Yalta: The Beginning of the End
The Yalta Conference was held towards the end of World War II. So youre asking yourself: "What does some stupid conference have to do with the Cold War?". Well, many decisions were made at this conference which led to many fronts of the Cold War, most notably, Germany.
The Yalta Conference was held in a resort town called Yalta on February 4th-11th in 1945. The "Big Three" met there to decide the fate of post-war Europe. The United States was represented by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Great Britain was represented by Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin was there on the Soviet Unions behalf. The goal of this conference was to discuss many aspects of the time. Among them were:
- The dividing up of Germany
- The formation of the United Nations
- German war reparations
- The entry of Soviet forces into the Far-Eastern front (Japan)
- The final, and most difficult issue, the future of Poland
The countries represented at Yalta naturally wanted to divide Germany into parts. They could not risk another power surge by Germany and World War. Germany had to be limited. Everyone had a different idea as to how Germany should be divided. The United States representative felt that Germany should be divided into five constituent parts. However, Churchill felt that a division into Prussia and Austria-Bavaria with the German heartland of the Ruhr and Westphalia under international controlwas best. The British representative also pushed for a zone occupation of France, which was initially opposed by Stalin, but he later accepted it. It was then decided that the exact boundries should be left up for future discussions.
The next item on the agenda was the formation of the United Nations. President Roosevelt offered the idea that the UN should have a security council with four permanent members. These members would be: The United States, Great Britain, China, and the Soviet Union. Each of these members would have a veto. Churchill accepted this proposal. However, at first Stalin wanted all 15 Soviet republics to have a seat on the United Nations. Later, Stalin offered that the two main republics (Ukraine and Belorussia), as well as the Soviet Union, have a seat. Roosevelt and Churchill accepted this offer, which was an obvious improvement from the previous disposition.
Next on the agenda was the war reparations to be paid by the Germans. Josef Stalin wanted the Germans to pay twenty billion dollars, half of which would go to the Soviet Union. The British representative did not want any war reparations. Churchill pointed out that it was the extensive reparations after World War I that led to the rise of Hitler. Eventually, the topic was abandoned, and the representatives agreed to refer the matter to a reparations commission.
Then U.S. Secretary of State, Edward Steitinius, proposed a "Declaration of Liberated Europe". This declaration stated that the three powers pledged to:
This declaration was basically accepted by all the powers with challenge, and it was later used by the United States and Britain to claim that the Soviet Union has broken its agreement by virtue of its actions in Eastern Europe.
The entry of Soviet forces into the war against Japan was almost exclusively between Roosevelt and Stalin. President Roosevelt was strongly opposed to increased British involvement in the war, because he knew Churchill would demand more colonies. At the same time however, he knew that he needed help on that front because the atomic bomb had not yet been tested. Therefore, the Soviet Union seemed to be the only logical alternative. Stalin agreed to enter the war on the side of the Allies within three months after the fall of Germany. In return, Roosevelt promised Stalin that he would have certain strategic lands. In the end, Stalin entered the war EXACTLY 3 months after the fall of Germany. Two days after the first atomic bomb was dropped, Stalin rushed a declaration of war against Japan. The Soviet leader waited so long because he wanted to gain the most, with the least amount of expenditures. The next day the second atomic bomb was dropped, and Japan surrendered.
The final and most difficult item on the list was the future of Poland. Stalin wanted Poland to be under Soviet control, but both of the Western powers were vehemently opposed to this. Winston Churchill pointed out that the British people originally went to war when the sovereignty of Poland was at risk. The British leaders also pointed out that Britain "could never be content with ant solution that did not leave Poland a free and independent state". Neither side budged, but eventually Stalin promised to hold free elections within the month. From this point on, relations between the Soviet Union and the Western powers deteriorated.