The way to the Tehran conference was paved by several earlier meetings between the foreign ministers of Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union, at Stalin’s suggestion. The most important of these meetings was the Moscow conference. Churchill proposed meeting in London, but Stalin insisted on Moscow. He also proposed that the tripartite meeting of the highest level be held in Iran.
The Tehran conference was the first meeting between the leaders of the most important countries in the anti-Nazi alliance. It was an important moment in which the delegates were able to negotiate concerning the post-war world. The organization of the conference took into account the situation on the front.
Roosevelt and Stalin got on well after discussions during the first meeting held in the Iranian capital. Besides the official meetings, there was also opportunity for separate discussions between leaders.
Concerning military issues, there was much discussion about the Normandy landing. Over a million British troops would land in Normandy the following year. Roosevelt and Stalin opposed Churchill’s plan for a similar operation in the Balkans. For Stalin, it was important to reach directly into the heart of Germany. The Balkans were not a point of interest for him.
Roosevelt’s politics were a violent mix of American exceptionalism, Wilsonian idealism and personal intuition concerning the American psyche, which was always more attuned to universal causes than to immediate recompense.
Churchill tried to diplomatically manipulate the USSR and the USA, which were threatening Great Britain. The American president’s support for self-governance was a challenge to the British Empire. Stalin’s attempt to thrust the Soviet Union into central Europe put England’s security at risk.
The United States’ ambivalence towards Great Britain was centred around three important issues: America’s anti-colonial tradition, the nature of wartime strategy, and the configuration of post-war Europe.
Important discussions concerning the future of the world took place not only between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill, but also between the foreign affairs ministers of the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union: Hopkins, Eden and Molotov.
The Tehran conference had great political and military significance: it set foundations for present and future cooperation, and coordinated the action plans of the three Great Powers. The joint declaration, published at the end of the meeting, contained few references to post-war organization. It simply affirmed the desire of the three powers to continue cooperation after the war in order to ensure world peace. They acknowledged their responsibility to install peace and eliminate any danger of war, a responsibility also pertaining to the United Nations.