The Yalta Conference

On February 4, 1945, President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, and Premier Stalin met at Livadia Palace at Yalta in the Crimea to once again discuss the war and the state of the world once peace had been restored. With much of Europe liberated and the Nazis being pushed back onto German soil, there was no longer any question of an Allied victory. However, the leaders had disagreements about their visions of a postwar Europe.

Poland was the question of the day. With two rival governments in exile, one western-aligned and one Soviet-aligned, Poland was a contentious issue that had been discussed previously but not conclusively resolved. Roosevelt and Churchill demanded that free and fair elections be held in Poland after its liberation. Stalin, whose forces were driving the Germans out of Poland, agreed to this in principle, but did not implement it and instead installed a government favorable to Soviet interests. Stalin, for his part, agreed to join the war against Japan two to three months after Germany’s surrender in return for certain territorial gains. When Germany was defeated, the three powers agreed, the country would be split into four occupation zones, one each for America, Britain, Russia, and France, and would undergo a nationwide denazification process.

Turning to the United Nations, the delegates hammered out the finer details of what would become the Security Council, including the voting procedures. Stalin raised concerns over what he believed was the danger of Soviet resolutions being shot down by an Anglo-American voting bloc. With most countries in the British empire and commonwealth all guaranteed votes, Stalin requested that all sixteen Soviet republics get the same. Eventually, a compromise was reached to give votes to Ukraine and Belarus, giving the Soviet Union three votes total. With this assurance, as well as the guarantee of a veto power for the members of the council, Stalin gave his full assurance that the USSR would join the United Nations.