The historian spoke about some episodes from the meeting of the leaders of the three powers in the summer of 1945
In these July days, 77 years ago, one of the most important political events of the 20th century took place – the Potsdam Conference. The leaders of the three victorious world powers that gathered there made decisions that determined the picture of the post-war world order for many decades. Some of the nuances associated with this long-standing summit meeting may now “sound” quite differently, sending “hints” that allow us to better assess what is happening in modern relations between Russia and the West.
Photo: Global Look Press
We talked with researcher-historian Boris Ivanishin about the lessons and “tails” of the Potsdam Conference that have reached our days.
– If we evaluate “according to the Hamburg account”, the main results of the negotiations between the leaders of the USSR, the USA and England in Potsdam in the summer of 1945 come down to several positions. Solving problems with defeated Germany, agreeing on the new borders of Poland, reaching a consensus on the issue of reparations, agreements adopted on the upcoming military operations of the allies against Japan … But after all, behind this “main” content there are many nuances that already then indicated not at all bright prospects for relations our country with its mighty Western “partners”…
There are quite a lot of such “nuances”. And many of them look very instructive now, in the current conditions of aggravated international tension, provoked in many respects by the USA and England.
Some events and discussions at the highest level in Potsdam seem to give a hint: what is the traditional style of behavior and methods of “persuading” our current main Western opponents, how to achieve the desired result in negotiations with them.
Of course, it would be too much to draw direct analogies, but some kind of “hint from the past” is quite possible. Let's just recall the individual episodes related to the meeting in Potsdam, and each MK reader can draw conclusions based on such facts and draw parallels with our current reality.
However, you can start with events dating back to the spring of 1945. On April 23, the new US President Truman met with the Soviet People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Molotov, who arrived in America. The “Polish question”, which is extremely important for us, was discussed (the Craiova Army, so attractive to overseas “partners”, undertook active military and terrorist actions in the rear of the Red Army, the leadership of the USSR was very interested in neutralizing this dangerous force, which could eventually take power in neighboring Russia state). Truman immediately demonstrated a very tough position.
American “confidants” later recalled that the new owner of the White House had decided in advance that for the representatives of the Russian side the most convincing argument was “power”, and therefore the more assertive they were in dealing with them, the more pliable they would be. Therefore, starting a conversation with Molotov, the president immediately stated that the USSR should take into account Washington's arguments. They say that relations between our countries can no longer be built on the basis of “one-way traffic.” In response, the people's commissar said that the only acceptable way of cooperation is the equal treatment of the governments of the allied countries to each other, without the desire to impose their will. And in response I heard: “Follow our demands on Poland, and we will speak in a less rude manner.”
Molotov emphasized that the Soviet side understood the importance of the Polish question for the United States, but for the USSR the situation in the border state was vital. Reacting to this, Truman turned to outright “power pressure.” He stated that if the Soviet Union was so uncompromising, the US leadership might decide to reconsider the issue of providing economic assistance to the Russians.
Isn't this a threat of economic sanctions? But the hardest war, in which we were allies, was still going on!
Another “piquant” moment connected with the events preceding the Potsdam summit.
Two months before it began, Joseph Grew, then Acting Secretary of State, prepared a memorandum, the text of which declared the inevitability of war between the US and the USSR. In this regard, Grew argued, it is necessary that “American policy towards Soviet Russia immediately tighten on all lines.”
The facts mentioned help to understand how acute the diplomatic struggle unfolded between the main actors of the Potsdam Conference and what “stones in the bosom” were kept at the same time by its participants – representatives of the West. The former allied relations that had been established over 4 years of the war were already “bursting at the seams.” And this “crack” was “heard” during the discussion of literally every item of the conference program.
Reading her documents, one can notice the tactics of achieving their goals in negotiations with the Russians, which have been preserved from then to our time by American and British politicians.
Then, 77 years ago, the Soviet leadership managed to counteract it very effectively.
This was the case, for example, when discussing the fate of the essentially pro-fascist Franco regime in Spain. When Stalin declared that “it would be good to create conditions for the Spanish people to establish such a regime as they like,” Churchill began to object: “I am against the use of force in such cases. I believe that we should not interfere in the internal affairs of a state with which we differ in views … ”At the same time, Sir Winston hypocritically“ forgot ”how just a few months ago the British were in charge in Greece liberated from the Nazis,“ uprooting ”the local pro-communist People's -liberation army to prevent the “reds” from coming to power in the country.
The British Prime Minister was supported by the President of the United States. Both leaders feared that as a result of the overthrow of the Franco dictatorship, the left would come to power in the country. Stalin tried to explain that he did not mean a forceful solution of the problem on the part of the allied countries: “I do not propose military intervention, I do not propose to unleash a civil war there. I would only like the Spanish people to know that we, the leaders of democratic Europe, have a negative attitude towards the Franco regime … We have only to say that we do not sympathize with the Franco regime and consider the Spanish people's desire for democracy to be just, … and nothing from the Franco regime will remain.” But even such reasoning of the Soviet leader did not help change the position of his Western colleagues. As a result, the Spanish dictator was not “disturbed”, and he led the country for almost 30 more years.
Our Generalissimo had to make a lot of efforts and show real talent as a negotiator in order to succeed on another issue – the division between the winners of the German fleet.
At that time, almost all warships of the Third Reich were captured by the British and Americans. Stalin declared at the conference that these trophies should be divided fairly among the three victorious states.
Churchill responded by talking about the fact that the Nazi ships should be destroyed. This was followed by Stalin's immediate reaction: “The fleet must be divided. If Mr. Churchill prefers to sink the fleet, he can sink his share, I do not intend to sink my share.
The “master of the Kremlin” flared up further (and very wordy on the American and British sides) discussion with a very specific and rigidly formulated question: “I would like clarity to be made on the question of whether the Russians have the right to maritime and merchant fleet of Germany?”
Such a direct question demanded an equally direct answer. As a result, a decision was made that suited the Soviet side quite well.
At one of the first meetings in Potsdam, the leader of the USSR announced his intention to reconsider the borders of defeated Germany and annex part of East Prussia to Russia, and transfer some other territories to Poland.
Churchill immediately clung to the wording: “What does it mean now“ Germany “? Is it possible to understand it in the same sense as it was before the war?..”
Truman suggested: “Maybe we will still talk about Germany as it was in 1937?”
Here is the answer to this from Iosif Vissarionovich: “Formally, it can be understood this way, in essence it is not so … I find it very difficult to say what Germany is now. This is a country that has no government, that has no definite borders, because the borders are not drawn up by our troops. Germany does not have any troops, including border troops, it is divided into occupation zones. So define what Germany is. This is a broken country…”
After a rather long, sometimes very tense discussion of the German territorial problem, the conference participants adopted precisely the Soviet version of the proposal to redraw the borders. In particular, the western border separating the German and Polish states was now supposed to pass along the Oder and Neisse rivers, and a significant part of East Prussia, which formed the current Kaliningrad region, went to the RSFSR.
There is one more point related to decisions taken at the Potsdam Conference, which eventually influenced the current situation.
The Allies agreed on the issue that the post-war border between Poland and the Soviet Union would pass in the same place where it was established in the autumn of 1939 as a result of the Red Army's campaign in Western Ukraine and Western Belarus. As a result, the USSR retained these rather impressive territories. However, some of this “territorial wealth” was “flawed”. At least it was in Western Ukraine that there were many nationalists – supporters of “independence”, who actively collaborated with the Nazis during the war years and continued the terrorist war against the “soviets”, against the “power of Muscovites” even after their collapse. This cruel, bloody epic stretched out for many years. It is from the western regions of Ukraine that waves of frenzied nationalism in our time have spread over it.
But imagine for a moment that then, in the summer of 1945, a different decision would have been made in Potsdam, and the main part of Western Ukraine would have gone to Poland. In this case, the atrocities of the Bandera detachments would turn out to be a problem not of the Union, but of a neighboring country, and the state border would reliably isolate the population living in Central and Eastern Ukraine from the influence of these “forest brothers”. Probably, then many of the events that covered independent Ukraine during the years of its existence after the collapse of the USSR would not have happened.
But the history of the subjunctive mood does not know. Stalin, having entered the battle of “diplomatic heavyweights” at the Potsdam Conference and seeking the acceptance of his demands and claims, of course, wanted to do the best for the Land of Soviets.