “the Soviet government was trying to atone for those sins”. Stalin concluded that “Poland must be strong” and that “the Soviet Union is interested in the creation of a mighty, free and independent Poland”. 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. Contradicting his prior stated position, Stalin promised free elections in Poland despite the existence of a Soviet sponsored provisional government that had recently been installed by him in the Polish territories occupied by the Red Army.
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.
One Soviet precondition for a declaration of war against Japan was an American official recognition of the Mongolian independence from China (the Mongolian People’s Republic had been a Soviet satellite state from 1924 to World War II). The Soviets also wanted the recognition of Soviet interests in the Chinese Eastern Railway and Port Arthur but not asking the Chinese to lease. Those conditions were agreed to without Chinese participation.
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. Later, at Potsdam, Stalin promised Truman to respect the national unity of Korea, which would be partly occupied by Soviet troops.A Big Three meeting room
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.
All three leaders ratified the agreement of the European Advisory Commission setting the boundaries of postwar occupation zones for Germany with three zones of occupation, one for each of the three principal Allies. They also agreed to give France a zone of occupation carved out of the US and UK zones, but De Gaulle had the principle of refusing to accept that the French zone would be defined by boundaries established in his absence. He thus ordered French forces to occupy Stuttgart in addition to the lands earlier agreed upon as comprising the French occupation zone. He only withdrew when threatened with the suspension of essential American economic supplies. Churchill at Yalta then argued that the French also needed to be a full member of the proposed Allied Control Council for Germany. Stalin resisted that until Roosevelt backed Churchill’s position, but Stalin still remained adamant that the French should not be admitted to full membership of the Allied Reparations Commission to be established in Moscow and relented only at the Potsdam Conference.
Also, the Big Three agreed that all original governments would be restored to the invaded countries, with the exceptions of Romania and Bulgaria, where the Soviets had already liquidated most of the governments, and Poland, whose government-in-exile was also excluded by Stalin, and that all of their civilians would be repatriated.
Declaration of Liberated Europe
The Declaration of Liberated Europe was created by Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin during the Yalta Conference. It was a promise that allowed the people of Europe “to create democratic institutions of their own choice.” The declaration pledged that “the earliest possible establishment through free elections governments responsive to the will of the people.” That is similar to the statements of the Atlantic Charter for “the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live.”
The key points of the meeting were as follows:
- Agreement to the priority of the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. After the war, Germany and Berlin would be split into four occupied zones.
- Stalin agreed that France would have a fourth occupation zone in Germany if it was formed from the American and the British zones.
- Germany would undergo demilitarization and denazification. At the Yalta Conference, the Allies decided to provide safeguards against a potential military revival of Germany, to eradicate German militarism and the Nazi general staff, to bring about the denazification of Germany, to punish the war criminals and to disarm and demilitarise Germany.
- German war reparations were partly to be in the form of forced labor. The forced labour was to be used to repair damage that Germany had inflicted on its victims. However, laborers were also forced to harvest crops, mine uranium, and do other work (see also Forced labor of Germans after World War II and Forced labor of Germans in the Soviet Union).
- Creation of a reparation council which would be located in the Soviet Union.
- The status of Poland was discussed. The recognition of the communist Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland, which had been installed by the Soviet Union “on a broader democratic basis,” was agreed to.
- The Polish eastern border would follow the Curzon Line, and Poland would receive territorial compensation in the west from Germany.
- Stalin pledged to permit free elections in Poland.
- Roosevelt obtained a commitment by Stalin to participate in the United Nations.
- Stalin requested that all of the 16 Soviet Socialist Republics would be granted UN membership. That was taken into consideration, but 14 republics were denied. Truman agreed to membership for Ukraine and Byelorussia while reserving the right, which was never exercised, to seek two more votes for the United States.
- Stalin agreed to enter the fight against the Empire of Japan “in two or three months after Germany has surrendered and the war in Europe is terminated.” As a result, the Soviets would take possession of Southern Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, the port of Dalian would be internationalized, and the Soviet lease of Port Arthur would be restored, among other concessions.
- For the bombing of Japan, agreement was reached on basing U.S. Army Air Force B-29s near the mouth of the Amur River in the Komsomolsk–Nikolaevsk area (not near Vladivostok, as had earlier been proposed), but that did not eventuate. General Aleksei Antonov also said that the Red Army would take the southern half of Sakhalin Island as one of its first objectives and that American assistance to defend Kamchatka would be desirable.
- Nazi war criminals were to be found and put on trial in the territories in which their crimes had been committed. Nazi leaders were to be executed.
- A “Committee on Dismemberment of Germany” was to be set up. Its purpose was to decide whether Germany was to be divided into several nations. Some examples of partition plans are shown below:
The Big Three further agreed that democracies would be established, all liberated European and former Axis satellite countries would hold free elections and that order would be restored. In that regard, they promised to rebuild occupied countries by processes that will allow them “to create democratic institutions of their own choice. This is a principle of the Atlantic Charter – the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live.” The resulting report stated that the three would assist occupied countries to form interim government that “pledged to the earliest possible establishment through free elections of the Governments responsive to the will of the people” and to “facilitate where necessary the holding of such elections.”
The agreement called on signatories to “consult together on the measures necessary to discharge the joint responsibilities set forth in this declaration.” During the Yalta discussions, Molotov inserted language that weakened the implication of enforcement of the declaration.
Regarding Poland, the Yalta report further stated that the provisional government should “be pledged to the holding of free and unfettered elections as soon as possible on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballot.” The agreement could not conceal the importance of acceding to the pro-Soviet short-term Lublin government control and of eliminating language that called for supervised elections.
According to Roosevelt, “if we attempt to evade the fact that we placed somewhat more emphasis on the Lublin Poles than on the other two groups from which the new government is to be drawn I feel we will expose ourselves to the charges that we are attempting to go back on the Crimea decision.” Roosevelt conceded that, in the words of Admiral William D. Leahy, the language of Yalta was so vague that the Soviets could “stretch it all the way from Yalta to Washington without ever technically breaking it.”
The final agreement stipulated that “the Provisional Government which is now functioning in Poland should therefore be reorganized on a broader democratic basis with the inclusion of democratic leaders from Poland and from Poles abroad.” The language of Yalta conceded predominance of the pro-Soviet Lublin government in a provisional government but a reorganized one.
Because of Stalin’s promises, Churchill believed that he would keep his word regarding Poland and remarked, “Poor Neville Chamberlain believed he could trust Hitler. He was wrong. But I don’t think I am wrong about Stalin.”
Churchill defended his actions at Yalta in a three-day parliamentary debate starting on February 27, which ended in a vote of confidence. During the debate, many MPs criticized Churchill and expressed deep reservations about Yalta and support for Poland, with 25 drafting an amendment protesting the agreement.
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 (1939–1946), the Trial of the Sixteen and other executions of pro-Western Poles, particularly the former members of the AK (Armia Krajowa). The result was the Polish Resettlement Act 1947, Britain’s first mass immigration law.
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. After receiving considerable criticism in London following Yalta regarding the atrocities committed in Poland by Soviet troops, Churchill wrote Roosevelt a desperate letter referencing the wholesale deportations and liquidations of opposition Poles by the Soviets. On March 11, Roosevelt responded to Churchill: “I most certainly agree that we must stand firm on a correct interpretation of the Crimean decision. You are quite correct in assuming that neither the Government nor the people of this country will support participation in a fraud or a mere whitewash of the Lublin government and the solution must be as we envisaged it in Yalta.”
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.”
Four days later, on March 27, the Soviet Peoples Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) arrested 16 Polish opposition political leaders who had been invited to participate in provisional government negotiations. The arrests were part of a trick employed by the NKVD, which flew the leaders to Moscow for a later show trial, followed by sentencing to a gulag. Churchill thereafter argued to Roosevelt that it was “as plain as a pike staff” that Moscow’s tactics were to drag out the period for holding free elections “while the Lublin Committee consolidate their power.” The Polish elections, held on January 16, 1947, resulted in Poland’s official transformation to a communist state by 1949.
Following Yalta, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov expressed worry that the Yalta Agreement’s wording might impede Stalin’s plans, Stalin responded, “Never mind. We’ll do it our own way later.” 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, such as the People’s Republic of Poland, the People’s Republic of Hungary, the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, the People’s Republic of Romania, the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, the People’s Republic of Albania, and later East Germany from the Soviet zone of German occupation. Eventually, the United States and the United Kingdom made concessions in recognizing the communist-dominated regions by sacrificing the substance of the Yalta Declaration although it remained in form.
Aborted enforcement plans
At some point in spring 1945, Churchill had commissioned a contingency military enforcement operation plan for war on the Soviet Union to obtain “square deal for Poland” (Operation Unthinkable), which resulted in a May 22 report that stated unfavorable success odds. The report’s arguments included geostrategic issues (a possible Soviet-Japanese alliance resulting in moving of Japanese troops from the Asian Continent to Home Islands, threat to Iran and Iraq) and uncertainties concerning land battles in Europe.
Potsdam and atomic bomb
The Potsdam Conference was held from July to August 1945, which included the participation of Clement Attlee, who had replaced Churchill as prime minister and President Harry S Truman (representing the United States after Roosevelt’s death). At Potsdam, the Soviets denied claims that they were interfering in the affairs of Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. The conference resulted in the Potsdam Declaration, regarding the surrender of Japan, and the Potsdam Agreement, regarding the Soviet annexation of former Polish territory east of the Curzon Line, provisions to be addressed in an eventual Final Treaty ending World War II, and the annexation of parts of Germany east of the Oder-Neisse line into Poland and of northern East Prussia into the Soviet Union.
Four months after Roosevelt died, President Harry Truman ordered the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
What did each of the ‘big three’ want from the meeting?
The three leaders had met 15 months earlier in the Iranian capital Tehran, where they had discussed ways to defeat Nazi Germany, agreed on an invasion of Normandy and had conversations around the Soviets’ entry into the Pacific War. The tentative beginnings of what a future peace settlement might look like had been made in Tehran, but it was at Yalta where the real discussions began.
Each leader sat down at Yalta with specific goals in mind. For Roosevelt, ending the ongoing war with Japan was of paramount importance, but to achieve this, he needed Stalin’s military help. The US president also wanted the Soviets to join the UN – a new global peacekeeping body – which it did, remaining a member until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Stalin’s priority at Yalta was to get his country back on its feet and increase its standing on the European political stage. The Soviet Union, whilst crushing German forces on the eastern front, had been devastated by the war, with an estimated 27 million Soviet citizens (around one in seven) killed during the conflict, and vast swathes of industry, farming, cities and homes obliterated. Stalin needed money to rebuild his battered country, and pressed for huge reparations from Germany, as well as spheres of influence in Eastern Europe to prevent further invasions, and ensure that Germany could never threaten world peace again.
Churchill, too, was keen to see an end to any future German threat, but he was also concerned about extending the power of the USSR and wanted to see fair and free government across Eastern Europe, especially in Poland,
in whose defense Britain had declared war with Germany in 1939. Both he and Truman were worried that inflicting huge reparations on Germany, as had been done after World War I, could, in the future, create a similar economic situation in the country that had led to the rise and acceptance of the Nazi Party. With differing priorities and world views, it was clearly going to be difficult for the Big Three to reach an agreement.
Why wasn’t French leader Charles de Gaulle present at the conference?
De Gaulle, by unanimous consent from all three leaders, was not invited to Yalta, nor to the Potsdam Conference a few months later; it was a diplomatic slight that created deep and lasting resentment. Stalin in particular felt that decisions about the future of Europe should be made by those powers who had sacrificed the most in the war. If France was allowed to participate at Yalta, other nations, too, would arguably have had an equal right to attend.
What had happened between the ending of the Yalta conference and the meeting at Potsdam?
Aside from Germany’s surrender in May 1945, the political landscape had changed considerably in the five months that had passed since Yalta. Roosevelt, who had been seriously ill at Yalta, had died of a massive brain haemorrhage in April 1945, so it was the new US President Harry Truman who travelled to Berlin, accompanied by his newly appointed Secretary of State James Byrnes.
Promises made at Yalta had also been rescinded. Despite pledging free Polish elections, Stalin was already making moves to install a communist government in that country and many Poles, both in Britain and elsewhere, felt they had been sold out by Truman and Churchill. And despite the Pacific War that was still raging in the East, Stalin had not yet declared war on Japan or provided military support to the US.
Initial reaction to the Yalta agreements was celebratory. Roosevelt and many other Americans viewed it as proof that the spirit of U.S.-Soviet wartime cooperation would carry over into the postwar period. This sentiment, however, was short lived. With the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 12, 1945, Harry S. Truman became the thirty-third president of the United States. By the end of April, the new administration clashed with the Soviets over their influence in Eastern Europe, and over the United Nations. Alarmed at the perceived lack of cooperation on the part of the Soviets, many Americans began to criticize Roosevelt’s handling of the Yalta negotiations. To this day, many of Roosevelt’s most vehement detractors accuse him of “handing over” Eastern Europe and Northeast Asia to the Soviet Union at Yalta despite the fact that the Soviets did make many substantial concessions.
As Churchill warned at Fulton, Missouri 13 months later, ‘an Iron Curtain’ was descending across the continent. It led to the brutal crushing of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968, and the imposition of martial law in Poland in 1981.
Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech did not just shape the thinking of generations of Cold Warriors in the West – from Konrad Adenauer and Robert Menzies to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. It also inadvertently recognised that Yalta was a failure. Ever since, Yalta has become a symbol of betrayal; a dirty word in diplomacy. ‘No more Yaltas’ became the new diplomatic orthodoxy. A costly lesson in Western gullibility, Russian duplicity, and great power deals at the expense of the weak, it was said. If only Washington and London had been tougher on the Soviets. If only FDR and Churchill had been more suspicious of Stalin.
George W Bush reflected the accepted wisdom in 2005 when he declared Yalta as ‘one of the greatest wrongs of history.’ At Riga in May 2005, the US President insisted: ‘We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations – appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability.’
The issues that have made Yalta so controversial are as relevant today. They confront Barack Obama, David Cameron, Angela Merkel and other Western leaders in their standoff with Russia. What should have been asked about Stalin 70 years ago this week has been asked about Putin today: can Moscow be trusted? Can Russian ambitions be limited by diplomacy? Will the Kremlin honour agreements?
But there is a difference between the Soviet Union and post-Cold War Russia. Stalin’s intervention in Eastern Europe was designed to transform the international state system in his communist image; Putin’s incursion into Ukraine is a way to protect a buffer zone. Stalin was not responding to any Western encroachment upon Russia’s near abroad; Putin is responding to years of NATO and EU expansion that culminated in the Western-backed coup to topple a democratically elected pro-Russian government in Kiev a year ago.
The West’s containment of the USSR was a great ideological and geopolitical cause; pushing Russia into a corner is pointless and playing with fire. In dealing with the Soviet Union, a genuinely imperialistic power, compromise and accommodation represented weakness. But in dealing with Putin’s Russia, a traditional great power with modest regional ambitions and legitimate security interests, compromise and accommodation make sense.
At Yalta 70 years ago, FDR and Churchill were driven to a fallacious deal by recognition of what they perceived to be common interests. Just because that plan failed does not mean the need for a similar US-Russian compromise over Ukraine is any less urgent today.
At Yalta, a wary Churchill and ill and weakened Roosevelt gave the Soviets rights to Berlin. The agreement provided a mechanism for dividing the city into four quadrants and allowed the Russians to enter Berlin while the American and British forces stood idly by creating long-lasting chaos and tragedy.
The Yalta agreement forced the repatriation of thousands of Soviet citizens and implicitly accepted the Stalinist domination of central and eastern Europe after the war. The more specific question here: is what are the limits of modus vivendi, and of compromise more generally, from a pluralist perspective?
One answer can be ruled out immediately, the idea that certain values or causes are ‘sacred’. In this connection, Margalit refers to ‘religious’ models of politics which make certain goals holy or overriding all other values in al;l circumstances. Peace, for example, can be such a sacred goal in the hands of pacifists. But, of course, this kind of view is the antithesis of value pluralism, which denies that any good is overriding.
A second answer is that the limits of compromise are set by the minimal norms implicit in universal values. In this way, Gray argues that Munich Agreement was not a legitimate modus vivendi because it was imposed by the Nazis, whose norms fall short of ‘minimal standards of decency and legitimacy that apply to all contemporary regimes’. These minimal standards are demanding enough to exclude regimes like those of the Nazis but also relaxed enough to admit many non-liberal outlooks. ‘In contemporary circumstances’, they include the rule of the law, a capacity to maintain peace, effective representative institutions, popular accountability, satisfaction of basic needs, protection of minorities from disadvantage, and institutions that reflect a common way of life. Why should we believe that Gray’s minimal standards are anything more than his own personal preferences, or indeed the assumptions of a liberal order that he claims is valid only locally?
A more systematic version of Gray’s position could be constructed by grounding the minimal standards to which he refers in some more substantial account of ‘the great goods’. Nussbaum’s central human capabilities, for example, may provide such an account. However, there are wo major problems with relying on such a move. First, the content of the great goods is disputed. Second, even where that content is agreed upon, the problem of value pluralism arises when the great goods come into conflict. The idea of the universal minimum gets us so far and no further, circling back to the familiar problem of how to resolve conflicts of fundamental and incommensurable values.
A third way of defining the limits of modus vivendi, and of compromise more broadly, is advanced by Margalit with his notion of ‘rotten compromises’. These must never be agreed to, whatever the circumstances. The rotten compromise is like ‘a cockroach in the soup’. No matter what merits the soup may have, the cockroach makes it inedible. So rottenness is a limit on modus vivendi: ‘rotten compromises are not allowed, even for the sake of peace’. The same thought apples to any compromise: ‘rotten compromise must be avoided, come what may’.
What is a rotten compromise? Mrgalit offered this basic definition: ‘I see a rotten compromise as an agreement to establish or maintain an inhuman regime, a regime of cruelty and humiliation, that is, a regime that does not treat humans as humans’. Any compromise that brings aid and comfort to an inhuman regime is rotten. The definitive inhuman or rotten regime is that of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia, and the definitive rotten compromise are the Munich Agreement and the Yalta Compromise.
The test for a regime’s inhumanity appears to be fundamentally Kantian: to fail to treat humans as humans is to use people merely as means to an end, as instruments without the capacity for forming legitimate purposes of their own. Inhumanity will also, of course, include treating people as subhuman or animals or mere obstacles to desirable ends. Such conduct includes ‘crimes against humanity’, which consist of offences that go beyond ‘the mild form of institutional humiliation’ that marks a merely ‘indecent’ society and cross into a region of ‘grave cruelty and humiliation’ that ‘undermine the notion of shared humanity.
Moreover, inhuman regimes act in ways that violate not only particular moral rules but also the whole concept of morality itself. ‘Attacking the idea of shared humanity…is attacking a constitutive element of morality as the domain that should regulate all human relations’. The constitutive element in question is the inclusion of all human beings in the category of compromise need to have regard not only to the nature of the regime or party one is compromising with, but also to the consequences both of compromising and refusing to compromise.
Liberal pluralists will regard A Margalit’s test for rottenness–whether the regime one is dealing with is inhuman as measured by whether it respects persons–with some ambivalence. On the one hand, the idea of there being compromises that should never be made suggests an absolute formula that must be applied to every case–a monist approach. On the other hand, liberals will be wary of any compromising of the principle of respect for persons. Countervailing considerations would have to be exceptionally strong to justify any trading off of such a fundamental value.
Nevertheless, respect for persons cannot be an absolute value on the pluralist view, because there are no absolute values on that view. It may help to note that a Kantian respect for persons is not a mystical notion to be worshipped for its own sake but a principle that rests on the reasoned claim that human beings are uniquely valuable. Uniquely valuable in what way/ Various answers have been attempted: rationality, autonomy, and so forth. But whatever these unique values might be, pluralists will ask why they should be ranked above other values.
A reasonable conclusion is that while a very strong presumption in favor of respect for persons is consistent with pluralism, that presumption can be rebutted in sufficiently exigent circumstances. The presumption is not rebutted in the cases of the Munich Agreement or the Yalta Conference which treats thousands of people as pawns in exchange for no credible benefit, since neither Hitler nor Stalin could be trusted.
en.wikipedia.com, “The Yalta Conference.” By Wikipedia Editors; history.state.gov, “The Yalta Conference, 1945”; lowyinstitute.org, “70 years on, lessons from Yalta.” By Tom Switzer; “The Problem of Value Pluralism.:” By George Crowder;
The Casablanca Conference (codenamed SYMBOL) or Anfa Conference was held at the Anfa Hotel in Casablanca, French Morocco, from January 14 to 24, 1943, to plan the Allied European strategy for the next phase of World War II. In attendance were United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston Churchill. Also attending were the sovereign of Morocco Sultan Muhammad V and representing the Free French forces Generals Charles de Gaulle and Henri Giraud, but they played minor roles and were not part of the military planning. USSR general secretary Joseph Stalin declined to attend, citing the ongoing Battle of Stalingrad as requiring his presence in the Soviet Union.
The conference’s agenda addressed the specifics of tactical procedure, allocation of resources, and the broader issues of diplomatic policy. The debate and negotiations produced what was known as the Casablanca Declaration, and perhaps its most historically provocative statement of purpose, “unconditional surrender“. That doctrine came to represent the unified voice of implacable Allied will and the determination that the Axis powers would be fought to their ultimate defeat.
Casablanca Declaration of “unconditional surrender”
The conference produced a unified statement of purpose, the Casablanca Declaration. It announced to the world that the Allies would accept nothing less than the “unconditional surrender” of the Axis powers. Roosevelt had borrowed the term from US Army General Ulysses S. Grant (known as “Unconditional Surrender” Grant ), who had communicated that stance to the Confederate States Army commander during the American Civil War. So Roosevelt stated at the concluding press conference on 24 January that the Allies were demanding “unconditional surrender” from the Germans, the Italians and the Japanese.
In a February 12, 1943 radio address, Roosevelt explained what he meant by unconditional surrender: “we mean no harm to the common people of the Axis nations. But we do mean to impose punishment and retribution upon their guilty, barbaric leaders”.
It has been claimed that behind the scenes, the United States and the United Kingdom were divided in the commitment to see the war through to Germany’s capitulation and “unconditional surrender”. But Churchill was consulted and had agreed in advance about “unconditional surrender”; he had cabled the War Cabinet four days earlier and they had not objected. US General George Marshall also said that he had been consulted; he had stated on 7 January that Allied morale would be strengthened by the uncompromising demand, and Stalin’s suspicions allayed”.
However some source material contradicts the official reported accord between Churchill and Roosevelt, claiming that Churchill did not fully subscribe to the doctrine of “unconditional surrender”. The New York Times correspondent Drew Middleton, who was in Casablanca at the conference, later revealed in his book, Retreat From Victory, that Churchill had been “startled by the [public] announcement [of unconditional surrender]. I tried to hide my surprise. But I was his [Roosevelt’s] ardent lieutenant”.
According to former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union Charles Bohlen, “Responsibility for this unconditional surrender doctrine rests almost exclusively with President Roosevelt”. He guessed that Roosevelt made the announcement “to keep Soviet forces engaged with Germany on the Russian front, thus depleting German munitions and troops” and also “to prevent Stalin from negotiating a separate peace with the Nazi regime”.
That the war would be fought by the Allies until the total annihilation of enemy forces was not universally welcomed. Diplomatic insiders were critical that such a stance was too unequivocal and inflexible, would prevent any opportunity for political maneuvering and would be morally debilitating to French and German resistance groups.
The British felt that arriving at some accommodation with Germany would allow the German Army to help fight off a Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe. To Churchill and the other Allied leaders, the real obstacle to realizing that mutual strategy with Germany was the leadership of Adolf Hitler. Allen Dulles, the chief of OSS intelligence in Bern, Switzerland, maintained that the Casablanca Declaration was “merely a piece of paper to be scrapped without further ado if Germany would sue for peace. Hitler had to go”.
There is evidence that German resistance forces, highly placed anti-Nazi government officials, were working with British intelligence, MI6, to eliminate Hitler and negotiate a peace with the Allies. One such man was Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of German intelligence, the Abwehr. His persistent overtures for support from the United States were ignored by Roosevelt.
Topics of discussion and agreements
Roosevelt, with advice from General George C. Marshall, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, lobbied for a cross-Channel invasion of Europe. Churchill, with advice from the British Chiefs of Staff, led by General Sir Alan Brooke, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS, the professional head of the British Army), felt the time was not opportune, and favored an Allied assault on the island of Sicily followed by an invasion of mainland Italy. The British argument centred on the need to pull German reserves down into Italy where, due to the relatively poor north–south lines of communication, they could not be easily extracted to defend against a later invasion of northwest Europe. Additionally, by delaying the cross-Channel landing, it would mean that any invasion would be against a German army further weakened by many more months’ fighting on the Eastern Front against the Red Army.
Throughout the conference, Roosevelt’s attention was prominently focused on the Pacific War front and he faulted the British for what he felt was not a full commitment against Japanese entrenchment. The Italian strategy was agreed upon, a compromise between the two leaders, Roosevelt acceding to Churchill’s approach for Europe. Churchill, in turn, pledged more troops and resources to the Pacific and Burma to reinforce positions held by Chiang Kai-shek against the Japanese. The United States would provide assistance to the British in the Pacific by supplying escorts and landing craft.
- Next phase of European war
- All possible aid would be provided to the Russian offensive
- Assessment of U-boat danger in the Atlantic
- Disposition of ships, planes, troops in the various theatres of war
- Joseph Stalin and Chiang Kai-shek would be fully apprised of the conference agenda and resulting accords
Leadership of Free French forces
Charles de Gaulle had to be forced to attend, and he met a chilly reception from Roosevelt and Churchill. No French representatives were allowed to attend the military planning sessions.
The conference called for the official recognition of a joint leadership of the Free French forces by de Gaulle and Henri Giraud. There was notable tension between the two men, who limited their interactions to formalities like pledging their mutual support. Roosevelt encouraged them to shake hands for the photographers eager for a photo opportunity, but the ritual handshake was with reluctance and done so quickly that they reportedly had to pose for a second shot. Roosevelt would later describe this meeting between the French leaders as a “shotgun wedding”.
Elliott Roosevelt’s book, As He Saw It (1946) describes how Franklin Roosevelt wanted the French provisional government to be set up with Giraud and de Gaulle, who would be “equally responsible for its composition and welfare.” (89) That is because Franklin Roosevelt saw de Gaulle as Churchill’s puppet and thought that Giraud would be more compliant with US interests. Complications arose because most people in the French Resistance considered de Gaulle the undisputed leader of the Resistance and so Giraud was progressively dispossessed of his political and military roles. Roosevelt eventually recognized de Gaulle as the head of the Free French in mid-1944.
Plans for postwar northern Africa
The day before, Roosevelt became the first US president to visit Africa when he stayed at the city of Bathurst, Gambia. The abhorrent situation of Gambians under the British Empire further increased his anti-colonialism, leading him to further discuss and impress upon Churchill the need for an international trusteeship system that would advance colonies like Gambia towards independence.
“[t]he number of Jews engaged in the practice of the professions (law, medicine, etc.) should be definitely limited to the percentage that the Jewish population in North Africa bears to the whole of the North African population…. [T]his plan would further eliminate the specific and understandable complaints which the Germans bore towards the Jews in Germany, namely, that while they represented a small part of the population, over 50 percent of the lawyers, doctors, schoolteachers, college professors, etc., in Germany were Jews.”
This disposition of the Jewish population harkened back to a mindset communicated in earlier years to Roosevelt by the American ambassador to Germany, William Dodd (1933–37). Dodd had appraised Germany’s repression of Jews, and writing to Roosevelt, he said: “The Jews had held a great many more of the key positions in Germany than their number or talents entitled them to.”
Roosevelt presented the results of the conference to the American people in a radio address on February 12, 1943.
During the return trip to the United States, President Roosevelt met with the President of Brazil, Getúlio Vargas, at the Potenji River Conference, where they discussed Brazil’s participation in the war effort and defined the agreements that led to the creation of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. The conference took place aboard the USS Humboldt in the Potenji River harbor in Natal, on January 28 and 29, 1943.
The Cairo Conference (codenamed Sextant) occurring November 22–26, 1943, held in Cairo, Egypt, outlined the Allied position against the Empire of Japan during World War II and made decisions about postwar Asia.
The conference was proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States as worries grew that the Republic of China was faltering under heavy inflation and chronically low morale. Roosevelt wanted to give China the status of the fourth Great Power after the war, shoring up Sino-American relations amidst conflict between the overall commander of US forces in China Joseph Stilwell and generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.
The meeting was attended by Roosevelt, Chiang and Winston Churchill, prime minister of the United Kingdom. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin did not attend the conference as his meeting with Chiang could have caused friction between the Soviet Union and the Empire of Japan (the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact of 1941 was a five-year agreement of neutrality between the two nations; in 1943 the Soviet Union was not yet at war with Japan, whereas China, the UK and the US were).
The Cairo Declaration was issued on 27 November 1943 and released in a Cairo Communiqué through radio on 1 December 1943, stating the Allies’ intentions to continue deploying military force until Japan’s unconditional surrender. The main clauses of the Cairo Declaration are that the three great allies are fighting this war to restrain and punish the aggression of Japan, they covet no gain for themselves and won’t involve themselves in territorial expansion wars after the conflict, “Japan be stripped of all the islands in the Pacific which she has seized or occupied since the beginning of the First World War in 1914″, “all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa, and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China“, Japan will also be expelled from all other territories which she has taken by violence and greed and that “in due course Korea shall become free and independent”.
The Tehran Conference (codenamed Eureka) was a strategy meeting of Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill from 28 November to 1 December 1943, after the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran. It was held in the Soviet Union‘s embassy in Tehran, Iran (then known as Persia). It was the first of the World War II conferences of the “Big Three” Allied leaders (the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom). It closely followed the Cairo Conference which had taken place on 22–26 November 1943, and preceded the 1945 Yalta and Potsdam conferences. Although the three leaders arrived with differing objectives, the main outcome of the Tehran Conference was the Western Allies’ commitment to open a second front against Nazi Germany. The conference also addressed the ‘Big Three’ Allies’ relations with Turkey and Iran, operations in Yugoslavia and against Japan, and the envisaged post-war settlement. A separate protocol signed at the conference pledged the Big Three to recognize Iran’s independence.
As soon as the German-Soviet war broke out in June 1941, Churchill offered assistance to the Soviets, and an agreement to this effect was signed on 12 July 1941. However, Churchill in a spoken radio transmission announcing the alliance with the USSR, reminded listeners that this alliance would not change his stance against communism. Delegations had traveled between London and Moscow to arrange the implementation of this support and when the United States joined the war in December 1941, the delegations met in Washington as well. A Combined Chiefs of Staff committee was created to coordinate British and American operations as well as their support to the Soviet Union. The consequences of a global war, the absence of a unified Allied strategy and the complexity of allocating resources between Europe and Asia had not yet been sorted out, and soon gave rise to mutual suspicions between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union. There was the question of opening a second front to alleviate the German pressure on the Soviet Red Army on the Eastern Front, the question of mutual assistance (where both Britain and the Soviet Union were looking towards the United States for credit and material support and there was tension between the United States and Britain since Washington had no desire to prop up the British Empire in the event of an Allied victory). Also, neither the United States nor Britain were prepared to give Stalin a free hand in Eastern Europe and, lastly, there was no common policy on how to deal with Germany after Hitler. Communications regarding these matters between Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin took place by telegrams and via emissaries—but it was evident that direct negotiations were urgently needed.
Stalin was reluctant to leave Moscow and was unwilling to risk journeys by air, while Roosevelt was physically disabled and found travel difficult. Churchill was an avid traveler and, as part of an ongoing series of wartime conferences, had already met with Roosevelt five times in North America and twice in Africa and had also held two prior meetings with Stalin in Moscow. In order to arrange this urgently needed meeting, Roosevelt tried to persuade Stalin to travel to Cairo. Stalin turned down this offer and also offers to meet in Baghdad or Basra, finally agreeing to meet in Tehran in November 1943.
Tehran, Iran, Dec. 1943—Front row: Marshal Stalin, President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill on the portico of the Soviet Embassy—Back row: General H.H. Arnold, Chief of the U.S. Army Air Force; General Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff; Admiral Cunningham, First Sea Lord; Admiral William Leahy, Chief of staff to President Roosevelt, during the Tehran Conference
The conference was to convene at 16:00 on 28 November 1943. Stalin arrived well before, followed by Roosevelt, brought in his wheelchair from his accommodation adjacent to the venue. Roosevelt, who had traveled 11,000 kilometres (7,000 miles) to attend and whose health was already deteriorating, was met by Stalin. This was the first time that they had met. Churchill, walking with his general staff from their accommodations nearby, arrived half an hour later. According to Roosevelt’s interpreter, Charles Bohlen, Roosevelt was accompanied by Harry Hopkins, who had served as Roosevelt’s personal emissary to Churchill, and W. Averell Harriman, the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union. Stalin was accompanied by Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov and military leader Kliment Voroshilov. Churchill brought Foreign Office official Anthony Eden and chief military assistant Hastings Ismay, in addition to his interpreter Arthur Birse. The Shah of Iran, shortly after his father’s forced abdication during the Anglo-Soviet Invasion of Iran, meeting with American president Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Conference The Shah of Iran (center), pictured to the right of Joseph Stalin at the Tehran Conference (1943)
As Stalin had been advocating for a second front since 1941, he was very pleased and felt that he had accomplished his principal goal for the meeting. Moving on, Stalin agreed to enter the war against Japan once Germany was defeated.
Stalin pressed for a revision of Poland’s eastern border with the Soviet Union to match the line set by British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon in 1920. In order to compensate Poland for the resulting loss of territory, the three leaders agreed to move the German-Polish border to the Oder and Neisse rivers. This decision was not formally ratified, however, until the Potsdam Conference of 1945.
The leaders then turned to the conditions under which the Western Allies would open a new front by invading northern France (Operation Overlord), as Stalin had pressed them to do since 1941. Up to this point Churchill had advocated the expansion of joint operations of British, American, and Commonwealth forces in the Mediterranean, as opening a new western front had been physically impossible due to a lack of existing shipping routes, leaving the Mediterranean and Italy as viable goals for 1943. It was agreed Operation Overlord would be launched by American and British forces by May 1944 and that Stalin would support the Allies with a concurrent major offensive on Germany’s eastern front (Operation Bagration) to divert German forces from northern France.
Additional offensives were also discussed to complement the undertaking of Operation Overlord, including the possible allied invasion of southern France prior to the landings at Normandy with the goal of drawing German forces away from the northern beaches and even a possible strike at the northern tip of the Adriatic to circumvent the Alps and drive towards Vienna. Either plan would have relied on Allied divisions engaged against the German army in Italy at the time of the conference.
The Three Governments realize that the war has caused special economic difficulties for Iran, and they all agreed that they will continue to make available to the Government of Iran such economic assistance as may be possible, having regard to the heavy demands made upon them by their world-wide military operations, and to the world-wide shortage of transport, raw materials, and supplies for civilian consumption.
In addition, the Soviet Union was required to pledge support to Turkey if that country entered the war. Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin agreed that it would also be most desirable if Turkey entered on the Allies’ side before the year was out.
Churchill argued for the invasion of Italy in 1943, then Overlord in 1944, on the basis that Overlord was physically impossible in 1943 due to lack of shipping and it would be unthinkable to do anything major until it could be launched. Churchill proposed to Stalin a moving westwards of Poland, which Stalin accepted, which gave the Poles industrialized German land to the west and gave up marshlands to the east, while providing a territorial buffer to the Soviet Union against invasion. Churchill’s plan involved a border along the Oder and the Eastern Neisse, giving Poland a fair compensation for the Eastern Borderlands in Churchill’s view.
Before the Tripartite Dinner Meeting of 29 November 1943 at the Conference, Churchill presented Stalin with a specially commissioned ceremonial sword (the “Sword of Stalingrad“, made in Sheffield), as a gift from King George VI to the citizens of Stalingrad and the Soviet people, commemorating the Soviet victory at Stalingrad. When Stalin received the sheathed sword, he took it with both hands and kissed the scabbard. (He then handed it to Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, who mishandled it, causing the sword to fall to the ground.)
Stalin proposed executing 50,000–100,000 German officers so that Germany could not plan another war. Roosevelt, believing Stalin was not serious, joked that “maybe 49,000 would be enough”. Churchill, however, was outraged and denounced “the cold blooded execution of soldiers who fought for their country”. He said that only war criminals should be put on trial in accordance with the Moscow Document, which he himself had written. He stormed out of the room, but was brought back in by Stalin who said he was joking. Churchill was glad Stalin had relented, but thought Stalin was testing the waters.
Three powers come together
On 1 December 1943, the three leaders came together and made declarations, and negotiated the following military conclusions at the conference.
The declaration of the three powers regarding Iran:
Iran was going to war with Germany, a common enemy to the three powers. Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt addressed the issue of Iran’s special financial needs during the war and the possibility of needing aid after the war. The three powers declared to continue to render aid to Iran. The Government of Iran and the three powers reach an accord within all the disagreements to maintain the independence, sovereignty, and integrity of Iran. The United States, USSR, and the United Kingdom expect Iran to follow along with the other allied nations to establish peace once the war is over, this is what was agreed upon once the declaration was made.
- The Yugoslav Partisans also known as National Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia should be supported by supplies and equipment to the maximum extent and also by commando operations.
- The leaders exclaimed that it would be desirable if Turkey should come into the war on the side of the Allies before the end of the year.
- The leaders took note of Stalin’s statement that if Turkey found herself at war with Germany, and as a result, Bulgaria declared war on Turkey or attacked her, the Soviet Union would immediately be at war with Bulgaria. The Conference further took note that this could be mentioned in the forthcoming negotiations to bring Turkey into the war.
- The cross-channel invasion of France (Operation Overlord) would be launched during May 1944, in conjunction with an operation against southern France (Operation Dragoon). The latter operation would be undertaken in as great a strength as the availability of landing-craft permitted. The Conference further took note of Joseph Stalin’s statement that the Soviet forces would launch an offensive (Operation Bagration) at about the same time with the object of preventing the German forces from transferring from the Eastern to the Western Front. Overlord was to be on 1 June, but because of the moon and tides required it slipped to 5 June.
- The leaders agreed that the military staff of the Three Powers should keep in close touch with each other in regard to the impending operations in Europe. In particular, it was agreed that a cover plan to mislead the enemy about these operations should be concerted between the staff concerned.
Stalin and Churchill discussed the future borders of Poland and settled on the Curzon line in the east and the Oder-Eastern Neisse line in the west. FDR had asked to be excused from any discussion of Poland out of consideration for the effects of any decision on Polish voters in the US and the upcoming 1944 election. This decision was not ratified until the Potsdam Conference of 1945.
During the negotiations at the Tehran Conference, Roosevelt secured the reincorporation of the Republics of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia into the Soviet Union only after the citizens voted on these actions. Stalin would not consent to any international control over the elections, and that all issues would have to be resolved in accordance with the Soviet Constitution.
The Yugoslav Partisans were given full Allied support, and Allied support to the Yugoslav Chetniks was halted (they were believed to be cooperating with the occupying Germans rather than fighting them); see Yugoslavia and the Allies.
The Communist Partisans under Tito took power in Yugoslavia as the Germans gradually retreated from the Balkans in 1944–45.
Turkey’s president conferred with Roosevelt and Churchill at the Cairo Conference in November 1943, and promised to enter the war when his country was fully armed. By August 1944 Turkey broke off relations with Germany. In February 1945, Turkey declared war on Germany and Japan, which may have been a symbolic move that allowed Turkey to join the future United Nations.
Roosevelt and Stalin spent much of the conference trying to convince Churchill to commit to an invasion of France, finally succeeding on 30 November when Roosevelt announced at lunch that they would be launching the invasion in May 1944. This pleased Stalin, who had been pressing his allies to open a new front in the west to alleviate some pressure on his troops. This decision may be the most critical to come out of this conference, as the desired effect of the relief of Soviet troops was achieved, leading to a Soviet rally and advance toward Germany, a tide Hitler could not stem.
The Tehran Conference also served as one of the first conversations surrounding the formation of the United Nations. President Roosevelt first introduced Stalin to the idea of an international organization comprising all nation states, a venue for the resolution of common issues, and a check against international aggressors. With Germany having thrust the world into chaos for the second time in as many generations, the three world leaders all agreed that something must be done to prevent a similar occurrence.
Division of Germany
There was a shared view among the participants that Germany would need to be divided post war, with the sides differing on the number of divisions needed to neutralize her ability to wage war. While the numbers that were proposed varied widely and never came to fruition, the powers would effectively divide modern Germany into two parts until the end of the Cold War. During one dinner, Churchill questioned Stalin on his postwar territorial ambitions, to which Stalin replied “There is no need to speak at this present time about any Soviet Desires, but when the time comes we will speak”.
Soviet entry into the Pacific War
On 29 November, Roosevelt asked Stalin five questions about data and intelligence relating to Japanese and Siberian ports, and about air bases in the Maritime Provinces for up to 1,000 heavy bombers. On 2 February, Stalin told the American ambassador that America could operate 1,000 bombers from Siberia after the Soviet Union had declared war on Japan (Vladivostok is in the Russian Far East, not Siberia).
Alleged assassination plot
According to Soviet reports, German agents planned to kill the Big Three leaders at the Tehran Conference, but called off the assassination while it was still in the planning stage. The NKVD, the USSR’s counterintelligence unit, first notified Mike Reilly, Roosevelt’s chief of security, of the suspected assassination plot several days before Roosevelt’s arrival in Tehran. Reilly had gone to Tehran several days early to evaluate security concerns and explore potential routes from Cairo to Tehran. Just before Reilly returned to Cairo, the NKVD informed him that dozens of Germans had been dropped into Tehran by parachute the day before. The NKVD suspected German agents were planning to kill the Big Three leaders at the Tehran Conference.
When housing accommodations for the meeting were originally discussed, both Stalin and Churchill had extended invitations to Roosevelt, asking him to stay with them during the meeting. However, Roosevelt wanted to avoid the appearance of choosing one ally over another and decided it was important to stay at the American legation to remain independent. Roosevelt arrived in Tehran on 27 November 1943 and settled into the American legation. Close to midnight, Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin’s top aide, summoned Archibald Clark-Kerr (the British ambassador in the Soviet Union) and Averell Harriman (the American ambassador in the Soviet Union) to the Soviet embassy, warning them of an assassination plot against Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. Molotov informed them several assassins had been apprehended, but reported additional assassins were at large and expressed concerns for President Roosevelt’s safety. Molotov advised Roosevelt should be moved to the safety of the British or Soviet embassy.
Americans suspected Stalin had fabricated the assassination plot as an excuse to have Roosevelt moved to the Soviet embassy. Mike Reilly, Roosevelt’s chief of Secret Service, advised him to move to either the Soviet or British embassies for his safety. One of the underlying factors influencing their decision was the distance Churchill and Stalin would need to travel for meetings at the American legation. Harriman reminded the President that the Americans would be held responsible if Stalin or Churchill were assassinated while traveling to visit Roosevelt all the way across the city. Earlier that day, Molotov had agreed to hold all meetings at the American legation because traveling was difficult for Roosevelt. The timing of Molotov announcing an assassination plot later that night aroused suspicion that his motives were to keep Stalin safely within the guarded walls of the Soviet embassy. Harriman doubted the existence of an assassination plot, but urged the President to relocate to avoid the perception of putting Churchill and Stalin in danger. Roosevelt did not believe there was a credible threat of assassination, but agreed to the move so he could be closer to Stalin and Churchill. Living in the Soviet embassy also allowed Roosevelt to gain more direct access to Stalin and build his trust. Stalin liked having Roosevelt in the embassy because it eliminated the need to travel outside the compound and it allowed him to spy on Roosevelt more easily. The Soviet embassy was guarded by thousands of secret police and located adjacent to the British embassy, which allowed the Big Three to meet securely.
After the Tehran Conference ended, Harriman asked Molotov whether there was really ever an assassination threat in Tehran. Molotov said that they knew about German agents in Tehran, but did not know of a specific assassination plot. Molotov’s response minimized their assertions of an assassination plot, instead emphasizing that Stalin thought President Roosevelt would be safer at the Soviet embassy. American and British intelligence reports generally dismissed the existence of this plot and Otto Skorzeny, the alleged leader of the operation, later claimed that Hitler had dismissed the idea as unworkable before planning had even begun. The topic continues to be a theme of certain Russian historians.
The Second Quebec Conference (codenamed “OCTAGON”) was a high-level military conference held during World War II by the British and American governments. The conference was held in Quebec City, September 12 – September 16, 1944, and was the second conference to be held in Quebec, after “QUADRANT” in August 1943. The chief representatives were Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Canada’s Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was the host but did not attend the key meetings.
Agreements were reached on the following topics: Allied occupation zones in defeated Germany, the Morgenthau Plan to demilitarize Germany, continued U.S. Lend-Lease aid to Britain, and the role of the Royal Navy in the war against Japan. Based on the Hyde Park Aide-Mémoire, they made plans to drop the atomic bomb on Japan.
Moscow Conference (1944)
Churchill made a secret proposal on a scrap of paper to divide postwar Europe into Western and Soviet spheres of influence. Stalin examined the scrap of paper and pondered it for a moment, wrote a large check in blue pencil and handed it back to Churchill. Churchill commented: “Might it not be thought rather cynical if it seemed we had disposed of such issues, so fateful to millions of people, in such an offhand manner? Let us burn the paper”. Stalin counselled, however, to save the historic scrap of paper. Churchill called the scrap of paper a “naughty document”, which came to be known as the “Percentages agreement“.
These originally-proposed spheres of influence that Churchill were nominated to Stalin in percentages:
- Romania = 90% Russian and 10% The Others,
- Greece = 90% Great Britain (in accord with USA) and Russian 10%,
- Yugoslavia = 50-50%,
- Hungary = 50-50%,
- Bulgaria = 75% Russian and 25% The Others, and
- Poland is ‘briefly discussed before moving on to the Balkans’ – according to the 1974 journal article by Albert Resis on the 1953 vol. 6 memoirs, Triumph and Tragedy, by Winston Churchill. The known status of Poland after the war shows that Churchill did not press Soviet expectations and capitulated on the matter swiftly.
The US ambassador to the Soviet Union, representing President Roosevelt, Averell Harriman, was not present for the discussions, but Churchill informed Roosevelt on 10 October of an agreement after more deliberations. However, it is not certain to what extent the true details were made known at the time. Roosevelt was conditionally supportive but was ultimately unhappy with the level of US influence in the Balkans, specifically Bulgaria, which was the sticking point for the discussion. That resulted in the original percentages being haggled over for some days.
A significant consequence of the agreement was the Cold War, according to Resis, because of its prewar imperialist thought of Churchill and Stalin. It removed the free choice of Eastern Europe and Mediterranean peoples from choosing their own path forward free from Nazi occupation.
The proposed percentage division was never mentioned at Yalta Conference or other meetings. Leffler states that it “confirmed that Eastern Europe, initially at least, would lie within the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union”. However, the British historian Andrew Roberts stated: the Second Moscow Conference was not able to resolve major issues and Eastern Europe, and when Churchill did complete his percentages deal with Stalin, it was not ratified by the Americans.
Stalin agreed that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan, and the British agreed to return to the Soviets all former Soviet citizens who had been liberated from the Germans.
The chief representatives for the Soviet Union at the conference were Joseph Stalin, the Soviet premier, and Vyacheslav Molotov the Soviet foreign minister. The United Kingdom‘s principal representatives were Winston Churchill, the prime minister, and Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary. Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke was also present, as were the United States ambassador to Moscow, Averell Harriman, and General John R. Deane, head of the United States Military Mission in Moscow as observers.
Yalta Conference (See Above)
A conference session including Clement Attlee, Ernest Bevin, Joseph Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, William D. Leahy, Joseph E. Davies, James F. Byrnes, and Harry S. Truman From left to right, first row: Premier Joseph Stalin; President Harry Truman, Soviet Ambassador to the United States Andrei Gromyko, Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. Second row: Brigadier General Harry H. Vaughan, Truman’s confidant and military aide, Russian interpreter Charles Bohlen, Truman naval aide James K. Vardaman Jr., and (partially obscured) Charles Griffith Ross Sitting (from left): Clement Attlee, Harry S. Truman, Joseph Stalin, and behind: Fleet Admiral William Daniel Leahy, Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, and Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov Cecilienhof, site of the Potsdam Conference, pictured in 2014.
What was the Potsdam declaration?
Though Germany was the focus at Potsdam, on 26 July the US, Britain and China issued the Potsdam Declaration: an ultimatum calling for the unconditional surrender of Japan. Stalin, not being at war with Japan, was not party to it. The Japanese did not surrender, and just days after the conference ended, the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – which ultimately did what the Potsdam Declaration could not. Within weeks, Stalin had accelerated his own nuclear weapons programme, detonating its first atomic bomb – First Lightning – at a remote test site in Kazakhstan on 29 August 1949. The stage for the Cold War had been set.
The Potsdam Conference (German: Potsdamer Konferenz) was held in Potsdam, Germany, from July 17 to August 2, 1945 to allow the three leading Allies to plan the postwar peace, while avoiding the mistakes of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. The participants were the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They were represented respectively by Premier Joseph Stalin, Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee, and President Harry S. Truman. They gathered to decide how to administer Germany, which had agreed to an unconditional surrender nine weeks earlier. The goals of the conference also included establishing the postwar order, solving issues on the peace treaty, and countering the effects of the war.
The foreign ministers and aides played key roles: Vyacheslav Molotov, Anthony Eden and Ernest Bevin, and James F. Byrnes. From July 17 to July 25, nine meetings were held, when the Conference was interrupted for two days, as the results of the British general election were announced. By July 28, Attlee had defeated Churchill and replaced him as Britain’s representative, with Britain’s new Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Ernest Bevin, replacing Anthony Eden. Four days of further discussion followed. During the conference, there were meetings of the three heads of government with their foreign secretaries, as well as meetings of only the foreign secretaries. Committees that were appointed by the latter for precursory consideration of questions before the conference also met daily.During the Conference, Truman was secretly informed that the Trinity test of the first atomic bomb on July 16 had been successful. He hinted to Stalin that the U.S. was about to use a new kind of weapon against the Japanese. Though this was the first time the Soviets had been officially given information about the atomic bomb, Stalin was already aware of the bomb project, having learned about it through espionage long before Truman did.
Key final decisions included: Germany would be divided into four occupation zones (among the three powers and France); Germany’s border was to be shifted west to the Oder–Neisse line; a Soviet-backed group was recognized as the legitimate government of Poland; and Vietnam was to be partitioned at the 16th parallel. The Soviets also reaffirmed their Yalta promise to promptly launch an invasion of Japanese-held areas.
Views were also exchanged on a plethora of other questions. However, consideration of those matters was postponed into the Council of Foreign Ministers, which was now established. The conference ended with a stronger relationship between the three governments as a consequence of their collaboration, which renewed confidence that together with the other United Nations, they would ensure the creation of a just and enduring peace. Nevertheless within 18 months relations deteriorated badly and the Cold War emerged.
Relationships among leaders
A number of changes had taken place in the five months since the Yalta Conference and greatly affected the relationships among the leaders. The Soviets occupied Central and Eastern Europe, and the Red Army effectively controlled the Baltic States, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania. Refugees fled from those countries. Stalin had set up a puppet communist government in Poland, insisted that his control of Eastern Europe was a defensive measure against possible future attacks, and claimed that it was a legitimate sphere of Soviet influence.
Winston Churchill, who had served for most of the war as British prime minister in a coalition government, was replaced during the conference by Clement Attlee. Churchill’s administration had a Soviet policy since the early 1940s that differed considerably from Roosevelt’s and believed Stalin to be a “devil”-like tyrant, who led a vile system. A general election was held in the United Kingdom on 5 July 1945, but its results were delayed to allow the votes of armed forces personnel to be counted in their home constituencies. The outcome became known during the conference, when Attlee became the new prime minister.
Roosevelt had died on 12 April 1945, when US Vice-President Harry Truman assumed the presidency, which saw VE Day (Victory in Europe) within a month and VJ Day (Victory in Japan) on the horizon. During the war, in the name of Allied unity, Roosevelt had brushed off warnings of potential domination by Stalin over parts of Europe by explaining, “I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of a man…. I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing from him in return, ‘noblesse oblige,’ he won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.”
Truman closely followed the Allied progress of the war. George Lenczowski noted that “despite the contrast between his relatively modest background and the international glamour of his aristocratic predecessor, [Truman] had the courage and resolution to reverse the policy that appeared to him naive and dangerous,” which was “in contrast to the immediate, often ad hoc moves and solutions dictated by the demands of the war.” With the end of the war, the priority of Allied unity was replaced by the challenge of the relationship between the two emerging superpowers. Both leading powers continued to portray a cordial relationship to the public, but suspicion and distrust lingered between them. Despite this, on 17 July, the first day of the conference, Truman noted “I can deal with Stalin. He is honest — but smart as hell.”
Truman was much more suspicious of the Soviets than Roosevelt had been and became increasingly suspicious of Stalin’s intentions. Truman and his advisers saw Soviet actions in Eastern Europe as aggressive expansionism, which was incompatible with the agreements committed to by Stalin at Yalta in February. In addition, Truman became aware of possible complications elsewhere after Stalin had objected to Churchill’s proposal for an Allied withdrawal from Iran ahead of the schedule that had been agreed at the Tehran Conference. The Potsdam Conference was the only time that Truman met Stalin in person.
At the Yalta Conference, France was granted an occupation zone within Germany. France was a participant in the Berlin Declaration and was to be an equal member of the Allied Control Council. Nevertheless, at the insistence of the Americans, Charles de Gaulle was not invited to Potsdam, just as he had been denied representation at Yalta for fear that he would reopen the Yalta decisions. De Gaulle thus felt a diplomatic slight, which became a cause of deep and lasting resentment for him. Other reasons for the omission included the longstanding personal mutual antagonism between Roosevelt and de Gaulle, ongoing disputes over the French and American occupation zones, and the anticipated conflicts of interest over French Indochina. It also reflected the judgement of the British and the Americans that French aims, with respect to many items on the conference’s agenda, were likely to contradict agreed-upon Anglo-American objectives.
At the end of the conference, the three heads of government agreed on the following actions. All other issues were to be resolved by the final peace conference, which was to be called as soon as possible.
- The Allies issued a statement of aims for their occupation of Germany: demilitarization, denazification, democratization, decentralization, dismantling, and decartelization. More specifically, as for the demilitarization and disarmament of Germany, the Allies decided to abolish the SS; the SA; the SD, the Gestapo; the air, land, and naval forces; and organizations, staffs, and institutions that were in charge of keeping alive the military tradition in Germany. Concerning the democratization of Germany, the “Big Three” thought it to be of great importance for the Nazi Party and its affiliated organizations to be destroyed. Thus, the Allies would prevent all Nazi activity and prepare for the reconstruction of German political life in a democratic state.
- All Nazi laws would be abolished, which established discrimination on grounds of race, creed, and political opinion and as a result could not be accepted in a democratic country.
- Both Germany and Austria were to be divided into four occupation zones, as had been agreed in principle at Yalta, and similarly, each capital (Berlin and Vienna) would be divided into four zones.
- Nazi war criminals were to be put on trial. Specifically, at the Potsdam Conference, the three governments tried to reach an agreement on trial methods for war criminals whose crimes under the Moscow Declaration of October 1943 had no geographical restriction. Meanwhile, the leaders were aware of ongoing weeks-long discussions in London between the representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. Their purpose was to bring the war criminals to trial as soon as possible and eventually to justice. The first list of defendants would be published before September 1. The leaders’ objective was that the London negotiations would have a positive result validated by an agreement, which was signed at London on August 8 1945.
- All German annexations in Europe were to be reversed, including the Sudetenland, Alsace-Lorraine, Austria, and the westernmost parts of Poland. This was an important policy in order to moderate the geopolitical ambitions of Germany in the post-war scenario.
- Germany’s eastern border was to be shifted westwards to the Oder–Neisse line, which effectively reduced Germany in size by approximately 25% from its 1937 borders. The territories east of the new border were East Prussia, Silesia, West Prussia, and two thirds of Pomerania. The areas were mainly agricultural, with the exception of Upper Silesia, which was the second-largest center of German heavy industry.
- “Orderly and humane” expulsions of the German populations remaining beyond the new eastern borders of Germany were to be carried out from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary but not Yugoslavia.
- Nazi Party members who held public positions and who opposed postwar Allied aims were to be removed from office. They were to be replaced by those who, based on their political and moral beliefs, were in support of a democratic system.
- The German judicial system was to be reorganized based on democratic ideals of equality and justice under law.
- The German educational system was to be controlled to eliminate fascist doctrines and to develop democratic ideas.
- The Allies encouraged the existence of democratic parties in Germany with right of assembly and of public discussion.
- Freedoms of speech, press, religion, and religious institutions were to be respected. The formation of free trade unions was to be permitted as well.
- War reparations to the Soviet Union from its zone of occupation in Germany were agreed upon. In addition to the reparations, the Soviet Union would also receive reparations from the western zones of occupation, but it had to give up all claims on German industries in the western zones. Specifically, 15% of usable industrial capital equipment, consisting of metallurgical, chemical, and machine manufacturing industries, was to be removed from the western zones in exchange for food, coal, potash, zinc, timber, clay, and petroleum products from the eastern zones. The Soviet Union bore the responsibility of transferring the products from the eastern zone within five years. Moreover, 10% of the industrial capacity of the western zones unnecessary for the German peace economy were to be transferred to the Soviet Union within two years, without any obligation of further payment of any kind in return. The Soviet Union promised to settle the reparation claims of Poland from its own share of reparations. Stalin successfully proposed for Poland to be excluded from the division of German compensation and to be later granted 15% of the compensation given to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union did not make any claims on gold captured by Allied troops in Germany.
- The conference concluded that it was necessary to set limits regarding the disposition and future use of the defeated German navy and of merchant ships. The American, British, and Soviet governments decided that they would assign experts to co-operate, which would soon lead to principles to be agreed upon and announced by the three governments.
- War reparations to the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries would be received from their own zones of occupation, with the amounts to be determined within six months. The United States and the United Kingdom would give up all claims on German industries located in the eastern zone of occupation, as well as on German foreign assets in Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, Romania, and eastern Austria. The removal of industrial equipment from the western zones to satisfy reparations was to be completed within two years from the determination of reparations. The Allied Control Council was to make the determination of the equipment following policies set by the Allied Commission and with the participation of France.
- The German standard of living was to be prevented from exceeding the European average. The types and amounts of industry to be dismantled to achieve that was to be determined later.
- The German industrial war potential was to be destroyed by the destruction or control of all industries with military potential. To that end, all civilian shipyards and aircraft factories were to be dismantled or otherwise destroyed. All production capacity associated with war potential, such as metal, chemicals, or machinery factories, were to be reduced to a minimum level, which would later be determined by the Allied Control Commission. The manufacturing capacity thus made “surplus” was to be dismantled as reparations or otherwise destroyed. All research and international trade were to be controlled. The economy was to be decentralized by decartelization and reorganized, with the primary emphasis on agriculture and peaceful domestic industries. In early 1946, an agreement was reached on the details of the latter in which Germany was to be converted into having an agricultural and light industrial economy. German exports were to be coal, beer, toys, textiles, etc., which would take the place of the heavy industrial products that had been most of Germany’s prewar exports.
France, having been excluded from the conference, resisted implementing the Potsdam agreements within its occupation zone. In particular, the French refused to resettle any Germans expelled from the east. Moreover, the French did not accept any obligation to abide by the Potsdam agreements in the proceedings of the Allied Control Council. In particular, it reserved the right to block any proposals to establish common policies and institutions across Germany as a whole and anything that could lead to the eventual emergence of a unified German government.
The Soviet Union proposed for the authority of Karl Renner‘s provisional government to be extended to all of Austria. The Allies agreed to examine the proposal after British and American forces entered Vienna.
- A Provisional Government of National Unity, created by the Soviets and known as the Lublin Poles, was to be recognized by all three powers. The Big Three’s recognition of the Soviet-controlled government effectively meant the end of recognition of the London-based Polish government-in-exile.
- The British and the Americans governments took measures for the Polish Provisional Government to own property in the territories of Poland and to have all the legal rights to the property so that no other government could have it.
- Poles serving in the British Army would be free to return to Communist Poland but with no guarantee of their security upon their return.
- All Poles who returned to Poland would be accorded personal and property rights.
- The Polish Provisional Government agreed to hold, as soon as possible, free elections with widespread suffrage and secret ballots. Democratic and anti-Nazi parties would have the right to take part, and representatives of the Allied press would have full freedom to report on developments during the elections.
- The Soviet Union declared that it would settle the reparation claims of Poland from its own share of the overall reparation payments.
- The provisional western border would be the Oder–Neisse line, defined by the Oder and Neisse Rivers. Silesia, Pomerania, the southern part of East Prussia, and the former Free City of Danzig would be under Polish administration. However, the final delimitation of the western frontier of Poland would await the peace settlement, which take only place 45 years later, in 1990, during the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany.
The Soviet Union proposed to the Conference for the territorial questions to be resolved permanently after peace was established in those regions. More specifically, the proposal referred to the section of the western Soviet border near the Baltic Sea. The area would pass from the eastern shore of the Bay of Danzig to the east, north of Braunsberg and Goldap, to the meeting point of the frontiers of Lithuania, the Polish Republic, and East Prussia.
After the conference considered the Soviet recommendation, it agreed for the city of Königsberg and the area next to it to be transferred to the Soviet Union.
Truman and Winston Churchill guaranteed that they would support the proposals of the conference when peace was eventually ensured.
The Soviet Union made a proposal to the conference concerning the mandated territories and conformed with what had been decided at the Yalta Conference and the Charter of the United Nations.
After various opinions on the question had been discussed, the foreign prime ministers agreed that it was essential to decide at once the preparation of a peace treaty for Italy, combined with the disposition of any former Italian territories. In September, the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs would examine the question of the Italian territory.
Orderly transfers of German populations
At the conference, the Allied leaders confirmed their previous commitment to the removal of German populations from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, which the governments of those countries had already begun to put into effect. All three at Potsdam were convinced that the transfer of the German populations should be completed as soon as possible. They emphasized that the transfers should proceed in an orderly and humane manner. The leaders decided that the Allied Control Council in Germany would deal with the matter giving priority to the equal distribution of Germans among the zones of occupation. Representatives on the Control Council were to report to their governments and each zonal administration on the number of people who had already entered Germany from the eastern countries. The representatives would also form an estimation of the future pace of transfers and focus on the German capacity to take people in.
The Eastern countries’ governments were informed of the methods of further transfers and were requested for a temporary suspension of the expulsions until the Allied Control Council had reported. The Big Three had been concerned by reports from the Control Council and so would examine the matter.
Revised Allied Control Commission procedures in Rumania, Bulgaria, and Hungary
The Big Three took notice that the Soviet representatives on the Allied Control Commissions in Rumania, Bulgaria, and Hungary had communicated to their British and Americans colleagues proposals for refining the work of the Control Commission since the war in Europe had ended. The three leaders agreed on the revision of the procedures of the commissions in these countries and took into consideration the interests and responsibilities of their own governments, which together presented the terms of the armistice to the occupied countries.
Council of Foreign Ministers
The Conference agreed on the establishment of a Council of Foreign Ministers to represent the five principal powers, continue the essential preliminary work for the peace settlements, and assume other matters that could occasionally be committed to the Council by agreement of the governments participating it. The establishment of the Council in question did not contradict the agreement of the Yalta Conference that there should be periodic meetings among the foreign secretaries of the three governments. According to the text of the agreement for the establishment of the Council, this was decided:
- A Council composed of the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, China, France and the United States should be established.
- (I) The Council should meet in London and form the Joint Secretariat. Each of the foreign ministers would be accompanied by a high-ranking deputy, properly authorized to continue the work of the Council in the absence of their foreign minister, and by a small staff of technical advisers. (II) The first meeting of the Council should be held in London not later than 1 September 1945. Meetings could also be held by common agreement in other capitals.
- (I) The Council should be authorized to write, with a view to their submission to the United Nations, treaties of peace with Italy, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Finland, and to propose settlements of territorial issues pending the termination of the war in Europe. The Council should also prepare a peace settlement for Germany to be accepted by the government of Germany when a government adequate for the purpose is established. (II) To accomplish the previous tasks, the Council would be composed of the members representing those states which were signatories to the terms of surrender imposed upon the enemy state concerned.
- (I) On any occasion the Council would consider a question of direct interest to a state not represented, such state should be requested to send representatives to participate in the discussion of that question. (II) The Council would be able to adapt its procedure to the particular problem under consideration. In some cases, it could hold its initial discussions before the participation of other interested states. Following the decision of the Conference, the Big Three have each addressed an invitation to the Governments of China and France, to adopt the text and to join in establishing the Council.
Concluding peace treaties and facilitating membership in United Nations
The Conference agreed to apply common policies for determining, at the earliest opportunity, the terms of the peace.
In general, the Big Three desired that dispositions of Italy, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, and Romania should be resolved by the end of the negotiations. They believed that the other Allies would share their point of view.
As the disposition of Italy was one of the most important issues that required the attention of the new Council of Foreign Ministers, the three governments were especially concerned with concluding a peace treaty with Italy, especially as it had been the first of the Axis powers to break with Germany and to participate in Allied operations against Japan.
Italy was making significant progress in gaining its freedom and rejecting the previous fascist regime, and it had paved the way for the re-establishment of democratic governments. If Italy had a recognized and democratic government, it would be easier for the Americans, the British, and the Soviets to support the membership of Italy in the United Nations.
The Council of Foreign Ministers also had to examine and prepare the peace treaties for Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, and Romania. The termination of peace treaties with recognized and democratic governments in those four would allow the Big Three to accept their requests to be members of the United Nations. Moreover, after the termination of peace negotiations, the Big Three agreed to examine in the near future the restoration of the diplomatic relations with Finland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary. The Big Three were sure that the situation in Europe after the end of World War II would allow representatives of the Allied press to enjoy freedom of expression in the four countries.
Article 4 of the Charter of the United Nations read:
1. Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving States who accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations;
2. The admission of any such state to membership in the United Nations will be effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.
The leaders declared that they were willing to support any request for membership from states that had remained neutral during the war and fulfilled the other requirements. The Big Three felt the need to clarify that they were reluctant to support application for such membership from the Spanish government, which had been established with the support of the Axis powers.
In addition to the Potsdam Agreement, on 26 July, Churchill; Truman; and Chiang Kai-shek, Chairman of the Nationalist Government of China (the Soviet Union was not yet at war against Japan), issued the Potsdam Declaration, which outlined the terms of surrender for Japan during World War II in Asia.
Truman had mentioned an unspecified “powerful new weapon” to Stalin during the conference. Towards the end of the conference, on July 26, the Potsdam Declaration gave Japan an ultimatum to surrender unconditionally or meet “prompt and utter destruction”, which did not mention the new bomb but promised that “it was not intended to enslave Japan”. The Soviet Union was not involved in that declaration since it was still neutral in the war against Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Kantarō Suzuki did not respond, which was interpreted as a sign that the Japanese had ignored the ultimatum. As a result, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima on 6 August and on Nagasaki on 9 August 1945. The justifications used were that both cities were legitimate military targets and that it was necessary to end the war swiftly and preserve American lives.
When Truman informed Stalin of the atomic bomb, he said that the United States “had a new weapon of unusual destructive force,” but Stalin had full knowledge of the atomic bomb’s development from Soviet spy networks inside the Manhattan Project and told Truman at the conference that he hoped Truman “would make good use of it against the Japanese.”
The Soviet Union converted several countries of Eastern Europe into satellite states within the Eastern Bloc, such as the People’s Republic of Poland, the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, the People’s Republic of Hungary, the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, the People’s Republic of Romania, and the People’s Republic of Albania. Many of those countries had seen failed Socialist revolutions prior to World War II.
What was different about the Potsdam conference?
The political atmosphere at Potsdam was decidedly more strained than at Tehran and Yalta. President Truman was far more suspicious of Stalin and his motives than Roosevelt, who had been widely criticised in the US for giving into Stalin’s demands over Poland and Eastern Europe. Truman was also open in his dislike of communism and Stalin personally, stating that he was “tired of babying the Soviets”.
Further upheaval was to come, though, with the results of the British general election, which had taken place on 5 July. The announcement, made three weeks later on 26 July (to allow the votes of those serving overseas to be counted) saw a decisive victory for the Labour Party and meant that Churchill and his Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden were replaced at the conference – from 28 July – by Britain’s new Prime Minister Clement Attlee and his Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin. And although war against Japan was still ongoing, the lack of a common European enemy saw the Big Three find it harder to reach a mutually acceptable compromise on what the post-war political reconstruction of Europe would look like.
Another important development had also occurred since Yalta – one that would have a profound global impact. A week into the conference, after gaining Stalin’s agreement that the Soviets would join the Pacific War, Truman casually informed Stalin that the US was in possession of “a new weapon of unusual destructive force”: the atomic bomb, which had been tested for the first time on 16 July.
Did Potsdam succeed in its aims with regard to Europe?
Although some agreements and compromises emerged at Potsdam, there were still important issues that had not been resolved. Before long, the Soviet Union had reconstituted the German Communist Party in the Eastern Sector of Germany and had begun to lay the groundwork for a separate, East German nation state, modelled on that of the USSR.
Previous major conferences
- Potsdam Conference, July 17 to August 2, 1945
- Yalta Conference, 4 to 11 February 1945
- Mosco Conference, 9 to 19 October 1944
- Second Quebec Conference, 12 to 16 September 1944
- Tehran Conference, 28 November to 1 December 1943
- Cairo Conference, 22 to 26 November 1943
- Casablanca Conference, 14 to 24 January 1943
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