1939: The Balance Sheet: Paradoxes and Imponderables -- Part 8
The fundamental truths of this disproportion of suffering cast long shadows.
The war-time conferences were in the shadows.
The armies of the Western Allies generally made slow progress and suffered a few shocking reverses.
Although the battles in north Africa had turned in favor of the British and Americans by early 1943, progress there had been much slower than anticipated.
Roosevelt was convinced that he could allay Stalin's suspicions by personally meeting him.
He believed that with his personal charm, he could convince Stalin that the capitalist world would not act in a way that the Communists would act in.
Roosevelt understood that he needed to show great sensitivity to Stalin's concerns by avoiding confrontations or dwelling on the unhappy recent past, but that was a tall order.
Roosevelt was hopeful that he could convince Stalin to accept a vision of the postwar world in which the major powers, capitalist and Communist, would cooperate in keeping the peace, a vision that would not make much sense to a man of Stalin's personal beliefs.
Stalin's suspicion that Roosevelt and Churchill would cooperate against him was unwarranted.
They both tried to get Stalin's support against the other.
Roosevelt told Stalin that he agreed with the Communists that Europe's imperial holdings should be dismantled after the war.
The naivete of the Americans in foreign affairs was referred to slightly by Churchill in his private conversations with Stalin at Tehran.
The meeting was held in Tehran from November 28 to December 1.
Stalin had not left Soviet territory since he took power.
The informal exchanges between the Big Three were strange, perhaps more so than the formal decisions reached.
There was a certain symbolism in how far Roosevelt and Churchill were willing to go to accommodate their Communist ally, since he remained unwilling to do more than step over the Soviet border, while they had to travel thousands of miles.
Stalin wanted his own people to be in charge of security, so most of the meetings were held in the Soviet Union.
There was a personal gift from King George VI to the citizens of Stalingrad and the people of the Soviet Union, as well as a specially prepared sword of honor, at an elaborate banquet that was hosted by the Prime Minister.
Stalin kissed the sword after accepting it.
He did not give a comparable gift to the American or British people.
Stalin avoided direct confrontations.
It might be argued that Stalin was the most effective in personal diplomacy because he seemed to persuade his capitalist interlocutors that he was, after all, a modest, reasonable sort.
The Tehran conference had an aura of unreality because Roosevelt believed he could convince Stalin that Marxist theory was flawed and that capitalist leaders could be trusted.
After several meetings with Stalin, Churchill commented that "Poor Neville Chamberlain believed he could trust Hitler."
Much of the playful repartee by the Big Three at Tehran is very real.
Stalin approved the murder of thousands of Polish officers in the spring of 1940, after overseeing the arrests and execution of thousands of his own military leaders.
The idea of putting thousands of German officers to death was hardly a large step for him, but the Big Three at Tehran finally postponed decisions about the exact punishments to be meted out to Nazi military officers.
In 1814-15 and 1919, the problem of Poland proved to be particularly troublesome, threatening to divide the Big Three irreparably.
They put off binding decisions again.
Poland was to remain friendly to the Soviet Union even though there would be free elections.
The mass of Poland's population was deeply anti-Russian and anti-Communist.
The Red Army and the Soviet secret police would have to guarantee friendship between Poland and the Soviet Union in order for a regime there to be elected.
Stalin's main concern was to get a firm commitment for the Anglo-American landing in western Europe, and that concern was more or less satisfied at Tehran, after so many postponements.
Roosevelt got one concession, a further, if still tentative, statement from Stalin in support of the United Nations Organization.
Stalin agreed to go along with the creation of the United Nations because of the state of Soviet Russia at the end of the war.
The rights of military conquest were included in the foreign policy "realism" that he was a firm believer in.
He told the Yugoslav Communist that everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can go.
By dividing Europe into spheres, the Soviet Union would have 90 percent influence, Britain 10 percent.
The figures were not binding, but they showed his belief that military power was more important than the people's right to choose their own governments.
Roosevelt was persuaded that the peace could only be preserved after the United States and Britain had operated as a kind of police force for several years.
Roosevelt continued to insist that the world's great powers should be in control of the United Nations, not the nations of the world.
Few European nations believe in free elections.
After the war, the Americans imposed their own system of government "as far as their army could reach" in order to make sure friendly regimes were established in areas with large Communist followings.
The establishment of American-style democracy was less blatant than the Soviet-style democracy because the rich Americans and liberal democracy were more popular in western Europe.