February 11, 2005


Under Yalta’s Shadow: The forgotten legacy. (Arthur Herman, 2/11/05, National Review)

On February 11, 1945, World War II's "Big Three" — Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin — ended their final summit in the Crimean seaside town of Yalta. President Bush never mentioned Yalta in his inaugural address or in his State of the Union speech; but the truth is that his vision of the future means undoing what happened at that meeting 60 years ago. Happily, two parts of Yalta's legacy — the Cold War and a Russian empire in Eastern Europe — are already history. But we are still haunted by the rest, from the prison camps of North Korea to a discredited United Nations, and the diplomatic fallacies that spawned them.

The first of these fallacies was that collective security is more important than democracy and human rights. In spite of the high-minded principles of their Atlantic Charter, both Churchill and Roosevelt arrived at Yalta believing that the price of future peace was allowing Stalin to dominate his neighbors in Eastern Europe. To his credit, Churchill still hoped American and British armies might be able to push far enough east to prevent Soviet occupation of countries like Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia; he even tried to negotiate an influence-sharing plan over Romania and Hungary with Stalin himself.

But in the end, both he and Roosevelt accepted the dictator's promise to allow free elections in the countries his armies overran. Roosevelt, ill and frail, may have believed Stalin; Churchill knew better. But neither was ready to hold Stalin to his pledge, then or later. The result was the enslavement of upwards of 80 million people within the Soviet orbit, as an "iron curtain," as Churchill called it a year later, came to divide Germany and Europe — and divide the people of Poland and ten other countries from control of their destiny for another 40 years.

British and American diplomats also agreed to hand over 1.5 million former Soviet POW's to Russia, although they knew it meant death in the gulag for almost all of them — once again, everyone believed, the necessary price of peace.

What a waste.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 11, 2005 6:10 PM

Didn't FDR end the depression?

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at February 11, 2005 9:18 PM

Wickard v Filburn. The New Deal. Socialism. Negotiate with the Soviets. Alger Hiss.

FDR was a moron. Save Social Security!!!!!

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at February 11, 2005 9:22 PM

Ah yes, real politic in action! Bloody, isn't it.

Posted by: jd watson at February 12, 2005 4:32 AM

This article is very sloppy history. The political struggle in the US at the time was between One Worlders like FDR and isolationists like Taft who would have repeated the failed policies of the 20s that got us Hitler. Nobody in America outside of the moderate left, people like Humphrey, were interested in democracy in Eastern Europe. They were fascist states with the exception of Czechoslovakia and Estonia before the war, and there were no serious democracy movements in them after the war.

Since FDR was caving in to Stalin, Churchill really had no alternative. His mistake was that he still believed that a bankrupt, class-struggle ridden crappy destitute little island could maintain a real empire in the postwar world. Given a choice between freeing the Poles and enslaving the Indians, he picked enslaving the Indians.

At least the UN is almost gone.

Posted by: Bart at February 12, 2005 6:37 AM