|The New Central Europe|
Churchill left the Teheran conference in December 1943 less satisfied than the Americans. Some of his ideas had differed from Roosevelts. Rooseveltattributed paramount importance to the creation of a world organization based on "Big Three unity," and Stalin's willingness to go along with this program filled American policy- makers with great hopes. In Cordell Hull's words, "Moscow and Teheran brought Russia into a program of real cooperation for war and peace." Churchill on the other hand, while not less devoted to the program of worldwide cooperation, was increasingly worried about the practical details of this cooperation in Eastern Europe. And while the Americans continued to believe in universalism as a cure for all problems, Churchill was anxious to meet the special problems with special arrangements.
The special problems in Eastern Europe accumulated with great speed as the year 1944 brought the Red Army one success after another. Only one problem, Czechoslovakia's future, seemed to be neatly settled in that disordered area. Benes's treaty, signed with Moscow in December 1943, served as a model for future bilateral cooperation between Soviet Russia and her western neighbors; but to reproduce this model was not easy for the rest of the nations in Eastern Europe.
In January 1944, the Russians crossed the pre- war Polish- Soviet frontier, and although in Teheran the Big Three had tentatively agreed on the Curzon Line as the future frontier between Russia and Poland, agreement between the Kremlin and the Polish government in exile on both territorial and political problems made no progress at all. In Teheran it had been agreed also that the British would give full support to Tito's Communist partisans, but relations between Tito and the Yugoslav government in exile were not yet clarified. The problems of the Axis satellites, Hungary Romania and Bulgaria, were coming to the fore too, as the Russians approached Central Europe and the Balkans. While the retreating Germans were alerted to forestall defection among their satellites, the latter were increasingly anxious to avert defeat alongside the Germans.
The situation was unique in satellite Hungary There Premier Kállay successfully sabotaged cooperation with Germany, while his emissaries got in touch with the British intelligence and agreed on some preliminary conditions under which Hungarywould turn against Germany; the most important of these conditions provided that the Hungarian army should be in a position to establish contact with the Western forces. Kállay's hopes, like those of others who were planning to desert their German allies, were based on the assumption that the Western armies would be the liberators of Central Europe. These hopes were dashed when the Allied advance in Italy bogged down in the face of German resistance, and when the plans for invasion in the Balkans which Churchill had proposed at Teheran failed to materialize. Thus it was not the Western armies, as Kállay and others had hoped, but the Red Army, which was moving toward Central Europe. From Hitler's point of view, of course, it made no difference which enemy threatened the Nazi redoubt in the center of Europe. In March 1944, therefore, in order to protect the hinterland of the eastern front, which was rapidly being pushed west- ward, Hitler ordered the occupation of Hungary Kállay was overthrown, and, with eager cooperation from Hitler's Hungarian followers, the Germans got the reliable satellite government in Hungarythat they needed.
Even had the Western Allies approached Central Europe from the south, the Germans, supported by their numerous pro- Nazi Hungarian devotees, could at any time have carried out this coup anyway. Therefore the claim Kállay made in his memoirs that the failure of "Anglo- Hungarian collaboration" was an essential cause of the tragedy of half of Europe was extraordinary. According to Kállay, had this Anglo- Hungarian collaboration developed, Churchill could not have been voted down at the Teheran conference over the question of attacking in the Balkans, and British and American influence would today prevail in the Balkans and on the Danube.2 Kállay's commentary on the failure of his policy was just another exhibit of that traditional delusion of grandeur which always, throughout central and eastern Europe, led the small nations to seek exalted roles of partnership with the Great Powers and which was the fundamental reason for the failure of these small nations to work together.
But, though the failure of Kállay's policy was not instrumental in the ruin of half of Europe's chance to be liberated by the West, still his failure certainly crushed the Horthy regimes chance to perform the triple miracle of saving itself and of saving Hungaryfrom both the German and the Russian occupation. Up until Kállay's overthrow, Hungaryhad managed to remain, in spite of several incidents and measures of the Nazi type, a relative "island of freedom" in Hitler's Europe. Kállay's successor as premier was a pro- German Hungarian general under whose government Nazi terror engulfed the country. Hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were now added to the millions murdered by the German Nazis. Nevertheless Regent Horthy, who stayed in office after the Nazi coup in March 1944, did not give up hope of saving Hungaryfrom total defeat. The elements favoring a separate peace regrouped around him, and in the confusion of great German defeats, he was able in August to appoint to the premiership an anti- Nazi Hungarian general who was ready to negotiate with the Russians, rather than, like Premier Kállay, exclusively with the Western Allies.
Meanwhile in Romania and Bulgaria also, the break with Germany was in preparation behind the scenes. Even in the two satellite states that owed their very existence to Hitler, Croatia and Slovakia plans for defection were laid. The foreign minister of satellite Croatia paid with his life for an unsuccessful attempt to bring his country over from Pavelic's Fascists to the Allied side. And the initial success of the partisan rising in satellite Slovakia in the summer of 1944, owed at least something to the connivance of some people in the Tiso regime, in the army in particular.
The Hitler era was drawing to a close in Eastern Europe. But what would the Soviet liberation be like? What would the liberators and the liberated do? The active or potential anti-
German forces which looked forward to liberation were split into numerous mutually suspicious or even openly hostile factions. In many of the underground movements, loose "popular fronts" did unite different resistance groups, sometimes even conservatives with Communists. But the fratricidal struggle in Yugoslavia between the two partisan leaders, the Communist Tito and the anti- Communist Mihailovic was a warning of what could happen elsewhere, with the stage set for similar conflicts. Suppressed nationalist rivalries in the Danube Valley were threatening to erupt. Old ruling classes were trying to save themselves, and great social revolutionary forces were preparing for the day of reckoning.
Who would "take the lead," who would be "playing the hand" in these affairs? How could order be brought out of chaos? These were the questions that weighed heavily upon Churchill's mind in the spring of 1944.
As the difficulties of cooperation with the Russians increased, Churchill renewed his plea for an Allied thrust from Italy toward Vienna, this time with the explicit intention to "forestall the Russians in certain areas of Central Europe." In view of the stubborn German resistance, it is uncertain whether much of Central Europe could have been liberated by the Western Allies ahead of the Red Army. The crossing of the Alps would have been a tremendous task, even had the Allied forces in Italy not been stripped of their offensive power by the landing in southern France. In any case, the military power was not available for Churchill's plans, so he resorted to power politics to meet the unsettled problems of Central Europe and the Balkans. He himself considered his controversial deals with Stalin as "wartime arrangements," stressing in his memoirs that "all larger questions were reserved on both sides for what we then hoped would be a peace table when the war was won." Nevertheless they were unquestionably sphere- of- influence arrangements.
On May 17, 1944, Eden suggested to the Soviet Ambassador in London that the Soviets should temporarily regard Romanian affairs as mainly their concern under war conditions, while leaving Greece to the British. The Russians agreed, but wanted to know if the United States had been consulted. On May 31 Churchill notified Rooseveltof the plan. The American reaction was cool. Cordell Hull was of the view that "any creation of zones of influence would inevitably sow the seeds of future conflict." On June 8 Churchill urged acceptance, and added Bulgaria to the list of countries where the Russians would be taking the lead. On June 11, Rooseveltrejected the plan, advising instead the setting up of "consultative machinery" which would "restrain the tendency towards the development of exclusive spheres." Churchill replied on the same day and again strongly urged acceptance, suggesting that the arrangement should have a trial of three months. On June 13 Roosevelt without consulting Cordell Hull, agreed to this proposal, adding, "We must be careful to make it clear that we are not establishing any post- war spheres of influence." The Soviet government was notified accordingly on June 19, but actually no final agreement was reached. Stalin, on July 15, noting that "the American Government have some doubts regarding this question," proposed "to revert to the matter." However, no further discussions followed. In the middle of August, Churchill, driven by his desire to bring "order out of chaos," met Tito in Naples, where he succeeded in paving the way for an agreement of cooperation between Tito and Subasic the Premier of the Yugoslav exiles. But the assurance which Tito gave Churchill that he had "no desire to introduce the communist system into Yugoslavia,"7 was probably not the same assurance that he gave Stalin a few weeks later when he left his British- protected stronghold on the Adriatic island of Vis for a secret trip to Moscow.
The Russian summer campaign was driving the Germans westward with irresistible force, and the need for East- West agreement on post- liberation policies was greater than ever. Most disturbing was the Soviet behavior during the heroic Warsaw uprising against the Germans in August. Not only was no help rendered by the Red Army, which was within easy reach of the city, but even the use of Soviet airfields was denied to the West, anxious to bring relief to the Warsaw Poles who paid allegiance to the London government in exile. Soviet charges that some of the Poles in the London government were reactionaries and enemies of Russia were not without foundation. On the other hand, Premier Stanislaw Mikolajczyk was an agrarian democrat and a sincere advocate of reconciliation and cooperation with Russia. The popular Western assumption that cooperation with the Russians was a matter of a liberal and progressive partnership was a delusion. It greatly impeded any realistic interpretation of Soviet policies, even in such a case as Poland, where the Russians made little effort to hide their imperialistic designs.
The Russians took the lead in dictating armistice terms to Romania, when on August 23 the country followed King Michaelto a man and overthrew the pro- German regime. They were again in the lead in signing an armistice with Finland after fighting stopped on September 4. Without even consulting the Western Allies, the Russians declared war on September 5 against Bulgaria. (Bulgaria, alone among Hitler's satellites, and although at war with the Western Powers, had maintained diplomatic relations throughout the war with Soviet Russia.) The Russo- Bulgarian "war" lasted four days and enabled Russia to treat Bulgaria as a defeated German satellite.
Where Hitler's tyranny ended, Stalin's began, in the Danube Valley. Only in Hungarywere the Nazis able to solidify their rule for a little longer. Horthy's coup against the Germans on October 15 was a complete failure. The Hungarians did not follow their regent to a man as the Romanians had followed their king. While Horthy was engaged in the immensely difficult task of bringing over German- occupied Hungaryto the Allied side, the Germans had the much easier job of passing the government of Hungaryover to a group of Nazi extremists whom they had held in reserve for the eventuality of Horthy's defection.
This was the inglorious end of Admiral Horthy's counterrevolutionary regime. Or, in the more kindly words of C. A. Macartney (the most understanding chronicler among the Western historians of the Horthy era), this was "the end of a world."8 The conservative wing of the Horthy regimewas clever enough to foresee Hitler's doom. But the indoctrination, anti- Semitic, chauvinistic, pro- German, of Hungarian public opinion under Horthy's regency was responsible for the hope which so many Hungarians blindly shared, for Hitler's victory. Horthy's Nazi successors posed as defenders of Christianity and national rights, while at the same time distinguishing themselves as Hitler's ablest disciples in committing crimes against humanity. As part of their propaganda they denounced the horrors of impending Bolshevik rule and the sinister plans of the Allies to reimpose on Hungarythe unjust terms of the Trianon Treaty. This propaganda unfortunately proved true. However, the Hungarian Nazis' fanatical faith in Hitler's final victory was proved wrong. Their brief period of power under the "leadership" of Major Ferenc Szálasi marked the all- time low point in Hungarys history.
Threatened by the advancing Russians from the north, the Germans began to withdraw from the Balkans. A critical situation arose in Greece, where the greater part of the country was held by the Communist ELAS guerrilla bands. Although, in the so- called Caserta agreement, ELAS had recognized the authority of the Greek government in exile, and although according to the British- Soviet June agreements, Britain was supposed to take the lead in Greece, the restoration of the legal government to power in Athens constituted a grave problem in view of the mounting disorder. With growing concern Churchill watched "the upsurge of Communist influence" in Eastern Europe (a fact which according to him the United States "were very slow in realizing"), but his concern, at least for the time being, was limited to certain countries. He felt that Britain's past relations with Romania and Bulgaria did not call for any special sacrifices; but, he said, "the fate of Poland and Greece struck us keenly. For Poland we had entered the war; for Greece we had made painful efforts. " On October 9, Churchill and Eden arrived in Moscow for another round of conferences, which were conducted in the same spirit in which the "temporary arrangements" had been made in June. On the first day of the Moscow conference it was agreed that Russia should have 90 percent predominance" in Romania, 75 percent in Bulgaria; Britain should have 90 percent of Greece; while Russia and Britain should go fifty- fifty in Yugoslavia and Hungary On the subject of Poland, protracted negotiations, to which the Lublin Poles and Mikolajczyk were also invited, produced meager results. The percentage system, this newly discovered basis of East- West agreements, failed to bridge the gulf between the Lublin Poles and Mikolajczyk. Boleslaw Bierut, head of the Lublin Committee, contended that "if Mikolajczyk were Premier he [Bierut] must have 75 percent of the Cabinet." Churchill backed up Mikolajczyk with a proposal of "fifty- fifty plus himself" (that is, Mikolajczyk as Premier). As to the other burning issue, the Russo- Polish frontier, Mikolajczyk was "going to urge upon his London colleagues the Curzon Line, including Lvov, for the Russians." Nevertheless Churchill was hopeful that a final settlement would be reached soon.11 Churchill's optimism was sustained by events in Greece. When it came to an armed showdown with the Greek Communists, the Russians kept their hands off and let the British act. In other words, the Moscow percentage agreements worked beautifully in Greece. The course of events in Poland, however, contributed only to pessimism. Mikolajczyk resigned after his failure to make his London colleagues accept the Curzon Line. The deadlock between Moscow and the Polish government in exile became complete when, on January 1, 1945, Moscow recognized the Lublin Committee as the provisional government of Poland.
The United States never subscribed to Churchill's percentage diplomacy. Rooseveltand his advisers opposed these special arrangements because they were anxious to avoid the creation of zones of influence. The United States government believed as strongly as the British government that the Soviet Union was entitled to full security along her western borders, and that the countries in Eastern Europe should have governments friendly to the Soviet Union. But Rooseveltbelieved, in the words of Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., Hull's successor at the head of the State Department, that "a strong world organization, created before the end of the war . . . would help the world to deal with the inevitable difficulties that would arise over the control of liberated territories and would make spheres of influence of less importance than in the past."
On the eve of Yalta the difference between Churchill's attitude and Roosevelts seemed to be this: Rooseveltwas hopeful that a strong United Nations organization might prevent the partition of Europe into spheres of influence; whereas Churchill, recognizing Europe's partition as an accomplished fact, sought to ease its consequences by bargaining with the Russians.
|The New Central Europe|