Volume VI Triumph and Tragedy (1953)
Theme of the Volume How the great democracies triumphed, and so were able to resume the follies which had so nearly cost them their life
BOOK II The iron curtain
YALTA: PLANS FOR WORLD PEACE
Prime Minister to Foreign Secretary 4 Jan 45
...5. It is a mistake to try to write out on little pieces of paper what the vast emotions of an outraged and quivering world will be either immediately after the struggle is over or when the inevitable cold fit follows the hot. These awe-inspiring tides of feeling dominate most people's minds, and independent figures tend to become not only lonely but futile. Guidance in these mundane matters is granted to us only step by step, or at the utmost a step or two ahead. There is therefore wisdom in reserving one's decisions as long as possible and until all the facts and forces that will be potent at the moment are revealed.
At this first meeting Mr. Roosevelt had made a momentous statement. He had said that the United States would take all reasonable steps to preserve peace, but not at the expense of keeping a large army in Europe, three thousand miles away from home. The American occupation would therefore be limited to two years. Formidable questions rose in my mind. If the Americans left Europe Britain would have to occupy single-handed the entire western^portion of Germany. Such a task would be far beyond our strength.
Stalin said that he would study the proposal and see if he could understand it, but at present it was not altogether clear. He said he feared that, though the three Great Powers were allies to-day, and would none of them commit any act of aggression, in ten years or less the three leaders would disappear and a new generation would come into power which had not experienced the war and would forget what we had gone through. "All of us," he declared, "want to secure peace for at least fifty years. The greatest danger is conflict among ourselves, because if we remain united the German menace is not very important. Therefore we must now think how to secure our unity in the future, and how to guarantee that the three Great Powers (and possibly China and France) will maintain a united front. Some system must be elaborated to prevent conflict between the main Great Powers."
"My colleagues in Moscow," said Stalin, "cannot forget what happened in December 1939, during the Russo-Finnish War, when the British and the French used the League of Nations against us and succeeded in isolating and expelling the Soviet Union from the League, and when they later mobilised against us and talked of a crusade against Russia. Cannot we have some guarantees that this sort of thing will not happen again?"
Mr. Eden pointed out that the American proposal would make it impossible.
"Can we create even more obstacles?" asked Stalin. I said that special provision had been made about the unanimity of the Great Powers.
"We have heard of it to-day for the first time," he replied.
Stalin answered. I had never suspected that he could be so expansive. "I am talking," he declared, "as an old man; that is why I am talking so much. But I want to drink to our alliance, that it should not lose its character of intimacy, of its free expression of views. In the history of diplomacy I know of no such close alliance of three Great Powers as this, when allies had the opportunity of so frankly expressing their views. I know that some circles will regard this remark as naive. "In an alliance the allies should not deceive each other. Perhaps that is naive? Experienced diplomatists 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 just because we do not deceive each other; or is it because it is not so easy to deceive each other?
"If the British and French had sent a mission to Moscow in 1939 containing men who really wanted an agreement with Russia the Soviet Government would not have signed the pact with Ribbentrop.
"Ribbentrop told the Russians in 1939 that the British and Americans were only merchants and would never fight.
"If we, the three Great Powers, now hold together no other Power can do anything to us."