Yalta Conference / Crimea Conference / Argonaut Conference
Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin attended the Yalta Conference to divide up the spoils of World War II. It was also called the Crimea Conference and the Argonaut Conference and took place from February 4–11, 1945.
As the boundaries of many nation states were in some question following World War II, this conference of the greatest powers of the day – Britain, American and Russia – was designed to redress the difficulties caused by the war.
The issue of Germany was on the agenda as well. Stalin apparently wanted the country done away with. Roosevelt and Churchill disagreed. Churchill also had his differences with Roosevelt; as he did not like FDR's friendly approach to Stalin. Unlike Churchill, Roosevelt is said to have seen in Stalin someone he could work with in a trusting way.
There was also the issue of Russian success on the ground. The Russians had overrun Eastern Europe and much of Germany and thus the facts on the ground informed what could be done realistically post-war. The facts were starkly illustrated even in the choice of the meetingplace: the Black Sea resort of Yalta, in the Crimea, which was Stalin's choice. Roosevelt and Churchill went to see HIM.
Roosevelt wanted Stalin's participation in the UN; Churchill wanted freedom for central Europe. Stalin wanted Soviet domination and control over Eastern Europe. He was determined to get it. However his rhetoric was surprisingly modest at Yalta. He stated only that "Poland must be strong" and that "the Soviet Union is interested in the creation of a mighty, free and independent Poland" as it had "sinned" against Poland in the past. He promised free elections in Poland.
Roosevelt wanted the USSR's help with the Japenese war, still ongoing. A quid pro quo was struck. Among other issues, the USSR wanted Mongolian independence from China and at Yalta it received the assent of both Britain and America. In return Stalin agreed to fight in the Pacific three months after Germany's formal surrender.
While all this horse-trading seemed amicable, the eventual reality was different than what had been agreed to. Stalin essentially took over Eastern Europe – abrogating his Yalta understandings – while obtaining expanded influence in Asia via the independence of Mongolia and other concessions regarding Japan.
While Stalin did agree to join the UN, the USSR's entrée came with a price as well: Veto power. Each country could block decisions wanted by the other major powers and this made the UN less useful to the West than it would have been otherwise.
Key points agreed to at Yalta are as follows:
• Nazi Germany must surrender unconditionally and would then be split into four zones. France was to be the fourth occupier.
• Germany would demilitarize.
• Germans would have to pay for the war with forced labor to rebuild Germany and other countries.
• A reparation council would be set up in the Soviet Union.
• Poland would receive a more democratic government instead of the one the USSR had just set up based on communism.
• Poland's borders were to be reestablished.
• The USSR would join the UN.
• The USSR would enter the war against Japan.
• Important Nazi officials were to be hunted and captured.
While the Yalta Conference concluded amicably, the friendliness was not to last. With FDR's death, Harry Truman became president and he was far less accommodating to the USSR than his predecessor. His distrusting attitude and his willingness to drop two nuclear bombs on Japan were seen by Stalin as a signal that the West was not going to regard the USSR as an ally in the post-war environment. He soon went back on his promises regarding Poland and inevitably the Cold War began.