, Research Paper
Before we can examine and understand the decisions made at these three conferences and their affects thereafter, we must first understand the situation in Europe as the 2nd World War was drawing to a close and the intentions and foreign policies of both the Allies and particularly the USSR.
When fighting in Europe ended in May 1945, the USSR occupied most of Eastern Europe, including: the Baltic States, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the eastern portion of Germany. The Big Three , which included Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, were aware of a basic conflict within their ranks. This ideological conflict was between the USSR, who believed in a socialist one-party state, and the USA, supported by Britain, whom was a liberal democracy where capitalism flourished. Stalin was also aware of a long history of Western opposition towards the USSR. Throughout military history Russia had been repeatedly invaded, in the 19th century by Napoleon and most recently by Hitler. Importantly, these and other invaders had nearly always come through Poland. Therefore the main reason Stalin was so anxious to secure Poland, as we shall learn later, was in order to prevent future invasion. This is the main reason that motivated the Russians to take control of Eastern Europe.
What Russia did not want was for its neighbours to be controlled by anti-communist governments. Thus in Eastern Europe Russia thought in terms of spheres of influence . The Western Allies didn t understand this philosophy as they thought in terms of the Atlantic Charter, which aimed to set up independent democracies, which were assumed to be capitalist, in Eastern Europe. What the Western Allies didn t realise was that the Atlantic Charter was much the same thing as the Soviet policy as it catered for their own interests. What the Western Allies automatically assumed was that if a state were not anti-communist, it would have to be communist, this being a reason for their reluctance in Soviet, and as they saw it, communist expansion. Another cause for tension was the issue of Poland, of which most of was currently occupied by Russia. As mentioned before Russia wanted Poland for defensive purposes, and, as far as the Russians were concerned it would be ruled by a government best suited to them. Whatever type of government it was going to be, it was not going to be anti-communist.Further evidence of Western opposition which led, mainly on the Soviet side, to mistrust, was the fact that during the 2nd World War Western foreign policy seemed to be directed against the Russians. This suspicion was well justified as Russia had been excluded from the Munich Agreement and the Allies had ignored Soviet appeals by delaying the opening of a second front, leaving Russia and Germany to exhaust themselves. Another factor, which the Americans would be less aware of, was the fact that the Russians secretly knew about the atomic bomb, but felt that America was being deceitful by not publicly revealing its existence.The USSR s motives to participate in the conferences following the end of the war have already been discussed but it is unclear to what America s intentions were by getting involved in the future of Europe. Obviously Britain had a right to make demands as the security of the their nation had been severely threatened during the 2nd World War and almost invaded. The US could argue that their security was, and still could be, at stake as they possibly could ve been bombed during the war and, now with the beginning of the nuclear age, their security could be at an even bigger risk. However, the much more deeper reason for the US s involvement lies in the fact that they are constantly searching for more and more markets to satisfy its ever-expanding economy. One of the areas that the USA wanted to expand into was Eastern Europe. This threatened Russian interests, particularly because US investment was usually accompanied by militant anti-communism. The USA, however, claimed that her interest was to mediate between Britain & Russia. The only way that the USSR could respond was to make sure rigid communist governments will control that as much of Eastern Europe as possible.The Big Three met together for the first time at Teheran in November 1943. Here they were mainly concerned with ending the war in Europe and ensuring the firm establishment of the newly founded UN. Churchill and Roosevelt also wanted to know from Stalin if the UN could count on his support. Military issues dominated the discussions as Stalin, quite rightly, believed that the USSR was bearing the brunt if the war. Stalin felt that the Western Allies were deliberately ignoring his repeated appeals and were intentionally trying to weaken Soviet Russia. The Western Allies agreed to launch a major offensive in the spring of 1944, as did the Russians. A general agreement to divide Germany was made and the future of Poland and of Eastern Europe was also discussed. All of the Big Three left Teheran satisfied, Churchill and Roosevelt especially. They did not know, however, that their rooms had been bugged and each morning Stalin had read a detailed transcript of their conversations.
The Polish issue was perhaps the most important reason for Soviet advancement. When the Nazis had invaded Poland in 1939, some Poles had fled to London and had set up a Provisional Government, which was supported by both Britain and the USA. These London Poles would not agree to the Russian annexation of Eastern Poland. This led to tension between London and Moscow, which was increased by the Katyn Forest controversy. German troops had uncovered a mass grave of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest who had been killed by the Russians. The London Poles demanded an explanation from Stalin and Churchill also applied pressure. Stalin responded by breaking off all relations with the London Poles and established a communist organisation known as the Union of Polish Patriots, which later became known as the Lublin Committee. This committee eventually set up a pro-Soviet government in Eastern Poland.
Relations between the Western Allies and the Soviets were further tested in the form of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. The Soviet army was rapidly advancing on Warsaw, when supporters of the London Poles rose up against the Nazis. Although these Poles depended on support from the Russians, Stalin ordered his armies to be halted and refused to assist the rebels. The retreating German army massacred the Poles and laid waste to Warsaw. If the uprising had succeeded Stalin would have been faced with a group of well-organised non-communist Poles in control of the Polish capital. A major row now broke out between the Western Allies and Russia when Russia, almost immediately after Warsaw s occupation, officially recognised the Lublin Committee as the legal government in Poland.
In February 1945 in was clear that Germany would soon lose the war. The Allied leaders now met at Yalta in Ukraine to plan what would happen to Europe after Germany s defeat. Several important agreements were made at this conference and it was hailed as being the pinnacle of Allied cooperation. Stalin agreed to enter the war against Japan as soon as Germany surrendered. The now ailing, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin all agreed that Germany should be divided into four zones: American, French, British & Soviet. The German capital, Berlin, was deep in the Soviet zone and it was agreed that Berlin itself would be divided into four zones. The leaders agreed to hunt down German war criminals and that the countries liberated from German occupation would be free to choose their own governments. The Big Three all agreed to join the United Nations and Russia, along with two other Soviet Republics were given a veto vote. There was only one significant disagreement at the conference and this was about Poland, which was currently occupied by the Russians.Stalin wanted the border of the USSR to be moved westwards into Poland. He argued that Poland, in turn, could move its border westwards into German territory. The Western Allies were feeling lenient towards the Soviets as their tremendous losses in to war had been acknowledged and the Allies, Churchill in particular, felt that Russia deserved some sought of compensation. Although Churchill didn t approve of Stalin s plans for Poland he knew there was nothing he could do about it because of the Soviet occupation. Roosevelt, who was also reluctant about Stalin s plans, was persuaded by Churchill to cooperate as Stalin had in turn agreed not to interfere with Greece, where the British were attempting to prevent the Communists from taking over. The new western Polish border was not finalised yet and the details hadn t been discussed, Russia officially wasn t allowed to be there, even though they were. The British still wanted the London Poles to be installed in government in Poland, whereas the Soviets still wanted the pro-communist Lublin Committee to remain as the government. Churchill continued to insist and Stalin eventually allowed several London Poles to join the Lublin Committee. Yalta revealed the cracks in the Alliance. Only the common objective of defeating Hitler had kept the Alliance together. The Polish issue marked the beginning of the post-war world as, for the first time, the divisions between the East and the West became apparent.
On 12 April 1945 President Roosevelt died. He was automatically replaced with the vice-president of the time, Harry S. Truman. The Roosevelt administration noted that he knew absolutely nothing of world affairs and, he himself, had actually admitted this on several occasions. He was inexperienced and ill informed. Truman had made up his mind to be decisive and less tolerant with the Russians. Truman was a staunch anti-communist and this caused the Russians to realise that the era of wartime collaboration was over. Stalin was alarmed with this sudden change in American attitude. The shipment of supplies to Russia and Britain had ceased, under Truman s orders, but were later resumed. Russian war-credit was also delayed.On the 17th July the Potsdam conference got underway. Soviets had liberated country after country in Eastern Europe but Stalin had not withdrawn his troops. Only one of the original Big Three now remained as Roosevelt had died and Churchill had lost the British elections to Clement Atlee. With Churchill s absence the conference was dominated by suspicion and rivalry between Stalin and Truman. There were several major disagreements at Potsdam. Stalin wanted to cripple Germany completely to protect the USSR from further threats, however Truman quite rightly didn t want a repeat of the mistake of the Versailles Peace Treaty. Twenty million Russians had died in the 2nd World War and Stalin wanted compensation from Germany. Truman again didn t want to repeat the mistakes of the end of the 1st World War and once again resisted. Stalin had won an agreement at Yalta to set up Soviet governments in Eastern Europe and Truman felt that he should have never have been able to this and soon adopted a get tough policy with the Soviets. The only agreement that came out of this conference was the finalisation of the new western Poland border to come to be known as the Oder Neisse Line. It was this settlement of the Polish issue that divided the former Allies. American – Soviet relations were now at their lowest level. When Churchill delivered a speech to the American public he spoke of an Iron Curtain descending across Europe and he called upon America to prevent Soviet expansion at all costs.
In conclusion, the Teheran and Yalta conferences and more so the Potsdam conference did, in fact, set the stage for the Cold War. In my opinion, it was the USA who initiated the Cold War. America misunderstood and over-reacted to Soviet actions. They viewed the USSR as a terrible land-hungry nation on the warpath. Once again, America was guilty of overusing their policy of appeasement. For example, instead of trying to prevent the USSR s takeover of Poland, they could ve easily granted it to them, as the terms were in fact reasonable. However, allowing the USSR to establish Soviet states throughout Eastern Europe was a complete mistake and never should ve been allowed to have happened. The USA was a nation on the lookout for future markets, who hid their intentions. It is possible that the Cold War could ve been averted if Roosevelt hadn t died and been replaced with the somewhat ignorant Truman. The Western Allies made the mistake of allowing Soviet expansion into East Europe, particularly at the Yalta & Potsdam conferences. America s deceitfulness in not revealing their atomic technology to the world also eventually caused the Cold War. Even though Russia knew of the atomic bomb it continually resented the US for keeping it a secret. Freedom of information would ve solved this problem. This Alliance was doomed from the start as the fundamental reason for its collapse was that you simply cannot have Allies whom have completely different ideological ideals.