1945. After six years of fighting and destruction, the Second World
War is coming to an end. The future of Europe will be determined
by the outcome of the Yalta Conference, which brings together US
President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Agreements are reached on such
major issues as the creation of a United Nations Organisation, the
post-war administration of Germany, new frontiers for Poland, and
a commitment to the establishment of democratic governments in all
there are already signs that cooperation forged in time of war between
the Western democracies and the Soviet Union is coming under strain.
Negotiations designed to broaden the provisional Polish Government
quickly become stalled and so Poland is not represented when the
UN Charter is signed in June 1945.
Germany's surrender, the Potsdam Conference, from mid-July to 2
August, sees the kaleidoscope turn, presenting a different picture.
Following the death of Franklin Roosevelt, the United States is
now represented by President Truman and, after defeat in parliamentary
elections, Churchill hands over to Clement Attlee during the course
of the conference.
leaders make a number of decisions for the governing of Germany,
which is to be divided into American, British, French and Russian
zones of occupation, and Berlin, situated within the Soviet sector,
is to be similarly divided. They also issue an ultimatum to Japan,
demanding that it surrender unconditionally. But the wording of
the agreements is imprecise and will prove difficult to enforce.
6 and 9 1945. President Truman, determined to save thousands of
American lives which he fears will be lost if the war against Japan
is allowed to drag on, orders that the newly developed atomic bomb
be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Stalin decides that the security
of the USSR can only be assured if it, too, possesses nuclear weapons
and so the nuclear arms race will soon begin.
1946. Winston Churchill warns in Fulton, Missouri, that "From
Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain
has descended across the Continent." A year later, attempts
by the American, British and Soviet Foreign Ministers, meeting in
Moscow, to draw up peace treaties for Germany and Austria end in
failure. To all intents and purposes, the war-time cooperation has