The Yalta Conference
The Yalta Conference, which had been code-named Argonaut, set in motion a series of events with implications that are still being felt today. Foremost was Stalin's unapologetic plan to extend the Communist sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, a situation that would quickly lead to what became known as the Cold War. Indeed, the decisions made during that weeklong conference have been influencing world events up to the present.
One of the first and most important decisions made at Yalta was the division of occupied Germany. The conference participants — known in the press as the Big Three — had previously agreed to three occupation zones under the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. At Yalta they agreed to coordinate administration and give France a fourth zone, which would be taken from the U.S. and British zones. In addition, Stalin demanded that Germany pay reparations, though the amount and other details would be determined later.
Figure 20-1 Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference.
Photo courtesy of the National Archives (111-SC-260486)
Not surprisingly, the arrogant and manipulative Stalin all but dominated the Yalta Conference, using it as a springboard to expand Soviet control throughout the region. Though he paid lip service to free elections and the creation of democratic interim governments in the soon-to-be-liberated German-occupied territories, Stalin had little intention of honoring such promises. The nations that would fall under Soviet control would not experience true democracy until the Communist collapse in 1989.
During the Yalta Conference, Stalin agreed to declare war on Japan only after extracting concessions that greatly benefited the Soviet Union from Churchill and Roosevelt. Specifically, he demanded the return of Russian territory held by the Japanese since the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05, including the Chinese territory of Port Arthur, and the joint Soviet-Chinese administration of the Manchurian railroads. The latter demand did not sit well with China's leaders, who were angered that such decisions were being made without their input or consent.