September 17, 2014
The demise of the Grand Alliance
Key Words Notes
Look at the grand alliance. It came very early on, soon after the war
ended. If you look back into history of international relations, it took
considerable time and effort to destroy a grand alliance. Suffice to
point to the Holy Alliance or the Quadruple Alliance after the
Napoleonic wars. it took 40 years for them to fall apart. If you look
at the Grand alliance, which William III created it took 20 – 30 years
for that to fall apart. However, now we have a grand alliance that is
crucial and pivotal to save the world form tyranny and keep it in
existence, yet within a year it fell apart.
historiography: three ways of Another thing that is important is the role of historiography. We
looking at history: will come across interpretation of international affairs. Obviously
- traditional or orthodox
no story contains exactly the same interpretation. International
interpretation relations in general, especially with the cold war offered 4 versions
- revisionist of the causes.
- post revisionist The major interruption that we have for international relations and
- soviets for the cold war in particular are:
- The traditional orthodox interpretation: by large promoted
and sported by the historians of the 50’s and 60’s. Pushed by
historians who knew nothing about Soviet Union, other than the
actions of Stalin. Historians who have never seen soviet
documents. Historians who took completely at value US or
western opinion. These historians pointed fingers at the Soviets
as the guilty party. They blamed soviets and Stalin as the guilty
party, and for the bad relations and of the lost lives of people
and of the numerous relations that were destroyed.
- Revisionist: Within 15 to 20 years a new American historian
wave arrived. By the early 70’s the American and western
historians traveled to Moscow and had access to soviet
documents. And for the first time could see things from two
different perspective-western as well as eastern views. And
almost immediately they pointed fingers at DC. That the US had
contributed to the outbreak of the cold war. It was the US who
wanted to spread it’s own ideology; it’s own capitalist system.
they had economic interest. The traditional did not like this
interpretation. The government did not like this interpretation,
however there it was. Contradicting with all the views of the
- Post revisionist: By the time the Soviet Union was in its final
collapse, late 80’s early 90’s there was a moment of unpredenct
offer from Moscow. Those historians who happened to be in
Moscow in 1991, 1992 were given access to even the most
secret documents reserved in the presidential achieves. They
pointed fingers at both, Washington and Moscow. They both
contributed to the collapse of the grand alliance and to the
outbreak of cold war
- Soviet: after mid 1990’s there is the last school of thought. they point finger at the US and do not offer any document or evidence
The first thing we must start with is the major peace agreement.
The second of the tree major conference that took place during the
Yalta- February 1945 Second World War. Yalta February 1945. It pretty much started to
- started off as the greatest get the ball rolling. Many, especially the traditionalist argue that it
betrayal by the western states was one of the greatest betrayals by the western state, above all by
- the Grand alliance was sure the US (Roosevelt) and sold out and left eastern Europe to Stalin’s
the war would be over soon, mercy. What was the essence of this conference?
so they sat down to discuss - By then, February 1945, every single member of the Grand
what sort of states would alliance-Britain, US, Soviet Union was aware that the war would
emerge. be over in a few month. Nazi Germany is or will be defeated after
- There was still a military they sat to map out the future of Europe and how to handle
situation with Germany, and some of the outstanding issues.
this played an important role - They sat down to settle the outstanding issues. Such as what
in the outcome of Yalta. The
kind of Europe or Germany emerge? What will happen to the
germans had already bogged territory of fascist and Nazi Germany? How will peace and
down the Americans, so the stability ensured.
Russians were the only ones - Now matter how loft goal each of the representatives had, you
left to deal with Germany. have to keep in mind the military situation. There was no way
- At this point the red army getting around it. While they may have had good military
occupied central Europe.
objectives in mind, the military situation is what determined the
- Roosevelt: outcome.
a. wanted acceptance of the - The US and Britain were bogged down. The Germans started
idea of UN. offensive, nailed both the American and British, and only with
b. Wanted the acceptance of the soviet were they able to overcome that German offensive.
China into the security They stood no less than 600 kilometers from Berlin. They could
council never put a claim on the table and demand concessions as Stalin
c. Wanted 4 freedoms: could. The red army was at the gates of Berlin, mere 60
Freedom of want, Freedom kilometers. 10 times closer than the British or Americans, and
of speech, freedom of this is what determined the outcome. By this point Eastern
political interference, Europe was occupied by the red army.
freedom from hunger. - So to claim that Roosevelt gave up on Poland o Czechoslovakia,
d. Wanted Soviet participation or Hungary was untrue. The red army was already there. That
in the Japanese war. being aside, what objects did they have in mind?
- Churchill: - Roosevelt’s object were similar to those of Woodrow:
a. Was fully aware that the US a. Wanted the acceptance of his idea of creating a new
would soon pull out of international organization: the UN. For that he needed
Europe just as it had done Stalin’s concessions.
before. b. Roosevelt also wanted an acceptance of the American plea to
b. Wanted another great bring in china. At this point China had no power, but he
power in the Security thought of making China a member of the Security Council.
council: France Which Stalin agreed to.
- Stalin: c. When you look at the legacy of Yalta it wasn’t just a one-
a. wanted territorial security:
way street. Stalin gave in to the demands from both Great
b. argued that SU had been Britain and the US.
invaded twice through d. In addition to this, Roosevelt also wanted his 4 freedoms.
Poland. Freedom of want, freedom of speech, freedom of political
c. Said he wanted a buffer interference, freedom of hunger and freedom of Hunger
zone: push 200 kilometers (war). Stalin agreed to that as well. into Poland and to make up - Churchill wanted a few things too:
for that loss, Poland should a. He knew that the US would pull out of Europe just as it had
be pushed 200 kilometers done in 1919. Knowing that, Churchill wanted another great
into Germany. power in the Security Council. So he wanted France. France
d. The other two agreed however had collaboration with the Nazi. This was okay with
becyae the red army had Stalin.
suffered great losses during b. Stalin agreed so this was s concession on his side.
the war. - Stalin wanted security.
a. Territorial security.
Legacy of Yalta: the legacy was b. His argument was this. the Soviet had been invaded twice,
that it wasn’t just a compromise both coming from the west, both coming from Poland.
on one side, but compromise on c. Given that it was a necessity for an extended territory- a
both sides of the street. Roosevelt buffer zone between western Europe and soviet union
and Churchill make concessions d. That required pushing western territory into Poland. A good
on their side and Stalin made 200 kilometers. And to compensate Poland for that loss he
concessions on his side. needed to push Polish territory further west that is into
- It made sense for both Roosevelt and Churchill to accept that.
Throughout the war 90% of the German army bled in that front.
It was preoccupied there. It was engaged by the Soviet Union
and of course its losses were sustained on the eastern front.
- The Russians suffered terrible casualties. The western powers
had to make up for that. So they agreed to Stalin’s demands.
- In addition Roosevelt also wanted soviet participation in the war
- February 1945: American headquarters calculated to invade the
homeland-not the islands, but Japan homeland, which would
cause the Americans no less than million lives. And no president
would ever survive that politically. Because of that they needed
soviet assistance. Fighting against the Japanese.
- When you put al these together the conference Yalta emerges as
a well-balanced conference. All three achieved what was
feasible. Concession on all three parts were possible.
However, that was not the last deal. In May 1945, when Germany
was defeated they once again met in Potsdam present day Berlin.
They came together to see what would happen with Germany. The
change between Yalta and Potsdam was that at Yalta there was no
issue on Germany. They were all peripheral issues. But at Potsdam
they decided to deal with the German question.
However, we have to examine the changes between Yalta and
Potsdam. You are talking about three months: between February
- April 12, 1945 Roosevelt dies. He was replaced by Harry
- In addition, at March causing the soviets by surprise, the United
States canceled and stopped all lend lease agreements to the
Soviet Union, which had been going on since 1945. All
belligerent powers that are on the allied side fighting with the
Americans against Nazism or fascism in Japan has a free access
to American markets, military support, financial support. Unexpectantly the American’s terminated it. They didn’t even
offer an explanation to them.
- In addition when Molotov, foreign minster travelled to the
United State to San Francisco to the opening day of the UN,
visited Washington. Truman dealt with him like a child. Truman
said, you must behave, if you do not want to be treated like this
the next time.
- Furthermore Truman demanded a concession from the SU that
in every international affair, whatever the issue, the US must
have 85% say deciding in that issue with only 15% with the rest
of the world. If you talk about equals or a grand alliance where
each state participates with all their efforts against a common
objective you cannot demand things like that.
- Furthermore, the Russian through their own intelligence that
the US were in negotiation with the Germans to have a separate
peace. In March 1945 SS. General Wolf met with the American
representative in Berlin in secret and tried to achieve a separate
peace. Nothing came out of it, because the American’s refuse to
negotiate when they found out what the Germans were
demanding. The fact that the Soviet found out on their own cast
a shadow on the alliance between the US and SU. The Russians
feared very much that the Americans would full out of the Grand
alliance, make a separate peace with the Germans, and then in
the last month of the war 1945 to concentrate all their forces in
the eastern front and fight with the Russians for anther decade
- As one can see the combination of these factor set the tone for
the meeting at Potsdam set expectations very low.
It is important to keep in mind that by the time Stalin went to Berlin
at Potsdam, much had changed. Churchill was booted out, voted out
by the British electorate. Clemtine Attlee came in. He lacked the
charisma of Churchill, the know how of Churchill and the lack of
experience in international relations. Of course Truman was also a
new individual. The only thing that Stalin knew about Truman was
the report that Molotov sent. Truman also had no experience in
international relations. When Stalin first saw Truman, he said it
reminded him of shopkeeper who would shoot first and then ask
It was this gathering that had to decide the fate of Germany. It was
this gathering that brought in two individuals who had no allegiance
to Stalin. They did not care about the Soviet sacrifices. They didn’t
think they owed the Russia anything.
To begin with the Russians agreed with the eternal idea regarding
Germany. It ought to be occupied by all four powers. The British,
French, Russian and the US. It also ought to be penalized. There had
to be reparations. They also had to be reparations around 20 billion
dollars. They didn’t want to commit the same mistake as Versailles.
To impose such heavy reparations in Germany that actually would
backfire. Half of that would go to Soviets. The problem was so
complex that they thought that they must deal with Germany last and deal with other issues first. Issues that had emerged since the
war was over. They had a plan for Germany. The Morgenthau plan.
But it would turn Germany into an agricultural state. The Russians
said they would be fine with it, but let us postpone the issue of
German and deal with other issues. That was primary with the
formal allies of Nazi Germany.
- The issue of Japan
- The issue emerging in Eastern Europe. What sort of states would
they be? Pro-west? Pro-soviet? Would they be friendly towards
the Soviet Union and so on?
The Russians also wanted to gain a foothold in the
Mediterranean. Since the British and American’s had a say in the
affairs of Eastern Europe the Russians thought they had a say
Mediterranean. That is in the territories that were never part of the
Soviet Union: Italian lands and Italian colonies, which had nothing
to do with the Soviets. Problems immediately arose:
- Problem #1: The US and British said the Soviet union
accommodate then in eastern Europe by allowing them to
decide what sort of Government would emerge. We are not
yet talking about communist governments in Eastern Europe. All
of these states were under Soviet occupation. The red army was
stationed there by the millions. But the governments were if not
broad based still a combination of pro-communist, pro
bourgeois, or even capitalist elements. It is this part that both
Britain and US wanted to change and they wanted even a
broader based government. But the Russians said that if that is
you demand then let us have a say in Western Europe and the
Italian developments. The Russians were cut out completely.
They had no say what sort of government would emerge in Italy.
The British and Americans by this time had already recognized a
right wing Italian government by one of the leading Italian
marshals who served under Mussolini. Yet the soviets were not
consulted. This was a serious problem.
- The German issue was postponed because of its complexity.
However the powers could not even come to a compromise on
the lighter issues.
- Starting from Potsdam the relation between these three went
down. There were a few occasions when they would try to strike
a compromise and to make concessions for one another.
However, starting from Potsdam the relation went down.
- Problem #2: What further contributed to this decline was
Spain. Spain was not penalized for supporting the Nazi effort,
Likewise they complained of Poland, especially the Americans
and the British. Roosevelt had agreed to pushing Poland
boarder. Yet now, after Roosevelt was dead the west brought it
up as an unacceptable development. They were never consulted.
- Problem #3: Add to this the fact that the US had nuclear
monopoly. How did the soviets feel when the Americans stood
up and said unacceptable, knowing full well that behind the
American objective stood the atomic bomb. Again, historians have different opinions about the ‘atomic policy’ which was
brought in late 1945. Some argue that US used the nuclear
weapons not because of military dictates. By august Japan was
on the verge of collapse- economic and military collapse. The
argument is thaththe US used the weapons (bombing Japan
august 6 and 9 1945) only to demonstrate the power of the
nuclear weapon. And to tell the SU to toe the American line and
to accept that 85% of decision-making power was the US’s.
There was no other reason to use the bomb.
Instead of complying the Soviets dug in their heels and stood
against the American designs and demands. Nuclear policy
backfired majorly. It created the first competition knowing full that
they would not be able to match the US, the soviets rushed into the
research of the nuclear weapons to somewhat equalize the situation
military as well as political.
But in addition to that there were problems solving the post-war
issues. To salvage the issues that emerged after Potsdam
conference, they need to have a rein minster council in London.
- As it turned out the British were the first to say that they were not
complying. They realized that they were the poorest and poorest of
the alliance members. The foreign office argued and told Attlee that
the UK could no longer afford any compromise because they would
lose their status of world power. The dilemma was that the British
would have liked a division of the world into spheres of influence.
They had done it before WWII, both with the French and the
Russians 1904 and 1907. Churchill himself had done with Stalin in
1944, dividing eastern Europe between British sphere of influence,
soviet sphere of influence. They would have loved to do that with
the rest of the world. However, they knew that the Americans would
reject that approach. Roosevelt had denounced the sphere of
influence and more importantly, had the gone through with it, the
Russian would have been more powerful. This is what the British
wanted to avoid. By the time the ministers met in London in
September 1945, the British made the decision to close the ranks
with the Americans. To side with the Americans, even if that meant
a ‘second’ role for the British. Even if that meant to allow the
Americans to dominate the international relations. However, it was
also important for the British to maintain the great power status.
This meant that they had to side closer with the US, rather than
making a deal with the SU.
So by this point the British were fully aware of their weakened
position and they argued that they can make no compromise with
the SU. So for the first time in the relation the British were the first
to break the rank, and say that the national interest trumps the
international interest of the Grand Alliance. No compromises, stand
up against the Soviet Union and dig in their heels.
The French, who for the first time were represented in that meeting,
also created trouble. They said that if the soviets could be
accommodated by pushing its boarders’ 200 kilometers to the west,
and if Poland can be accommodated for that loss by another 200 kilometers, then why not France? why not break up Germany? Since
the First World War that was the dream of the French to weaken
Germany as much as possible. Plus, because they were ashamed by
the defeat of 1940 the only solut