Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Moscow Conference (19–30 October 1943)

First meeting of the "Big Three" Allied foreign ministers, yielding the Four-Power Declaration. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt prodded Soviet leader Josef Stalin in 1943 for a meeting of the Allied heads of state, and the Soviet leader reluctantly agreed but suggested their foreign ministers get together in advance. Hoping to enlist the Soviets in the general American plans for postwar cooperation, 72-year-old U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull flew to Moscow, enduring his first airplane trip. Hull understood that Roosevelt intended to resolve the thorniest questions with Stalin at their subsequent meeting. British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden generally favored broad American internationalist ideas but more correctly also hoped to forestall Soviet expansionism and protect the interests of the exiled Polish government in London, recently infuriated by stories of mass Soviet executions of Polish military officers in the Katyn Forest.

Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov chaired the 12-day meeting in the old Spiridonovka Palace, intent on burnishing the image of Allied cooperation, securing firmer assurances regarding the timing of Operation overlord, and asserting the Soviet Union's right to play some role in Italy. (Moscow had loudly complained the Anglo Americans had made a separate peace after Benito Mussolini's collapse.) Hull and Eden affirmed that overlord, the invasion of northern France, would commence in the spring of 1944, though Eden shared British Prime Minister Winston L. S. Churchill's nagging hints of possible modest delays.

Hull's crowning achievement was the acceptance of the statement of general principles regarding postwar cooperation and creation of the United Nations. For Hull, it was particularly important that the Soviets and British accept the Chinese among the signatories, thereby acknowledging China's status as a major power—one of the "Four Policemen," in Roosevelt's view. The Soviets agreed to the declaration but only after revising it so as to retain greater freedom in how they might use military or political forces in eastern Europe after the war. Perhaps naively, Hull and Roosevelt thought Moscow's commitment to the general principles of cooperation, embodied in the United Nations, outweighed resolving any specific problems at that stage. Conversely, Eden sought a self-denying pledge from the Soviets regarding future conduct along their western borders, and he suggested a statement affirming nations' rights to self-determination, similar to the Declaration for Liberated Europe that emerged from the Yalta Conference some 15 months later. But, receiving little support from Hull, Eden failed to budge the Soviets, who would go no further than stating their desire to see an independent Poland—but one favorably disposed toward Moscow.

The conferees set up two joint commissions to address postsurrender issues in Italy and the rest of Europe and proclaimed their intent to punish Nazi war criminals. Having agreed on some general principles and set the stage for later, more substantive discussions, the diplomats concluded their work on 30 October. At the closing banquet, Stalin unambiguously volunteered to join the war against Japan after Hitler was defeated. Hull left feeling tremendously pleased by this and by Soviet support for the United Nations. Roosevelt pronounced the spirit of the conference to have been "amazingly good," but Eden and new U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union Averell Harriman, among others, were already worried about Soviet intentions in eastern Europe.

Mark F. Wilkinson


Further Reading
Dallek, Robert. Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932–1945. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.; Gellman, Irwin F. Secret Affairs: Franklin Roosevelt, Cordell Hull and Sumner Welles. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.; Hull, Cordell. The Memoirs of Cordell Hull. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan, 1948.; Sainsbury, Keith. The Turning Point: Roosevelt, Stalin, Churchill, and Chiang Kai-shek, 1943—The Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran Conferences. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.
 

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