The Cold War Begins

The Yalta conference is often cited as the beginning of the Cold War. This meeting of the "Big Three" at the former palace of Czar Nicholas on the Crimean southern shore of the Black Sea took place February 4-11, 1945. Stalin's army had reached the Oder River and was poised for the final attack on Berlin, but Stalin on Feb. 3 had ordered Zhukov to pause while the conference was in session. His occupation of Poland was complete, and he possessed command of the largest army in Europe, 12 million soldiers in 300 divisions. Eisenhower's 4 million men in 85 divisions were still west of the Rhine. Strategic bombing had devastated German cities, and the last untouched major city in Germany would be destroyed Feb. 13 when Churchill sent his bombers over Dresden. Roosevelt appeared weak and tired in photos of the Yalta conference, and he would present his Yalta report to Congress March 1 sitting down. In two months, he would be dead of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. His physician, Dr. Howard Bruenn, has written that although FDR suffered from high blood pressure, there was no evidence that his health impaired his judgement at Yalta.

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Critics would accuse Roosevelt of a "sell-out" at Yalta, of giving away Eastern Europe to Stalin, of "secret deals" with a ruthless dictator. Bert Andrews in the New York Herald Examiner wrote about 4 secret deals: Russia's demand for $20 billion in reparations from Germany, for Poland to the Curzon line, for 3 seats in the United Nations, for territory in the Far East including Outer Mongolia, south Sakhalin Island, the Kuriles. Stalin did not hold free elections in Eastern Europe and the American press turned increasingly hostile to Russia. However, as Robert Dallek has pointed out in Franklin Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, FDR was hoping the future United Nations organization would be the place to deal with Stalin, not at Yalta. He told Adolf Berle "I didn't say the result was good. I said it was the best I could do." Both Roosevelt and Churchill recognized the reality of Soviet power in 1945.


revised 12/15/05 by Steven Schoenherr | Cold War Policies | Links | Books | Films | Maps | next-->