Yalta Conference: Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin

The Yalta Conference was held February 4–11, 1945. It was code-named “Argonaut” to conceal the fact that the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union were assembling to discuss the postwar reorganization of Europe.

The conference was held near Yalta in Crimea, Soviet Union. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, (known as the Big Three) represented their respective countries

Yalta was the second of three major wartime conferences among the Big Three. It was preceded by the Tehran Conference in November 1943, and was followed by the Potsdam Conference in July 1945.

The aim of the conference was to shape a post-war peace that represented not just a collective security order but a plan to give self-determination to the liberated peoples of post-Nazi Europe.

However, each of the three leaders had his own agenda. Roosevelt wanted Soviet support in the U.S. Pacific War against Japan as well as Soviet participation in the United Nations; Churchill pressed for free elections and democratic governments in Eastern and Central Europe; and Stalin demanded a Soviet sphere of political influence in Eastern and Central Europe as an essential aspect of the USSR’s national security strategy.

The Declaration of Liberated Europe was created during the Yalta Conference. It was a promise that allowed the people of Europe “to create democratic institutions of their own choice”. The Big Three also agreed that all original governments would be restored to the invaded countries (with the exceptions of Romania, Bulgaria, and Poland) and that all civilians would be repatriated.

The trouble was, the original governments and infrastructure of many countries were so damaged by the war that they could no longer be effective.

Within a few short years, Yalta became a subject of intense controversy. The US, the UK, and the Soviets all propped up new leaders and economic systems which aligned with their goals and values. Determined to halt the spread of communism, the United States became embroiled in numerous conflicts, not with the USSR directly, but with Communist governments in Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba.

Even the German capitol of Berlin was divided into “spheres of influence”. The infamous wall would not be constructed until 1961, but the ideological divide that came to define the Cold War was already firmly in place before WWII ended.