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Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Tehran Conference Begins, November 28, 1943

Today in 1943, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin met in Tehran to discuss the ongoing Second World War. It was the first time that all three leaders were in the same place at the same time. Though they did not represent all the Allied powers, the nations they led contributed the bulk of the men and material that were fighting to push back the German and Japanese war machines.

Several major agreements came out of the Tehran Conference. It was decided that the partisans fighting the Germans in Yugoslavia would receive supplies and commando troops from the Allies. Turkey would be influenced to come into the war on the Allied side, with the Soviet Union promising to support her if she did so. It was revealed that Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, would take place in May, 1944 (it actually took place on June 6th) and would be followed with an invasion of Southern France (this was known as Operation Dragoon and took place on August 15th, 1944). Stalin was also influenced to commit Soviet troops in the war against Japan once the war in Europe ended.

The long-lasting decision to come out of the Tehran Conference was the discussion of post-war Poland’s borders. The Free Polish government was not informed of the plan, which ultimately gave 48% of Poland’s pre-war territory to the Soviet Union. The dissection of Eastern Europe would continue at the Yalta Conference and resulted in almost all the areas liberated by Russian troops becoming Communist countries overseen by the Soviet Union. Though some historians argue that Churchill and Roosevelt had little choice but to accept Stalin’s demands, some Central European nations refer to this capitulation as the Western betrayal.

The concept of Western betrayal is still alive, so much so that when President George W. Bush visited Latvia in May, 2005, he described Yalta as “an attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability” where “when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable.” To some in Eastern Europe, slavery under the Nazis was little different from the slavery of Communism. The spark that would become the Cold War was thus created.

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