The Yalta Conference
“Don't depend on the enemy not coming; depend rather on being ready for Him” -Sun Tzu
The Yalta Conference was a diplomatic meeting of the Allied Powers; The Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America held at Yalta, Crimea, the Soviet Union in the Livadia, Yusupov, and Vorontsov Palaces. The conference, second of its nature, began with each individual having a different objective in mind. It began on the 4th of February, 1945, and continued until the 11th of the same month.
1945 had started out as an eventful year with Allied victories all across Europe. The combined Allied forces of the United States and the United Kingdom had successfully liberated France and Belgium from Nazi forces. The Soviet Union on the East had by that time reached dangerously close to Berlin, the capital of Nazi Germany, and had removed Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria from Nazi influence. This shift in power dynamics led to a drastic change of the agenda for this conference in comparison to the last meeting of the Allied Powers, the Tehran conference. In hindsight, the Tehran conference was aimed at fighting the war machine of Nazi Germany. At Yalta, the focus of the Allied leaders turned towards the future, Post-War Europe.
WHERE IS YOUR INVITATION MISTER CHARLES DE GAULLE?
The Leader of the French Free Forces was not invited to the Yalta conference. De Gaulle attributed his exclusion to a long-pending hatred and resentment from the American president which was based on a few specific reasons.
The primary reason for Roosevelt’s distrust of Gaulle was the unexpected defeat of the French Forces at the hands of Nazi forces in the first few months of the war. This failure of the French brought about doubts in Roosevelt regarding the capabilities of the French to fight the Germans head-on. He believed that Gualle was yet another French dictator who, like Boneparte, would go on to use the war as a stepping stone for establishing another dictatorship in the future. Roosevelt had no interest in participating in a conflict that led to another establishment of a dictatorship. Stalin, as well, was not keen on allowing Gualle to participate in the meetings, which was similar to his reluctance to include France as a Veto member during the formation of the United Nations. Churchill was the only advocate for France receiving veto power, which Roosevelt and Stalin eventually agreed to. This change of decision was based on two primary reasons: The ability of the French to ensure that their large navy, only second to the British themselves, was not captured by the German forces and the sheer diplomatic prowess of Charles De Gaulle to ensure that the sacrifices of the French were properly rewarded. Stalin and Roosevelt blocked Gaulle’s invitation to the Yalta conference, but France secured a Veto Power in the United Nations with the support of Churchill.
Charles De Gaulle also did not receive an invitation to attend the Potsdam Conference, the final such conference of the series which determined the end of the war and the future of the European Continent. The leaders felt that De Gaulle would use his absence in the Yalta conference as a reason to reopen closed agendas, which would not help in the goals set by the leaders of the United States, United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.
The Yalta Conference was convened out of a request from President Roosevelt. The American President had hoped for a meeting before the November elections of 1944 but had to settle for a conference the coming year.
Roosevelt suggested a meeting on neutral regions of the Mediterranean, Malta, Cyprus, or Athens. Stalin’s fear of flying led him to ask for a location near the borders of the Soviet Union and countered with the request to meet at the resorts of Yalta in Crimea. With Stalin’s deteriorating health playing another important factor in the selection of venue, the leaders agreed to meet at Yalta. The American Delegation had taken up the responsibility for hosting the conference, and hence all sessions were to be held in the American lodgings.
Now, we come to the most interesting part of the conference and this article. The Big Three leaders went into the conference with entirely different end goals and methodologies by which to obtain them, but most of all their very ambition for attending varied drastically.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wished to obtain Marshal Stalin’s support in the Pacific theatre of war against Imperial Japan, more importantly, airfields to support Operation August Storm, the invasion of the island. He also hoped to secure the Soviet Union’s participation in determining the future of the United Nations.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s objective was to secure free and democratic elections for Central and Eastern Europe with a specific mention towards the now free territories of Poland.
Marshal Joseph Stalin was of the mindset to achieve a Soviet sphere of influence in the nations that were liberated by the Red Army. His interests specifically lay with Poland; which he considered was of prime importance for the future of the Soviet Union. Historically, the nation of Poland was the doorway through which invading armies had moved into the western plains of the Union. As we are talking about the past of the Soviet Union, one noteworthy example is the failure of Napoleon Bonaparte to conquer the Soviet Union in the year 1812. Ironically, the Nazi forces faced similar obstacles in their onslaught against the Communist Nation, which reinforces the fact History repeats itself.
At the end of the conference, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin signed the Declaration of Liberated Europe. This agreement marked the official declaration of the Allied leaders to not interfere or intervene through any means in the election procedures of new governments in newly free nations. It was signed by Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin at the Yalta Conference.
Numerous long-term commitments were made from all parties including: to continue hostilities against Nazi forces, to allow free and fair democratic elections, to begin Soviet Union involvement in the Pacific theatre. One such declaration has to be noted: Stalin pledged to permit free elections in Poland. Why does this declaration deserve to be outlined? The Soviet Nation would go on to break its promise and rather assert a militaristic rule over Poland. From a broader lens, the conference marked the beginning of Soviet oppression on their neighboring satellite states and as the Western Nations would title it as the Spreading Influence of Communism.
The ‘dismemberment’ of Germany was also agreed upon to render the German populus weak in their ability to mount a military assault of similar size. This initiative also crippled their economic backbone which had its desired effect on pockets of Nazi resistance.
SOMETIMES, ONE OF US HOLDS ALL THE CARDS
Roosevelt wanted to secure the participation of the Soviet Union in the war against Imperial Japan, as he hoped that a show of strength from the Allies would lead to a shorter war and limit American casualties. Knowing that Roosevelt had played his card defensively, Stalin made use of this and made a series of demands that were immediately met. Stalin required American recognition of Mongolian independence from China and recognition of Soviet interest in the Manchurian railways and Port Arthur.
These demands were met without the involvement of any Chinese representation. The islands which the Soviets lost to Imperial Japan were also to be returned to Soviet control. With these demands, Stalin agreed to help the Americans against Imperial Japan.
The Red Army during this period held numerous territories in the Eastern region of Europe which numbered three times greater in power and personnel than their Western Allies. Despite this revelation, the Declaration of Liberated Europe considerably failed to dispel the enormous difference in active military personnel.
Churchill, with an objective of securing the future of Poland, was unable to deliver. The British had gone to war due to the invasion of Poland, and although he did manage to secure a promise from the Marshal, it was not met and the world saw the Soviet Union going back on their promise and moving into Poland.
THE FUTURE OF POLAND
With the end of the Second World War, Stalin went back on his word in the Declaration of Liberated Europe. The Polish people found themselves under a Soviet-installed government. The Polish people felt betrayed and quite naturally did not show any interest in returning back to their country. This is the reason behind the choice of quote for this article. Both Winston Churchill and Roosevelt assumed that Stalin would follow the declarations at the Yalta Conference and were not diplomatically prepared to combat this form of aggression.
Under Soviet oppression, numerous planned arrests were orchestrated by the Soviet People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, which led to blatant disregard for free and fair justice. These arrests were made on individuals who posed a threat to Soviet Governance.
Now, the nation of Poland saw themselves fighting yet another invader who had come to their homes promising freedom from the Nazis.
A 21st CENTURY OUTLOOK OF THE YALTA CONFERENCE
A lot of topics whose origin can be traced back to this conference are simply out of the scope of this article. Overall, Stalin was able to blindside both Churchill and Roosevelt in this conference leading to the first form of Communist aggression of the 20th Century. I find myself marking this conference as the beginning of the fissure between the Western and the Eastern nations.
Yalta was the second of the three conferences that were held during the period of the world war. It would be a well placed guess if my readers were to see these conferences as the build-up to the Cold War. The Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc came into existence following the actions of ‘betrayal’ from the Soviets which to this date continue to define international politics.
All in all, this conference marked the moment when the leader of the Soviet Union got ‘all he wanted’. The Yalta conference would be remembered as the point of Allied history when to maintain unity, many compromises were made and as the beginning of a new era between the now emerging world powers.
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