Presentation on theme: "The Second World War ( 1942-1945, the exhaustion of the Axis and the overwhelming power of the Allies ) At the end of 1941 the coalition or “Great Alliance”"— Presentation transcript:
The Second World War ( 1942-1945, the exhaustion of the Axis and the overwhelming power of the Allies ) At the end of 1941 the coalition or “Great Alliance” of Britain, USA, and the USSR against the Axis Powers of Germany, Japan, and Italy was superior in men, materials, and resources. Yet Germany continued to achieve military successes for one more year, and Japan conquered most of South East Asia. A strategic reversal was to take place only in Fall 1942.
Stalin spelt out his demands and met with success. The Allies promised him a landing in Normandy, France in May 1944, rather than in the Balkans, as first suggested by Britain. Stalin mentioned his desire to annex the Baltic states, opposed the project of a Danubian federation proposed by Britain (it reminded him of the old “cordon sanitaire”) and agreed with the principle of the dismemberment of Germany. Stalin proposed to push Poland’s border to the west to the Oder River and wanted to keep the Polish territories given to the USSR by the 1939 pact with Hitler.
According to Stalin, Poland was to get East Prussia, Silesia, and the port of Stettin. Churchill made this dependent on the acceptance of the Polish government in London. There was no formal commitment but Britain and the USA accepted in principle the Soviet plan. They hoped the future Polish state would be democratic and would not fall under Soviet influence, and also that the future “second front” would give them more weight and authority over Stalin. The Allies landed in France’s Normandy in June 1944 and Provence in August 1944. But the Soviet armies had already reached the Balkans in April 1944 and Poland in July 1944 and set up a pro-Communist National Liberation Committee in Lublin.
Stalin was then in a favorable situation to negotiate his war objectives. In May 1944, Churchill became worried about Greece and was ready to reach an accord on mutual zones of influence. He met Stalin in Moscow in October 1944. Britain was to have a free hand in Greece, and the USSR in Bulgaria, Romania, and partly in Yugoslavia. As the Polish government in London refused to talk to the Lublin Committee, Poland was not discussed at that time. Attention This accord was risky as the USSR already occupied the territories where it wanted to have influence!
At the Yalta conference in February 1945 in Crimea, the USA and Britain would like to “save Europe from Bolshevism” through a friendly agreement. While the Allied armies were about to cross the Rhine in Germany, the Soviet army has already occupied the entire territory of Poland of 1939. The main aspects of the Yalta agreement were: Britain, the USA and USSR, with the possible addition of France, were to divide Germany in zones of occupation before deciding over the status of the country which could be broken up into several states. The international status of the Turkish straits established by the 1936 Montreux conference will be changed to take into account the interests of the USSR which should no longer be dependent on Turkish control.
Finally, the USSR was to enter the war against Japan but only after the surrender of Germany, and was to get back the territories in Manchuria lost in 1904-1905 and to acquire the southern part of Sakhalin island, the Kourile islands, and partial influence in Korea. No agreement of principle was then possible over Poland as Britain did not want to abandon the Polish government in exile (150,000 Polish soldiers were fighting with the Allies in Italy), and Russia the Lublin committee. Stalin claimed that Russia was invaded from Poland in 1812, 1914 and 1941 and needed a “friendly” government there.
As a compromise, Churchill and Roosevelt demanded that the future Polish provisional government was to include all political parties including the liberal democrats in London and the communists in Lublin. They hoped that free elections would prevent Poland from falling under Russian influence. Stalin agreed but the Lublin communists were to have three-fifths of the government posts. A general declaration stated that the peoples of the liberated countries were to choose their government and political system through free elections.
However, the Allies did not mention anything about the control of the elections. Roosevelt had thought of asking such a control for the US but gave up in order not to loose the whole agreement. One month later, Stalin began to free himself of the commitments made, and the collapse of the III. Reich opened the way to a radical change in the relations between the three allied states, whose solidarity lasted only until they had defeated their common enemy Hitler.
Three years later, in the light of the events of 1945 to 1948, Yalta accord was to become the center of polemics in the USA. Roosevelt, who died two months after Yalta, was criticized for his policy on Germany, the inadequate compromise over Poland, and for the increase of Soviet power in the Far East. Why to give the USSR such a large zone of occupation in Germany and why to make Poland dependent on the USSR? Why to ask Stalin to intervene in the Far East and make it possible for him to help the Communists in China? However, on the other hand, both Britain and the USA were unable at Yalta to stop the Soviet domination in Eastern Europe.
They also feared a long war against Japan in Manchuria and China without the help of the USSR. This could have been avoided after dropping two atomic bombs over Japan in August 1945 but this weapon was ready only after Yalta and first tested only in July. In fact, the military situation did no longer allow the USA and Britain to stop Soviet expansion unless accepting the possibility of a third world war. It was already in the fall of 1943 at the Teheran conference that Churchill and Roosevelt had accepted in principle to shift Poland’s borders toward the west, thus opening the way for the Soviet penetration of central Europe.
Attention At that time, a policy of appeasement was not really necessary but the two leaders were afraid of Stalin making a separate peace with Germany in the absence of a second western front, and found themselves placed in a disadvantageous diplomatic situation.
World War II involved states comprising two- thirds of the world’s population and probably cost the lives of some 40 million men because of military operations alone. In Europe, only Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Turkey were spared. Asia, largely spared during WWI, was greatly affected by the Japanese military conquests. The same applied to North and East Africa.