Friday 3 February 2023

Yalta has almost no significance


Yalta did not give Russia a third of Europe, including Romania. She won it by much blood and no-one could have prevented it, except possibly Germany.

There was nothing the UK or US could do to stop the USSR treating the countries it had occupied as it pleased. What difference did Yalta make? Had the Allies invaded Greece not Sicily things might have been different. Or had the Allies gone straight for Berlin instead of liberating Paris more of Germany would have been democratic. Likewise the Allies could have liberated Prague.

Nor did the USSR adhere to the Yalta agreement which gave the UK 50% influence for example in Hungary.

Tony Judt in his great book 'Postwar' said:

"But Yalta actually mattered little...Nothing was decided at Yalta that had not already been agreed at Teheran or elsewhere. ...

..For by then Stalin scarcely needed Western permission to do whatever he wished in Eastern Europe, as the British at least understood perfectly well." 

Judt was a great historian and 'Postwar' is very good (even though left-wing and EUrophile) but here he is merely stating the obvious.

No decision at Yalta could have helped Romania only Stalin's good will. Actually this good will or whim allowed Finland to be democratic, though allied to the USSR, but this was not a decison at Yalta. The West did begin the Cold War quickly after VE Day. Some historians today argue that the Cold War was an overreaction but it certainly was not doing nothing. Yes Churchill wanted to save the Balkans and only saved Greece, not helped by FDR at all, (FDR like George W. Bush was a Wilsonian) but Churchill had very little leverage. Luckily Stalin who was a child of the 19th century thought it was unthinkable that Britain would allow Greece to go Communist and did little to help the Greek Communists take power there in the civil war. He also did not seriously hope France or Italy would become Communist though this seemed possible in 1945 and did not do much to help the Comunists there. Unlike Hitler Stalin was not bent on dominating Europe but on protecting his country from invasion.

A missed opportunity was not agreeing to Khrushchev's plan in 1955 to unite and demilitarise Germany but the UK and USA could not have helped Romania or Bulgaria.

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