(WAR in EUROPE, 1941-45 – continued)
In late November 1943, Stalin met with Churchill and Roosevelt for three days at the Soviet Embassy in Iran's capital, Teheran. (Northern Iran was dominated at the time by the Soviet Union and southeastern Iran by the British.) The Red Army had not yet pushed into Finland, Poland, Bulgaria or other East European countries, and the Teheran conference was an opportunity to negotiate the occupation of territories and how the war should end.
In a spirit of cooperation and friendship, Roosevelt spoke to Stalin about giving the Soviet Union merchant ships after the war to help the Soviet Union get back on its feet. These ships, built for the war, were bound to be more numerous than the US would need after the end of the war, and Stalin pointed out that giving these ships to the Soviet Union would facilitate trade between the Soviet Union and the United States.
Churchill tried to draw Stalin out on Poland. Stalin replied that it was not necessary or desirable to discuss the Polish question then and there, but he did say that the Soviet Union favored maintaining its present border with Poland (the old Curzon Line – the line it had moved to in 1939). It was a subject that Stalin was uncomfortable with, dodging as he was his murder of Poles there. He spoke of moving Poland's western frontier to Germany's Oder River – a move that would uproot millions of Germans but would be described as providing more security for the Poles.
About any plans that he might have concerning the spread of communist revolution, Stalin smiled and said, "We won't worry about that. We have found it is not so easy to set up a Communist society."
What most interested Roosevelt was Stalin's agreement to the creation of the United Nations – an extension of the Allied alliance after the war. This was discussed, and Roosevelt and Stalin discussed colonialism, leaving Churchill as the odd man out. Roosevelt and Churchill had been in conflict over this issue, the British having been unwilling to join the US on declarations of trusteeships or any statement endorsements of national independence.
Stalin grumbled about the French and said that the Allies were not shedding blood so that the French could return to Indochina. Roosevelt said that he agreed one hundred percent. A United Nations trusteeship was suggested for Indochina with independence to come in twenty or thirty years. Then the subject of India came up, and an annoyed Churchill put an end to that discussion.
At Teheran, Roosevelt was trying to remove Stalin's fear and suspicion of the United States. To this end he told Stalin that US troops would remain in Europe only two years after the war ended. He made a show of distance between himself and Churchill in order to convince Stalin that the capitalist West was not ganging up against him. Roosevelt appealed to Stalin by telling him that Germany had to be ruthlessly punished. Stalin had expressed his suspicion of unconditional surrender, but unconditional surrender appeared to be the accepted agreement in settling with Germany.
The conference at Teheran concluded with an expression of determination "that our nations shall work together in war and in the peace that will follow." It was agreed that Germany would be defeated before Japan, that the landing on the coast of France – Operation Overlord – would take place in June, 1944. And Stalin committed the Soviet Union to joining the war against Japan after Germany surrendered.
There was no commitment from Stalin on the nature of governments in countries to be occupied by the Soviet army. What US strategists feared was not Soviet actions in occupied countries but the Soviet Union stopping at its 1941 border.
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