“It was not a question of what we would let the Russians do, but what we could get the Russians to do.” Future Secretary of State James Byrnes commented on the Yalta conference which began on February 4, 1945.
Most historians now agree that Yalta… is where Stalin exerted his will upon the European continent. Theories abound as to how this came to pass- Roosevelt’s illness, Churchill’s weariness, Soviet agents posing as American diplomats (Alger Hiss)- regardless, the Soviet Union came out of the conference a world power. Byrnes’ observation was optimistic to say the least…
What seemed at the time to be reasonable compromise… laid the foundations for the Eastern Bloc.
- Free elections in Poland- clearly stacked in Stalin’s favor, the exiled Polish government in London stood little chance against the Provisional Communist state built by the Red Army in 1945.
- Red Army occupation of eastern and central Europe was accepted- and despite assurances to Churchill of peaceful intentions, Stalin told Molotov, “Never mind. We’ll do it our own way later.”
- The Red Army would occupy half of Germany including the entirety of Berlin. The seeds of the Cold War are planted out of what was thought to be military expediency.