The Yalta Conference
The 4th of February 1945 AD
On the grounds of medical advice against travel, Stalin was able to secure home advantage for the February 1945 conference of the so-called Big Three – him, Roosevelt and Churchill . They met in the Crimean resort of Yalta, with a mission in effect to determine the new world order for when Germany was defeated.
Too often facilely portrayed as a madman now Stalin was in fact a brilliant negotiator, single minded, ruthless and amoral. Churchill convinced himself that unlike Neville Chamberlain and Hitler, he was right to trust Stalin’s often vague commitments about the future of Poland, democracy and so on. Roosevelt naively thought Stalin’s priestly training in early life would incline him to honour his agreements and work for peaceful coexistence.
What did come out of the conference was the United Nations project; Stalin’s agreement to attack Japan after Germany was defeated; an understanding that free elections would be held in Eastern Europe; a war crimes tribunal; the dismantling of Germany’s war industry; and German forced labour forming part of reparations. The most shameful aspect of the accord was that all Soviet citizens would be repatriated after victory: they were, and thousands were machine-gunned within earshot of the ships delivering them.
Churchill stood up for France as a world power at Yalta in spite of Stalin’s objections: Churchill insisted France be given a role and territory in post-war Germany; and that France be a major player at the future United Nations; for which de Gaulle later repaid him with barring British entry to the then Common Market. As a later commentator remarked: “The French, always there when they need you.”
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