This was the name given by Stalin at the Yalta Conference to the union of three great powers during World War II. Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt will come down in history as the personal incarnations of the anti-Hitler coalition that saved human civilisation from the most terrible barbarism of the 20th century. In hindsight, this alliance may seem quite natural and even inevitable, just as the outcome of the war itself: the common mortal danger brought the “Big Three” together, and their combined material and human resources led to victory over Fascism. Indeed, the cumulative economic potential (aggregate GDP) of the Allies surpassed the economic potential of the Axis powers by more than double in 1941 and by a factor of 5.1 in 1945. However, military history shows that greater resources do not always lead to victory. A lot depends on the ability of conflicting parties to mobilize and make rational use of their means and powers, on the quality of their military and political leadership, on the combat readiness of their armed forces, and on the effectiveness of allied interaction.
The creation and successful operation of the “Grand Alliance” (a term coined by Churchill) required major efforts from all three countries and their leaders, on whom a lot depended in the extreme conditions of wartime. The global war led to an unprecedented concentration of power in the hands of the top political leadership of allied countries. Indeed, at the opening of the first meeting of the Big Three in Teheran, Churchill called it the “greatest concentration of political power the world had yet seen”. Stalin added, “...History smiles upon us. She has endowed us with major powers and major opportunities” and urged his partners to “use the force and power handed to us by our peoples in the framework of our alliance”. This explains the enormous importance of personal diplomacy among the leaders of the Big Three, which enabled them to take key decisions that determined the outcome of the war and the contours of the post-war world. This diplomacy took the form of personal conversations and, to an even greater extent, regular correspondence between the leaders.
The organisation of allied interaction was an extremely complicated affair that ran up against numerous obstacles: profound differences between socio-political systems, diverging national interests, a difficult background of competition and hostility between Russia and the West, and, last but not least, the personal traits of the leaders, who were very much unlike each other. The Axis powers were more similar in their ideologies, political regimes and leader types than their opponents. It is hardly surprising that, until the final stage of the war, Hitler kept expecting a rupture to occur between Western democracies and the Soviet Union, allowing him to “defeat his opponents one by one – the Russians today, and the British tomorrow”, as Stalin wrote to the Soviet ambassador in London I. Maisky on August 30, 1941. For some time, the Fuhrer managed to prevent the creation of a single anti-Fascist front by playing on the Western elites’ fears of communism and their reluctance to oppose the Axis powers openly. Influential political forces in Great Britain and the USA spoke out against cooperating with the USSR and hoped for the mutual destruction of two regimes that were hostile to the West, as can be seen from the well-known phrase of Senator H. Truman: “If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible...”. Nevertheless, the leadership of the three great powers managed to overcome all these hindrances and organise a common front against the aggressors.
All their enormous differences notwithstanding, Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill were political realists with a broad strategic mindset. The anti-Hitler coalition was based on a realistic understanding by the Big Three of their common strategic interests, to which everything was subjugated. Roosevelt and Churchill realized perfectly well that they had no chance of defeating the Axis powers without Soviet help. The eastern front was the principal battlefront during the entire war. As Churchill once wrote in a letter to Roosevelt, “All our fortunes depend on them." The main goal of the Western allies was to maximize the Soviet contribution to the defeat of the common enemy. Thus, assistance to the Soviet Union through Lend-Lease and in other forms was a good way of investing in the cause of victory while sparing American and British lives. The Anglo-American military leadership strove to take advantage of Russia’s human resources and geographical position: “Our main reliance in Europe was placed on Russia. Therefore. no effort should be spared to place in Russia’s hands every possible tool of war. The question was not of placating Stalin, but of implementing the Russians to our own interest.” This principal motif outweighed all the difficulties of interacting with a strange and often difficult partner. “The Russians are very tiresome allies, importunate, graceless, ungrateful, secretive, suspicious, ever asking for more, but they do their part”, wrote O. Harvey, chief aide to British Foreign Secretary A. Eden, after the defeat of the German army at Stalingrad.
The Soviet side did not have any illusions about their Western allies, either, as the latter knew all too well. “Russia does not trust us”, wrote the key US military strategist General A. Wedemayer to his superiors, “and realistically speaking is fully aware that our sudden friendly interest is very selfish.” “Very well, we now know what kind of allies we have”, telegraphed Stalin to Maisky after a series of intrigues by the Americans and British at the height of the Battle of Stalingrad. “There is no doubt that our allies are difficult allies – in particular, Britain”, the ambassador replied. “Yet, as they are the only allies we have, we must take everything that we can from them.” Thus, Soviet policy also followed the principle of enlightened self-interest. However, a key difference between the two sides was that the USSR was more forthcoming than its Western partners about performing its obligations, which is key condition of the effectiveness of any allied coalition. In contrast to the repeated violations by the allies of their promises to open a second front, Moscow scrupulously kept its obligations to help the allied debarkation in Normandy with a powerful offensive of its own (Operation Bagration) and to enter the war against Japan. In addition, the Soviet command met the allies’ request to divert the Wehrmacht’s forces during the last powerful offensive in the Ardennes. It did so not on account of its formal obligations but of its “allied duty”, as Stalin put it during the Yalta Conference. US Secretary of War H.L. Stimson told President Truman at the end of WWII that the Soviet Union had fulfilled its obligations in all major military matters.
Stalin understood the major importance of the economic and military contribution of Western allies, and especially the USA, to the defeat of the common enemy. “If it weren’t for Land-Lease”, he said in Yalta, “it would be a lot more difficult to attain victory.” In a less-known phrase, he told Charles de Gaulle in December 1944 that Germany and its allies would have hardly lost either world war had it not been for US aid. One understood all too well in the Kremlin, the White House and Whitehall that only by pooling efforts and resources could the allied powers gain a clear advantage over the extremely dangerous enemy.
This “strategic consensus” of the Big Three made their leaders put the common cause over everything else, including ideological differences, secondary political interests, bureaucratic hurdles, and personal ambitions and emotions. This made it possible to find compromise solutions and overcome seemingly insolvable crisis situations that periodically arose in allied relations. In the course of their interaction, the leaders learned from experience to avoid overstepping a boundary beyond which relations would break up. “Anything but a rupture!” Churchill told Maisky with regard to Stalin’s possible reaction to yet another suspension of arctic convoys in the spring of 1943. “One should be surprised not that there exist differences but that there are so few of them and that they are, as a rule, resolved almost every time in a spirit of unity and concerted action of the three great powers”, said Stalin in a 1944 speech given on the occasion of the 27th anniversary of the October Revolution.
Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill were pragmatic politicians who were accustomed to using their partners for their own needs. For each of them, personal relations were a means of meeting these needs, even if they could shape the latter, too.
For Roosevelt, Stalin was the leader of a huge and growing country and the sole architect of Soviet policy who made all the key decisions. The president, as one sees from his famous dispute with the former ambassador to Moscow W. Bullitt, refused to view Stalin as a simple “Caucasian bandit”. He understood the scale of this person who managed to create a totally new kind of state and take it through the terrible trials of the initial war period. The vital part played by Stalin’s government in the survival of the Soviet Union in this titanic struggle was clearly understood in Washington – and London, too. US Army Intelligence, G-2, wrote from Moscow in early 1942 that the USSR would hold out if Stalin remains alive and the allies continue to help him, exaggerating the significance of the second factor. Stalin’s harsh methods of running the country seemed understandable to the allies: as a British diplomat in Moscow wrote, “The Soviet people must be led with a very firm hand”.
Thus, the “Stalin factor” was key for attaining two principal goals of Roosevelt’s strategy with regard to the USSR: assuring the greatest possible Soviet contribution to the armed struggle against the Axis powers and developing post-war cooperation, without which no sustainable peace could be attained in the president’s opinion. This strategy banked on the gradual integration of the USSR into the “family circle” of great powers, as the president put it in Teheran, by recognizing the Soviet Union’s lawful security interests, making the country a “fully accepted and equal member of any association of the great powers” (as Roosevelt wrote to Churchill in the autumn of 1944) and waiting for the gradual liberalization of the Stalinist regime. This explains Roosevelt’s striving to strike up and preserve personal relations with Stalin and his attempt to gain the latter’s favour in order to have influence over him. According to H. Hopkins, on the eve of the Teheran Conference Roosevelt was convinced that “even if he cannot convert Stalin into a good democrat, he will be able to come to a working agreement with him. After all, he has spent his life managing men, and Stalin at bottom could not be so very different from other people.” Roosevelt was not the only person to hope for the gradual improvement of the Soviet regime. The growing nationalism of the Bolshevist system during the war years (cooperation with the West, revival of historical traditions, reestablishment of relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, etc.) engendered such hopes in the West and even in the Soviet Union itself. This view was particularly popular among American liberals, who viewed the Soviet experiment as an extreme albeit hopeless approach to modernizing a backward country. With his pragmatism and ideological flexibility, Roosevelt himself attentively observed Soviet experience and even allowed for the possibility of rapprochement: the socialization of American capitalism and the liberalization of Soviet socialism could eventually overcome the division of the world into two hostile systems. As he said to Cardinal F. Spellman in the autumn of 1943, “out of forced friendship may soon come a real and lasting friendship in ten or twenty years... The Russians [would] become less barbarian”. These expectations were strengthened by hopes of “reeducating” the Soviet Union through personal interaction with Stalin.
As for Stalin, he saw Roosevelt as the main initiator and guarantor of the policy of progressive social reform and international cooperation in the struggle against Fascism. He described the president, who put an end to a long-term policy of non-recognition of the USSR, as being “courageous” and “determined” and “one of the strongest figures among all the captains of the contemporary capitalist world” in an interview with W. Duranty and H.G. Wells in 1933–1934: this was the Kremlin’s view of Roosevelt in the 1930s. During the war, Roosevelt’s reputation as the backstay of the US policy of cooperation with the USSR continued to grow. The very fact of Roosevelt’s immediate and unconditional support of the “class enemy” in June 1941 had a major psychological impact on the Soviet leadership. The Kremlin understood the egoistic motives of this support yet realized that it could have been long in coming: the stance of the “third rejoicing” who would wait for anti-American political regimes to destroy each other had seemed a lot more likely from the standpoint of the class approach and revolutionary ethics of the Soviet leaders. The triumph of “enlightened self-interest” over a strictly class-based approach was largely Roosevelt’s personal merit, as Moscow knew all too well. An echo of Stalin’s acknowledgement is audible in his Yalta toast to Roosevelt, whom he hailed as “a man. whose country had not been seriously threatened with invasion, but who had had perhaps a broader conception of national interest and even though his country was not directly imperilled had been the chief forger of the instruments which had led to the mobilization of the world against Hitler”.
Soviet spies and diplomats, who usually had reliable sources in Washington, tended to depict the American political establishment as being divided into two camps – Roosevelt and his loyal supporters (H. Hopkins, H. Morgenthau, H. Wallace), on the one hand, and “anti-Soviet elements” in the Cabinet, State Department and the Pentagon, on the other. While the President could waver or be subject to the influence of these forces and Churchill, he never took any hostile actions against the Soviet Union and, on the contrary, often cut them short.
Of course, Stalin’s attitude towards Roosevelt was quite complex. As a person who never put his confidence even in his closest associates and often suspected his allies of being enemies, he naturally could not fully trust Roosevelt, all the more so as his good intelligence services informed him about America’s secret atomic bomb project and its deliberate postponement of opening a second front. However, as a pragmatic leader, Stalin realized perfectly well that Roosevelt was the best possible US president for the USSR. “Nevertheless, he [Roosevelt] is more favourably inclined towards us than any other American leader and clearly wants to cooperate with us”, wrote M. Litvinov from Washington. For Stalin, Roosevelt was a key instrument for implementing his principal strategy – destroying the common enemy and taking advantage of the spoils of victory by creating a new expanded sphere of Soviet influence in Europe and the Far East to assure the country’s long-term security. With regard to the latter objective, Roosevelt was a lot more cooperative than Churchill due to America’s remoteness from Europe and the geographic disparity of the spheres of influence of the US and the USSR. Roosevelt agreed without much resistance to hand over new rights and territories to the Soviet Union in the Far East and made it clear to Stalin already in Teheran that the USA would not oppose the restitution of Soviet control over the Baltic states on the condition of the respect of democratic decorum. He was also willing to accept Soviet domination (or even total control) in Eastern Europe.
For Stalin, Roosevelt was also valuable as a counterweight to Churchill. However, despite his nuanced approach to his two allies, Stalin was perfectly well aware of the close ties between Roosevelt and Churchill and avoided telling one of them something he did not want the other to know, following yet another unwritten rule of allied diplomacy.
Thus, Stalin and Roosevelt had a mutual need for each other: it was a relationship in which strategic motives were reinforced by personal interests. For Churchill, Stalin was a difficult yet serious and intriguing partner who did not like to make military commitments yet was always steadfast in implementing them. The US president was one of the few American politicians who was able and willing to understand the very difficult position of the Soviet leadership and show tact and respect for his ally. “Stalin should be handled very carefully”, he wrote to Churchill in July 1942. “We have got always to bear in mind the personality of our Ally and the very difficult and dangerous situation that confronts him. No one can be expected to approach the war from a world point of view whose country has been invaded.” As his correspondence with Churchill shows, Roosevelt did not share the latter’s haughtiness with regard to Stalin and tried to soothe the prime minister’s fits of anger, encouraging him to be more tolerant and delicate in his dealings with “Uncle Joe”. Well aware of Stalin’s suspiciousness, the president avoided provoking it without need. For example, he repeatedly rejected bilateral meetings with Churchill before and during the Teheran Conference. Roosevelt also consented to meet in Teheran and Yalta out of respect for the Soviet ally, although these long trips were ruinous for his health. On the whole, out of the two leaders of the Anglo-Saxon world, Roosevelt was a much more important and attractive figure than Churchill for Stalin. The choice of nicknames for the two leaders in messages by the Soviet intelligence was hardly accidental: “Captain” for Roosevelt and “Boar” for Churchill. The intelligence officers clearly knew about their boss’s personal sympathies.
Stalin’s relations with the British prime minister are interesting in their own right as an illustration of the confrontation of two largely contradictory personalities from birth: Churchill was a British aristocrat and a descendant of the Duke of Marlborough, while Stalin was the son of a poor cobbler from the Caucasus. For Stalin, the image of Churchill was inextricably tied to his role as the leader of the anti-Soviet intervention during the Russian Civil War who called for “strangling Bolshevism in the cradle”. The transformation of a staunch opponent into an ally masked this image without effacing it. Thanks to Maisky’s penetrating observations and his own personal contacts with Churchill, Stalin as a good psychologist managed to understand the prime minister’s emotional character and learned to manipulate it, provoking his wrath and indignation at certain times and tears of emotion and gratitude at others.
Despite his rabid anti-Sovietism and Russophobia, rooted in an “Orientalist” perception of Russia as a backward and Asiatic country, Churchill was, first and foremost, a foreign policy realist who did his best to uphold the interests of the British Empire. Thanks to his realism, he was the first to perceive Fascism as a mortal enemy and to see the USSR as a potential ally in the struggle against it. “They [the Russians] are right”, wrote O. Harvey in his diary, “for he hates Russia and everything she stands for. But he will do what he can to assist her in the war.” Just as Roosevelt, Churchill was interested in augmenting the Soviet contribution to the destruction of the Wehrmacht while saving his own forces and resources. Like Roosevelt, he chose the cultivation of personal ties with Stalin as the means to this end, competing with the president in this domain. If the key to the Russian enigma was “Russian national interest”, to cite Churchill’s well-known expression, this key was clearly in Stalin’s hands. However, in contrast to the optimistic White House liberal, the staunch British conservative had no illusions about the liberalization of the Soviet system or the maintenance of allied relations after the war, as he considered Bolshevism to be yet another reincarnation of “Russian imperialism” – the age-old competitor of the British Empire. Britain also had different strategic interests from the USA, as it strove to preserve the British systems of alliances and spheres of influences in Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. For this reason, Churchill and the British elite were a lot more wary about the augmentation of Soviet influence in these regions than Roosevelt. One should also keep the personal traits of the British prime minister in mind: unlike the democratic and self-possessed US president, he was prone to obstinacy, snobbism and moodiness. A. Eden, Churchill’s right hand in foreign policy, made up for these extremes to a certain extent, yet he, too, began to take a stronger anti-Soviet attitude by the end of the war, while Churchill retained to the last his hopes that his personal contacts with Stalin would carry the day.
It should be said that this triangle was not “equilateral”, as Roosevelt and Churchill were on much closer terms between themselves than with Stalin. Their bilateral correspondence is twice as big as their correspondence with the Soviet leader; they met a lot more often during the war and kept in touch by phone; and the Anglo-American positions coincided on most issues of Allied diplomacy. Information was also not equally available to the members of the Big Three: Roosevelt and Churchill were on top of each other’s correspondence with Stalin and coordinated their actions in light thereof, while the Soviet leader could only make guesses about their relations or go by information provided by his intelligence services. Still, thanks to the latter, Stalin was better informed about the plans and actions of his Western partners than they were informed about his, even if this information did not raise his trust in the allies, as it made him aware their covert plans.
The objective situations of the three leaders and their countries were also asymmetric in the conditions of World War II. Stalin’s country received the brunt of the attack of the powerful enemy, who occupied its most productive territories. Until the final stage of the war, the very existence of the country and its people was at stake. The only way to weather the head-on confrontation with the most powerful military machine of the time was to strain all the country’s forces and resources to the utmost. Stalin had no other choice, and this goal naturally got priority over everything else. For Great Britain and Churchill, the danger of the German invasion receded after the opening of the Soviet-German front; from then on, it was only a question of the extent of the British contribution to the struggle with the common enemy. Roosevelt enjoyed even greater freedom in his actions. Invulnerable to enemy attack and endowed with enormous economic potential with high production capacities and a lot of time for building up momentum, America could allow itself to adopt a sparing model of mobilization. “We were given time to prepare while others fought”, said V. Bush, Office of Scientific Research and Development, at Congress hearings at the end of the war.
Given the enormous differences in stakes and priorities, it was difficult for the leaders of the Big Three to understand each other. As the head of an exsanguinated country, Stalin could not grasp why the allies were so slow and wavering about providing military assistance to the USSR. From the Soviet standpoint, even Lend-Lease seemed a poor substitute for joint military action against the enemy (it is no coincidence that American canned beef was known as the “second front” in the Red Army). In turn, Roosevelt and especially Churchill underestimated the gravity of the Soviet situation and admonished Stalin for not grasping the complexity of their struggle with Germany and Japan in other military arenas. While Roosevelt better appreciated the very difficult position of the Soviet leadership, his attitude was also often influenced by his lack of empathy for Stalin.
The three leaders also faced different conditions at home. Roosevelt and Churchill had to deal with the parliamentary opposition, public opinion and the press as well as keeping upcoming electoral campaigns in mind. Stalin did not have these difficulties, which sometimes evoked the envy of his Western partners. As Roosevelt said half-jokingly to a trusted British diplomat, “If all world affairs were left to him, the Prime Minister and Uncle Joe without any worries about the Congress and the Parliament, we all would be better off.” The differences in political regimes also hindered mutual understanding: Stalin was very sceptical when the Anglo-American leaders spoke of their domestic hindrances, while Roosevelt and Churchill had a very vague notion of the decision making process in the Kremlin. It is not surprising that both of them (and especially Churchill) suspected that there existed a mysterious “dark force” such as the Politburo or the military leadership behind the Kremlin leader.
The interaction of the Big Three can be seen as a sort of intercultural dialogue between the largely contradictory Anglo-American and Soviet-Russian sociocultural traditions. This background influenced their communication and sometimes seriously hindered mutual understanding. Roosevelt and Churchill were united by a sense of Anglo-American uniqueness and superiority and the belief in the civilizing mission of Anglo-Saxon countries with regard to the rest of the world, including “semi-barbaric” Russia. They viewed Stalin as an outstanding yet nevertheless barbaric leader – “Atilla” or the “Bear”, as certain British officials, including Churchill and Eden, called him behind his back. All of this lay beneath an outer veneer of politeness and friendly decorum, which did not prevent Stalin from taking a very gloomy view of the motives and intentions of his Western partners. For example, he believed the postponed opening of the second front to be a result not only of the egoism of his allies striving to save their forces and resources but also of the conscious desire to weaken the USSR. With memories of World War I vivid in his mind, Stalin expected the Western allies to try once again to use Russia as “cannon fodder” with the help of various geopolitical promises that would subsequently be abandoned on specious pretexts when Russia was no longer needed. V. Molotov later recalled that “Stalin repeatedly said that Russia can win wars yet is unable to benefit from the spoils of victory. The Russians fight extremely well yet do not know how to make peace – they are passed over and deprived of their rightful due.” Stalin also voiced these ideas on several occasions in his wartime conversations with foreign interlocutors. “Everybody considers the Russians to be labourers”, he told US ambassador A. Harriman. “The Russians must liberate Poland, while the Poles want to get Lvov. Everybody thinks the Russians are fools.” This time around, according to Molotov, Stalin was intent on not letting himself be duped during the war and the post-war division of the spoils of victory.
The leaders of the Big Three proved to be outstanding heads of government in the extreme conditions of war, organising and mobilizing their nations to attain victory by creating an effective system of governance, organising the work of the defence industry, and assuring the necessary news and propaganda support for the war as well as the backing of public opinion.
Stalin was perhaps the most active and influential leader among the three: he took many strategic military decisions himself, while Roosevelt preferred not to meddle in this domain, and Churchill put forth risky strategic projects that were often vetoed by his own military command. Stalin’s superior grasp of strategic military issues was acknowledged by his Anglo-American partners. Even the Soviet basher A. Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, noted in his diary during the Teheran Conference: “Stalin. had a military brain of the highest order. Never once in any of his statements did he make any strategic error, nor did he ever fail to appreciate the implications of a situation with a quick and unerring eye. In this respect he stood out when compared with his two colleagues. Roosevelt never made any great pretence at being a strategist and left Marshall or Leahy to talk for him. Winston, on the other hand, was far more erratic, brilliant sometimes but far too impulsive and inclined to favour quite unsuitable plans without giving them the preliminary deep thought they required.”
In the course of the war, the relations between the Big Three and the role of each leader in them kept changing as the military situation and the resource potential of the Great Powers developed. During the first stage (1941–1942), the leaders of the anti-Hitler coalition were the tandem Roosevelt-Churchill, in which the British side bore the brunt of the military action of the Western allies and took the initiative in designing Anglo-American military strategy. Both leaders played an important role in organising assistance to the Soviet Union and overcoming the resistance of their governments in the process. The Soviet situation was so bad that Stalin raised the question of opening a second front as far back as July 1941 and, when Churchill refused, proposed that the allies send their own forces with their commanders to the Soviet-German front. Still, Stalin reminded Churchill in vain of the Franco-British front during World War I, while Maisky cited the example of the feat of General Samsonov, whose heroic offensive in East Prussia saved Paris. Churchill himself recalled all too well the enormous British losses in trench warfare in which Britain had engaged in order to help France and was not about to risk his men to save a new ally.
After the successful defence of Moscow, the situation became less acute, allowing the allies to return to their initial approach of a “light war”. Churchill’s expression of “keeping Russia in the war” became the guiding light of Anglo-American war strategy. “Once it became apparent that the Soviet Union was to survive the initial shock of the German armies”, subsequently wrote the prominent US diplomat, translator and presidential adviser C. Bohlen, “it was a matter of solid agreement between the British and American military authorities that to keep the Russian armies in the field and actively fighting against the Germans was possibly the highest priority task if the Allies were to win the war [emphasis ours].” “The US and British views were fundamentally similar”, said Field Marshal J. Dill, London’s representative at the Combined Chiefs of Staff, “in that the principle objective was to assist the Russians to kill Germans and later Japanese and not to ask too much in return.”
In 1941–1942, Churchill was Stalin’s main partner and correspondent insofar as relations of the Soviet Union developed much quicker with Britain than with America at this time. This displeased Roosevelt, who also wanted to strike up personal relations with the Soviet leader. The president self-confidently wrote to Churchill, “I think I can personally handle Stalin better than either your Foreign Office or my State Department. Stalin hates the guts of your top people. He thinks he likes me better and I hope he will continue to do so.” In a letter to Stalin of April 11, the president proposed a bilateral meeting between them for the first time and began by inviting Molotov to Washington in order to discuss joint military operations. Stalin readily agreed, believing that the president’s initiative indicated the allies’ willingness to open the long-awaited second front. Molotov’s visits to London and Washington resulted, as we know, in the signature of the Anglo-Soviet Treaty and the forced promise of the allies to open a second front in 1942. The US military command was opposed to such a commitment; Churchill and his military staff were unhappy about it, too, reserving themselves the right to postpone the decision. This was precisely what happened: the allies called off Operation Sledgehammer that envisaged the debarkation of 6–10 divisions in Northern France in the autumn of 1942 in order to divert at least some German troops from the eastern front. The operation was abandoned despite the fact that Roosevelt had told Molotov in May, “We have to make sacrifices to help the USSR in 1942. We might have to go through Dunkirk once again and lose another 100 or 120 thousand men. Nevertheless, such an operation will have a major impact on German morale.” Instead, the allies decided to disembark in Northern Africa (Operation Torch). In private, US military commanders considered this operation to be “pinprick warfare” that “will be only dispersing the Allied forces, postponing a large invasion of the European continent, and at the same time will not really help the Soviet Union”.
Taken without the participation of the USSR, this decision largely determined the further course of the war, immobilizing the main Anglo-American forces in the Mediterranean and postponing the opening of the second front in France for a long time. At the same time, the American military command warned Roosevelt, “We would be held responsible for a great military miscalculation if we allow Germany to annihilate an eight million allied army while our strikes could have saved the situation.” In July 1942, the strategists of the Joint Chiefs of Staff warned that the defeat of the USSR would be a “disaster” that would put the United States into a “desperate situation”. The Continent would be lost for the allies, Germany would take over Soviet resources and become virtually invincible in a direct confrontation, the British Empire would fall apart, German and Japanese armies would link up in the Middle East, and the United States would be enclosed in the Western Hemisphere, moving onto the defensive.
Naturally, this allied decision together with the cessation of Lend-Lease deliveries along the northern route on account of major convoy losses was viewed negatively by Moscow. “...At the most critical moment, we have been, to all intents and purposes, abandoned by our allies,” telegraphed Maisky to Moscow. As the Wehrmacht progressed toward the Volga and the eastern front was once again on the brink of collapse, Churchill went to Moscow for a difficult conversation with Stalin, who had written to the allies shortly before that “the Soviet government cannot accept the second front in Europe to be postponed to 1943”.
The talks between Churchill and Stalin in August 1942 (codenamed “Bracelet”) did not go smoothly. Stalin began by winning his guest over with a favourable assessment of Operation Torch before giving Churchill a cold shower by presenting him with a memorandum with a list of violated commitments. During the conversation of August 12, Stalin bluntly exclaimed, “But you mustn’t be afraid of the Germans!” The proud descendant of the Duke of Marlborough perceived this as an accusation of cowardice and considered leaving Moscow at once. “Did he [Stalin] not realise who he was speaking to? The representative of the most powerful empire the world has ever seen!” he said indignantly to his ambassador A. Clark-Kerr, insulted by the admonishments of the “little peasant”.
The vital talks were on the brink of collapse. Kerr managed to soothe the prime minister’s wrath and convinced him to “swallow his pride” and continue his negotiations with Stalin, whose armies were deciding the outcome of the war at the time. Stalin apparently did not want his guest to leave Moscow empty-handed, either. Their next meeting was followed by a heartfelt conversation at the Soviet leader’s flat, where he unexpectedly invited his guest. It melted the ice of their previous encounters and completely changed the prime minister’s attitude. Charmed by the unexpected and thus particularly disarming friendliness of the stern dictator, Churchill believed that he had finally discovered the “true Stalin” and “saw his soul”, as he told Maisky after returning to England. The next morning, he kept speaking with Kerr and his personal doctor C. Moran about Stalin, calling him a great man with whom he has struck up friendly relations and is glad to work. From that moment on, the prime minister began to attach great importance to personal contacts with the Soviet leader. “If only I could dine with Stalin once a week, there would be no trouble at all.” This first meeting of the two allies showed their ability to hold back their emotions so as to prevent a definitive breakup – a situation that would repeat itself time and again subsequently.
Still, why did Churchill and Roosevelt take the huge risk of letting the Soviet-German front collapse in the autumn of 1942? One of the apparent reasons was their gut feeling that the Soviet Union would resist. “I feel very sure the Russians are going to hold this winter”, wrote the president to the prime minister in October. The prime minister’s visit to Moscow, as Maisky wrote to Stalin, strengthened Churchill’s belief that “the USSR would somehow make it through even in the worst of cases – that the USSR has a hard spine”. Unsurprisingly, Maisky considered this belief to be the foundation of all of Churchill’s policies. In November, the prime minister dismissed the Imperial General Staff’s fears about Russia leaving the war, adding that “American and British military experts have always been wrong about Russia”.
The only thing left for the allies was to hope that Soviet soldiers and the Red Army would withstand the terrible onslaught of the German military machine. “A massive offensive on German-occupied Europe cannot be undertaken until 1943”, wrote the US military delegation in a memorandum about their talks with the British in London. “Thus Russia will face the whole might of the German nation practically alone until winter intervenes. During this period the fate of the whole Allied world will depend mostly on the Russian Army’s steadfastness and fighting efficiency.” The Americans’ point of view was shared by their British colleagues. The American-British Strategy of 1942 stated that “the Russian army is, today, the only force capable of defeating the German army. Britain and America can’t hope to challenge the bulk of the Axis forces on land.” Churchill wrote in the margin next to this paragraph, “I hope Stalin will not see this.”
Fortunately for the Allies and the rest of the world, Russia stood fast. The German defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad marked the start of a turnaround in the war, creating favourable conditions for putting pressure on Germany from both sides. In a letter to Churchill of February 16, 1943, Stalin proposed moving back the allied debarkation in Northern France from the intended date (August – September) to spring or early summer: “...the sooner we jointly take advantage of Hitler’s difficulties on the front lines, the greater our chances of defeating him in the short term. If we ignore this now and let our common advantage slip away, the timeout may well allow the Germans to regroup and make a comeback.” Churchill in his instructions to his military commanders (December 1942) also noted that, after Stalingrad, “no important transfers of German troops can be made from the Eastern to the Western theatre”. Nevertheless, the allies, lulled by the stabilization of the eastern front, continued their “peripheral strategy”. The Anglo-American conference in Casablanca (January 12–24, 1943) consolidated the allies’ Mediterranean orientation (the invasion of Sicily), which, as their military commanders understood perfectly well at the time, virtually excluded the second front being opened in 1943, all the more so as the allied offensive in North Africa ground to a halt in February. At the same time, in his correspondence with his military advisers, Churchill recognized the “meagre contribution” of British and American troops that had drawn off only a dozen German divisions for most of the year in comparison to the 185 divisions facing Stalin.
In April 1943, allied relations were strained anew by the revelation of the Katyn tragedy and the rupture of Soviet-Polish relations. Despite their doubts about the Soviet version of events and the pressure of public opinion, Roosevelt and Churchill decided to play down the incident in order to preserve relations with their main ally and to act as intermediaries in the Soviet-Polish conflict. Nevertheless, the “Polish issue” became one of the biggest political nuisances in allied relations from that point on.
After the turning point in the war, the balance of forces among the leaders of the Big Three began to shift: Stalin went from being a solicitor to the central figure of the alliance, whom Roosevelt tried hard to win over. In May, he even sent his emissary J. Davies to organise a secret bilateral meeting without Churchill’s participation. When the latter found out about it, Roosevelt ascribed the whole idea to Stalin and justified it by saying that the Kremlin leader would feel more at east in such conditions. However, the president had a different aim, as he confided to Davies: “to dissuade Stalin of the notion that understanding between USSR and USA demanded the intervention of Great Britain as a friendly broker”.
At first, Stalin cautiously agreed to the proposal yet soon changed his mind on account of the allies’ renewed refusal to open a second front at the Anglo-American conference in Washington (codenamed “Trident”). This key decision, which was once again taken without the participation of the USSR, undermined the Kremlin’s trust in the allies even further. The event signified that the main military ally who bore the brunt of the war in Europe was not allowed to participate in the coalition’s key strategic decisions. “With Washington we consult while Moscow we simply inform”, wrote Kerr in a private letter, admitting Maisky’s accusation that the allies do not treat the Russians as equals.
Stalin wrote in a message to Churchill, “It goes without saying that the Soviet government cannot reconcile itself with such disregard of the inherent interests of the Soviet Union in the war against the common enemy. It is a matter not just of the frustration of the Soviet government but of its trust in its allies being put to a hard test.” When Churchill tried to explain the reasons for this new postponement in a personal message to Stalin, the latter sternly replied by citing all the previous broken promises on this account. Churchill justified his behaviour by telling Maisky that “when he had made his promises to Mr. Stalin, he sincerely believed that he could carry them out. No one tried to mislead anybody. yet war is full of surprises. You’ve got to keep alert and change your plans as you go.”
The prime minister was so dismayed by Stalin’s rebukes that he almost decided to stop the correspondence altogether, although, as he telegraphed Kerr, he had “fondly hoped some kind of personal contact might be created between our countries.”. Yet “there is certainly no use in making it a vehicle of recriminations”, he added. In his reply, the ambassador reminded Churchill “that we must willy-nilly cooperate with this man not only in the beating of Hitler but in the years that would follow and that upon this cooperation depend millions of lives and to a large extent the future of the world”. Churchill cooled down and resumed the correspondence.
The triumphant victories of the Soviet army at Stalingrad and Kursk neutralized the Wehrmacht’s principal forces and deprived it of all strategic initiative. While the official reaction of the allies to these decisive events on the Soviet-German front was quite reserved, in private they understood very well their significance in comparison with their own modest efforts. “While in Sicily the forces of Great Britain and the United States are being opposed by 2 German divisions, the Russian front is receiving attention of approximately 200 German divisions”, wrote General S. Embick, Chief of the Joint Strategic Survey Committee, in early August 1943, “Whenever the Allies open a second front on the Continent, it will be decidedly a secondary front to that of Russia; theirs will continue to be the main effort. Without Russia in the war, the Axis cannot be defeated in Europe, and the position of the United Nations becomes precarious.” The success of the allies’ operations in North Africa allowed them to regain control of the Mediterranean and paved the way for their debarkation in Sicily in July. The Battle of the Atlantic was won, while the Americans began to retake islands in the Pacific in their advance towards Japan. By year’s end, the outcome of the war was no longer in doubt.
The military build-up of the USSR and the mobilization of the military and economic potential of the USA transformed the Soviet-American tandem into the decisive force of the anti-Hitler coalition, while the specific weight of Great Britain kept diminishing. While only 3.97 million American soldiers in comparison to 4.09 million British soldiers fought in 1942, the same figures in 1943 amounted to 9.02 million and 4.76 million, respectively. The USA and USSR accounted for over 4/5 of the total armed forces of the coalition and over3/4 of the production of guns, tanks and planes.
The relations between the leaders of the Big Three changed accordingly. Roosevelt and his military command took the strategic military initiative from the British, and the president intensified his correspondence with Stalin, leaving Churchill to play a secondary role. On the eve of the Teheran Conference, he put the prime minister in front of the fact that the place of the meeting had already been fixed with Stalin and that Soviet representatives would take part in the Anglo-American meeting in Cairo (codenamed “Sextant”) in preparation for the summit in Teheran. Churchill was strongly opposed to such an invitation, yet Roosevelt had his way. “...It would be a terrible mistake if U.J. thought we had ganged up on him on military action. They will not feel that they are being given the ‘run around’.” In itself, Roosevelt’s willingness to travel 12,000 miles to meet the Soviet leader pointed not only to the prestige of the USSR but also of the president’s desire to win Stalin over, as he told his aides. Before the conference, Roosevelt rejected Churchill’s proposal of taking up residence at the British headquarters yet let Stalin know that he would willingly accept an invitation to stay at the Soviet embassy.
Unsurprisingly, Roosevelt and Stalin played the main roles at the first personal meeting of the Big Three. Together, they overcame Churchill’s resistance to Operation Overlord, which he tried to put off on different pretexts. This marked the start of a new stage of coalition diplomacy: the design of joint military strategy by the three great powers with the active involvement of the Soviet Union. H.L. Stimson wrote in his diary that Stalin showed strength and bluntness, sweeping away the diversionary tactics of the British with an energy that “warmed my heart”. It was decided to complement the debarkation in Normandy with an invasion in the south of France (Operation Anvil). It was also agreed that the Soviet Union would undertake a full-fledged offensive in Belorussia (Operation Bagration) in order to support the allied debarkation and would subsequently enter the war against Japan. These joint strategic decisions subsequently played a major role in the defeat of the Axis powers.
The leaders also discussed the US plan of creating an international security organisation. Roosevelt and Stalin jointly condemned British colonialism and spoke out against returning France’s colonies to her. During the conference, Roosevelt tried to win Stalin’s sympathies by teasing Churchill. “From that time on, our relations were personal”, the president told US Secretary of Labour F. Perkins. “The ice was broken and we talked like men and brothers."
After the conference, Hardman remarked that the Americans were closer than the British to the Russians, while Roosevelt himself said on the way back from Teheran that it was easier for him to come to an understanding with the Russians than with the British. Churchill, in turn, complained that in Teheran “the poor little English donkey” found himself between “the great Russian bear and the great American buffalo”. Nevertheless, he wrote to Eden soon after the conference about the “deep-seated changes which have taken place in the character of the Russian state and government” and “the new confidence which has grown in our hearts toward Stalin”.
Nevertheless, after Teheran Churchill continued to press his Mediterranean strategy upon Roosevelt. To this end, he proposed in February that Operation Anvil, which had been agreed upon in Teheran, should be scrapped. However, Roosevelt quickly put an end to this conversation by saying that they had already gone back on their word too many times. “We have made previous promises to the Russians which we hadn’t been able to meet”, he said at a JCS meeting on February 21. “We have given up promises in the past and had better not do it again.” Roosevelt and his commanders did not want to abandon the Teheran agreement for another reason: continued postponement of the second front ran the risk of excessive penetration of Soviet troops into the heart of Europe. “The battles for manpower that you and I have fought have not been for the purpose of creating a huge military force which is to sit idle awaiting either the achievement of military victory by our Russian allies or the success of a gamble on political and psychological disintegration within the German citadel of Europe”, wrote H.L. Stimson to Roosevelt on the eve of the Teheran Conference. G. Zhukov recalled a meeting with Stalin in late April 1944: “‘Our allies are in a hurry!’ laughed the Soviet leader. ‘They’re afraid that we’ll destroy Nazi Germany without their help. Of course, we’re interested for the Germans to begin to fight on two fronts at last. This would aggravate their situation even further, making it completely hopeless.’”
These words provide the key to understanding Stalin’s insistence on the second front. After the turn-around in the war, the USSR got a real opportunity to defeat Nazi Germany on its own, which, as Maisky noted in his diary, would have made it much easier to spread Soviet influence in post-war Europe. In a conversation with M. Thorez, Stalin said that “if Churchill had waited another year in opening up a second front... the Red Army would have reached France”. However, the main goal of the anti-Hitler coalition of destroying the Third Reich as quickly as possible was more important for the Soviet leader than “exporting the revolution” to Western Europe. The cost of liberating the Continent on its own may have also been too high for a country severely depleted by the war. After all, during 11 months of fighting on the western front, allied losses amounted to as many as 853,500 men, according to official British statistics, despite the fact that the Germans fought less cruelly against the allies than against the Red Army.
The long-awaited opening of the second front and the implementation of Operation Bagration marked the zenith of military and political cooperation between the Big Three. When the allies finally disembarked in Normandy, the Wehrmacht had less than 60 divisions in France, 20 in Italy yet over 200 on the Soviet-German front. As a recent history of British WWII strategy notes, “Overlord would not have been possible in 1944 but for the fact that Russian Army tied down about 2/3 of the German Army on the Eastern front.” Stalin’s scrupulous respect of his main promise in Teheran made a big impression on the Anglo-American leadership, all the more so as Operation Bagration was, in fact, a lot bigger than Overlord. As ambassador A. Harriman wrote, “Of supreme importance in the psychology of our military was Stalin’s pledge made at Teheran... The fact that he kept his word in this convinced a number of our military leaders, Eisenhower in particular, of the sincerity of his word.”
The success of the grandiose offensive of Soviet troops in the summer of 1944 showed that the Soviet Union would have the final say in determining the future of Eastern Europe after freeing it from the Fascist invaders. At a meeting with US senators on the eve of the Yalta Conference, Roosevelt declared that “The Russians have the power in Eastern Europe, it was obviously impossible to have a break with them, therefore the only practicable course was to use what influence we had to ameliorate the situation.” Thus the allies limited themselves to trying to soften the Soviet domination and to preserve their remaining influence in the region. All the same, they were not ready to give carte blanche to the USSR in these territories both for domestic reasons (pressure of public opinion and Eastern European and Baltic lobbies) and by the geopolitical danger of the appearance of a monolithic Soviet bloc. Roosevelt hoped that the sphere of Soviet influence would be limited to foreign and defence policy while leaving the countries open to American goods, ideas and capitals.
Pragmatic British diplomacy and Churchill himself preferred an unstated division of Europe into spheres of influence, retaining ascendancy in Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean in exchange for Soviet dominance of Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary. The culmination of this approach was the notorious “percentage deal” proposed by Churchill to Stalin during his second visit to Moscow in October 1944 (codenamed “Tolstoy”), which evoked the irritation of Roosevelt. The latter commissioned Harriman to accompany Churchill in order to monitor the progress of Anglo-Soviet talks. This time around, Stalin and Churchill got on extremely well: Stalin took Churchill to the Bolshoi Theatre, attended for the first time ever a reception at the British Embassy, and personally accompanied Churchill to the airport. The allies discussed the partition of spheres of influence in the Balkans, the Polish issue in the presence of representatives from both Polish sides, the German problem, and military affairs. Despite Churchill’s spirited attempts to convince the “London” Poles to agree to Moscow’s conditions on Poland’s eastern border and the makeup of its government, he was unable to overcome their stubbornness. “It is a criminal attempt to wreck, by your ‘Liberum Veto’, agreement between the Allies”, he exclaimed, adding “You hate the Russians, I know you hate them!”
The two interlocutors knew each other well by now and were quite outspoken. “This memorable meeting in Moscow has shown”, wrote Churchill upon his return to London, “that there are no matters that cannot be adjusted between us when we meet together, in frank and intimate discussion.” “I have had very nice talks with the Old Bear”, he told his wife. “I like him the more I see him.” The White House was keeping a close eye on the Anglo-Soviet talks: Roosevelt asked Hopkins to transmit to ambassador Gromyko his fears that “important political decisions – in particular, with regard to the Balkans – may be made at the talks in his absence”. Understanding the president’s concerns, Stalin softened the statements on the Balkans in his and Churchill’s joint reply to Roosevelt.
The next Big Three meeting took place in Yalta. The decisions of the Crimea Conference are well known: they set down the military cooperation of the three parties in the final defeat of Germany and in the war against Japan as well as indicating the key contours of the post-war world. Even when the allies were unable to reach a final decision, they managed to strike a balance of interests. There were no losers in Yalta – thanks, in large part, to the skilful conduct of Stalin and the Soviet delegation. “The Russians had proved that they could be reasonable and far-seeing and there was no doubt in the minds of the President or any of us that we could live with them and get along with them peacefully for as far into the future as any of us could imagine.” With their love of politesse, the British were particularly touched by the amiable Soviet reception. “I am profoundly impressed with the friendly attitude of Stalin and Molotov”, cabled Churchill to the Cabinet. “It is a different Russian world to any I have seen hitherto.” This opinion was shared even by such sceptics as Eden’s deputy A. Cadogan and General H. Ismay, who noted Stalin’s friendly attitude and excellent form in comparison with the ailing Roosevelt and the impulsive Churchill. In his report on the conference to Soviet ambassadors, Molotov also said that “the atmosphere at the conference was very friendly and marked by the striving to reach an agreement on controversial issues”.
This warm business atmosphere reflected the extremely convivial relationship that had formed between the Big Three leaders, all their differences notwithstanding. Yalta marked the zenith of the three leaders’ personal relations, which was due in no small part to the approaching victory in the war. All three had good reason to be content with themselves and with each other. The great military victories had made Stalin more “genial and reasonable” than ever, according to A. Cadogan. “There was no bluster; success, instead of going into his head, seemed to have given him the added assurance enabling him to take broad views and to be unafraid of making concessions.” Stalin agreed to give France a German occupation zone and a place on the Allied Control Council in Germany, reduce the number of Soviet votes in the UN, include the Western allies’ candidates in the interim Polish government, and sign the Declaration on Liberated Europe, which called for holding democratic elections in countries freed from the Nazi yoke.
Roosevelt attained his principal goals: the USSR promised to enter the war against Japan and agreed with the main US proposals on the UN charter. Churchill secured France’s ascent, the rejection of Soviet demands on reparations from Germany, the postponement of the decision on Poland’s western border, and the removal of delicate issues for Britain from the agenda (in particular, the situation in Greece). Both Western leaders were content with these concessions, believing that they had received as much as they could hope for. The toasts of the three heads of government were full of mutual respect. Churchill raised his glass for the “great man” Stalin, while Stalin drank for “the most courageous of all prime ministers in the world”, “the man who is born once in a hundred years”. Another toast by Stalin (recorded by Churchill) at the farewell dinner in Livadia Palace was more ambiguous: “In an alliance the Allies should not deceive each other. Perhaps that is naive? Experienced diplomats may say ‘Why should I not deceive my Ally?’ But I, as a naive man, think it best not to deceive my Ally even if he is a fool. Possibly our alliance is so firm because we don’t deceive each other. Or is it because it is not so easy to deceive each other?” Was Stalin letting his allies know that they would not be able to dupe him? Did he know that in Yalta Roosevelt had proposed to Churchill telling Stalin about the virtually complete Manhattan Project yet the shocked prime minister stopped him from doing so? Indeed, Stalin later told ambassador A. Gromyko that in Yalta Roosevelt “could have simply told me that nuclear weapons were in the production stage at the time. We were allies, after all.” In any case, the non-divulgence of the secret of the atomic bomb, of which Stalin was perfectly well aware, did not strengthen his trust in his allies.
For its participants, the Yalta summit was simply a transition stage to a post-war peace conference. No one knew at the time that Roosevelt had only two months to live, while Churchill would lose his office just over three months later. All three were counting on subsequent meetings in the now traditional Big Three format. Thus, they could leave a lot of things to be corrected and completed later. “The issues of size, frontiers, relative power of the countries of continental Europe may have been deemed of only passing importance”, wrote the US diplomat and historian H. Feis, who had taken part in the Yalta Conference. “If, it may have been thought, the three main members of the war coalition worked together in the new international political organization, such questions could be adjusted satisfactorily; while if they quarrelled and failed to be true to their saving purpose, all of Europe would face a dark future howsoever they were settled at the moment.” Stalin had said something similar in Yalta: “...as long as we are alive, there is nothing to fear. We will not allow dangerous disagreements to come between us.”
After Yalta, a certain chill arose in allied relations on account of continuing differences on the Polish issue, the problem of repatriating prisoners of war, and more minor factors. The second half of March was marked by the so-called “Bern incident” in which A. Dulles of the US Office of Strategic Services in Switzerland engaged in secret talks with the Nazis on the capitulation of German forces in Italy, in which the Americans refused to let the Soviet Union participate. Codenamed “Crossword” (or “Sunrise”), this operation was sanctioned by Roosevelt himself, who showed an “uncharacteristic insensitiveness to Soviet anxieties”, as the US diplomatic historian W. Cohen notes. Despite Moscow’s protests, Washington refused to break off its separate talks, fuelling Soviet suspicions, all the more so as the Germans weakened their resistance on the western front at this time while continuing to fight tenaciously on the eastern front. The correspondence on this issue contains the most heated exchange of accusations between Roosevelt and Stalin during the war. However, Roosevelt ultimately decided to play down the incident, assuring Stalin in his message of April 12 that it had “faded into the past” and expressing the hope that “There must not, in any event, be mutual distrust, and minor misunderstandings of this character should not arise in the future.” (Stalin, too, softened his tone, if not his opinion, on the matter.) To the last, Roosevelt thwarted attempts by A. Harriman and other “hawks” to take a tougher approach with regard to the USSR and tried to curb Churchill’s growing aggressiveness by proposing to “minimize the general Russian problem as much as possible”. In particular, he supported the refusal of Supreme Allied Commander in Europe General D. Eisenhower to comply with Churchill’s wish to redirect the brunt of the allied attack towards the German capital in order to overtake the Russians in the “race for Berlin”.
The president hoped that mutual concessions and the continuation of the “Big Three” format would bring the Grand Alliance through the very complicated period of victory in the war and post-war regulation.
However, Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945. His death had baleful consequences for the Grand Alliance. He had played the key role of the “linchpin” of the Big Three, to cite the expression of the American historian F. Costigliola. Another uniting moment was the president’s striving to continue the cooperation between the great powers after the war. Roosevelt’s death deprived the Big Three of this linchpin, disturbing its fragile balance: the new master of the White House did not possess Roosevelt’s skill in dealing with the Kremlin, had no experience of working with Stalin, was not attached to the trilateral format, and tended to take a much more rigid course towards the USSR. “Now, after the death of President Roosevelt, Churchill will come to a quick understanding with Truman”, said Stalin in this regard. Within America, Roosevelt’s death opened the floodgates of growing anti-Soviet sentiments that began to accumulate in the US establishment towards the end of the war. Roosevelt had been able to contain them, yet now the situation began to change. As a result, the course of American politics rapidly shifted towards the right.
Roosevelt’s death also removed the last hindrances to Churchill’s increasingly anti-Soviet attitude. In the final weeks of the war, the prime minister took a series of both open and covert steps aimed at limiting Soviet influence in Europe – from his attempts to postpone the withdrawal of US troops from the Soviet occupation zone in Germany to the development of a plan for war against the USSR in the summer of 1945 (Operation Unthinkable). This did not prevent Churchill from trying to preserve special relations with the Soviet leader. When Stalin praised him for refusing to engage in separate talks with Himmler (“Knowing you as I do, I never doubted that you would act in exactly this manner”), Churchill immediately softened and sent him a message on April 28 ending with an “outpouring of my heart to you” – a heartfelt warning about the threat of the post-war division of the world into Soviet and Anglo-American camps: “It is quite obvious that their quarrel would tear the world to pieces and that all of us leading men on either side who had anything to do with that would be shamed before history.” Stalin ignored the emotional part of Churchill’s message and simply continued their debate on the Polish question.
At the same time, he was well informed about the prime minister’s attitude and intrigues, including Operation Unthinkable and the preservation of trophy German weapons and armed divisions for potential use against the USSR. All of this only strengthened Stalin’s view of Churchill as an incorrigible potential enemy with whom it was useless to engage in strategic dialogue. Ambassador F. Gusev apparently sensed his boss’s attitude and began to send messages with warnings that “we are dealing with an opportunist who lives for war, in which he feels much better than in times of peace”.
During his last meeting with Stalin at the Potsdam Conference, Churchill softened his anti-Soviet attitude. Instead of making an ultimatum, he limited himself to posing the question of how far west the Soviet Union was planning to advance and accepted Stalin’s reassuring answer. A. Eden wrote in his diary, “Dined alone with him [Churchill] & again urged him not to give up our few cards without return. for cheap. But he is again under Stalin’s spell. He kept repeating ‘I like that man’.” A few days later, Churchill left world politics after the British conservatives’ unexpected defeat at the parliamentary elections.
For World War II participants and contemporaries, there was little doubt as to who made the decisive contribution to defeating Nazi Germany and its allies. “To the eternal credit of the Russians, they willingly paid more heavily in blood than any other nation”, wrote Time Magazine immediately after Germany’s capitulation. “From a people who after centuries of oppression have still to taste the real benefits of that civilization or even understand it in the same light as the western world, this was a great contribution.” Indeed, the paradox of WWII was that human civilization was saved less by the Western democracies that partook in its boons as by the long-suffering Russian nation, which had taken quite a lot of abuse over its history from the West.
During the war, the Red Army destroyed or in-capacitated 626 Axis divisions (including 508 German divisions) and was responsible for over 60% of all human losses of the German army (7.181 million killed German soldiers and 1.468 million killed soldiers of Germany’s European satellites). The Soviet Reparation Committee headed by Maisky estimated that the USSR had performed about 75% of all the military efforts of the anti-Hitler coalition. The Soviet Union and its western allies had also used their human and material resources differently to attain victory. Military expenditures as a share of the GDP amounted to 76% for the USSR in comparison to 47% for the USA and 57% for Great Britain. The human resources mobilized into the armed forces and the defence industry as a share of the able-bodied population amounted to 54% for the USSR in contrast to 35.4% for the USA and 45.3% for Great Britain. There were 27.1 million soldier-days per 1 million population in the USSR as opposed to 4.7 million in the USA and Great Britain. There is also little doubt about the relative sacrifices made by the two sides: in the total civil and military death toll, the USSR lost as many as 1 out of every 7 inhabitants in comparison to 1 out of 127 in Great Britain and 1 out of 320 in the USA. The Anglo-American strategy of a light war bore fruit for the western allies. Unsurprisingly, soon after the war Churchill noted with satisfaction in a private letter that, unlike WWI, the Second World War was skilfully waged and resulted in the unconditional surrender of the enemy without significant losses on the Anglo-American side.
Of course, the war was different for different countries, and each nation has its own wartime memories. Still, as victory in the war was the Allies’ mutual achievement, there should undoubtedly be a common memory and a common idea of the war and of the key contributions to victory. This is not just a question of the past. The common memory of military alliance during the war is, without a doubt, the main positive heritage in our relations with the West. Unless this memory unites us, it will be difficult to find mutual solutions to the problems faced by mankind today.
V. Pechatnov, D.Sc. in History
A. Artizov, D.Sc. in History
 W. Churchill, The Second World War, vol. VI: “Triumph and Tragedy”, New York, 1953, p. 317.
 M. Harrison, The Economics of World War II: Six Great Powers in International Comparison, Cambridge, 1998, р. 10.
 Sovetskiy Soyuz na mezhdunarodnykh konferentsiyakh perioda Velikoy Otechestvennoy voyny 1941–1945 gg. [The Soviet Union at International Conferences during World War II, 1941–1945], Moscow, 1984, vol. 2: “Tegeranskaya konferentsiya rukovoditeley trekh soyuznykh derzhav – SSSR, SShA i Velikobritaniya (28 noyabrya – 1 dekabrya 1943)” [The Teheran Conference of the Heads of Three Allied Powers – USSR, USA and Great Britain (November 28 – December 1, 1943)], pp. 82–83.
 V.O. Pechatnov and I.E. Magadeyev, Perepiska I.V. Stalina s F. Ruzveltom i U. Cherchillem v gody Velikoy Otechestvennoy voyny. Dokumentalnoye issledovaniye [Correspondence of J. Stalin with F. Roosevelt and W. Churchill during World War II: A Documentary Study], Moscow, 2015, vol. 1, p. 54.
 The New York Times, June 24, 1941, p. 1.
 The Churchill Documents, ed. by M. Gilbert and L.P. Arnn, Hillsdale, 2017, vol. 19, p. 663.
 Combined Chiefs of Staff Meeting of January 20, 1943. NARA, record group (RG) 218, central decimal file, 1942–1945, CCS334.
 The War Diaries of Oliver Harvey, ed. By J. Harvey, London, 1978, p. 219.
 Military Policy Toward Russia, Memorandum for General Handy, December 12, 1942. LC MD, H. Arnold Papers, Military Subject File, box 201.
 O.A. Rzheshevsky, Stalin i Cherchill. Vstrechi. Besedy. Diskussii: Dokumenty, kommentarii, 1941–1945 [Stalin and Churchill. Meetings, Conversations and Discussions: Documents and Commentaries, 1941–1945], Moscow, 2004, p. 384.
 Dokumenty vneshney politiki SSSR [Documents of Soviet Foreign Policy], Tula, 2010, vol. 25, book 2, p. 323.
 Sovetskiy Soyuz na mezhdunarodnykh konferentsiyakh... [The Soviet Union at International Conferences...], Moscow, 1979, vol. 4: “Krymskaya konferentsiya rukovoditeley trekh soyuznykh derzhav – SSSR, SShA i Velikobritanii (4–11 fevralya 1945 g.)” [The Crimean Conference of the Leaders of Three Allied Powers – USSR, USA and Great Britain (February 4–11, 1945)], pp. 61, 62.
 Foreign Relations of the United States, 1945, Washington, 1967, vol. 5, pp. 252–255.
 Sovetskiy Soyuz na mezhdunarodnykh konferentsiyakh... [The Soviet Union at International Conferences.], vol. 4, p. 143.
 Sovetsko-frantsuzskiye otnosheniya vo vremya Velikoy Otechestvennoy voyny, 1941–1945. Dokumenty i materialy [Franco-Soviet Relations during World War II, 1941–1945: Documents and Materials], Moscow, 1983, vol. 2, pp. 198–199.
 Letter from Maisky to the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs. AVPRF, coll. 059а, ser. 7, box 13, fold. 6, ff. 258–260.
 Vneshnyaya politika Sovetskogo Soyuza v period Velikoy Otechestvennoy voyny. Dokumenty i materialy [Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union during World War II: Documents and Materials], Moscow, 1946, vol. 2, p. 47.
 W. Kimball, The Juggler: Franklin D. Roosevelt as Wartime Statesman, Princeton, 1991, p. 88.
 April 23, 1942 (by Michela). FDRL, Harry L. Hopkins Papers, Military Intelligence, USSR EE Branch.
 Mr. Roberts to Mr. Bevin. March 14, 1946 in British Documents on Foreign Affairs, ed. by P. Preston and M. Partridge, Bethesda, 1999, vol. 1, part IV, series A, p. 100.
 Churchill and Roosevelt. The Complete Correspondence, ed. by W. Kimball, Princeton, 1984, vol. 3, p. 339.
 For a detailed discussion of Roosevelt’s strategy, see J.L. Gaddis, The Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy, New York, 1982, pp. 9–13; W. Kimball, The Juggler, Chapter 5.
 Cited after W. Kimball, The juggler, p. 100.
 S. Welles, Where Are We Heading?, New York, 1946, p. 37; D.J. Dunn, Caught Between Stalin and Roosevelt: America's Ambassadors to Moscow, Lexington, 1998, p. 5.
 R.I. Gannon, The Cardinal Spellman Story, Garden City and New York, 1962, pp. 222–224.
 RGASPI, coll. 558, ser.11, fold. 374, f. 5; fold. 277, f. 3.
 Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History, New York, 1948, p. 869.
 See, for example, M. Litvinov, “Politika SShA” [US Policy], AVPRF, coll. 06, ser. 5, box 28, fold. 327, ff. 15–16; A. Gromyko, “K voprosu o sovetsko-amerikanskikh otnosheniyakh (14.07.1944)” [On Soviet-American Relations (July 14, 1944)], AVPRF, coll. 06, ser. 6, box 45, fold. 603, ff. 7–8.
 AVPRF, coll.06, ser. 5, box28, fold. 327, f. 21.
 R. Messer, The End of an Alliance: James Byrnes, Roosevelt, Truman, and the Origins of the Cold War, Chapel Hill, 1982, р. 42; Notes on the Conversations with the President. LC MD, W.A. Harriman Papers, chronological file, container 175.
 Churchill and Roosevelt, Princeton, 1984, vol. 1, p. 545.
 The War Diaries of Oliver Harvey, p. 173.
 The Kremlin Letters: Stalins Wartime Correspondence with Churchill and Roosevelt, ed. by D. Reynolds and V. Pechatnov, New Haven and London, 2018, p. 14.
 Cited after M. Sherry, Preparing for the Next War: Americas Plans for Post-War Defense, New York, 1976, р. 131.
 Conversation between Mr. Law and President Roosevelt. TNA, Foreign Office (FO) 371/44595.
 Cited after F.I. Chuyev, Molotov. Poluderzhavnyy vlastelin [Molotov: The Semi-Autocratic Leader], Moscow, 2002, p. 102.
 Transcript of a conversation between Mr. J. Stalin and the US ambassador A. Harriman, March 3, 1944. RGASPI, coll. 558, ser. 11, fold. 377, f. 46.
 War Diaries, 1939–1945. Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, ed. by A. Danchev and D. Todman, London, 2001, p. 483.
 TNA, Prime Minister’s Office (PREM) 3/403/6.
 M. Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, London, 1983, vol. 6, pp. 1198–1199.
 General Situation in 1941. NARA, RG 59, records of Charles E. Bohlen, subject file, 1944–1952, box 8.
 150th Meeting, March 17, 1944. NARA, RG 218, geographical file, 1942–1945, CCS334 (3-17-44).
 Churchill and Roosevelt, vol. 1, p. 241.
 V.O. Pechatnov and I.E. Magadeyev, Perepiska I.V. Stalina... [Correspondence of J. Stalin...], vol. 1, p. 146.
 O.A. Rzheshevsky, Voyna i diplomatiya. Dokumenty, kommentarii (1941–1942) [War and Diplomacy: Documents and Commentaries (1941–1942)], Moscow, 1997, p. 168.
 Memorandum for the President (n.d.). NARA, RG 165, ABC381 (9-25-41), sec. VII; Notes on the Letter of the Prime Minister to the President, June 20, 1942, ibid. The Soviet side soon realized this, too: “We have no reason to believe that the North African operations made Hitler remove any divisions from our front at all” telegraphed Molotov to Litvinov on November 16, 1942 (Dokumenty vneshney politiki SSSR [Documents of Soviet Foreign Policy], vol. 25, book 2, p. 360).
 Memorandum for the President, July 28, 1942. NARA, RG 165, Top Secret General Correspondence (entry 15).
 Strategic Policy of the United Nations and the United States on the Collapse of Russia, August 7, 1942. NARA, RG 165, ABC384, USSR (6-1-42).
 Dokumenty vneshney politiki SSSR [Documents of Soviet Foreign Policy], vol. 25, book 2, pp. 58–59.
 V.O. Pechatnov and I.E. Magadeyev, Perepiska I.V. Stalina [Correspondence of J. Stalin], vol. 1, p. 204.
 O.A. Rzheshevsky, Stalin i Cherchill’ [Stalin and Churchill], p. 352.
 C. Moran, Winston Churchill: The Struggle for Survival, 1940–1965, London, 1966, p. 80.
 D. Gillies, Radical Diplomat: The Life of Archibald Clark Kerr, Lord Inverchapel, 1882–1951, London and New York, 1999, pр. 134–136.
 Dokumenty vneshney politiki SSSR [Documents of Soviet Foreign Policy], vol. 25, book 2, p. 158.
 Kerr to Warner, August 17, 1942. TNA, FO 800/300; see also C. Moran, Winston Churchill: The Struggle for Survival, 1940–1965, pр. 82–83. For a detailed discussion of this episode see V.O. Pechatnov, “Diplomaticheskaya missiya A. Klark-Kerra v Moskve (1942–1946 gody)” [Diplomatic Mission of A. Clark Kerr in Moscow (1942–1946)] in Novaya i noveyshaya istoriya, 2017, № 4, pp. 177–178.
 M. Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Boston, 1986, vol. 7, p. 664.
 Churchill and Roosevelt, vol. 1, p. 643.
 Maisky to Stalin, October 22, 1942 in Velikaya pobeda [The Great Victory], ed. by S.Y. Naryshkin and A.V. Torkunov, Moscow, 2013, vol. 9, pp. 397–398.
 Notes by the Prime Minister on COS (42) 345 (0) (Final). TNA, PREM 3/499/6.
 Memorandum for the President, July 28, 1942. NARA, RG 165, Top Secret General Correspondence (entry 15).
 American-British Strategy, October 30, 1942. TNA, PREM 3/499/6.
 V.O. Pechatnov and I.E. Magadeyev, Perepiska I.V. Stalina... [Correspondence of J. Stalin.], vol. 1, p. 368.
 Note by the Minister of Defense, December 2, 1942. TNA, PREM 3/499/7.
 General Ismay for COS Committee, March 4, 1943. TNA, PREM 3/333/3.
 Churchill and Roosevelt, Princeton, 1984, vol. 2, p. 283.
 Ibid., p. 278.
 A. Kerr to C. Warner, August 10, 1943. TNA, FO 800/302.
 V.O. Pechatnov and I.E. Magadeyev, Perepiska I.V. Stalina... [Correspondence of J. Stalin.], vol. 1, p. 487.
 Maisky to People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, July 3, 1943. AVPRF, coll. 059, ser. 7, box 13, fold. 6, ff. 295–298.
 Prime Minister to the British Ambassador, Moscow, June 29, 1943. TNA, PREM 3/333/5.
 Moscow to Foreign Office, July 1, 1943. Ibid.
 Memorandum for Mr. H. Hopkins, August 10, 1943. FDRL, H. Hopkins Papers, box 217.
 M. Harrison, “The USSR and Total War: Why Didn’t the Soviet Economy Collapse in 1942?” in A World at Total War: Global Conflict and the Politics of Destruction, 1937–1947, ed. by R. Chickering, S. Forster, and B. Greiner, Cambridge, 2005, pp. 140–141.
 Churchill and Roosevelt, vol. 2, р. 597.
 F. Costigliola, Roosevelt's Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War, Princeton, 2012, р. 196.
 V.O. Pechatnov and I.E. Magadeyev, Perepiska I.V. Stalina... [Correspondence ofJ. Stalin.], vol. 1, pp. 622–623.
 H. Stimson Diary, December 5, 1943. Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University, H. Stimson Papers.
 F. Perkins, The Roosevelt I Knew, New York, 1947, pp. 84–85.
 Staff Meeting, December 8, 1943. LC MD, W.A. Harriman Papers, Chronological File, container 171.
 D. Reynolds, From World War to Cold War: Churchill, Roosevelt, and the International History of the 1940s, Oxford, 2006, p. 119.
 TNA, PREM 3/399/6.
 Minutes of Meeting between FDR and JCS, February 21, 1944. FDRL, Map Room Files, box 24.
 Memorandum for the President: Conduct of the European War, November 8, 1943. NARA, RG 165, ABC381 (9-25-41), sec. VIII.
 G.K. Zhukov, Vospominaniya i razmyshleniya [Memories and Recollections], Moscow, 2015, vol. 2, pp. 215–216.
 I.M. Maisky, Dnevnik diplomata. London, 1934–1943 [Diary of a Diplomat: London, 1934–1943], Moscow, 2009, book 2, part 2, pp. 210–211.
 M.M. Narinsky, “Stalin i M. Torez. 1944–1947. Novye materyaly” [Stalin and M. Thorez, 1944–1947: New Materials] in Novaya i noveyshaya istoriya, 1996, № 1, p. 28.
 L.F. Ellis, Victory in the West, London, 1968, vol. 2, pр. 405–407. By the estimates of official US military historians, German losses on the western front during the same period were roughly equal to allied losses or slightly surpassed them, while over 2 million German soldiers were taken prisoner (C.B. MacDonald, The United States Army in World War II. The European Theater of Operations. The Last Offensive, Washington, 1973, р. 478).
 D. French, “British Military Strategy” in The Cambridge History of the Second World War, ed. by R. Bosworth and J. Maiolo, Cambridge, 2015, vol. 2, р. 44.
 LC MD, W. A. Harriman Papers, Writing Files, Memoirs, H. Feis Files, container 872.
 The Diaries of Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., 1943–1946, ed. by T. Campbell and E. Stettinius, New York, 1975, p. 214.
 O. A. Rzheshevsky, Stalin i Cherchill’ [Stalin and Churchill], pp. 418–428.
 In 16th Poland, liberum veto referred to the legal right of each member of the legislature to defeat by his vote alone any measure under consideration or to dissolve the legislature itself.
 Documents on Soviet-Polish Relations, 1939–1945, London, 1967, vol. 2, pp. 423–424.
 V.O. Pechatnov and I.E. Magadeyev, Perepiska I.V. Stalina... [Correspondence of J. Stalin.], vol. 2, p. 291.
 M. Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, vol. 7, p. 1007.
 AVPRF, coll. 059, ser.12, box34, fold. 213, ff. 284–285.
 V.O. Pechatnov, Stalin. Ruzvelt. Trumen. SSSR i SShA v 1940-hh gg. Dokumentalnyye ocherki [Stalin, Roosevelt and Truman: The USSR and the USA in the 1940s – Documentary Studies], Moscow, 2006, p. 164.
 R. Sherwood, Churchill and Hopkins: An Intimate History, New York, 1950, vol. 2, p. 870.
 Prime Minister to Deputy Prime Minister for War Cabinet, February 14, 1945. Churchill Archive Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge University, Chartwell Papers 20/223.
 SSSR i germanskiy vopros. 1941–1949. Dokumenty iz Arkhiva vneshney politiki Rossiyskoy Federatsii [The USSR and the German Problem, 1941–1949: Documents from the Archive of Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation], Moscow, 1996, vol. 1, p. 608.
 The Diaries of Sir Alexander Cadogan, 1938–1945, ed. by D. Dilks, London, 1971, p. 717.
 W. Churchill, The Second World War, vol. VI: “Triumph and Tragedy”, p. 316.
 Foreign Secretary, March 25, 1945. TNA, PREM 3/139/6.
 A. Gromyko, Pamyatnoye [Memoirs], Moscow, 1990, book 1, p. 277.
 H. Feis, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin: The War They Fought and the Peace They Sought, Princeton, 1967, pp. 275–276.
 Sovetskiy Soyuz na mezhdunarodnykh konferentsiyakh... [The Soviet Union at International Conferences.], vol. 4, p. 94.
 W. Cohen, America in the Age of Soviet Power, 1945–1991, Cambridge, 1993, p. 16.
 V.O. Pechatnov and I.E. Magadeyev, Perepiska I.V. Stalina... [Correspondence of J. Stalin.], vol. 2, p. 501.
 Churchill and Roosevelt, vol. 3, p. 630.
 F. Costigliola, Roosevelt's Lost Alliances, p. 57.
 G.K. Zhukov, Vospominaniya i razmyshleniya [Memories and Recollections], vol. 2, p. 357.
 O.A. Rzheshevsky, “Sekretnye voennye plany U. Cherchillya v maye 1945 g.” [W. Churchill’s Secret Military Plans in May 1945] in Novaya i noveyshaya istoriya, 1999, № 3, pp. 98–123.
 V.O. Pechatnov and I.E. Magadeyev, Perepiska I.V. Stalina... [Correspondence of J. Stalin.], vol. 2, p. 571.
 Strana v ogne [The Country on Fire], editors-in-chief A.M. Litvin and M.Y. Myagkov, compiling editor D.V. Surzhik, Moscow, 2017, vol. 3, book 1, pp. 298–300.
 From London, May 18, 1945. AVPRF, coll. 059, ser. 7, box 13, fold. 6, ff. 357–358.
 The Memoirs of Anthony Eden: The Reckoning, Boston, 1965, p. 545.
 Time, May 14, 1945, р. 3.
 R. Overy, Russia’s War: A History of the Soviet Effort, 1941–1945, New York, 1997, р. 327; Rossiya i SSSR v voynakh XX veka. Kniga poter [Russia and the USSR in Twentieth-Century Wars: Book of Losses], ed. by G.F. Krivosheyev et al., Moscow, 2010, pp. 539, 544–546.
 AVPRF, coll. 06, ser. 7а, box 59, fold. 38, f. 80.
 M. Harrison, “Resource Mobilization for World War II: The U. S.A., U.K., USSR, and Germany, 1938–1945" in Economic History Review (2nd ser.), 1988, vol. 16, N2, pp. 184–186; J. Ready, World War II Nation by Nation: Arms and Armor, New York, 1996, pp. 322–323; Rossiya i SSSR v voynakh XX veka... [Russia and the USSR in Twentieth-Century Wars...], p. 219.
 Cited after Mirovye voyny XX veka [World Wars in the Twentieth Century], Moscow, 2002, book 3, p. 250.