Road to Allied Victory

Road to Allied Victory

The Tehran and Yalta Conferences

 

The Tehran Conference was a strategy meeting between Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill that lasted from November 28 until December 1, 1943, in Tehran, Iran. It resulted in the Western Allies’ commitment to open a second front against Nazi Germany.

 

Learning Objectives

  • Evaluate the significance and goals of the 1943 Tehran Conference.
  • Evaluate the significance and goals of the 1945 Yalta Conference.

 

Key Terms / Key Concepts

Big Three: the leaders of the main three Allied countries: the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union, namely led by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin

Declaration of Liberated Europe: a declaration created by Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin during the Yalta Conference that gave the people of Europe the choice to “create democratic institutions of their own choice”

Tehran Conference: meeting of the Allied leaders of the U.S., U.K, and U.S.S.R. to discuss opening up a second front in Europe

The Yalta Conference: the meeting of the Big Three in February 1945 at Livadia, Crimea to discuss the restructuring of Europe when the war ended

 

The Tehran Conference

 

The Tehran Conference was a strategy meeting of Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill from November 28 to December 1, 1943. It was held in the Soviet Union’s embassy in Tehran, Iran and was the first World War II conference of the “Big Three” Allied leaders. Although the three leaders arrived with differing objectives, the main outcome of the Tehran Conference was the Western Allies’ commitment to open a second front against Nazi Germany. The conference also addressed the Allies’ relations with Turkey and Iran, operations in Yugoslavia and against Japan, and the envisaged post-war settlement. A separate protocol signed at the conference pledged the Big Three to recognize Iran’s independence.

 

Proceedings

 

The conference was to convene at 4 p.m. on November 28, 1943. Stalin arrived early, followed by Roosevelt, who was brought in his wheelchair. It was here that Roosevelt, who had traveled 7,000 miles (11,000 km) to attend and whose health was already deteriorating, met Stalin for the first time. Churchill, walking with his General Staff from their accommodations nearby, arrived half an hour later.

The U.S. and Great Britain wanted to secure the cooperation of the Soviet Union in defeating Germany. Stalin agreed, but at a price: the U.S. and Britain would accept Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, support the Yugoslav Partisans, and agree to a westward shift of the border between Poland and the Soviet Union.

The leaders then turned to the conditions under which the Western Allies would open a new front by invading northern France, just as Stalin had pressed them to do since 1941. It was agreed that Operation Overlord—the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France—would occur by May 1944; Stalin agreed to support it by launching a concurrent major offensive on Germany’s eastern front to divert German forces from northern France.

The subjects of Iran and Turkey were also discussed in detail. Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin all agreed to support Iran’s government. In addition, the Soviet Union was required to pledge support to Turkey if that country entered the war. Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin agreed that it would also be most desirable if Turkey entered on the Allies’ side before the year was out.

Despite accepting the previously mentioned arrangements, Stalin dominated the conference, using the prestige of the Soviet victory at the Battle of Kursk on the Eastern Front to get his way. Roosevelt attempted to cope with Stalin’s onslaught of demands but was able to do little except appease him. Churchill argued for the invasion of Italy in 1943, then Overlord in 1944, on the basis that Overlord was physically impossible in 1943 and it would be unthinkable to do anything major until it could be launched in a realistic fashion.

 

Photo
The “Big Three”: Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill at the Tehran Conference, 1943.

 

Results

 

The Yugoslav Partisans were given full Allied support. The Communist Partisans under Tito took power in Yugoslavia as the Germans retreated from the Balkans.

Turkey’s president conferred with Roosevelt and Churchill at the Cairo Conference in November 1943 and promised to enter the war when it was fully armed. By August 1944 Turkey broke off relations with Germany. In February 1945, Turkey declared war on Germany and Japan, which may have been a symbolic move that allowed Turkey to join the future United Nations.

The invasion of France on June 6, 1944 took place about as planned, and the supporting invasion of southern France also occurred. The Soviets launched a major offensive against the Germans on June 22, 1944.

 

The Yalta Conference

 

The Yalta Conference, held February 4 – 11, 1945, was the meeting of Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin to discuss Europe’s post-war reorganization. The Big Three met at Tsar Nicholas’ former palace in Livadia, Crimea. The Yalta conference was a crucial turning point in the Cold War.

 

The Conference

 

All three leaders attempted to establish an agenda for governing post-war Europe and keeping peace between post-war countries. However, by August 1944, Soviet forces were inside Poland and Romania as part of their drive west. And by the time of the Conference, Red Army Marshal Georgy Zhukov’s forces were 40 miles from Berlin; consequently, Stalin felt his position at the conference was so strong that he could dictate terms. And this led to a more diplomatic approach from Roosevelt and Churchill. According to U.S. delegation member and future Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, “It was not a question of what we would let the Russians do, but what we could get the Russians to do.” But each leader certainly had their own agendas for the Yalta Conference.

Roosevelt wanted Soviet support in the U.S. Pacific War against Japan, specifically for the planned invasion of Japan, and Soviet participation in the United Nations. Churchill pressed for free elections and democratic governments in Eastern and Central Europe (specifically Poland). And Stalin demanded a Soviet sphere of political influence in Eastern and Central Europe, an essential aspect of the USSR’s national security strategy.

Poland was the first item on the Soviet agenda. Stalin stated that “For the Soviet government, the question of Poland was one of honor,” but he also viewed it as a matter of security because Poland had served as a historical corridor for forces attempting to invade Russia. In addition, Stalin stated that “because the Russians had greatly sinned against Poland,” “the Soviet government was trying to atone for those sins.” Stalin concluded that “Poland must be strong” and that “the Soviet Union is interested in the creation of a mighty, free and independent Poland.” Accordingly, Stalin stipulated that Polish government-in-exile demands were not negotiable: the Soviet Union would keep the territory of eastern Poland they had already annexed in 1939, and Poland was to be compensated by extending its western borders at the expense of Germany. Stalin promised free elections in Poland despite the Soviet-sponsored provisional government recently installed in Polish territories occupied by the Red Army.

The Declaration of Liberated Europe was a promise that allowed the people of Europe “to create democratic institutions of their own choice.” The declaration pledged, “the earliest possible establishment through free elections governments responsive to the will of the people.” This is similar to the statements of the Atlantic Charter, which says, “the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live.” Stalin broke the pledge by encouraging Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and many more countries to construct a Communist government instead of letting the people construct their own. These countries later became known as Stalin’s Satellite Nations.

 

Photo
Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin at the Yalta Conference, February 1945.

 

Long-term Impact

 

The meeting of the Big Three at Tehran established the precedent of, “The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend.” Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin despised one another. Franklin Roosevelt, who had been Churchill’s close associate for years, was able to work with both men. If he did not win the friendship of Stalin, he did win his respect—something that his successors would never be able to achieve during the Cold War. Still, the three men worked together in order to come up with a viable plan to defeat Nazi Germany. It was the first of several critical meetings between the leaders of the chief nations of the Allies.

The Yalta Conference was intended mainly to discuss the re-establishment of the nations of war-torn Europe. Within a few years, with the Cold War dividing the continent, Yalta had become a subject of intense controversy. To a degree, it has remained controversial.

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