Protocol of Proceedings of Crimea (Yalta) Conference Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

As the liberation of Europe from Nazi domination that began with the D-Day invasion progressed through late 1944 and early 1945, it became increasingly clear that Adolf Hitler's Third Reich was not going to be the “thousand-year reich” that he had imagined, and that plans needed to be made by the victorious Allies for how Europe would be governed and rebuilt after the end of World War II. The leaders of the three largest of the Allies, President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain, and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, convened at Yalta, on the Crimean Peninsula in the Soviet Union, starting on February 4, 1945, in order to make plans for bringing the war to a rapid conclusion and to articulate their visions for their respective positions as superpowers in the postwar world.

Summary Overview

As the liberation of Europe from Nazi domination that began with the D-Day invasion progressed through late 1944 and early 1945, it became increasingly clear that Adolf Hitler's Third Reich was not going to be the “thousand-year reich” that he had imagined, and that plans needed to be made by the victorious Allies for how Europe would be governed and rebuilt after the end of World War II. The leaders of the three largest of the Allies, President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain, and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, convened at Yalta, on the Crimean Peninsula in the Soviet Union, starting on February 4, 1945, in order to make plans for bringing the war to a rapid conclusion and to articulate their visions for their respective positions as superpowers in the postwar world.

Defining Moment

During World War II, the leaders of the three Allied powers, the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, met at three conferences. The first conference, held in Tehran, Iran, in December 1943, outlined the Allies' strategy to win the war by pinching the German Army between the American and British forces, which would invade from the west, and the Soviet Army, which would invade from the east. The final two conferences, at Yalta in the Soviet Union in February 1945 and in Potsdam, Germany, in July–August 1945, dealt with the long-term issues and had a profound effect on the shape of postwar Europe.

During late 1944 and early 1945, the Allies had concentrated on defeating the German Army and staging a deliberate march toward the German capital, Berlin. A number of the hardest-fought, most brutal battles of the war took place during this time, including the Battle of the Bulge, fought by the American and British armies. The Soviet Army had begun their drive through Poland and East Prussia and experienced heavy losses, though they often outnumbered the German defenders by five or six to one. Though Nazi Germany had a number of the most terrifying weapons of war developed to that time, including the V1 and V2 (respectively, the first cruise missile and the first ballistic missile ever developed) and fighter aircraft powered by rocket and jet engines, these developments happened after the Allied air forces had devastated the factories in the Ruhr—Germany's industrial heartland—meaning these highly advanced weapons were not available in sufficient number to make a difference. Also, the German effort to develop an atomic bomb had not been successful.

When Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin convened at Yalta, what little remained of Nazi Germany was caught between the American and British forces invading Germany from the west and the Soviet Army invading from the east. All of the nations conquered by the Nazis from 1939 to 1940 were now liberated by the Allies, and what was left of the German Army largely consisted of old men and young boys who had been conscripted beginning in late 1944. As such, the discussions at Yalta focused less on defeating Nazi Germany (as the Soviet Army was only forty miles from Berlin when the conference took place) and more on the final defeat of the other remaining Axis power, Japan, as well as how to divide and govern Europe after the war. As with the Tehran Conference the prior year, both the Americans and British wanted the meeting held at a neutral site, but Stalin stated that his doctors had advised him not to travel, so he requested, and Roosevelt and Churchill agreed, to have the conference held in the Soviet seaside resort town of Yalta, on the Crimean Peninsula.

Author Biography

Known collectively as the “Big Three,” American president Franklin D. Roosevelt, British prime minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet premier Joseph Stalin represented their respective nations at the Yalta Conference. Though there were other nations involved with the Allied war effort, such as China and the Free French, the Big Three controlled wartime strategy and essentially shaped the postwar world. Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin each arrived at Yalta with their own agendas. Roosevelt wanted to ensure that the Soviets would help finish the war against Japan, Churchill wanted to make sure free elections were held in all of the territories liberated by Soviets, and Stalin wanted the creation of a buffer zone between the Soviet Union and Germany to prevent any future invasions from the west. It was the intersection (and sometimes clash) of these agendas that would go on to shape the period that followed World War II: the Cold War.

Historical Document

The Crimea Conference of the heads of the Governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which took place from Feb. 4 to 11, came to the following conclusions:

I. WORLD ORGANIZATION

It was decided:

1. That a United Nations conference on the proposed world organization should be summoned for Wednesday, 25 April, 1945, and should be held in the United States of America.

2. The nations to be invited to this conference should be:

(a) the United Nations as they existed on 8 Feb., 1945; and

(b) Such of the Associated Nations as have declared war on the common enemy by 1 March, 1945. (For this purpose, by the term “Associated Nations” was meant the eight Associated Nations and Turkey.) When the conference on world organization is held, the delegates of the United Kingdom and United State of America will support a proposal to admit to original membership two Soviet Socialist Republics, i.e., the Ukraine and White Russia.

3. That the United States Government, on behalf of the three powers, should consult the Government of China and the French Provisional Government in regard to decisions taken at the present conference concerning the proposed world organization.

4. That the text of the invitation to be issued to all the nations which would take part in the United Nations conference should be as follows:

“The Government of the United States of America, on behalf of itself and of the Governments of the United Kingdom, the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics and the Republic of China and of the Provisional Government of the French Republic invite the Government of -------- to send representatives to a conference to be held on 25 April, 1945, or soon thereafter , at San Francisco, in the United States of America, to prepare a charter for a general international organization for the maintenance of international peace and security.

“The above-named Governments suggest that the conference consider as affording a basis for such a Charter the proposals for the establishment of a general international organization which were made public last October as a result of the Dumbarton Oaks conference and which have now been supplemented by the following provisions for Section C of Chapter VI:

C. Voting

“1. Each member of the Security Council should have one vote.

“2. Decisions of the Security Council on procedural matters should be made by an affirmative vote of seven members.

“3. Decisions of the Security Council on all matters should be made by an affirmative vote of seven members, including the concurring votes of the permanent members; provided that, in decisions under Chapter VIII, Section A and under the second sentence of Paragraph 1 of Chapter VIII, Section C, a party to a dispute should abstain from voting.'

“Further information as to arrangements will be transmitted subsequently.

“In the event that the Government of -------- desires in advance of the conference to present views or comments concerning the proposals, the Government of the United States of America will be pleased to transmit such views and comments to the other participating Governments.”

Territorial trusteeship:

It was agreed that the five nations which will have permanent seats on the Security Council should consult each other prior to the United Nations conference on the question of territorial trusteeship.

The acceptance of this recommendation is subject to its being made clear that territorial trusteeship will only apply to (a) existing mandates of the League of Nations; (b) territories detached from the enemy as a result of the present war; (c) any other territory which might voluntarily be placed under trusteeship; and (d) no discussion of actual territories is contemplated at the forthcoming United Nations conference or in the preliminary consultations, and it will be a matter for subsequent agreement which territories within the above categories will be place under trusteeship.

[Begin first section published Feb., 13, 1945.]

II. DECLARATION OF LIBERATED EUROPE

The following declaration has been approved:

The Premier of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the President of the United States of America have consulted with each other in the common interests of the people of their countries and those of liberated Europe. They jointly declare their mutual agreement to concert during the temporary period of instability in liberated Europe the policies of their three Governments in assisting the peoples liberated from the domination of Nazi Germany and the peoples of the former Axis satellite states of Europe to solve by democratic means their pressing political and economic problems.

The establishment of order in Europe and the rebuilding of national economic life must be achieved by processes which will enable the liberated peoples to destroy the last vestiges of nazism and fascism and to create democratic institutions of their own choice. This is a principle of the Atlantic Charter - the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live - the restoration of sovereign rights and self-government to those peoples who have been forcibly deprived to them by the aggressor nations.

To foster the conditions in which the liberated people may exercise these rights, the three governments will jointly assist the people in any European liberated state or former Axis state in Europe where, in their judgment conditions require, (a) to establish conditions of internal peace; (b) to carry out emergency relief measures for the relief of distressed peoples; (c) 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; and (d) to facilitate where necessary the holding of such elections.

The three Governments will consult the other United Nations and provisional authorities or other Governments in Europe when matters of direct interest to them are under consideration.

When, in the opinion of the three Governments, conditions in any European liberated state or former Axis satellite in Europe make such action necessary, they will immediately consult together on the measure necessary to discharge the joint responsibilities set forth in this declaration.

By this declaration we reaffirm our faith in the principles of the Atlantic Charter, our pledge in the Declaration by the United Nations and our determination to build in cooperation with other peace-loving nations world order, under law, dedicated to peace, security, freedom and general well-being of all mankind.

In issuing this declaration, the three powers express the hope that the Provisional Government of the French Republic may be associated with them in the procedure suggested.

[End first section published Feb., 13, 1945.]

III. DISMEMBERMENT OF GERMANY

It was agreed that Article 12 (a) of the Surrender terms for Germany should be amended to read as follows:

“The United Kingdom, the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics shall possess supreme authority with respect to Germany. In the exercise of such authority they will take such steps, including the complete dismemberment of Germany as they deem requisite for future peace and security.”

The study of the procedure of the dismemberment of Germany was referred to a committee consisting of Mr. Anthony Eden, Mr. John Winant, and Mr. Fedor T. Gusev. This body would consider the desirability of associating with it a French representative.

IV. ZONE OF OCCUPATION FOR THE FRENCH AND CONTROL COUNCIL FOR GERMANY.

It was agreed that a zone in Germany, to be occupied by the French forces, should be allocated France. This zone would be formed out of the British and American zones and its extent would be settled by the British and Americans in consultation with the French Provisional Government.

It was also agreed that the French Provisional Government should be invited to become a member of the Allied Control Council for Germany.

V. REPARATION

The following protocol has been approved:

Protocol

On the Talks Between the Heads of Three Governments at the Crimean Conference on the Question of the German Reparations in Kind

1. Germany must pay in kind for the losses caused by her to the Allied nations in the course of the war. Reparations are to be received in the first instance by those countries which have borne the main burden of the war, have suffered the heaviest losses and have organized victory over the enemy.

2. Reparation in kind is to be exacted from Germany in three following forms:

(a) Removals within two years from the surrender of Germany or the cessation of organized resistance from the national wealth of Germany located on the territory of Germany herself as well as outside her territory (equipment, machine tools, ships, rolling stock, German investments abroad, shares of industrial, transport and other enterprises in Germany, etc.), these removals to be carried out chiefly for the purpose of destroying the war potential of Germany.

(b) Annual deliveries of goods from current production for a period to be fixed.

(c) Use of German labor.

3. For the working out on the above principles of a detailed plan for exaction of reparation from Germany an Allied reparation commission will be set up in Moscow. It will consist of three representatives - one from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, one from the United Kingdom and one from the United States of America.

4. With regard to the fixing of the total sum of the reparation as well as the distribution of it among the countries which suffered from the German aggression, the Soviet and American delegations agreed as follows:

“The Moscow reparation commission should take in its initial studies as a basis for discussion the suggestion of the Soviet Government that the total sum of the reparation in accordance with the points (a) and (b) of the Paragraph 2 should be 22 billion dollars and that 50 per cent should go to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.”

The British delegation was of the opinion that, pending consideration of the reparation question by the Moscow reparation commission, no figures of reparation should be mentioned.

The above Soviet-American proposal has been passed to the Moscow reparation commission as one of the proposals to be considered by the commission.

VI. MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS

The conference agreed that the question of the major war criminals should be the subject of inquiry by the three Foreign Secretaries for report in due course after the close of the conference.

[Begin second section published Feb. 13, 1945.]

VII. POLAND

The following declaration on Poland was agreed by the conference:

“A new situation has been created in Poland as a result of her complete liberation by the Red Army. This calls for the establishment of a Polish Provisional Government which can be more broadly based than was possible before the recent liberation of the western part of Poland. The Provisional Government which is now functioning in Poland should therefore be reorganized on a broader democratic basis 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.

“M. Molotov, Mr. Harriman and Sir A. Clark Kerr are authorized as a commission to consult in the first instance in Moscow with members of the present Provisional Government and with other Polish democratic leaders from within Poland and from abroad, with a view to the reorganization of the present Government along the above lines. This Polish Provisional Government of National Unity shall be pledged to the holding of free and unfettered elections as soon as possible on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballot. In these elections all democratic and anti-Nazi parties shall have the right to take part and to put forward candidates.

“When a Polish Provisional of Government National Unity has been properly formed in conformity with the above, the Government of the U.S.S.R., which now maintains diplomatic relations with the present Provisional Government of Poland, and the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the United States of America will establish diplomatic relations with the new Polish Provisional Government National Unity, and will exchange Ambassadors by whose reports the respective Governments will be kept informed about the situation in Poland.

“The three heads of Government consider that the eastern frontier of Poland should follow the Curzon Line with digressions from it in some regions of five to eight kilometers in favor of Poland. They recognize that Poland must receive substantial accessions in territory in the north and west. They feel that the opinion of the new Polish Provisional Government of National Unity should be sought in due course of the extent of these accessions and that the final delimitation of the western frontier of Poland should thereafter await the peace conference.”

VIII. YUGOSLAVIA

It was agreed to recommend to Marshal Tito and to Dr. Ivan Subasitch:

(a) That the Tito-Subasitch agreement should immediately be put into effect and a new government formed on the basis of the agreement.

(b) That as soon as the new Government has been formed it should declare:

(I) That the Anti-Fascist Assembly of the National Liberation (AVNOJ) will be extended to include members of the last Yugoslav Skupstina who have not compromised themselves by collaboration with the enemy, thus forming a body to be known as a temporary Parliament and

(II) That legislative acts passed by the Anti-Fascist Assembly of the National Liberation (AVNOJ) will be subject to subsequent ratification by a Constituent Assembly; and that this statement should be published in the communiqué of the conference.

[End second section published Feb. 13, 1945.]

IX. ITALO-YOGOSLAV FRONTIER - ITALO-ASUTRIAN FRONTIER

Notes on these subjects were put in by the British delegation and the American and Soviet delegations agreed to consider them and give their views later.

X. YUGOSLAV-BULGARIAN RELATIONS

There was an exchange of views between the Foreign Secretaries on the question of the desirability of a Yugoslav-Bulgarian pact of alliance. The question at issue was whether a state still under an armistice regime could be allowed to enter into a treaty with another state. Mr. Eden suggested that the Bulgarian and Yugoslav Governments should be informed that this could not be approved. Mr. Stettinius suggested that the British and American Ambassadors should discuss the matter further with Mr. Molotov in Moscow. Mr. Molotov agreed with the proposal of Mr. Stettinius.

XI. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

The British delegation put in notes for the consideration of their colleagues on the following subjects:

(a) The Control Commission in Bulgaria.

(b) Greek claims upon Bulgaria, more particularly with reference to reparations.

(c) Oil equipment in Rumania.

XII. IRAN

Mr. Eden, Mr. Stettinius and Mr. Molotov exchanged views on the situation in Iran. It was agreed that this matter should be pursued through the diplomatic channel.

[Begin third section published Feb. 13, 1945.]

XIII. MEETINGS OF THE THREE FOREIGN SECRETARIES

The conference agreed that permanent machinery should be set up for consultation between the three Foreign Secretaries; they should meet as often as necessary, probably about every three or four months.

These meetings will be held in rotation in the three capitals, the first meeting being held in London.

[End third section published Feb. 13, 1945.]

XIV. THE MONTREAUX CONVENTION AND THE STRAITS

It was agreed that at the next meeting of the three Foreign Secretaries to be held in London, they should consider proposals which it was understood the Soviet Government would put forward in relation to the Montreaux Convention, and report to their Governments. The Turkish Government should be informed at the appropriate moment.

The forgoing protocol was approved and signed by the three Foreign Secretaries at the Crimean Conference Feb. 11, 1945.

E. R. Stettinius Jr.

M. Molotov

Anthony Eden

AGREEMENT REGARDING JAPAN

The leaders of the three great powers - the Soviet Union, the United States of America and Great Britain - have agreed that in two or three months after Germany has surrendered and the war in Europe is terminated, the Soviet Union shall enter into war against Japan on the side of the Allies on condition that:

1. The status quo in Outer Mongolia (the Mongolian People's Republic) shall be preserved.

2. The former rights of Russia violated by the treacherous attack of Japan in 1904 shall be restored, viz.:

(a) The southern part of Sakhalin as well as the islands adjacent to it shall be returned to the Soviet Union;

(b) The commercial port of Dairen shall be internationalized, the pre-eminent interests of the Soviet Union in this port being safeguarded, and the lease of Port Arthur as a naval base of the U.S.S.R. restored;

(c) The Chinese-Eastern Railroad and the South Manchurian Railroad, which provide an outlet to Dairen, shall be jointly operated by the establishment of a joint Soviet-Chinese company, it being understood that the pre-eminent interests of the Soviet Union shall be safeguarded and that China shall retain sovereignty in Manchuria;

3. The Kurile Islands shall be handed over to the Soviet Union.

It is understood that the agreement concerning Outer Mongolia and the ports and railroads referred to above will require concurrence of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. The President will take measures in order to maintain this concurrence on advice from Marshal Stalin.

The heads of the three great powers have agreed that these claims of the Soviet Union shall be unquestionably fulfilled after Japan has been defeated.

For its part, the Soviet Union expresses its readiness to conclude with the National Government of China a pact of friendship and alliance between the U.S.S.R. and China in order to render assistance to China with its armed forces for the purpose of liberating China from the Japanese yoke.

Joseph Stalin

Franklin d. Roosevelt

Winston S. Churchill

February 11, 1945.

Glossary

delimit: to fix or mark the limits or boundaries of; demarcate

reparations: the making of amends for wrong or injury done; compensation in money, materials, labor, etc., payable by a defeated country to another country or to an individual for loss suffered during or as a result of war.

trusteeship: the office or function of a trustee; the administrative control of a territory granted to a county by a body of the United Nations

unfettered: free from restraint; liberated

Document Analysis

The Yalta Charter that the Big Three signed at the end of the conference both dealt with practical matters and expressed a larger vision of what they hoped the postwar world would look like. The charter also expressed how, they hoped, after two long world wars, future generations would settle differences. However, some of the provisions gave early indications of a difference in perspective between the Soviet Union and the other Allies.

The first matter taken up by the charter was the planned establishment of the United Nations as “a general international organization for the maintenance of international peace and security,” which would mediate disputes between nations and avoid another world war. Though the establishment of an organization to succeed the failed League of Nations had been discussed since the Tehran Conference in 1943, the practicalities of securing Soviet participation and cooperation meant that the other Allies would have to make concessions to assure the Soviets that they would have a permanent place on the powerful Security Council.

Equally idealistic was the following section, “Declaration of Liberated Europe,” which articulated a vision of postwar Europe in which the nations that were under Nazi domination would be empowered “to create democratic institutions of their own choice.” In the short term, with the exception of France, Romania, and Bulgaria, the prewar governmental forms were to be reinstated, and democratic elections held to determine each country's course going forward. Poland was a special case, as Soviet hegemony had already been guaranteed at the Tehran Conference.

Among the more practical matters dealt with was the immediate problem of governing conquered Germany, which was solved by dividing both the nation and the capital city of Berlin into sectors governed by each of the Allied powers. The divided German nation would be stripped of all military and financial assets so as to prevent the remilitarization that had occurred immediately before the war. Finally, at Soviet insistence, Germany would be forced to pay reparations for wartime losses experienced by the Allies in the amount of $22 billion, and that half of that amount would go to the Soviets, as they had experienced the heaviest losses by far. The United States, embroiled in a war against Germany's Axis ally, Japan, sought Soviet help in forcing Japan to surrender. Stalin agreed to enter the war against Japan within “two to three months” of Germany's defeat and the end of the war in Europe, in return for American recognition of the independence of Mongolia from China and a number of territorial and asset considerations.

Though it was hoped that the full implementation of the Yalta agreement would create a peaceful world, it did reflect the divisions between the Allies that were already developing by the last months of World War II.

Essential Themes

The conclusion of the Yalta Conference was celebrated by each of the Allied powers as a great step forward toward a lasting peace. However, this optimism did not last very long. Two months later, Roosevelt died and Harry S. Truman became president. The actions of the Soviet Army in occupying much of Eastern Europe quickly told the other Allies that Stalin's understanding of the democratic principles contained in the Yalta agreement were subservient to his desire to have a buffer zone of “friendly” nations between the Soviet Union and Germany.

As the relationship between the Soviets and the Western powers soured, Roosevelt was the recipient of some posthumous criticism for having enabled the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. However, with the atomic bomb still in development and its fate uncertain, Roosevelt felt that the United States badly needed Soviet cooperation to defeat Japan. Some blamed his failing health for the weakness of his negotiations, but the American position reflected the realities of the moment.

Five months later, with the war in Europe completely over, the leaders of the three nations would meet again at Potsdam, Germany. By this time, Truman had knowledge of the atomic bomb's successful development and the possibility of its use against Japan. However, the die was already cast in Europe. Whereas the provisions of the Yalta agreement would help to guide the reconstruction of Western Europe, including the invaluable economic support provided by the United States through the Marshall Plan, Eastern Europe would follow another course, with the Soviet Union dominating the military and political lives of those nations for nearly fifty years after.

The situation in Europe changed so quickly that just over a year after the Yalta Conference, Churchill would deliver a speech entitled “Sinews of Peace” in which he would declare that an “Iron Curtain” had descended across Europe, dividing the continent into two camps—one where freedom was enshrined and one where Soviet totalitarianism dominated, a situation that would lead to decades of political and sometimes military strife between the Soviets and their allies and the Western powers.

Bibliography and Additional Reading
  • Gilbert, Martin. The Second World War: A Complete History. Rev. ed. New York: Holt, 2004. Print.
  • Harbutt, Fraser J. Yalta 1945: Europe and America at the Crossroads. New York: Cambridge UP, 2010. Print.
  • Lee, Loyd E. World War II in Europe, Africa, and the Americas, with General Sources: A Handbook of Literature and Research. Westport CT: Greenwood, 1997.
  • Plokhy, S. M. Yalta: The Price of Peace. New York: Viking, 2010. Print.
Categories: History Content