The Moscow and Tehran Conferences
In preparation for the first Big Three Summit meeting scheduled to take place at Tehran, British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and US Secretary of State, Cordell Hull gathered in Moscow in October 1943, to discuss how best to shorten the war and secure the peace to follow.
In keeping with the latter objective, the three Foreign Ministers, and the Chinese Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Foo Ping-Sheung, signed the Four Power Declaration on October 30.
The declaration represents the first formal commitment among the four major powers to the establishment of the United Nations through its final clause which states: “the Four Powers recognize the necessity of establishing at the earliest practicable date a general international organization, based on the principles of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving states, and open to membership by all such states, large and small, for the maintenance of international peace and security.”
From November 28 to December 1, 1943, the leaders of the three major allied powers—
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and US President,
Franklin D. Roosevelt, met at the Soviet embassy in Tehran, Iran, to discuss the conduct of the war, and, importantly, the state of the world afterwards.
The most important item on their agenda was the opening of a second front in Northwest Europe. Despite having successfully won the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk, the Red Army was still under heavy strain; facing massive resistance as the Soviets tried to recapture the territory lost to the Germans during their invasion of 1941. The Western Allies were only fighting a comparatively small German force on the Italian peninsula. Roosevelt and Stalin agreed that the best way to relieve the pressure on the Red Army and bring the war to a decisive end was through an invasion of France across the English Channel. Churchill argued that allied forces would be better put to use through an invasion of Greece and the Balkans. Eventually, however, Churchill came around to the idea of a landing in France and Operation Overlord was given a tentative start date of May 1944.
The three leaders also discussed the postwar status of many other countries. Poland’s borders would be extended at German expense, but the manner of its governance would be resolved later. The French colonial empire, Turkey, Iran, Yugoslavia, and Germany were discussed in detail. Stalin also agreed in principle that the Soviet Union would declare war against Japan once Germany had been defeated.
Finally, it was at Tehran where Roosevelt first introduced Stalin to his idea for the United Nations. FDR envisioned an institution made up of a General Assembly, representing the various nations of the world, a Secretariat and an Executive Committee, dominated by what FDR termed “the Four Policemen”—the United States, Soviet Union, Great Britain and China—whose primary responsibility would be to maintain the peace after the war. Churchill and Stalin expressed reservations about the proposed organization but were nonetheless receptive to the idea.