|The New Central Europe|
The year 1945, which brought victory for the Grand Alliance over Nazi Germany, began on the battlefields under the auspices of Allied unity. The German Christmas offensive in the Ardennes, contrary to Hitler's expectations, strengthened the ties of East- West alliance and pushed Western hatred of Germany to a new pitch of emotionalism. The Fuhrer was greatly mistaken when he thought that military setbacks would make the Western Allies alive to the threat of Soviet domination in Europe. The crisis on the western front, instead of forcing the Western Allies to seek a compromise peace with Nazi Germany, made them even more anxious to seek cooperation with Soviet Russia. And the hard- ships the Western armies had encountered on the battlefields of Europe strengthened the conviction of American strategists that Soviet participation in the war against Japan was highly desirable, too. Anxious to know whether the Russians could do anything from their side to take off some of the German pressure against the West, Churchill inquired in Moscow whether the Western Powers could "count on a major Russian offensive on the Vistula front, or elsewhere, during January." Stalin promptly replied that, taking into account the position of the Western Allies, the Red Army, regardless of weather, would commence large- scale offensive operations not later than the second half of January.
Churchill was impressed with this "thrilling message." The Soviet winter offensive began shortly after, and at the time the Big Three were on their way to Yalta, the Soviet armies were already scoring their great victories, which allegedly was exactly what Stalin had planned as a backdrop to the conference in order to strengthen his bargaining position. The Western leaders were unaware of such a plan, if it existed; and Churchill, who had asked for the Soviet offensive, could hardly have suspected ulterior motives behind the timing. He was "distressed," however, on the eve of the Yalta meeting, which took place between February 4 and 12, because of the deadlock in the negotiations which were going on at the same time over the future of the Polish government. In a message to Roosevelt he expressed his feeling that "the end of this war may well prove to be more disappointing than was the last."2 But by the time he reached Yalta, as Secretary of State Stettinius observed, most of this pessimism seemed to have left him,3 and Churchill's own record of the Yalta conference is proof of the general optimism with which the Western leaders viewed the results of their meeting with Marshal Stalin.
The protocol of proceedings which summarized the agreements reached at the conference reflected the optimistic One- World mood with its initial announcement that a new universal organization would be created soon. Because Big Three unity seemed to be assured as the foundation of this new world instrument for peace, called the United Nations, the fulfillment of everything else that had been agreed upon was anticipated with hope and confidence. And insofar as the Western leaders considered some of the other agreements less satisfactory than the one on the United Nations, they looked upon the world organization, and Soviet Russia's participation in it, as the best means for remedying them. Consequently, especially to President Roosevelt Soviet agreement to participate in the United Nations seemed so important that it justified concessions on what, at the time of Yalta, seemed less important points.
The protocol listed thirteen other agreements, among which first in line was the famous Declaration on Liberated Europe. It was introduced by President Roosevelttoward the end of the conference and was accepted with only a few minor changes and without much discussion. In this document Marshal Stalin, Prime Minister Churchill and President Rooseveltjointly declared "their mutual agreement to concert, during the temporary period of instability in liberated Europe, the policies of their three governments in assisting the peoples of the former Axis satellite states of Europe to solve by democratic means their pressing political and economic problems." Furthermore they pledged that "the three governments will jointly assist the people in any European liberated state or former Axis satellite state in Europe . . . to form interim governmental authorities, broadly representative of all democratic elements in the population and pledged to the earliest possible establishment, through free elections, of governments responsive to the will of the people." In conclusion the Big Three reaffirmed their faith in the principles of the Atlantic Charter, their pledge in the Declaration of the United Nations, and their determination to build, in cooperation with other peace- loving nations, world order under law, dedicated to peace, security, freedom and the general well- being of all mankind.
This document, prepared by the American State Department, was originally an integral part of a proposal for the establishment of a European High Commission composed of Britain, the Soviet Union, France and the United States. The European High Commissionwas planned to assist in establishing popular governments and in facilitating the solution of emergency economic problems in the former occupied and satellite states of Europe. (The European High Commission was to have no responsibilities in regard to the conduct of the war or the post- war control of Germany. Questions regarding Germany were to be left to the European Advisory Commission which had been created at the Moscow conference in October 1943.) President Roosevelt however, decided against presenting the proposal for a European High Commissionto the Yalta conference.4 Thus was missed an opportunity to ensure, in some form at least, direct participation of the Western Powers in assisting the East European nations to establish popular governments.
The Declaration on Liberated Europe, as approved by the conference, provided no direct guarantees for, or direct assistance to, the formation of democratic governments in the Russian- occupied areas. It envisaged merely that the Three Powers would "concert" their policies, that they would "jointly assist" the liberated peoples, and would "consult together on the measures necessary to discharge the joint responsibilities set forth in this declaration." The Three Powers also expressed their hope that France might be associated with them in these procedures. Big Three unity, then, was the indirect guarantee and assistance which the Western Powers offered the nations of Eastern Europe in those nations' efforts to establish for themselves democratic regimes; otherwise those nations were left to themselves in their assigned task of "getting along with Russia," which was the frequently repeated advice the West offered at that time to nations under Soviet occupation.
Special arrangements of some sort were made concerning Poland, but only in the form of implementing, in very general terms, the phraseology of the agreements of the Declaration on Liberated Europe. This special provision "authorized as a commission" Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov, and the two Western ambassadors at Moscow, Averell Harriman and Sir A. Clark Kerr "to consult," with the Poles in regard to forming a government "on a broader democratic basis." The acceptance of this special Declaration on Poland was much less smooth than the agreement that the Big Three reached on the general Declaration on Liberated Europe. As Churchill reported in his memoirs, Poland was discussed at no fewer than seven out of eight plenary meetings of the Yalta conference.5 Finally it was agreed that the Polish provisional government, which had been set up and recognized by the Soviet Union, should be reorganized with the inclusion of democratic leaders from Poland itself and from Poles abroad. This new government should then be called the Polish Provisional Government of National Unity, and should be pledged to the holding of "free and unfettered elections as soon as possible on the basis of universal suffrage and the secret ballot." But again, apart from the Molotov- Harriman- Kerrcommission's authorization "to consult," nothing but the good faith of Soviet Russia and the unity of the Big Three served to guarantee that this provision would be carried out.
A special agreement was reached also on Yugoslavia; but this was even more vague than the one on Poland. The Big Three agreed merely "to recommend" to Marshal Tito and to Dr. Subasicthat their pact concluded in December 1944, which had not yet been carried out, should immediately be put into effect and that a new broader government, uniting the exiles with Tito's partisans, should be formed on the basis of that pact.
The Big Three sounded the note of unity again in concluding the protocol of the conference, when they announced that permanent machinery would be set up for consultation between the foreign ministers of the Three Powers, and that these meetings should be held as often as necessary, probably about every three or four months.
The only secret agreement of the conference was made with reference to Japan. It was agreed that in two or three months after Germany had surrendered and the war in Europe had terminated, the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan on the side of the Allies. In return for Russia's willingness to break her non- aggression treaty with Japan and enter the war in the Far East, important strategic islands and other concessions were promised to Stalin.
It was often said that in Europe too it was due to military considerations that the Western leaders made concessions to Stalin. No doubt the Western leaders were anxious (or, as it appears in retrospect, unduly anxious) to keep Russia in the war against Germany and to bring her into the war against Japan. However, it would be wrong to assume that the Western leaders adhered to the Yalta agreements under the compulsion of military necessity only. Military necessity was of course paramount, most of the territory under consideration was already occupied or about to be occupied by the Red Army; nevertheless the agreements concerning Eastern Europe were very much in line also with the Western views on the future of that area. It was a Western axiom that the primary task of the Eastern European nations was to establish friendly cooperation with Soviet Russia: and the Yalta agreements on Eastern Europe were designed to achieve just that.
Both Britain and the United States readily acknowledged the special interests Russia claimed to have in this area from the point of view of her security. They did not intend to let Eastern Europe become an exclusive Soviet sphere of influence; nevertheless Churchill, in his percentage agreements with Stalin, had indicated the limits of British interest in Eastern Europe, and he seemed now to adhere to these earlier agreements, although the Yalta Declaration on Liberated Europe provided free and unfettered elections for every liberated country and obviously superseded all previous arrangements. Thus, immediately after Yalta, when the Big Three agreement was being trampled down in Romania, Churchill still felt, for some time at least, bound by the percentage agreements. "We were hampered in our protests," he explained in his memoirs, "because Eden and I during our October visit to Moscow had recognized that Russia should have a largely predominant voice in Romania and Bulgaria, while we took the lead in Greece."
The United States, although never a party to any sphere of influence agreement, indicated its generally limited interest in Europe when Roosevelt at the first plenary meeting in Yalta, said "the United States would take all reasonable steps to preserve peace, but not at the expense of keeping a large army in Europe. . . . The American occupation would therefore be limited to two years." And when the Soviet violation of the Yalta agreements became quite apparent, the withdrawal of American troops from Europe still continued according to schedule. In fact, after Yalta the American policy, more rigidly than the British, remained committed to the Yalta principle that the East European nations must try to get along with Russia, and U.S. policy adhered to this principle, in spite of the rapid deterioration of conditions, which in any case had never been favorable for its fulfillment. Starting, it seems, from the broad assumption that peace and freedom in Eastern Europe depended on Big Three unity, the Western leaders were anxious, first of all, to cement this unity. Thus, at Yalta, for fear of impairing Big Three unity, they pressed only lightly their ideas for guarantees, no matter what these guarantees could have been. Then, after Yalta, the vicious circle continued. The Big Three agreements were trampled down by Russia, but the West seemed to be more concerned with preserving Big Three unity than in taking measures against Soviet violations of the Big Three agreements. During the Yalta conference, it was only in the case of Poland that the Western representatives insisted, for a while, upon Allied supervision of the forthcoming elections. The Western proposition provided for the American, British and Soviet ambassadors in Warsaw to watch the polls and report whether the elections were really free and unfettered; the Soviet negotiators on the other hand maintained hypocritically that such supervision would "offend the Poles." After some wrangling, the Soviet arguments prevailed, and the idea of supervision was dropped. Among Central and Eastern Europe's many territorial problems, again only those pertaining to Poland were discussed in Yalta by the Big Three. The Curzon Line was recognized as Poland's eastern frontier and it was agreed that she must receive "substantial accessions of territory in the north and west." Final delimitation of Poland's western frontier was to await the peace conference. Both Rooseveltand Churchill agreed, however, that Poland should receive compensation up to the line of the Oder; but they favored the eastern rather than the western Neisse as a continuation of the new Polish frontiers southward from the Oder. They also agreed in principle that the German population should be expelled from the newly acquired Polish territories, as they had agreed earlier with Benes's demands that the non- Slav minorities should be expelled from Czechoslovakia.
The mutual problems of the smaller nations of Central Europe, whose quarrels in the past had contributed so much to their undoing, did not figure at all on the agenda of the Yalta conference. The restoration of the pre- war national states was taken for granted. Their better future was deemed to be assured by the.election of democratic governments, by friendly cooperation with Soviet Russia, and by Big Three unity in the United Nations organization. The road to happiness for the nations of the Middle Zone was described by Churchill, when in the House of Commons on February 27 he said regarding Poland: "The Poles will have their future in their own hands, with the single limitation that they must honestly follow, in harmony with their allies, a policy friendly to Russia." And he continued: "The impression l brought back from the Crimea . . . is that Marshal Stalin and the Soviet leaders wish to live in honorable friendship and equality with the Western democracies. I feel that their word is their bond.... l decline absolutely to embark here on a discussion about Russian good faith." President Rooseveltexpressed a similar point of view in his message to Congress on March 1: "I think," he said, "the Crimea conference . . . spells, and it ought to spell, the end of the system of unilateral action, exclusive alliances, and spheres of influence, and balances of power and all the other expedients which have been tried for centuries and have always failed.... I am sure that, under the agreement reached at Yalta, there will be a more stable political Europe than ever before."
Unfortunately, both Churchill and Rooseveltwere wrong: both were as wrong as Neville Chamberlain had been when he spoke of "peace with honor," and "peace in our time," after his return from another crucial international meeting of the twentieth century.
To sum up: The Yalta agreements were based on several broad principles upon which the peace of Europe was supposed to rest. First of all, peace in Europe was to be guaranteed by the global cooperation of the United States, Britain and Russia within the framework of the United Nations. Furthermore there were three specific policies according to which the peaceful reorganization of Europe was to proceed: friendship with Russia, hostility to Germany, restoration of the pre- war nation- state system. Or at least, Western diplomacy took for granted that these would be the principles of European peacemaking. As far as Soviet Russia went, if tactics are distinguished from policy, it is obvious in retrospect that Soviet diplomacy had never emancipated itself from the fundamental principle of Bolshevik foreign policy: hostility to the West.
Since the breakdown of the Yalta agreements, several theories have been advanced to explain the causes of the failure. The most popular among them was perhaps the one least instructive. This was what Henry Steele Commager aptly called the "conspiracy theory of Yalta." According to this theory President Roosevelt naive and senile, sold out half of Europe to Stalin at Yalta as a result of some Communist, or leftist, conspiratorial work in the State Department. The "conspiracy theory," was popularized by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, chief promoter of the "Red Scare" in the United States after the Second World War. But post- war American party struggles also added much fuel to the demagogic interpretation of the Yalta agreements. The Republicans, who had been out of power for almost a generation, indulged in some irresponsible criticism of Yalta in order to discredit both the foreign and the domestic policies of the Democratic administration.
Following General Eisenhowers electoral victory in 1952, the Republican- administered State Department made public (March 1955) the American documents concerning the Big Three agreements (The Conference at Malta and Yalta, 1945). The release added little or nothing to what was already known about Yalta. The Yalta Papers paid special attention to Alger Hiss, former State Department official, target of the advocates of the "conspiracy theory," who was convicted of perjury for denying that he had passed official documents to a confessed Soviet spy. But it was clear from the documents that Hiss participated in the Yalta negotiations as a reporter rather than as a policy-maker. This fact did not prevent Republican Senator Karl Mundt, for instance, from contending after the publication of the Yalta Papers that the Russians were able to obtain concessions from the United States at the Yalta conference because at that time Alger Hiss was acting in an espionage capacity." The conspiracy theory was far from dead ten years after Yalta.
This theory was as unrealistic as the once flourishing leftist suspicion which sensed some reactionary conspiracy precipitated by Roosevelts death in April 1945, behind the breakdown of the East- West alliance. After the war, many Western liberals believed unity between the Western Powers and Soviet Russiabroke down because one of its chief architects and a leading Western liberal, President Roosevelt died. This belief was echoed by the President's son, Elliot, in the mythical suggestion that "Franklin Roosevelts ideals and statesmanship would have been sufficient to keep the unity a vital entity during the postwar period...." And long after Roosevelts death, the belief lingered on among liberals that East- West cooperation had broken down mainly because of reactionary intrigues. So, for instance, Rexford G. Tugwell, one- time member of President Roosevelts Brain Trust, in a book published in 1957 hinted at "a reversal of the dead President's intentions" and "the intransigence towards Russia of the reactionaries in the Cabinet, the Department of State and the embassies everywhere," as having been the cause of the cold war. The theory of reactionary conspiracy, it seems, had its diehard believers as did the theory of leftist conspiracy.
Pro- Soviet sympathies of the Left were, no doubt, responsible to a great extent for the naive Western views on Russia and communism, but much more conducive to Western friendliness for the Soviet Union was the fact that East and West were united in a life and death struggle against a common enemy, Hitler's Germany. Many Western progressives committed a grave mistake by portraying Communists as essentially "social reformers." But their influence in shaping the West's pro- Russian policy was greatly exaggerated and their motives grossly distorted.
The pro- Soviet Left in the West during the war advocated friendship with the Soviet Union primarily for military reasons, as did everybody else. As a rule, they favored cooperation with the Soviet Union in the interest of their respective nations, rather than in the interest of Russia or communism. The worst they did was to make cooperation with the Russians an ideological issue, hailing East- West unity as a triumph for liberalism and suspecting as reactionaries all who did not commit them- selves wholly to friendship with the Soviet Union. Prominent in their thinking was the shame of Munich. They fostered what Benes liked to call the West's "bad conscience" regarding Munich. This could have been a real service, had they not also, in the meantime, spread the naive belief that cooperation with Russia would undo past crimes and mistakes and introduce a new millennium. They thus weakened the sense of realism that the West so greatly needed. But in no way did they make Western policy, either at Yalta or at any other place where the crucial decisions were made. The "conspiracy theory" just did not fit the facts.
Another theory, propounded most elaborately by Chester Wilmot in his book The Struggle for Europe, explained Yalta mainly in terms of alleged Anglo- American antagonism. In order to represent Americans as entertaining strong anti- British and pro- Russian biases, Wilmot quoted statements by General Eisenhowerand others, such as: "The ordinary Russian seems to me lo bear a marked similarity to what we call an "average American," special bond between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R.," "unbroken friendship [with the U.S.S.R.] that dated back to the birth of the United States,"both were free from the stigma of colonial empire building by force," only to come to the following conclusion: "This belief was implicit in Roosevelts approach to the problems which were to be discussed at Yalta. In his eyes, Britain was an imperial power, bearing the "colonial stigma"; Russia was not. That assessment of his allies was a decisive factor in Roosevelts readiness to make concessions to the Soviet Union both in Europe and in Asia in order to ensure Stalin's entry in the Pacific War."
The consequence of this alleged anti- British and pro- Russian bias was that the Americans opposed Churchill's strategy. Regarding Churchill's strategy, and motives, Wilmot claimed that in 1943 Churchill favored military operations in the Balkans in order to achieve "the restoration of democratic influence in Central and South- Eastern Europe." As Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., pointed out while refuting these theories: "Not a fragment of evidence is presented to support the confident assertion that Churchill ever had these political motives at that time...."15 But it is easier to start than to stop a myth.
Believers in the Balkan invasion myth pretended to know that, at the Teheran meeting of the Big Three in 1943, the aim of Churchill's strategy was the defense of Europe against communism. Furthermore they were convinced that had Churchill's plan been carried out the post- war bolshevization of Eastern Europe could have been prevented. That such political motives, if they had existed and shaped Allied strategy, could have ruined East- West cooperation and could even have led to a separate peace between Germany and Russia, did not bother the makers of this myth. Nor did they care to explore the military complications of such strategy, automatically taking its success for granted. And of course they disregarded the simple fact that Churchill in 1943 did not advocate Balkan invasion plans on the scale or with the motives that the believers of the myth said he did.
In his memoirs, Churchill clearly stated the nature and motives of his Balkan invasion plans of 1943. Said he, in defense against the makers of myths: "It has become a legend in America that I strove to prevent the Cross- Channel enterprise called "Overlord," and that I tried vainly to lure the Allies into some mass invasion of the Balkans, or a large- scale campaign in the eastern Mediterranean, which would effectively kill it. Much of this nonsense has already in previous chapters been exposed and refuted."16 Especially refuted in Churchill's memoirs is the contention that the strategy which he urged in 1943 in the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean had something to do with efforts alleged against him to forestall the Red Army in Central Europe. It is clear from Churchill's narrative that what he sought was to speed up the common victory. He was eager to employ the large forces already assembled in the Mediterranean most efficiently, and wanted "to use otherwise unemployable forces to bring Turkey into the war."17 "The object," he wrote "of all the operations in the Mediterranean which I had contemplated was to take the weight off Russia and give the best possible chance to "Overlord."
It is true that in 1944, but assuredly not in 1943, as Wilmot claimed, Churchill became suspicious of Russia's intentions and tried at that time "to forestall the Russians in certain areas of Central Europe.,"9 However, at Yalta he seemed to regain his confidence in Russia, and it was only afterwards, in the spring of 1945, when the Soviets trampled down indiscriminately (not only in Romania and Bulgaria) the Big Three Yalta agreements, that he definitely lost that confidence, and began to advocate both diplomatic and military resistance.
During the spring of 1945 Churchill's views on Soviet Russiabegan to differ fundamentally from those maintained by the American State Department, and in the light of subsequent events it is clear that Churchill was right and the United States policy- makers were wrong. Wilmot's "colonial stigma" theory may perhaps partly explain why at this particular juncture the United States brushed aside Churchill's prophetic warnings.20 The American policy- makers suspected an anti- Communist bias in Churchill; and in some instances they acted as if they were more fearful of the bogey of British imperialism than aware of the obvious facts of Soviet imperialism. However, there is no evidence that at any time during the early phases of the war, any anti- British sentiments could have been "a decisive factor" in the pro- Russian policy of the United States.
Certainly Rooseveltwas especially anxious to dispel the suspicion of the Russians that they were facing an Anglo- American front, and he therefore often played the role of mediator between Stalin and Churchill. But this was a tactical position, which cannot prove that Rooseveltsought the friendship of Soviet Russiamore ardently than did Churchill. Both Western leaders sought it, although, apart from their common conviction that the friendship of Russia was essential in winning the war and in building the peace, their underlying motives may have been somewhat different.
Roosevelthad a better grasp than Churchill of the forces propelling the modern world toward social change; also, he was in sympathy with them. He was convinced that capitalism and communism, by different methods, could both serve human progress. Or at least, Rooseveltseemed to hold this conviction during the period of East- West cooperation. He did not believe this in 1940, at the time of the Russo- Finnish war, when he told an American Youth Congress that the Soviet dictator- ship was "as absolute as any other dictatorship in the world." A highly pragmatic man, he adopted, tried and discarded many hypotheses in his life. Had he lived after the Second World War, doubtless he would have been able to change his views on the democratic potentialities of Soviet tyranny. During the war, at any rate, fashionable leftist doctrines about the synthesis of democracy and communism made a greater impression on Rooseveltthan on Churchill, although the Conservative Churchill was not entirely immune to them. In a letter of October 11, 1944, which he never dispatched but did publish in his memoirs, Churchill wrote to Stalin: "We feel we were right in interpreting your dissolution of the Comintern as a decision by the Soviet Government not to interfere in the internal political affairs of other countries. . . . We have the feeling that, viewed from afar and on a grand scale, the differences between our systems will tend to get smaller. . ."21 Such ideological speculations did not impress Churchill too deeply. On the other hand, up until the spring of 1945, he was more ready than Rooseveltto accept the Soviet Union as a partner in power politics; his percentage agreements with Stalin clearly proved this. Churchill viewed the post- war world more in the perspective of balance of power, whereas Rooseveltviewed it more in the perspective of global cooperation; nevertheless, both Churchill and Rooseveltseemed to assume that after Germany's defeat the Western democracies, by recognizing Russia's legitimate security interest in Eastern Europe, would be able to cooperate successfully and to coexist peacefully with the Soviet Union.
The critics of Yalta were particularly prone to forget what the military situation had been at the time of the Crimean conference. The defenders of Yalta therefore were anxious to stress that, under the then existing military situation, the Yalta agreements were the very best the Western negotiators could obtain from the Russians. This argument was force- fully stated by Secretary of State Stettinius. He reminded the critics of Yalta that "while President Rooseveltwas meeting with Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Marshal Stalin in the Crimea, American and British troops had just recovered the ground lost by the Battle of the Bulge. The Allies had not yet bridged the Rhine. In Italy our advance had bogged down in the Apennines. Soviet troops, on the other hand, had just swept through almost all of Poland and East Prussia, and at some points had reached the Oder River in Germany. Most of Hungaryhad been captured, and the Yugoslav Partisans had recaptured Belgrade in November 1944. By February 1945, therefore, Poland and all of Eastern Europe, except for most of Czechoslovakia, was in the hands of the Red Army. As a result of this military situation, it was not a question of what Great Britain and the United States would permit Russia to do . . . but what the two countries could persuade the Soviet Union to accept."
And at a time when, in the McCarthyite phase of post- war American politics, Yalta became the symbol of "treason," George F. Kennan helped to set the record straight by pointing out: "The establishment of Soviet military power in Eastern Europe . . . was not the result of these talks; it was the result of the military operations during the concluding phases of the war. There was nothing the western democracies could have done to prevent the Russians from entering those areas except to get there first, and this they were not in a position to do." 23 Several military analysts questioned the inevitability of Eastern Europe's control by the Red Army. Their arguments, however, were far from convincing. They either maintained without benefit of evidence, like Chester Wilmot, that no heed had been given to the right military counsel which allegedly had been available; or else, in hindsight counsel, they recommended such moves as would seem, even today, of doubtful military value for achieving victory over Nazi Germany. Opinion in the latter category was voiced by Hanson W. Baldwin, who suggested it was a great mistake not to let Hitler and Stalin fight each other "to a frazzle," because it would have placed the democracies in supreme power in the world, instead of elevating one totalitarianism at the expense of another and of the democracies. It cannot be denied that supreme world power for the democracies would have been the ideal result of the war. Past experience should prove, however, that to attempt to achieve this by pitting Germany against Russia can more easily create a bond of union between those powers (as, for example, at Rapallo and in the Nazi- Soviet pact) than secure a Western victory over both. The defenders of Yalta profited by the experiences of the past to the extent of recognizing Big Three unity as the indispensable prerequisite of military victory. On the other hand their political arguments in support of the Yalta agreements were less than convincing. They put all the blame for failure to carry out the Yalta agreements on the Russians. They claimed in effect that the agreements were good, if the Russians had only kept them. This was also the essence of a most elaborate defensive thesis presented by W. Averell Harriman, one of President Roosevelts advisers at Yalta, before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on July 13, 1951. In brief, this defensive thesis maintained that not only did the West not sell out East Europe to the Communists, as reckless critics of Yalta charged, but on the contrary Yalta provided for the liberated nations of Eastern Europe to have democratic governments, established through free elections.
This argument was sound inasmuch as the Kremlin was to be called to task for violating the Yalta agreements. On the other hand, it is question- able whether Soviet readiness to cooperate in holding "free and un- fettered" elections in the countries of Eastern Europe was ever considered to be as much of a possibility as was later claimed, rather naively, by the defenders of Yalta. After all, Soviet Russias poor record, as well as the Middle Zone countries', in practicing free elections was well known. Moreover, the Western Powers never pressed too hard the issue of supervising the elections in the Soviet sphere. From the Yalta agreements the conclusion could have been drawn, above all by the Russians, that some allowance had been made for the Russian interpretation of "free" elections, though of course not as much allowance as the Russians themselves took the liberty of making.
The text of the Yalta agreements, while quoted verbatim by its defenders, did not reveal the true meaning of the policy the Western Allies were pursuing in Europe in general, and in Eastern Europe in particular. For, whatever was said in the Yalta agreements, it was also assumed that Soviet Russiawould have a predominant influence over Eastern Europe. A kind of friendly partition of Europe between East and West corresponded with the spirit of Allied policy. Hostility to Germany was the principal motivation of this policy. Lest the common enemy put the torch to the world once more, the Soviet Union with her Slavic allies was to stand guard over vanquished Germany in the east, while the democratic powers stood guard in the west.
The West had relied on the Slavs against Germany ever since the beginning of the conflict with the Germans which culminated in the First World War. The anti- German alliance between Russia and the West was broken up in 1917 by the Bolshevik revolution. After the First World War, French policy built up out of the nation- states in the predominantly Slavic Middle Zone between Germany and Russia a cordon sanitaire which, though primarily anti- German, was anti- Russian as well. During the Second World War, the West discarded the anti- Russian purpose of the cordon sanitaire, while retaining its anti- German function. Henceforth the nation- states of the Middle Zone were to cooperate with Russia, forming a great Slavic counterpoise to Germany within the framework of East- West cooperation.
This scheme was certainly meant to avoid the mistakes of the bankrupt French cordon- sanitaire policy in Central Europe. But the deeper cause of Europe's tragedy, namely the insane competition of reckless nationalism, was not taken to heart at all. The bankruptcy of the European nation- state system which precipitated the outbreak of the Second World War, and the aberrations of nationalism which culminated in the incredible inhumanities of Hitlerism, failed to drive home the lesson that the entire political fabric of Europe, based on sovereign nation- states, sorely needed revision.
The restoration of the pre- war European nation- state system was carried out so completely that it was even, contrary to earlier plans, applied to defeated Germany. At Yalta "the study of the procedure for the dismemberment of Germany" was referred to a three- power committee. Six months later, at the Potsdam conference, principles governing the treatment of Germany were agreed upon which already looked for the eventual restoration of a German nation- state. It was agreed that "for the time being," no central German government should be established, but nevertheless "certain essential central German administrative departments" were to be created without delay, and during the period of occupation Germany was to be treated as a "single economic unit." These plans concerning Germany, like all the other East- West agreements, were not carried out in the way agreed upon. The point however is that even the solution of the German problem was envisaged according to the old nation- state pattern. The treatment of Germany as a "unit" was of course far better policy than "dismemberment"; the latter was likely only to incite nationalist passions into seeking reunification. Yet restoration of Germany, even in the "decentralized" form envisaged by the Potsdam agreement, was a nationalist solution and therefore fraught with all the dangers pertaining to it. Only a federated Germany in a federated Europe could be conducive, if anything could, to ending the disastrous conflict between Europe and the Germans. During the war Churchill had toyed with the idea of European federalism, but he failed to arouse Roosevelts interest in any special European organization. And in any case Churchill's program itself was only, as Hajo Holborn called it, "a study project rather than an accepted policy." In the West generally, and not only by American policy- makers, it was believed that "the various nations of Europe would revive after the defeat of Germany and be able to exist in relative independence if Germany were kept disarmed and demilitarized. . . . This pattern . . . involved the rebirth of the old independent national states. In short, the Western world was confident that "somehow the old Europe would ultimately reemerge."
It could be well argued that the Western Powers could have done nothing, even had they wanted, to promote federalism in Soviet- occupied Eastern Europe, inasmuch as the Russians were opposed to it. This, however, cannot exonerate the West from its share of the blame for cooperating in the restoration of the old system of national states in Central and Eastern Europe in a new and particularly vicious form. The Western Powers became accomplices in the genocide plans of those Slavs, Communist and non- Communist, who, bewitched by the totalitarian magic of homogeneous national states, decided to expel millions from their homelands. Furthermore, in forsaking the principle of federalism, the Western democracies failed to create unity of their own where Soviet Russiacould not have interfered.
Paul- Henri Spaak, one of the few truly federalist European states- men, exclaimed in 1952: "What a pity Europe was not 'created' in 1945, a great chance was lost . . . ruins lay everywhere . . . everything had to be begun again, everything could have been begun on a new basis. Instead, Russia was left to consolidate her conquest and organize Eastern Europe, while Western Europe was going to work again in the old way, resuming outdated traditions."
The "great debate" on Yalta may still flare up from time to time, and military and political analysts may continue their debate on the great mistakes of Western strategy and diplomacy. However, as regards the lessons to be learned from past mistakes, no further evidence is needed to prove it was a capital error not to know the true nature and aims of Soviet communism. According to Hugh Seton- Watson, the fact that "leaders and the public in Britain and America took an optimistic view of their Soviet co- belligerent" was due to "the general ignorance of the nature and aims of communism, for which the main responsibility must fall on those who ruled the democracies between 1917 and 1939."27 While this is true, it should be remembered that there was also general ignorance regarding the nature of the inner crisis that plagued the nations of the Western world. Had this crisis, caused by intense nationalism and the obsolete system of nation- states, been understood by leaders of the Western world, they would not even have considered the restoration of "old Europe," however ignorant they might have been as to the nature and aims of communism. And had they understood the historical necessity of federalization, Soviet imperialism could hardly have destroyed so easily the fruits of Western victory in the Second World War. Cooperation with the Russians was bound to be the West's first choice, as Wallace Carroll concluded in a profound analysis of wartime policy, but the mistake lay in failure to prepare an alternative policy in the event that the Russians refused their cooperation. "The nature of the alternative course of action," said Carroll, "was clear enough, and it was one of those happy alternatives which could have been prepared without endangering the success of the primary policy. It was, in effect, to create under American leadership a kind of peace federation of like- minded nations whose material strength and moral authority were so great that no one nation would long have dared to run counter to their will."28 This "happy alternative" was proposed in its most radical form during the war by Clarence K. Streit, who in his famous book Union Now laid down the scheme of a transatlantic federation of the United States and Canada with the democracies of the European continent.
Of course, had the Western nations been capable of working out such a "happy alternative," they also could have made it into a happy correlative of their policy of cooperation with the Soviet Union. Un- fortunately, the war did not forge the Western democracies into a dynamic, progressive, international force. The Soviet Union not only dared to run counter to their will, but was probably even tempted to aggression by the Western show of irresolute weakness.
|The New Central Europe|