Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Declaration on Liberated Europe (February 1945)

Proposed by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and accepted by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin at the February 1945 Yalta Conference, the Declaration on Liberated Europe pledged the three governments to aid all peoples liberated from Nazi German control. In it the three leaders pledged that the provisional governments of liberated areas would be "representative of all democratic elements" and that there would be "free elections … responsive to the will of the people." But such lofty phrases were, of course, subject to different interpretations.

Drafted by the U.S. State Department, the declaration represented Roosevelt's response to the situation in Eastern Europe, where Red Army advances had virtually guaranteed that Stalin would determine the political futures of Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary. Although it is difficult to determine whether Roosevelt actually expected Stalin to allow free elections and self-government in Eastern Europe, Roosevelt's successor, Harry S. Truman, took the declaration seriously and held the Soviets accountable for fulfilling its provisions. Stalin's subsequent imposition of pro-Soviet regimes throughout Eastern Europe during 1945–1948 elicited charges from Washington that the Soviets had violated commitments undertaken at Yalta. This situation greatly accelerated the deterioration of U.S.-Soviet relations and the onset of the Cold War.

Bruce J. DeHart


Further Reading
Offner, Arnold A. Another Such Victory: President Truman and the Cold War, 1945–1953. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002.
 

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