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Is a second "Yalta Conference" needed in the era of Putinism?

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UK Prime Miniser Winston Churchill, American Pres. Harry S. Truman and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- “He reminds me of Tom Pendergast”, U.S. President Harry Truman said of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin when he met him at the Post-war Conference that was held in Potsdam in defeated Germany in 1945.

Pendergast had been the political boss of Kansas City Missouri who had supported Truman’s political career.

When U.S. Ambassador Averill Harriman congratulated Stalin for making it all the way to Berlin, the Communist leader rather laconically replied that one of his predecessors, Czar Alexander, had made it all the way to Paris after Napoleon’s defeat.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was present at the conference until national elections in the United Kingdom ousted his party and he was replaced by Clement Attlee, the leader of the victorious Labour Party.

And while many issues were discussed at that gathering, most historians agree that more important decisions had been agreed to at the Yalta Conference that had been held in Yalta in Russia earlier that year.

During Richard Nixon’s tenure in the White House there was talk of an “Imperial Presidency” due to the White House’s efforts to increase its power, but a recent history of the Yalta Conference concluded that U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s action at that event were truly of a monarchical nature. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill agreed to allow Stalin to expand the Soviet Union’s borders to include parts of Poland and to cede what had been German territory to Poland.

It was further agreed that the Polish Communist Party would play the predominant role in that state’s future government Thousands of refugees who had fled the Soviet Union since its founding in 1917 and were now in territory under the control of the Anglo-American forces were to be forcibly returned to that state.

FDR agreed to these terms without any input from the U.S. Congress. But it should be noted that Stalin’s demands were strengthened by the recent victories that had placed Poland and other Eastern European states under the control of the Red Army, and both Roosevelt and Churchill thought it wise to acquiesce to what they could not change.

Several years ago, the recently deceased Curtis Roosevelt, FDR’s grandson, met in Holland with the grandsons of both Churchill and Stalin to mark the anniversary of the Yalta Conference in a gathering that may be indicative of how the children and grandchildren of great men are condemned to live in their shadows.

And with the election of Donald Trump who has publicly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin on numerous occasions, there is fear of the possibility of a somewhat similar but unwritten agreement being put in place in which the U.S. will acquiesce to Russian control of the now independent states that were formerly part of the Soviet Union and some Eastern European states as well. Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the dissolution of the USSR as one of the great tragedies of the Twentieth Century and appears to be intent on establishing Russian control of the former member states of Ukraine and Georgia. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is known as “NATO” was formed to protect European states from Soviet territorial demands and Poland joined that entity several years ago.

When President Trump recently said that NATO was “obsolete” it was thought that he was sending a message to Putin that the U.S. was no longer committed to defending its member states from Russian aggression. When Trump recently refused to criticize Putin in any manner in an interview on Fox News, and said “we kill people to” some observers concluded that the U.S. President was signaling to Putin that he could have a free hand in Eastern Europe.

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About the Author

Bill O'Brien

Bill O'Brien is an attorney based in Oklahoma City.

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