Yalta Conference

From Academic Kids

The Yalta Conference, sometimes called the Crimea conference and codenamed the Argonaut Conference, was the wartime meeting from February 4 to 11, 1945 between the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union. The delegations were headed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin respectively.

Missing image
Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin at Yalta

The conference

It was a continuation of the series of meetings begun at the Casablanca Conference (January 14 to 24, 1943) although the meetings can be tracked back to prior U.S. involvement in the War, between both Britain's PM and the President of the U.S. in the middle of the ocean (see Atlantic Charter). This conference was then followed by the Potsdam Conference. The meeting took place in the former Imperial palace at Yalta in the Crimea on the north shore of the Black Sea.

The agreements of the Yalta conference were in dispute even before the final meeting at Potsdam. Following his death, Roosevelt was publicly accused of signing Central and Eastern Europe into Communist control, as both Churchill and Roosevelt did not accept the requests by the Polish government in exile for international control over the countries such as Poland that were occupied by the Soviets. Moreover, no other governments were allowed to send representatives to Yalta nor were they notified of the decisions made at the meeting.

The official agreements reached at the meeting included:

  • The declaration of liberated Europe, allowing for democratic elections in all the liberated territories. In reality, for countries occupied by the Red Army such as Poland and the Baltic states, this remained only a declaration. Elections in Soviet-occupied countries were heavily rigged in favour of Moscow-controlled Communist parties while members of other political parties were persecuted and murdered by NKVD and NKVD-controlled local security forces. Similarly, Western colonial powers such as France were allowed to reenter their former colonies, most notably precipitating the decades long Vietnam War (see Western betrayal)
  • A conference in April in San Francisco on the proposed world organization, the United Nations (UN). The structure of the UN was also considered and the Security Council idea was agreed upon. The U.S. and UK also agreed to support the Ukrainian and Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republics having separate UN seats. A UN territorial trusteeship (as later stipulated in the United Nations Charter article 76 and 77) would also be applied to existing mandates of the League of Nations and territories detached from the enemy as a result of the war.
  • The dismemberment, disarmament and demilitarization of Germany, which the three powers saw as "requisite for future peace and security". The country was to be divided into zones amongst the Allies, with large sections of Eastern Germany annexed by Poland and Russia. The 15 million Germans in these areas were to be expelled. The French were also granted a zone of occupation and membership of the Allied Control Council for Germany.
  • Reparations from Germany for "losses caused by her to the Allied nations in the course of the war". Reparations were allowed in the form of the removal of national wealth (machine tools, ships, shares in German enterprises, etc.), the annual delivery of goods for a period to be fixed, or the use of German labour. The Americans and Russians agreed on the figure of $22 billion in reparations, while the British delegation did not believe a final figure could yet be arrived at.
  • The question of war crimes was postponed.
  • Poland was to have a "broad democratic provisional government" leading up to "free and unfettered elections as soon as possible on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballot". As it was already mentioned this was only a declaration, the reality were heavily rigged elections and totalitarian communist dictatorship introduced by the Soviets.
  • In Yugoslavia the Tito-Šubašić Agreement would be put into effect, merging the Royal and Communist governments.
  • The Soviets agreed to intervene in the war with Japan within three months of the German surrender. In return they would be given the Sakhalin and Kurile Islands and pre-eminent interests over Port Arthur and Darien (Dalian) and its rail connections.
  • Concerns over the Italo-Yugoslav and Italo-Austrian frontiers were postponed as were decisions over Yugoslav-Bulgarian relations, Romania, Iran, and the Montreux Convention.
  • All captured Soviet nationals be repatriated whether they were willing or not.

With regards to the future of Germany, the Yalta conference was extremely ambigious. The Allies were committed only to "the complete disarmament, demilitarization and the dismemberment of Germany as they deem requisite for future peace and security." This formulation permitted scope for future modifications and moreover essentially gave each a free hand to impose and practice its own interpretation of decision. It is unclear whether the fate of the Crimean Tatars deported earlier on 18 May 1944 was discussed.

Controversies over Yalta

The Yalta Conference is often cited as the symbol of Western betrayal or the beginning of the Cold War. There seems to be a fairly common myth about Yalta: if only Roosevelt had demonstrated more will, more resolution, the postwar map of Europe would have been transformed and eastern Europe would have been spared the miseries of Stalinist rule. Some also argue that the failure was not in the Yalta Agreement itself, but in Western Allies' belief that Stalin's dictatorship could be trusted. Neither Roosevelt nor Churchill ceded — officially, at least — to Stalin the right to control Eastern Europe. The Yalta Agreement guaranteed free elections for Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, yet it is hard to comprehend how the Western Allies could have honestly believed Stalin's promise, given the USSR's behaviour (the Katyn Massacre, its hostility to Polish government-in-exile and its persecution of Armia Krajowa members engaged in the Operation Tempest). The USSR's intentions were clearly visible in the Trial of the Sixteen which took place near the same time as the Yalta conference.

There's some truth to this criticism, which is a variant of the "great man" view of history. But the harsh realities, including the de facto zones of military occupation, placed serious constraints on the ability of Roosevelt and Churchill to exact major diplomatic concessions.

By the time of the Yalta conference, there's no convincing evidence that the Western Allies had the will to wage a second colossal war in central Europe. Even before the existing conflict ended, the British and French were far more focussed on recovering their lost colonies than on the future of eastern Europe. The invasion of France, the Low Countries and Germany itself had been very costly to the U.S. and the UK, and the French had a limited ability in 1945 to provide military support for anti-Soviet offensives in the east. British reserves of manpower were exhausted and the U.S. had already begun to transfer troops, including the entire First Army, to the Pacific Theater even before the end of the European war. Above all, there was clearly no appetite, anywhere, for a military confrontation among the former allies. The harsh realities, including the de facto zones of military occupation, placed serious constraints on the ability of Roosevelt and Churchill — as well as Stalin — to exact major diplomatic concessions. Thirteen million Russian soldiers had died to defeat Germany and Stalin had ambitions to extend Soviet control to eastern Europe. Despite its staggering losses, the Soviet Union was emerging from the war with a modern, mechanized army and air force that were only rivaled by the U.S. These circumstances made it very unlikely that Stalin would yield to the self determination of people — the primary war aim articulated in the Atlantic Charter; or that Western electorates would support a new war to push the Russians east of the Curzon line.

In May 2005 U.S. President George W. Bush said that the Soviet domination of central and eastern Europe after World War II was "one of the greatest wrongs of history" and that the United States played a significant role in the division of the continent and that the Yalta conference "followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. … Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable."

See also

External links

es:Conferencia de Yalta fr:confrence de Yalta he:ועידת יאלטה it:Conferenza di Jalta ja:ヤルタ会談 nl:Conferentie van Jalta no:Jaltakonferansen pl:konferencja jałtańska ru:Ялтинская конференция 1945 sv:Jaltakonferensen tr:Yalta_Konferansı zh:雅尔塔会议


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