The agreement reached at Yalta was that the Communist government would be the basis of the new Polish government, but it would be strengthened with elements from the London government and that there would be free and secret elections in Poland as soon as that was possible.
In addition, the three leaders agreed to a declaration on liberated Europe which said that Europe, in general, should have free governments. All this led to the division of Europe and the Cold War, and although the first elections in Poland were reasonably free, there were not any more after that and the Communists gradually took over Poland, as they did the other Eastern European countries. However, it is worth remembering the situation at the time of the Yalta Agreement, that Soviet troops were already deeply in to Eastern Europe, whereas British and American troops had not yet reached Germany.
Indeed, they had only defeated the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge because of a very heavy Soviet offensive taking place at the same time.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
So the facts on the ground were not very favourable to Britain and America. The time to have made an agreement with Stalin, if such an agreement could have been made, would have been much earlier, when the Soviets were weaker, and that was what the British Government tried to do. In December , shortly after the Soviet Union was attacked by Germany, British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden went to Moscow and wanted to bargain with Stalin, who was in a very weak position, but the Americans said, 'You can't do that because the Atlantic Charter says you can't give away any territories without the consent of the peoples themselves,' and even told Stalin that all he could agree with him was a declaration of principles - he couldn't agree on specific transfers of territory.
Stalin said he was not interested in a declaration of principles. He said a declaration was algebra, but he was interested in arithmetic - in other words, specific territory. Here too the Russians, although in a stronger position than they had been in , had not really begun to move west. Anthony Eden, who was getting worried about the spread of Soviet power, argued that there should be a federation of the Central European countries, which could be then a unit and resist the Soviet Union, but the Americans and the Russians, together, opposed that.
At that point, Stalin realised, as he told his associates, 'We shall do as we like with the Allies' consent'. In other words, the pass, if there was a pass, had been sold long before the Yalta Agreement, and in effect, the Americans, with perhaps the tacit agreement of the British, had consigned Eastern Europe to Stalin long before Yalta.
Building "Nuestra América:" national sovereignty and regional integration in the americas
The reason for that was - or one of the reasons, was that people in Britain and America were worried that, if Stalin did not have promises of gains of territory, he would just stop fighting when he reached Russia's old borders or, worse, try to make an agreement with Germany. Moreover, the British and Americans took the view, which I think was right, that there was no way that they could stop Stalin, other than by the use of force, and they could not use force when the public opinion, after all, had seen Soviet Russia as an ally, which it was.
You could not suddenly tell the British and American electorate that today the Soviet Union is an ally, and tomorrow an enemy and we have got to fight against them. Roosevelt told the Polish Ambassador to America: 'Do you expect us and Great Britain to declare war on Joe Stalin if they cross your previous frontier? Even if we wanted to, Russia can still field an army twice our combined strength and we would just have no say in the matter at all. So all these matters, I think, were pre-figured already by Yalta, which endorsed decisions that had already been made.
You may argue that the decisions about Poland and the declaration on a liberated Europe were attempts to win back by peaceful means what had been lost militarily, and that political decisions could do no more than ratify the military position. The only other way in which things might have been improved would be if the British and American forces had got further eastwards by the time of the Yalta Conference and had actually been in possession of territories which Stalin wanted.
Ironically, Stalin wanted a second front in Europe much earlier than the British were prepared to accept. The Americans also wanted an early second front, but Churchill, who remembered the First World War and the slaughter on the Western Front, said it would be wrong and lead to a lot of killing against this very efficient German army if we landed in Europe too early before we were really trained and prepared.
My own view is that Churchill was right on that and that it was right to delay the second front, but the cost of the delay was that Stalin established a dominant position in Central and Eastern Europe. In return for these decisions at the Yalta Agreement, Roosevelt gained things that he thought were of value, but which were not. The first was that he said that the Russians promised they would join in the fight against Japan two or three months after Germany was defeated.
Roosevelt thought that was important. He could not foresee the damage the atom bomb would wreak, that Japan would surrender immediately, and he wanted to limit the number of American losses, and he thought he had made a great gain in getting Stalin to agree to fight in Japan. It was not actually a great gain because Stalin was rather eager to fight in Japan because he wanted to win more territory, as indeed he did, from Japan, so that was not a great gain.
But in return for that, Roosevelt agreed to concessions in China at the Yalta Conference which he did not tell the American people and which later led to the accusation that the Democrats had sold out China to the Communists at Yalta. I will talk about that more when I talk about Truman. Secondly, Roosevelt thought it was very important to do what Woodrow Wilson had not succeeded in doing, to get a League of Nations or United Nations going. Roosevelt thought that Wilson's mistake had been to wait till after the War to get the League of Nations set up, when opinion no longer supported him.
He wanted to get a cast iron agreement during the War that the Soviet Union would join the United Nations and play a full part in its working to help create a decent post-War order. Indeed, Roosevelt was so sympathetic to the UN that he thought at one time that when his presidency ended he would become the first Secretary General of the United Nations.
But of course it is clear in hindsight he paid too high a price for all this. He was thinking in terms of securing an international liberal order, but there was no hope of achieving that with Stalin, who obviously did not share Western aims, even if he sometimes used the rhetoric of the West.
The UN has proved, no doubt, of some value, but fairly limited value, and certainly has not done what Woodrow Wilson or Roosevelt hoped and be able to prevent war as a kind of parliament of man, because it hasn't done that. So on all this, Roosevelt was wrong. But, to what extent did it matter that he was wrong, and if he had not been wrong, could he have done anything different?
I believe that we are going to get along very well with him and the Russian people, very well indeed. He told the American Congress the Yalta Conference ought to spell the end of the system of unilateral action, the exclusive alliance, the spheres of influence, the balance of power, and all the other expedients that had been tried for centuries and had always failed. But I think you have to ask the question of whether he really believed that, and I think there are strong indications that he did not. His naval chief, Admiral Lee, said to Roosevelt after the Yalta Conference: 'Mr President, this is so elastic that the Russians can stretch it all the way from Yalta to Washington without ever technically breaking it.
He regarded the declaration on liberated Europe and the agreement on Poland as a public test, and if Stalin had failed that test, in my opinion, though some people disagree with it, he would have followed a policy of containment, much as President Truman and later Presidents did. That is a contested view and some people disagree, so that is my personal view. I defend it by saying that he had a strong fallback position.
He made America a global power, which it remains today. He told Stalin - and this was very pointed I think - 'You naturally understand that in this global war there is literally no question, political or military, in which the US is not interested. As it happened, Stalin learnt about the atom bomb and I suspect Ultra through his spies, but he was not told by Roosevelt or Churchill. So I don't think he was taken in by the Soviet Union and I think he got the best deal he could have done at the end of the War, but that view is very controversial and other people hold different views.
Now, let me conclude.
Debating Franklin D. Roosevelt's Foreign Policies, 1933–1945
Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under Nixon and also an academic, said that 'No President, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln, has made a more decisive difference in American history. First, he created a powerful presidency, particularly in the field of foreign affairs, and people welcomed that.
They welcomed the fact that he got round Congress and the Senate in his measures to help Britain, they said it was a jolly good thing, but people did not welcome it as much when the Americans used that machinery to get themselves into Vietnam without getting Congressional approval. There was a reaction against the imperial presidency at that time, in the '60s and '70s. He made America, as I have just explained, a global power.
This is, again, very controversial, but he began the Special Relationship with Britain, which I think continues, but people disagree about that of course. Roosevelt was a liberal, grew up as a liberal, as I said last time, and drew up - had to deal with two great crises of liberalism: the first, the Great Depression, and the second, the rise of the totalitarian powers. You may say he was not entirely successful in dealing with either, but I think he was more successful than anyone else would have been.
Without him, it is possible the American system might have collapsed in the '30s, and without him, I think it is just possible that Hitler might have won the War, without his aid to Britain in and ' From this point of view, I think we live in Roosevelt's world. This view of Roosevelt's brought him into conflict with the British and his allies, because Churchill said during the War, 'We mean to hold our own. The Americans, he said, were not fighting so that the British could continue to rule million people in India against the wishes of the Indians, because Britain's declaration of war in was also a declaration of war on behalf of million Indians, who you may say had no particular European quarrel at all.
The Atlantic Charter made that clear.
Roosevelt said in the Atlantic Charter: 'I am firmly of the belief that if we are to arrive at a stable peace, it must involve the development of backward countries. I cannot believe that we can fight a war against Fascist slavery and at the same time not work to free people all over the world from a backward colonial policy. The British War Cabinet objected to that because Ghandi and Nehru in India said, 'This is marvellous - this is what we have been fighting for all the time, freedom from the British!
On this point of view, Churchill said that it was unconcerned with anything outside Europe at all. Churchill tended to have, one might say, not a very flattering view of people whose skin was not white. He called the Japanese 'the wops of the Pacific' and he said, 'We will not let the Hottentots, by a popular vote, throw the white people into the sea'.
It was because of that that Roosevelt said, in the middle of the War, to one of his advisors, 'We will have more trouble with Great Britain after the War than we are having with Germany now. He died before the election of , but he would have welcomed the Labour Government in power in Britain certainly on the grounds of decolonisation. De Gaulle refused, said it was an insult to French power and sovereignty, but how much trouble the world would have been saved if De Gaulle had taken that advice!
Roosevelt is sometimes accused of being anti-British, as seeking to undermine British power, but I think he actually did Britain a favour and was a friend of Britain.
I mean, how many people here now regret that Britain does not rule India and large parts of Africa? I wonder if anyone in France regrets they do not rule Indo-China or Vietnam anymore? I think he was actually doing Britain a favour rather than being an enemy of Britain.
- Further Your Research.
- Debating Franklin D. Roosevelt's Foreign Policies, : Justus D. Doenecke :.
- Progress in Self Psychology, V. 11: The Impact of New Ideas: 011;
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