From the Yalta Declaration of Liberated Europe:
"[…] The establishment of order in Europe and the rebuilding of national economic life must be achieved by processes which will enable the liberated peoples to destroy the last vestiges of nazism and fascism and to create democratic institutions of their own choice. This is a principle of the Atlantic Charter – the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live – the restoration of sovereign rights and self-government to those peoples who aggressor nations."
In early February 1945, during the final weeks of World War II raging
in Europe, the “Big Three” U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin met at the Black Sea seaside resort Yalta to talk about the future of the postwar world. They deliberated crucial issues of postwar European and Asian territorial and political settlement. Roosevelt tried to get the promise of free elections in liberated Eastern European nations such as Poland. But Stalin was only willing to grant an ambiguous “Declaration of Liberated Europe.” This did not deter Stalin from imposing Communist regimes in Poland and other Central and Eastern European nations. These disagreements over Germany and Eastern Europe increased tensions between the Soviet Union and the Western allies and later contributed to the outbreak of the Cold War by 1947. After the war, Germany and Austria were divided into four zones of occupation. Critics of the Yalta Agreements in the U.S. Congress later blamed Roosevelt for having “sold out” Eastern Europe to the Communists. Stalin and Churchill met again in the Berlin suburb of Potsdam In July 1945, this time with President Harry S. Truman, who had become President after Roosevelt’s death in April. The future of Germany and the end of the war against Japan were the main topics. Less than a year later – what Winston Churchill called the “iron curtain” – was descending on Europe, dividing the continent into a zone controlled by the Soviet communists and a free zone, increasingly under American protection.
In February 1945 Prime Minister Winston Churchill (left) talks to President Franklin D. Roosevelt upon their arrival at Yalta on the Black Sea, prior to the “big three” meeting with Generalissimo Joseph Stalin. Many important decisions about grand strategy and postwar territorial settlements were made during this important wartime summit meeting.