The legacy of Yalta
In an insightful piece entitled "Under Yalta's Shadow - the Forgotten Legacy", in today's edition of
National Review Online, Arthur Herman makes the point that the Bush doctrine is finally undoing the damage done by that ill-considered conference between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin in the Crimean seaside resort in 1945. That agreement left us with the Cold War, communist China and North Korea and last but not least -- the United Nations, which was hoped would succeed where the League of Nations has failed. And we all know how that turned out.
. . .The first of these fallacies was that collective security is more important than democracy and human rights. In spite of the high-minded principles of their Atlantic Charter, both Churchill and Roosevelt arrived at Yalta believing that the price of future peace was allowing Stalin to dominate his neighbors in Eastern Europe. To his credit, Churchill still hoped American and British armies might be able to push far enough east to prevent Soviet occupation of countries like Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia; he even tried to negotiate an influence-sharing plan over Romania and Hungary with Stalin himself. But in the end, both he and Roosevelt accepted the dictator's promise to allow free elections in the countries his armies overran. Roosevelt, ill and frail, may have believed Stalin; Churchill knew better. But neither was ready to hold Stalin to his pledge, then or later. The result was the enslavement of upwards of 80 million people within the Soviet orbit, as an "iron curtain," as Churchill called it a year later, came to divide Germany and Europe and divide the people of Poland and ten other countries from control of their destiny for another 40 years. British and American diplomats also agreed to hand over 1.5 million former Soviet POW's to Russia, although they knew it meant death in the gulag for almost all of them - once again, everyone believed, the necessary price of peace.
Churchill left Yalta in a state of despair, and Roosevelt and advisers such as Harry Hopkins in a state of euphoria. Hopkins, Churchill's doctor concluded, "is firmly convinced that a new Utopia has dawned." Today, 60 years later, we know who was right and who was wrong.