- Created by: Pip Dan
- Created on: 20-09-17 14:51
In 1945, the United States and Soviet Union were allies, jointly triumphant in World War II, which ended with total victory for Soviet and American forces over Adolf Hitler's Nazi empire in Europe. Within just a few years, however, wartime allies became mortal enemies, locked in a global struggle—military, political, economic, ideological—to prevail in a new 'Cold War'
The tensions that would later grow into Cold War became evident as early as 1943, when the 'Big Three' allied leaders—American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin—met in Tehran to coordinate strategy. Poland, which sits in an unfortunate position on the map, squeezed between frequent enemies Russia and Germany, became a topic for heated debate. The Poles, then under German occupation, had not one but two governments-in-exile—one Communist, one anticommunist—hoping to take over the country upon its liberation from the Nazis. Unsurprisingly, the Big Three disagreed over which Polish faction should be allowed to take control after the war, with Stalin backing the Polish Communists while Churchill and Roosevelt insisted the Polish people ought to have the right to choose their own form of government. For Stalin, the Polish question was a matter of the Soviet Union's vital security interests; Germany had invaded Russia through Poland twice since 1914, and more than 20 million Soviet citizens died in World War II. (The Soviets suffered nearly sixty times as many casualties in the war as the Americans did.) Stalin was determined to make sure that such an invasion could never happen again, and insisted that only a Communist Poland, friendly to (and dominated by) the Soviet Union, could serve as a buffer against future aggression from the west. Stalin's security concerns ran smack into Anglo-American values of self-determination, which held that the Poles ought to be allowed to make their own decision over whether or not to become a Soviet satellite.
At Tehran, and at the next major conference of the Big Three at Yalta in 1945, the leaders of the US, UK, and USSR were able to reach a number of important agreements—settling border disputes, creating the United Nations, organizing the post-war occupations of Germany and Japan. But Poland remained a vexing problem. At Yalta, Stalin—insisting that 'Poland is a question of life or death for Russia'—was able to win Churchill's and Roosevelt's reluctant acceptance of a Communist-dominated provisional government for Poland. In exchange, Stalin signed on to a vague 'Declaration of Liberated Europe' pledging to assist 'the peoples liberated from the dominion of Nazi Germany and the peoples of the former Axis satellite states of Europe to…