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11-08-2015, 19:06

The Conferences at Yalta and Potsdam

Before the fighting had stopped, the Allies had begun to look ahead to the 'post-war.' Each pursued his own interests. Roosevelt's ideas had been summed up in the Atlantic Charter. Although America harboured no secret plans for conquest, the financial and economic boom brought by the war magnified her domination of the American continent at the expense of France and especially Great Britain. Ironically the American President's chief concern as the war was ending was that a third world war should not follow. This was the only event which he imagined could poison a lasting friendship among the Three Great Allies. He devoted all his efforts to preserving this friendship. Stalin had hesitated to accept the Atlantic Charter, but now he did not hesitate to show his hand. Populations which had once been part of Russia were not to be given a chance to oppose annexation. The master of the Kremlin intended to keep all territories acquired under the Russo- German pact. In September 1944 he demanded back the territories which Finland had absorbed with the help of Wehrmacht. Churchill hammered out two principles ol his own. He wanted to prevent anv recurrence of a German hegemony over Europe; and he wanted to preserve British power. He did not {eel that the provisions of the Atlantic Charter applied to subjects of the British Empire. As for Europe, he may have reckoned that the Red Army would be too exhausted to continue fighting after Soviet Russia had been liberated, but the Red Army's westward advance placed Stalin in a strong negotiating position which Stalin would use to advantage. Churchill flew to Moscow in ( )< tober 1944 and haggled out a bargain with Stalin, in which a complicated system of percentages was devised to determine who would have how much influence over which territories in central Europe. In February 1945 at Yalta, and again in July 1945 at Potsdam, the Americans and the British occupied a weak position. At the meeting in the Crimea, they were just recovering from the German attack on the Ardennes. At both meetings their chief aim was to enlist the Russians' help against Japan. At Potsdam Truman, who succeeded Roosevelt, knew that he could rely on the atom bomb, but no one knew what effect it would have on the war. Signs of conflict between Soviet Russia and Great Britain worried Roosevelt, though he hoped to keep America out of it. Regardless of later accusations that Roosevelt conceded too much to Stalin, he actually did make an effort to avoid nettling him. For all Truman's suspicions and obstinacy, he struck much the same conciliatory tone at Potsdam. The Anglo-Americans agreed to withdraw their forces from the zone occupied by the Russians in Germany, even though Churchill would have preferred to leave them there as a bargaining point in later negotiations with Stalin, but Churchill was forced to yield. Britain was no longer a front-rank power. The Labour Party swept Churchill out of power in the parliamentary elections which followed victory in Europe. His successor, Clement Attlee was not as great a man as Churchill. He took a keener interest in internal British affairs, than in negotiations with Russia and America, in which he played the role of the outsider. The Yalta conference did not carve up the world, as everyone has said and written since, but it did create a form ofjoint governance, later affirmed at Potsdam, by which the two super-powers thrown up by the war would regulate world affairs. Together they settled a number of questions which had been left in abeyance - the occupation and administration of Germany, the Polish question, the status oi the central European countries which had been satellites ol t he* Reich, the future of the colonial empires, the occupation and administration ofJapan, the creation and organization ol 1 new League of Nations. Other minor issues were also settled, such as rights of access through the Turkish straits, the status ol Tangiers, the evacuation of Iran, the occupation ol Austria, and freedom of navigation in international waterways.

 

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