Why did the USA-USSR alliance breakdown in 1945? By Rafael Bodega

The Yalta Conference - February 1945

In February 1945, the allies met at Yalta to discuss what was going to happen to Europe after the Germans' defeat.
It all went very well, as the Big Three all agreed on:
  • Stalin declaring war on Japan after Germany's defeat.
  • For Germany to be divided in four parts: French, British, Soviet and American. Berlin, Germany's capital, was further in the USSR's zone, so it was also decided that Berlin itself should be divided in four parts as well.
  • Hunting down and prosecuting the war criminals who were in charge of the horrifying death and concentration camps.
  • For countries that had previously been under German control to be able to hold elections, and then, based on those elections, choose the form of government desired.
  • For the Big Three to join the United Nations Organization (UN) that was set up to avoid future wars and maintain peace.
  • As the Soviet Union had terribly suffered during the war (20 million casualties) Stalin was worried for the Security of the USSR. They all agreed that eastern Europe should be recognized as "a Soviet sphere of influence".
  • They all agreed without major discussions in regards to all of the points above; but there was a small disagreement between Churchill and Roosevelt on one side and Stalin on the other. Stalin wanted to move into Poland, because if he didn't, as he stated, Poland would move into Germany. Churchill did not at first agree, but after closely examining the situation, he decided that there wasn't much he could about it, as Stalin's army was already in control of Poland and Eastern Germany. He then proceeded to persuade Roosevelt into agreeing, saying that as long as the USSR agreed to not interfere in Greece where Britain was trying to prevent communism taking over, everyone would be happy.

The Potsdam Conference - July 1945
Stalin playing cards
Stalin playing cards

The Potsdam took place on the 17 July 1945 did not go very well, as Britain and the USA had both new leaders: Clement Attlee and Truman.

  • Stalin wanted to cripple Germany, to ensure future security to the USSR. Truman disagreed, as he felt that the mistake of the Treaty of Versailles should not be repeated. They both disagreed on what to do with Germany.
  • They also disagreed over the reparations owed. The USSR had been invaded, devastated and had lost about 20 million Soviets. Stalin wanted Germany to compensate the USSR, but Truman again felt that this was related to the mistake of The Treaty of Versailles and therefore disagreed.
  • Soviet policy in eastern Europe was also a major dispute between Truman and Stalin. Stalin wanted to set Soviet governments in different countries located in eastern Europe. Truman saw this a threat and decided to "get tough" against Stalin.