Yalta is on the Crimean peninsula Before 1917 it was one of the favourite spots

Yalta is on the crimean peninsula before 1917 it was

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annoyed this inveterate traveller. Yalta is on the Crimean peninsula. Before 1917 it was one of thefavourite spots for holidaying dignitaries of the Imperial state. Stalin loved the entire shore fromCrimea down to Abkhazia – and it is hard to resist the observation that Churchill was indulging inEnglish snobbery.The Yalta Conference took decisions of enormous importance and Stalin was at his most ebullient.He asked to be rewarded for promising to enter the war against Japan after the coming victory overGermany. In particular, he demanded reparations to the value of twenty billion dollars from Germany.This was controversial, but the Western leaders conceded it to Stalin. More hotly debated was thetreatment of Poland. At the insistence of Roosevelt and Churchill the future Polish government was tobe a coalition embracing nationalists as well as communists. Yet they failed to pin down Stalin on thedetails. The wily Stalin wanted a free hand in eastern and east-central Europe. Roosevelt and he wereon friendly terms and sometimes met in Churchill’s absence. As the junior partner of the WesternAllies Churchill had to put up with the situation while making the best of it; and when Stalin demandedsouth Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands – known to the Japanese as their Northern Territories – in returnfor joining the war in the Pacific, Churchill was as content as the American President to oblige. Stalinand Churchill also acceded to Roosevelt’s passionate request for the establishment of a UnitedNations Organisation at the war’s end. For Roosevelt, as for Woodrow Wilson after the First WorldWar, it was crucial to set up a body which would enhance the prospects for global peace.The Western Allies were not in an enviable position. Although Germany was on the brink of defeat,there was no telling how long Japan might hold out. The American and British forces in Europe,moreover, had been told they were fighting in alliance with the Red Army. Not onlyPravdabut alsothe Western establishments buffed up Stalin’s personal image. No sooner had the USSR entered thewar with the Third Reich than the British press replaced criticism with praise. On the occasion ofStalin’s birthday in December 1941 the London Philharmonic Orchestra, not previously known as acommunist front organisation, played a concerto in his honour.19Public opinion more widely in theWest was acutely grateful to the Red Army (as well it might have been) and, less justifiably, treatedStalin as its brave and glorious embodiment. A military confrontation by the Western Allies with theUSSR would have been politically as well as militarily difficult. More could have been donenevertheless to put pressure on Stalin; and although Churchill was firmer than Roosevelt, even he wastoo gentle.

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