February 11, 2013
On Feb. 11, 1945, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin concluded a weeklong conference, at which the leaders of the Allied Powers, virtually assured of victory in Europe, agreed on how the post-war world should be divvied up.
The unintended consequences, though perhaps unavoidable, were the foundations of the Cold War.
The meeting, the next-to-last of the Allied powers wartime conferences, was held from Feb. 4-11 at Livadia Palace, a former residence of Tsar Nicholas II, near the Crimean resort town of Yalta, because Stalin’s doctors insisted he not take long trips. Roosevelt, who would die two months later, had suggested a Mediterranean venue.
Though the Allies had Nazi Germany on the brink of collapse with American and British forces in the West and Soviet forces in the East, Churchill and Roosevelt feared that the island-hopping challenges of the Pacific Theater would prolong the war, and they believed that a Soviet entrance into the war against Japan would hasten the end. Also, Churchill was insistent on democratic governments in Central and Eastern Europe.
And, Roosevelt wanted to ensure that the Soviet Union would participate in the United Nations.
Stalin wanted to ensure a Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, and to keep the Polish territory it had annexed in 1939, obtained for not opposing the Nazi invasion of Poland.
Foremost, the Allies agreed that an unconditional surrender by Nazi Germany was requisite.
In exchange for a Soviet commitment of forces against within three months after Germany’s surrender, the U.S. and Britain agreed that upon Japan’s surrender the USSR would have a “sphere of influence” in Manchuria, a lease at Port Arthur (now Lashunkou), the Kurile Islands, and a share in operating the Manchurian railroads.
The three countries also reached accord on how Europe should be managed. They agreed to include France in the supervision of a postwar Germany, though France’s zone of governance would be carved from the American and British zones. They agreed that Germans should shoulder a significant responsibility for war reparations, including the authorization of forced labor, with the reparation council located in the Soviet Union. Churchill and Roosevelt also agreed that the Eastern European nations bordering the Soviet Union would be “friendly” to the communist government there, and that the Eastern European nations liberated from Nazi Germany would hold free elections. Stalin agreed to broaden participation in the Soviet provisional government, and to hold free elections in Poland; that never happened.
The final major agreements centered on the future of a United Nations organization: how many Soviet Republics would be granted U.N. membership (Stalin insisted on all 16), and the voting procedure for a UN Security Council.
The final Allied conference was held in Potsdam, Germany, from July 17 to Aug. 2, 1945, with Stalin, who could apparent travel now that Roosevelt had passed away, Churchill, who was replaced by new Prime Minister Clement Attlee on July 26, and U.S. President Harry Truman. Germany had surrendered on May 8, and the Allies were finalizing their plans for a partitioned Germany.
The U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Japan on Aug. 6 and 9. Japan surrendered on September 2. The Soviet Union invaded Manchuria on Aug. 9, exactly 90 days after Germany surrendered.