Yalta and Potsdam conferences

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Yalta and Potsdam conferences

Two conferences were held in 1945 to try to sort out how the world would be organised after the war.

The countries that attended were the big three:

  • Britain
  • USA
  • Russia
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Yalta Conference - Feb 1945

Who attended? 

  • Churchill
  • Roosevelt
  • Stalin

What was decided?

At this point, Germany was not yet defeated, however after the war it was to be split into 4 zones - one for each country (France, Britain, USA and Russia)

Free elctions were to be held in the eastern European countries for new governments

The new 'United Nations' would replace the useless League of Nations

Nazi war criminals would be brought to trial

Set up a commision to look into reparations

On the surface this conference seemed sucessful but underneath, tensions were growing between the three countries, particularly about reparations and Poland.

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Stalin at Yalta

At Yalta, the negotiations went very much in Stalin's favour, but this was because Roosevelt wanted Russian help in the Pacific, and was prepared to agree to almost anything as long as Stalin agreed to go to war with Japan.  Therefore, Stalin promised that:

  • Russia would join the war in the Pacific, in return for occupation zones in North Korea and Manchuria.

  • Russia also agreed to join the United Nations.

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Potsdam conference - July/August 1945

Who attended?

  • Atlee
  • Truman
  • Stalin

What was decided?

Nazi war criminals would be brought to trial

Germany was divided into four zones, one for each of the main powers (France, Britain, USA, USSR)

Each ally could take what they wanted from their zones as reparations for the war

Free elctions were to be held in Poland as soon as possible

There were disagreements over the size of German reparations, Soviet influence over eastern European countries and the way Germany should be divided

The tensions between the countries were now brought to the surface due to the disagreements at the conference and in general their ideological differences.

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Relations at Potsdam

Relations between the superpowers had worsened considerably since Yalta. 

In March 1945, Stalin had invited the non-Communist Polish leaders to meet him, and arrested them.  Things had got so bad that, in May 1945, the British Joint Planing Group had drawn up plans for 'Operation Unthinkable' - a 'total war ... to impose our will upon Russia'.

Meanwhile, Rooevelt had died, and America had a new president, Truman, who was inclined to ‘get tough’ with the Russians.  

Also, soon after he had arrived at the Conference, Truman learned (on 21 July) that America had tested the first atomic bomb. It gave the Americans a huge military advantage. 

It also meant that Truman didn't need Stalin's help in Japan. Instead, Truman's main aim at the conference was to find out from Stalin what date the Russians intended to enter the war in the Pacific - something which (unlike Roosevelt) he did NOT want. 

So, at Potsdam, the arguments came out into the open.

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