In order to understand the redrawing of the European map, and the origins of the Cold War and a divided Germany, one must first analyze the negotiations which took place between the three leaders of the Allied states: Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill. The most important meeting between the three leaders happened in Yalta. The Yalta Conference is even now fiercely debated and analyzed. It had the most complex repercussions on post-war Europe.
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The conference took place in the Soviet Union, at Yalta, a town on the Crimean Peninsula, on the shores of the Black Sea. The goal of the conference was to resolve the problems appearing as a consequence of the defeat of Nazi Germany. The location of the meeting was the Livadia palace, the summer residence of the Romanov dynasty. It is a white palace, in renaissance style, built by the architect Nikolay Krasnov, for the Tsar’s family.
The American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the Soviet leader, Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, were preoccupied with dividing Europe into zones of influence. The British prime-minister wanted Great Britain to keep her Colonial Empire.
The most important points in the meeting were concerning Nazi Germany. Other problems were also discussed, such as: the creation of the UN, the Pacific War, and USSR participation in the defeat of Japan.
President Roosevelt firmly believed in American messianism, that America was an exceptional country. Although he did not want America to be permanently involved in European problems, he believed that it was her duty to show the way to peace. Roosevelt went to Yalta to “end the system of unilateral action, the exclusive alliances, the spheres of influence, the balances of power, and all the other expedients that have been tried for centuries—and have always failed. We propose to substitute for all these, a universal organization in which all peace-loving Nations will finally have a chance to join.”
Stalin was an adept of realpolitik and thought in classic terms of ratios of force. Thus he was closer to Churchill than to Roosevelt in his understanding of the world. He had two goals at this conference.
Churchill, in contrast to his other contemporaries, was part of the war from the beginning. He knew that, at the end of the war, Great Britain’s role as a world power would end. Thus, he must find a new way to defend the country’s interests.
The Soviets were given the administration of all the countries of Eastern Europe which they had freed, in which they promised to organize free elections. The British and Americans were to supervise the transition towards democracy in Italy, Austria and Greece.
Discussions concerning post-war Poland’s borders represented a tense moment in relations between Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill. At Yalta, it was agreed that post-war Poland would be ‘moved’ westwards.
Most of the population of Eastern Europe saw the Yalta Conference as an act of betrayal by the West. Roosevelt and Churchill were accused of throwing Eastern Europe and northern Korea into the arms of the Soviets, who had never permitted free elections.
The Yalta Conference set the foundations for post-war Europe. Through the advantages they were obliged to offer to Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt permitted the USSR to extend its dominion over Eastern Europe.
The United States tested an atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert. An atomic bomb was launched against the Japanese city of Hiroshima. As Stalin had promised at Yalta, the USSR declared war against Japan. The United States dropped the second nuclear bomb on Nagasaki. At the same time, the Soviets launched a massive offensive in Manchuria against the Japanese.