Yalta: Fact or Fate? A Brief Characterization
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President François Mitterand of France, in a message at the start of 1982, rightly and roundly condemned the Conference of Yalta. France, excluded from the tete-a-tete of the Big Three World Conquerors on 4-12 February 1945, thus once again has challenged the Western nations not to recognize the judgments and the boundaries there agreed upon – particularly in Eastern Europe – as inexorable fate. Facts make fate the world over and prejudices and hatreds that had been draped with the mantle of sacred truths in 1945 will no longer be so recognized two generations later.
America has a tendency either to worship or to damn her chiefs of state. The vainglorious emotions presently associated with the centenary of Franklin D. Roosevelt's birth – and that not just in the United States – might be used easily to gloss over some of the most glaring errors committed by this man and his advisors at Yalta, and before at Teheran, and handed down to his successor, Truman at the Conference of Potsdam.
Tellingly, today's Soviet press speaks of FDR in glowing terms. The spring, 1982, issues of Pravda and Izvestia applaud his sense of vision, first, in recognizing the USSR diplomatically but, above all, in his wartime relationship to the rulers of the Kremlin which laid the foundations for "international stability and security." President Reagan's foreign policy, on the other hand, is excoriated as the very antithesis of Roosevelt's "rationality."
No wonder. FDR and his most intimate advisors made sweeping global concessions to the Soviet totalitarians which drastically altered the face of the earth and substantially impeded the work of his successors. Briefly, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presence at Yalta had consequences in the Far East, the Mid East, central and westen Europe and, of course, in the world at large.
In exchange for a vague promise to enter the war against Japan two or three months after the end of the European war – a promise kept only on 8 August 1945, after the first atomic bomb already had been dropped – Stalin's "sphere of influence," via the Manchurian railways, was extended to northern and southern Manchuria including the commercial harbor of Dairen and the naval base of Port Arthur, his "status quo" domination over Outer Mongolia was acknowledged, and he was allowed to annex outright the Kuril Islands and southern Sakhalin which had been Japanese since 1875 and 1905. Thus, with Roosevelt's encouragement, Stalin continued his policy of imperialist Red expansion in the footsteps of the Tsars. The results of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 which once had given rise to the Russian revolts of the same year and, ultimately, to the Revolutions of 1917, were expunged. In a move that should seem particularly ironic to Americans, Franklin Roosevelt destroyed the outcome of the Treaty of Portsmouth of 1905, arranged through the good offices of his cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt, and celebrated by a front-page cartoon in the Harper's Weekly of 24 June of that year which shows a solemn President urging a glowering Tsar and a proud Mikado to "Let us Have Peace."
Note that, true to ancient imperial tradition, the legally constituted Government of China, engaged in a life-and-death struggle, was not apprised of those generous gifts of its sovereignty and its territory to a powerful neighbor until too late. The following weighty conversation between Roosevelt and Stalin – otherwise attended only by Molotov, Harriman and two translators – held toward 4 p.m. of Saturday, 10 February 1945, decides the fate of the largest nation on earth:
Roosevelt: " … Naturally, our agreement about Port Arthur and the railroads needs China's approval. Would you like to inform T.V. Soong (the Foreign and Prime Minister of China) … ? Or should I treat the matter with Chiang-Kai-Skek?"
Stalin: "It would be better if you approached him."
Roosevelt: "Good… I'll send an officer to Chungking (China's wartime capital)."
Without success Harriman tried to persuade the President to have at least Port Arthur declared a free port under international supervision. At the Conference of Cairo, in November, 1943, FDR had promised Chiang-Kai-Shek the complete return of Manchukuo or Manchuria to China.
In East Asia, therefore, Yalta opened the door to Soviet expansion and to the 'communization' of heavily industrial, formerly Japanese-dominated Manchuria, of northern China and Mongolia and, ultimately, of most of that huge continent north and east of Iran, India, Burma and Thailand. Without FDR America's costly land wars in Korea and Indochina would have been less inevitable.
In the Middle East, Churchill and Roosevelt had permitted the USSR to occupy the former Tsarist Sphere of Influence in the north of Iran which included the volatile regions and provinces of Kurdistan, Azerbeijan, Gilan, Mazanderan, Gorgan and Khorasan. Britain swallowed the rest. These developments took place on and after 25 August 1941, while the ink was not yet dry on the paper of the Atlantic Charter in which Roosevelt and Churchill had proclaimed the inviolability of the independence, the territories and the boundaries of nations.
In the meantime, from 1941 to 1945, the Soviet Union increased her pressure on Turkey and Iraq, nations which were similar to Iran in that they were neutral but traditionally had been in the crossfire of British, Russian and French power interests. Soviet plans included territorial and economic concessions such as the "leasing" or the donation of the Straits of the Bosporus and the Dardanelles to the USSR and the handing over of the eastern provinces of Turkey – again a direct continuation of Tsarist Imperialism.
At Yalta, on 10 February, after 6 p.m., the seventh plenary session yields this result concerning Turkey:
Stalin: " … According to the Convention of Montreux (1936 – the author) the Turks have the right to close the Straits not only in case of war, but also when, in their opinion, the danger of war exists. I demand an immediate revision of the convention … It is an intolerable situation that Turkey can throttle Russia at any time. "
Roosevelt: "I understand you completely! I hate it when nations erect barriers between each other. Look at the 3000 mile long boundary between Canada and the United States: no fort and no soldier stand on the entire border. Besides, it is … understandable that the USSR wishes to have an ice-free port in the west" (underlined by author).
Churchill: "I am also in agreement, under the condition that the independence and the integrity of Turkey are guaranteed."
After some discussion the Soviet request wins the day. At Yalta as in the long run, Britain proved unable to resist Stalin in the face of American amity toward the Soviets and it was not until 1946-47 that President Truman saw his way toward containment in the Near East.
In toto, it may be stated with but slight hyperbole that the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1980, her threat to Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean, her designs on the Persian Gulf, on Arabia and on East Africa, and her power dominance over most of Asia north and east of a line from Baghdad to Bombay to Bangkok, were made much easier by Yalta, as well as by Teheran and Potsdam.
In Europe, the conclusions of the Yalta Conference concerning the division of Germany west of the Oder River into zones administered by an Allied Control Council were kept rigidly, months later, by the Americans and the British. It should never be forgotten that the heart of Europe, vital to the survival of all the continent, East or West, had been occupied by the forces of the West first and then abandoned to the depredations of the Red Army. This heartland included western and southern Bohemia with the large industrial city of Pilsen, the German state of Thuringia, heavily industrial Saxony up to the Elbe River, parts of Brandenburg-Prussia and of the Baltic coastal state of Mecklenburg.
Despite the urgings of the United States' General Patton, of Winston Churchill – who had "seen the light" about Soviet power far too late – and of General Montgomery, American politicians still under the spell of Yalta expressly declined, from March to May, 1945, to take Berlin and Prague while it was still possible. Patton's forces were grounded by administrative fiat in Bohemia a few miles west of Prague even though a jeep, or jeeps, full of American G-L's toured Prague and were celebrated by the populace. Had Prague been occupied by America, the frightful atrocities visited by Czech mobs on their German compatriots – compatriots of 800 to 1000 years – would have been avoided. Had Pilsen, Leipzig, Magdeburg, Wismar been kept, and had Berlin and Prague been taken by America and Britain – steps which would have required few sacrifices in 1945 – all of European and world history since then would have differed fundamentally from today's sorry "reality."
The charge, sometimes disputed, that in 1944 and early 1945 Churchill and Roosevelt abandoned the Polish Government-in-Exile in London to Stalin's designs by ceding eastern Poland to him while throwing to the Poles, in compensation, the territories of eastern Germany, is justified. When the Polish premier-in-exile, Stanislas Mikolajczyk, visited Roosevelt in June 1944, the latter explained to him that "Stalin is no imperialist … (He) is very deft, … has a sense of humor."
In illustration of this humor Roosevelt related "Uncle Joe's" toast, at the Conference of Teheran, to the "death of at least 50,000 German officers" to which Churchill had reacted angrily and which he, FDR, then sought to improve by toasting to the death of "… at least 49,500 German officers in battle." Prime Minister Mikolajczyk and his ambassdor, Ciechanowski, apparently failed to be amused as they were reminded of the fate of 20,000 Polish officers "liquidated" by Stalin, some of them thrown into mass graves in the woods near Katyn.
Caught between the Kremlin's devices and the aspirations of his nation, Mikolaiczyk resigned in November, 1944. His successor Arciszewski – a socialist and a fighter in the Polish underground until July 1944 – was equally unwilling to impart his blessings to an act of national catastrophe. On 3 February 1945, Arciszewski sent Roosevelt a telegram the text of which, in excerpts, is worth remembering:
I trust that you will not take part in any decision which endangers Poland's legitimate rights or her independence and that, in regard to Poland, you will not recognize any faits accomplis … If the European peace is to endure it must rest upon the principles of justice, of respect for the law, of good-neighborly relations and of trust, in the lives of peoples…
The so-called Provisional Government in Lublin has declared openly that it will treat all soldiers of the Inner-Polish Army and of the Polish Underground Movement as traitors Mass arrests and deportations already have taken place …
The White House gave Ambassador Ciechanowski the cold shoulder. He succeeded but once in grabbing hold of Roosevelt's intimus, Harry Hopkins: "What could be more important than laying the cornerstone, now, for the future cooperation of united nations on the basis of American principles and the Four Basic Freedoms?" In a fit of laughter Hopkins replied, "We also have to think of the 1948 elections!"[note 7 missing in original, here inserted as a guess; ed.]
Premier Arciszewski, his government, and his nation were sacrificed to the communist-dominated "Lublin Government" formed under Stalin's aegis.
Thus, Yalta, its antecedents and its consequences can in fact be blamed for the futility of the periodic uprisings in Soviet-occupied Central Europe: for the uprising in the Soviet Zone of Germany, 17-19 June 1953; for the revolts in Poland in the spring of 1956, in 1970 and in 1981/82; for the Hungarian Revolution of 1956; for the Spring and the Fall of Prague, 1968. Without Yalta these fateful bloodbaths, this oppression of the spirit of entire, great nations would not have taken place. Without Yalta they would have been unnecessary.
National catastrophe on a cataclysmic scale befell the people of Germany, her old men, women and children.
Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam laid the foundation for the most abhorrent "ethnocide" in history: the expulsion of twenty million (20 million) Germans and Hungarians from their age-old national homelands in central and eastern Europe, and the attendant destruction of many of them: in the Soviet Union; the Baltic states; Poland proper; the lands of eastern Germany; Czecho-Slovakia; Transylvania and the Carpathians; Rumania and Yugo-Slavia.
In brief, by the end of 1950, 7.95 million Germans from the east had experienced an "orderly transfer" to the three western zones (the Federal Republic of Germany), 4.4 million to the Soviet Zone, and over 300,000 to Austria. By 1952 the number of German expellees in West Germany had risen to ten million, with an additional 2.2 million political refugees – not expellees – from the Soviet Zone of Germany by August 1953 – a problem of stark survival and of absorption into a war-shattered country of a magnitude unparalleled anywhere.
More than three million men, women and children from the German areas of east-central and eastern Europe perished or are listed as "missing" in the desolate wastes of the Soviet Union. Mass expulsions of Germans had been contemplated since 1848 and, with growing vehemence, since 1866 by the Pan-Slav theorists of Prague and Moscow and, since about the turn of the century, by Western ideologues such as the British geopolitician and Chairman of the Imperial Shipping Committee, Halford Mackinder. The storms of outraged indignation which swept Britain when Germany rose to the rank of naval power were stoked carefully by the press lords of Fleet Street. The jingoist outcries in which such papers as the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the periodical Vanity Fair indulged paralleled the more weighty sentiments expressed by dynamic personalities such as First Sea Lord (after 1904) Admiral Sir John Fisher and his superior of later days, First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. If opinions be permitted, it seems quite clear that these mass media campaigns were rooted in the same persons – or the same circles and in similar policies at the time both of the First and the Second World Wars.
Several cruel "population transfers" were effected at the end of the First War which, apparently, further whetted the radical appetites of Eduard Benes, at various times League of Nations delegate, Foreign Minister and President of the Republic of Czecho-Slovakia, a sinister figure behind aspects of the Yalta and the Potsdam Conferences.
Still, Yalta stands and falls on its own demerits.
No wonder the Right Hon. Mr. Boothby declared in the House of Commons on 10 October 1945:
Nobody realizes more clearly than I do that the high aspirations expressed in the Atlantic Charter have long ago gone by the board, but few can have thought, even a year ago, that we were fighting this war in order to turn Central and Eastern Europe into a desert containing a decimated population.
JCS 1067 (joint Chiefs of Staff directive number 1067) almost managed to convert all of western Germany and much of western Europe into a wasteland also. This document, issued in April, 1945, was entitled "Directive to Commander in Chief of United States Forces of Occupation Regarding the Military Government of Germany" and specified:
… 4.b. Germany will not be occupied for the purpose of Liberation but as a defeated enemy nation … You will strongly discourage fraternization with the German officials and population …
5.a… Controls upon the German economy may be imposed … as they may be essential to protect the safety and meet the needs of the occupying forces and assure the production and maintenance of goods and services required to prevent starvation or such disease and unrest as would endanger these forces …
b … Thus it should be brought home to the German people that the responsibility … for any breakdowns in those controls will rest with themselves and German authorities …
16. … You will take no steps (a) looking toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany, or (b) designed to maintain or strengthen the German economy …
Under the conditions of utter chaos then prevailing in Germany JCS 1067, if put into effect according to the letter of the law, would have rung the death knell both for tens of millions of people in West Germany and, probably, for the reconstruction of the highly interdependent economies of all of Western Europe, as well. The probable consequences might have been anarchy and revolt in the entire region – and a welcome opportunity for communism to step into the void.
Who had drawn up this remarkable paper? In 1944, three United States Government agencies had composed competing versions looking toward a putative reconstruction of Germany: (1) the Department of State under Secretary of State Hull; (2) the War Department under the Republican Secretary Stimson and his able and intelligent Assistant Secretary, McCloy; and (3) the Treasury Department. What seems to have been true of other eras of the twentieth century U.S. history also proved true in this case; the State Department was too weak to make its more statesmanlike version prevail, the War Department was interested mainly in planning for a non-political, military, occupation and it was the Treasury – with Roosevelt's support – that won the day and the year and the war. The name of the Secretary of the Treasury was Henry Morgenthau. His closest assistant was the communist, Harry Dexter White.
Lest we jump to unnecessary conclusions I should emphasize that the Morgenthau-White Plans – Morgenthau's variation was more severe than White's – in their destructiveness echoed the counsel of British Conservative Vansittart whose roots, in turn, were firmly implanted in the mass media hate campaigns that preceded and accompanied the conduct of the First World War on the British side.
Rebus sic stantibus it was not until 15 July 1947, that JCS 1067 was superseded by JCS 1779 and its more statesmanlike terms:
While continuing restraints … our Military Government (will take) measures which will bring about the establishment of stable political and economic conditions in Germany and which will enable Germany to make a maximum contribution to European recovery …
… 5. It is an objective of the United States Government that there should arise in Germany as rapidly as possible a form of political organization and a manner of political life which, resting on a substantial basis of economic well being, will lead to tranquillity within Germany and will contribute to the spirit of peace among nations …
On 20 July 1948, the Western Allies and Dr. Erhardt carried out the Currency Reform, a monumental first step toward economic and political reconstruction. From 26 June 1948, to 29 July 1949, the Soviets blockaded Berlin and the West replied with the Air Lift. On 4 April 1949, the United States and her Western Allies established NATO. After nine months of deliberation the new constitution, the German Basic Law, was ratified on 23 May, 1949. The first elections to the Parliament at Bonn followed in August. Dr. Adenauer, the Catholic former mayor of Cologne, was the first Federal Chancellor of Germany.
Tentative characterization of Roosevelt's wartime diplomacy. Briefly, very briefly, the surest conclusion concerning FDR's conduct of foreign relations is that this scion of the East Coast Upper Caste was neither a communist nor a socialist, appearances to the contrary. Neither was he a realist – self-proclaimed or otherwise – nor an idealist who strove to master the concrete demands of life, in the mold of President Woodrow Wilson. No. Quite simply, he was a power politician whose talents in juggling and besting the competing interest groups of this country proved insufficient to wrest a lasting peace from the jaws of victory abroad. He, and his most intimate advisors, had little inkling of what an intelligent policy of prudent self-interest meant for his country and for himself. He had hedged himself in with a rigid ideologism which distorted his perceptions and his policies. He sought escape from ideological rigidity in the arms of an equally rigid, starry-eyed, aura of overblown "plans" on a cosmic scale. Placed face-to-face with a serious global situation as the leader of the strongest country on earth he proved delinquent to America, a disaster to the world.
Three examples: At Yalta, on Saturday, 10 February, Harry Hopkins slips Roosevelt this incomprehensible note (on the matter of exacting reparations worth 20 billion gold dollars from Germany): "Mr. President, the Russians have given in so much at this conference that I don't think we should let them down. Let the British disagree if they want to…" Roosevelt gives in.
His intransigence on the "unconditional surrender" formula at the Conference of Casablanca, and later, met with the feigned opposition of Churchill and, initially, even of Stalin who reasoned that it would prolong the war by provoking desperate resistance among the peoples of the Axis Powers, particularly the Germans and the Japanese. His reply to this opposition, and to similar objections from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his comment on the State Department memoranda that the German Army and the German people were ready – in 1943-44 – to make peace "over the heads of the Nazi Government" took the following form:
Washington, 1 April 1944… I have spoken with Admiral Leahy … The trouble is that the reasoning of the memorandum presupposes a reconstituting of a German state which would give active cooperation apparently at once to peace in Europe. A somewhat long study and personal experience in and out of Germany (Mhe author) leads me to believe that German philosophy cannot be changed by decree, law or military order. The change in German philosophy must be evolutionary and may take two generations …
On his return from the Quebec Conference, Roosevelt calls Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York to the White House for a friendly chat, on 2 September 1943:
The division (of the world) will be simple … The Far East goes to China. The Pacific to the United States. Africa and Europe will be divided between Russia and Great Britain … I hope the Russian intervention in Europe won't be too rough … (It is to be expected that Germany, Austria, Hungary, Croatia and other countries will receive Communist-dominated governments) But what can we do about it? … Hopefully, due to the influence of the Europeans, the Russians will become less barbaric in the next ten to twenty years … France might escape communism if it gets a government a la Leon Blum …
On FDR's ideas about which other European countries might be saved from communism, he intended to allow popular elections in: "France, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Norway and Greece. Not … Czecho-Slovakia." No mention of Denmark and Sweden, nor of Turkey. Not a glimmering of comprehension of the conditions which the realization of his facile dreams would impose upon the entire world and this, his own, country.
As for Yalta, its precedents and its consequences still are very much with us today. They promise to remain so for some time to come.
|||Harper's Weekly, Journal of Civilization, Volume XLIX; Saturday, 24 June 1905|
|||Arthur Conte, Die Teilung der Welt. Jalta 1945, Munchen, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1967, p. 300|
French original: Yalta ou le partage du monde
|||Conte, op. cit., p. 304|
|||Conte, op. cit., p. 70|
|||Conte, op. cit., p. 75|
|||Wenzel Jaksch, Europe's Road to Potsdam, New York, Frederick A. Praeger, 1963, p. 405|
|||Germany, 1947-1949, "1945 Directive to the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Forces of Occupation" (JCS 1067), Washington, D.C., 1950, pp. 23-27|
|||Germany, op. cit., p. 34, "1947 Directive to the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Forces of Occupation" (JCS 1779)|
|||Robert E. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, Volume 2: "From Pearl Harbor to Victory," New York, Bantam Books, p. 503|
|||Foreign Relations of the United States, Diplomatic Papers 1944, Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1959, p, 484: "Consideration of the Application of 'Unconditional Surrender' Terms to Germany; Unofficial Peace Feelers from Germany," 17 December 1943; P. 499: "The Ambassador in Spain (Hayes) to the Secretary of State," 7 February 1944; pp. 501-502: "Memorandum by the President to the joint Chiefs of Staff, 1 April 1944."|
|||Conte, op. cit., pp. 94-95|
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- Farid S. Hanania, "Tensions in the Arab Near East";
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The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, July 1953: NATO and World Peace; particularly:
Dorn, Walter L., "The Debate Over American Occupation Policy in Germany in 1944-1945," Political Science Quarterly, Volume LXXII, No. 4, December 1957.
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Deutsche Monatshefte, Heft 4 April 1982.
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"Lusitania, New evidence on the 'unprovoked' sinking that dragged us toward war," LIFE, Number 15, 13 October 1972.
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Additional information about this document
|Author(s):||Andreas R. Wesserle|
|Title:||Yalta: Fact or Fate? A Brief Characterization, Paper presented at the IHR's 1982 Revisionist Conference|
|Sources:||The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 3, no. 4 (winter 1982), pp. 359-370|
|First posted on CODOH:||Nov. 7, 2012, 6 p.m.|