“Spoils of War,” chapter seven in S. M. Plokhy’s Yalta: The Price of Peace, deals with the question of German reparations. Before discussing that topic, however, Franklin Roosevelt returned to discussing a French occupation zone in Germany.
Winston Churchill also argued for France having a role in the occupation, which would help in restoring France as a power in Europe. Plokhy observes that this followed the traditional British policy of maintaining a balance of power in Europe, since France would provide a counterweight to a resurgent Germany.
Plokhy then profiles Charles de Gaulle and evaluates French power (or lack of it) after its liberation. Joseph Stalin despised France for its military collapse in 1940, and he did not care for de Gaulle, either.
The Soviets had accepted a British proposal for the occupation zones, although with some reservations. The American proposal to the European Advisory Commission for the U.S. zone seemed out of proportion to George F. Kennan, a member of the American delegation to the commission. He even flew back to Washington and met with FDR to voice his concerns, which Roosevelt laughed off.
When Roosevelt brought up the question of the occupation zones during the February 5 plenary session, he also announced that the United States would not keep troops in Germany for more than two years. This shocked Churchill and Stalin and convinced the latter to support a French occupation zone, so long as it was carved out of the British and American zones.
To begin covering the discussion of German reparations, Plokhy profiles Ivan Maisky, the Soviet official who had studied the subject and presented the Soviet case. He suggested that $10 billion worth of German industrial equipment be dismantled and shipped to Russia. When Churchill and Stalin disagreed over whether that figure was excessive, Roosevelt stepped in and sided with Stalin. The Big Three came to no agreement on the amount and referred the question to the foreign ministers. Plokhy notes that Stalin had mixed success on February 5.
Chapter nine begins part three of the book, entitled “A New World Order.” The chapter’s title is “The Security Council.” FDR planned to place the United Nations organization on the next day’s agenda and to have Secretary of State Edward Stettinius make the presentation. Plokhy explains the origins of the Americans’ ideas for the world peace-keeping organization, which was based on the League of Nations.
Plokhy reviews the Dumbarton Oaks conference in late 1944, which planned the United Nations. The U.S. proposal would have had a nation abstain from voting on, and thus vetoing, a question before the Security Council that directly involved that nation. Britain and the Soviet Union objected to this approach. At Yalta Stalin and FDR agreed that the great powers, that is, the Big Three, should have prerogatives in the United Nations. Churchill spoke up for the rights of smaller powers. They would discuss this issue at the February 6 plenary session.
After some discussion of other matters, Roosevelt brought up the question of voting procedure in the Security Council. Roosevelt held that a successfully functioning United Nations was essential to maintaining the peace, which he hoped could last for fifty years. Stalin and Churchill also hoped for a peace of that length.
Secretary of State Stettinius presented the U.S. proposal for voting. Unfortunately, the Soviets raised objections and asked that the discussion continue on another day. Later that day, however, Churchill unexpectedly entered the debate on the American side. He said that the American proposal would protect the interests of the great powers while also allowing the smaller powers to express any of their discontents. Stalin then entered the debate, practically accusing the United States and Great Britain of ganging up on the Soviet Union.
Stalin’s words were a reminder that the three great powers were negotiating a peace among themselves, not a peace with the Axis. FDR then entered the debate to reassure Stalin that his top priority was the unity of the three great powers. Stalin remained suspicious and asked that the discussion continue on another day. FDR had no choice but to relent, and the U.S. and British delegations ended the day disappointed.