I am skipping over the chapter “Prisoners of War” in S. M. Plokhy’s Yalta: The Price of Peace, as I want to focus on the chapters covering the conclusion of the conference.
“The Last Supper” opens with Winston Churchill awaiting the arrival of dinner guests at his villa on February 10, 1945. The Prime Minister had spent the day trying to talk the Russians down from their German reparations demands. Churchill also was upset by Franklin Roosevelt’s announcement that he would leave Yalta the following afternoon.
The day’s talks continued over dinner and influenced the toasts, which were part of every such occasion. Churchill toasted the heads of state, which included Roosevelt but excluded Joseph Stalin. The Soviet leader responded by lamenting that the British were attempting to deny the Soviets the reparations that they deserved. Churchill on the defensive then agreed to let reparations be mentioned in the communiqué, a position that he had strongly opposed until Stalin maneuvered him into it.
Stalin and Roosevelt tried to encourage Churchill about his chances in the upcoming British elections. Plokhy recounts other conversations, which established an atmosphere of intimacy among the three leaders. They created the “spirit of Yalta,” the feeling that, despite their differences, the three nations could find a basis of understanding.
On February 11, the Big Three met to review the final documents of the conference. They discussed some disagreements over having the document give Roosevelt credit for voting procedure in the United Nations and over Poland. Churchill feared domestic opposition to the settlement on Poland, but Stalin and Roosevelt persuaded him to go along with the language as written.
After discussing the order in which they would sign the communiqué, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin signed in that order following a final lunch. That ended the conference except for details left to the foreign ministers to clean up.
Here I will leave my account of this excellent book on the Yalta Conference. Plokhy takes about another 80 pages to recount the aftermath of Yalta.
While I have been blogging about Plokhy’s book, I also have read Roosevelt and the Russians: The Yalta Conference, by Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. Plokhy often cited this source in his book. Stettinius, the U.S. Secretary of State, recounts his role at Roosevelt’s side during the entire Yalta Conference as well as the meetings of foreign ministers. He provides many details of these meetings as well as the meetings leading up to Yalta and its aftermath.
The photo below shows Soviet Foreign Commissar Molotov, Stettinius and British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden.