Skip to comments.Bush: U.S. Had Hand in European Divisions
Posted on 05/07/2005 8:50:22 AM PDT by cornelis
Bush: U.S. Had Hand in European Divisions By JENNIFER LOVEN
RIGA, Latvia - President Bush said Saturday the Soviet domination of central and eastern Europe after World War II will be remembered as "one of the greatest wrongs of history" and acknowledged that the United States played a significant role in the division of the continent.
Bush said the agreement in 1945 at Yalta among President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Soviet leader Josef Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill "followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact." The decisions at Yalta led to the division of eastern Europe and creation of the Soviet bloc.
"Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable," the president said, opening a four-nation trip to mark the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat. "Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable."
"We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations _ appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability."
During a speech at a Riga cultural center, Bush commended the Baltic people for keeping "a long vigil of suffering and hope" during 50 years of oppressive Soviet occupation. He said the United States has a "binding pledge of the alliance" to protect the freedom of the Baltic nations.
"In defense of your freedom, you will never stand alone," he said before about 200 Latvian government and community leaders in the audience.
Bush's decision to bracket his trip to Moscow with visits to this Latvian capital and the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia prompted a letter of protest from Russia. Moscow views Bush's travel itinerary _ along with U.S. support for democratic change in Ukraine and Georgia _ as a sign of inappropriate meddling in its neighborhood.
The Yalta agreement carved up post-World War II Europe, giving Stalin the whole of Eastern Europe. The agreement led to much criticism of Roosevelt, who was accused of delivering Eastern Europe to communist domination. The meeting took place in Crimea, in the Soviet Union.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's government recently angered Poland by saying it should be grateful for the Yalta treaty, which consigned Poland to the Soviet sphere for decades.
Bush said the victory over Nazi Germany soon gave way to decades of standoff with the Soviet Union.
"The great democracies soon found that a new mission had come to us: not merely to defeat a single dictator but to defeat the idea of dictatorship on this continent.Through the decades of that struggle, some endured the role of tyrants, and all lived in the frightening shadow of war.
"Yet because we lifted our sights and held firm to our principles, freedom prevailed."
Bush met earlier with the leaders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and said afterward that Russia has no cause to be angry at U.S. involvement in democratic progress on its doorstep and suggested that Moscow recognize the lingering pain caused by the decades-old Soviet annexation of the Baltics.
"The idea of countries helping others become free _ I would hope that would be viewed as not revolutionary, but rational foreign policy and decent foreign policy and humane foreign policy," Bush said. "I think countries ought to feel comfortable with having democracies on their borders.
"I will continue to speak as clearly as I can to President Putin that it's in his country's interests that there be democracies on his borders," Bush said.
Bush acknowledged the Baltics' lingering resentment over the Soviet Union's 1940 annexation of their homeland that led to 50 years of oppressive occupation. Though Bush did not directly call for Putin to apologize, the White House hopes the president's high-profile dive into the matter will encourage the Russians to confront a dark spot in their history, in which the end of World War II saw the Baltics merely trade Nazi domination for communist rule.
Putin, writing in a French newspaper Saturday, said the Soviet Union already made amends in 1989 and his country will not answer the demands of Baltic states for futher repentance. "Such pretensions are useless," Putin wrote in Le Figaro.
Putin said the Baltic nations are just trying to get attention, justify discrimination against Russian-speakers who live there and "mask the shame of past collaboration" with the Nazis.
In his speech, Bush recalled that the United States continued to support the Baltic countries during Soviet oppression by flying the flags of free Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia _ illegal in those countries _ over diplomatic missions in the United States.
But he said that the defeat of Nazism was a paradox because it spread further captivity in Europe.
"The end of World War II raised unavoidable questions for my country: Had we fought and sacrificed only to achieve the permanent division of Europe into armed camps?" Bush asked. "Or did the cause of freedom and the rights of nations require more of us?
"Eventually, America and our strong allies made a decision: We would not be content with the liberation of half of Europe _ and we would not forget our friends behind an Iron Curtain," he said.
The Munich agreement resulted in the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact consigned the Baltic republics to Soviet rule.
Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and Estonian President Arnold Ruutel both have chosen not to attend Moscow's World War II military parade in protest of Russia's refusal to say that the occupation was illegal.
Bush is going, but added the stop in Latvia and Georgia, two young democracies resisting Kremlin influence and turning West.
Bush flatly rejected the suggestion that Washington and Moscow work out a mutually agreeable way to bring democracy to Belarus _ the former Soviet republic that Bush has called the "last remaining dictatorship in Europe."
"Secret deals to determine somebody else's fate _ I think that's what we're lamenting here today, one of those secret deals among large powers that consigns people to a way of government," Bush said.
Bush called for "free and open and fair" elections set for next year in Belarus, now run by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Adamkus said Baltic leaders hope to introduce to other nations "some kind of dose of oxygen into the resistance and opposition that is striving for the same rights we are enjoying."
Adamkus also reassured Bush that the three Baltic nations were "staunch allies in the fight against terrorism." The three countries are some of the strongest supporters of the United States in Iraq, contributing only a combined 290 soldiers but recently deciding to extend their mission at a time whether others are scaling back or pulling out.
A service of the Associated Press(AP)
I love this President Bush putting the blame for the USSR's occupation of eastern Europe squarely where it belongs, On the shoulders of FDR.
That'll tick off the Dems!
He's socking it to them, and I love it. It wasn't all FDR but also Truman, although you can chalk it up to FRD running for a 4th term when he was so sick.
Here's a succint statement of the new Bush doctrine:
"We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations _ appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability." ...The idea of countries helping others become free _ I would hope that would be viewed as not revolutionary, but rational foreign policy and decent foreign policy and humane foreign policy," Bush said. "I think countries ought to feel comfortable with having democracies on their borders."
Hey the facts always tick the dems off, don't they?
At last, a president with real courage, instead of well-phrased cover ups.
Let's see if THAT quote makes my daughter's high school textbooks.
Not holding my breath.
Bush statement that "the Soviet domination of central and eastern Europe after World War II will be remembered as "one of the greatest wrongs of history" is a direct response to Putin who recently described the collapse of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century.
And it's rhetoric of course, but a remarkably frank counterpoint. It's a viewpoint perfectly absent from the textbook captions, as eno_ noted.
Bump. Great to have a President who tells the truth about this tragedy.
The 40s version of Vietnam.
Good, about time FDR was 8itch slapped for his commie loving ways.
I remember his stupidity of saying, "he trusted his friend "Uncle Joe" and the one about, "there is nothing to fear from communists, some of my best friends are communists"
FDR was a puke.
... and let's not forget who "lost China".
FDR,Stalin, and Churchill. Well at least the west had one representative at Yalta.
Heard his talk live this morning.
I hope GWB gets his historical due as a great foreign policy president. It will probably not happen in my lifetime.
He is absolutely eloquent when he speaks of freedom and liberty.
Great job, Mr. President.
Hindsight is 20/20. So in FDR's defense, Yalta was FDR's last chance to get the Soviet's to join us in the Pacific. The estimates at the time were that we were going to lose 1 million of our boys in the invasion of Japan's home islands. How many of our boys lives were the Baltics worth? or Eastern Europe?
Tough choices to make then, and we are making the same calculations today. How many of our boys, and girls, lives are worth the freedom of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the greater Middle East?
I think W has made the calcuation that if we don't act sooner, rather than later, the cost will be much higher, as we learned before, during, and after, WWII.
W seems to know his history.
Yalta primarily recognized the "facts on the ground." The US had no way to prevent the Red Army from taking over most of eastern Europe. The Red Army was needed to defeat Germany, which would necessarily require it to physically occupy Eastern Europe.
To remove the Red Army would have required another war, one that a war-weary American and British public would not have stood for. And one in which Allied victory would not necessarily be guaranteed.
While the US could not have prevented the occupation of Eastern Europe, it did not have to recognize it as valid.
And we had Patton for general instead of restorer. Was it you that told him he couldn't go on to Moscow?
General Patton wanted to keep his tanks rolling on to Moscow.
but you notice the headline IMPLIES it is all Bush's fault.
AP all spin all the time.
Not at the time of Yalta. We really did not know for sure whether it would work, nor how powerful it would be.
And I stand by my assertion that the American and British public would not have stood for another war. We are a democracy, you know.
I think it would even be possible to make a case that American soldiers would have been less than enthusiastic about fighting an Army they had just spent several years providing weapons to.
FDR was very sick at Yalta and looking more toward his legacy of creating the UN, and less toward supporting Winston Churchill. I can't get over the fact that Roosevelt was blinded to the dangers of "Uncle Joe".
Ever notice how when faced with facts that cannot be refuted the libs immediately go into a personal attack mode and then run for cover?
General Patton may have wanted to, but he would have been all by himself. His men would have mutinied, and their families at home would have backed them. There was a lot of negative reaction even to troops in the European Theatre being transferred to the Pacific. There's just no way the public was going to stand for taking on the Soviets, who were at that time still our allies.
And oh BTW, as far as we knew, we were going to need them to help with the final push against Japan...knowledge of the Atomic bomb was held by only a handful of people by VE Day, and even among those who knew of it, there was no perception that it would be a war-ending weapon.
Threads like this are always long on rhetoric, and short on knowledge of the actual facts, but what can you expect when so few people in this country know anything about history.
Interesting. Can you supply any links or other evidence to back up what you claim here?
Wasn't there disagreement as to having Stalin or at least a high-level Soviet dignitary present at the first atomic tests as means of communicating "this is also meant for you"?
FDR was possibly the worst President the United States ever had...he was responsible, along with Herbert Hoover to a lesser extent, for the idea of the government as "dispenser of goodies" rather than an a utility to administer justice and shoot Nazis.
He was not alone in creating this impression - but for the USA, his role was pivotal.
That's a case a general is not permitted to take. Only leaders win wars when popular sentiment flags. Churchill was such a leader, but for the sake of England.
One good thing Roosevelt did was select HST as his Vice President in 1944 rather than Henry Wallace. If he had, the course of history would have been changed dramatically. Wallace would have given the Soviets everything they wanted and there would have been no Truman Doctrine.
True. Doesn't mean he was right. While a great general, he was also pretty much a flake.
The Russians had about 20 million men under arms.
The US was still heavily involved against Japan, and expected that they would be for perhaps another two years. Unnecessarily starting another war under these conditions would have been highly irresponsible.
Churchill motivated the British to fight on when resistance seemed hopeless. I hope you can see the difference between a leader doing that and motivating his people to attack an ally.
As baseballmom said, hindsight is 20/20. But admitting it was a disaster is something other than hindsight or historical facts. It is honesty. Take your pick: Putin, who recently described the collapse of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century, or Bush who replied that "the Soviet domination of central and eastern Europe after World War II will be remembered as "one of the greatest wrongs of history."
Perhaps it was FDRs wife. No matter. We should retain our ability to recognize that resistence is always required as long as evil doesn't sleep.
By 1946, U.S. Troops were openly protesting in the streets of Europe to go home. The military back then, while braver than any of us may ever know, was far less professional than the military we know of today.
Of course, properly motivating troops is the responsibility of leadership.
My main problem with the idea of rolling on to Moscow would be that it would have let the Nazis off the hook. Part of that strategy would have been to keep the Germany Army together, and use them as frontline cannon fodder against the Reds. In fact, there is some indication that many Nazi generals, while realizing the war was lost for Germany, felt they might still be saved if a deal was made with the West to turn against the Russkies. I believe such a deal was being floated as early as 1943.
General Patton thought otherwise, and probably would have kicked their butts.
The comments of Putin and Bush concern a larger scope.
"George W Bush gets it - again" - bump!! The President speaks on comparative history.
(EVIL Chimpus McBusHitler...He's sooooo stupid.../SARC)
Yeahhhhhhh "Dubya"!!Who da MAN?!
Towards the end of the war prior to VE day on May 8, 1945, the USG was well-aware that the Soviets were not our friend but a rival. The Soviets behavior in occupying Eastern Europe was evidence of the looming problems. In April 1945 the Soviets established a socialist government in Poland, which violated the Yalta agreement concerning its Declaration on Liberated Europe, especially in the way that it applied to Poland.
And oh BTW, as far as we knew, we were going to need them to help with the final push against Japan...knowledge of the Atomic bomb was held by only a handful of people by VE Day, and even among those who knew of it, there was no perception that it would be a war-ending weapon.
At Yalta, a third agreement was a secret one reached between FDR and Stalin concerning East Asian concessions for the USSR. Port Arthur, Dairen, control of the Manchurian railroads, the Kuriles, and half of Sakhalin Island would go to the Soviet Union, provided they participated in the war against Japan.
During the first weeks of the Truman administration, the question of continued attempts at cooperation with the Soviet Union was raised. As Truman understated, "We were making very little headway with Stalin over the explosive Polish question." The Soviets had formed an interim government consisting mostly of members of the socialist Lublin government in the interest of creating a government friendly to the Soviet Union.
Truman wanted to resolve the issues surrounding the Soviet failure to follow the Declaration on Liberated Europe, but he lacked the talent, experience, and patience to deal with the Soviets at Potsdam in the tradition of Roosevelt. His rhetoric was one of poker analogies, where the leader with the strongest hand would walk away from the conference with the most favorable settlement. Trumans style was similar to Stalins "How many divisions does he have?" approach to post-war settlements. The problem facing Truman in getting Stalin to honor the Yalta protocol was the position of Stalins divisions in eastern Europe.
However, Truman and Byrnes saw the atomic bomb and the resulting increase in Americas ability to project force as a substitute for conventional divisions. This was extremely important because domestic American politics would not allow the maintenance of a sizable conventional force in Europe, either to counterbalance Russia or to oversee a defeated Germany.
The importance Truman placed on the bomb in furthering diplomatic goals is evident in the timing of the Potsdam conference. Based on the timetable received from Stimson for the development of the bomb, Truman refused to meet prior to July 15. He cited domestic duties as the reason for not holding the meeting sooner. "It would be extremely difficult for me to be absent from Washington before the end of the fiscal year (June 30)" Churchill urged Truman to agree to meet sooner while Anglo-American conventional forces were still in a strong position, but already the power of the atomic bomb was mitigating calculations of power based solely on conventional forces. As Alperowitz points out, Truman "accepted Berlin as a site for the meeting, and thinking of the latest estimates from Los Alamos, suggested July 15." (From official Atomic Energy Commission history) Indeed, Truman had first been informed of the existence of the Manhattan Project in the context of tensions with Russia over Poland. Stimson was upset by the confrontation between Molotov and Truman, and it compelled him to write to the president on the "political aspects of the S-1 performance" and arrange a meeting to fully brief the president on the Manhattan Project.
The use of the atomic bomb could also have the effect of forcing Japanese surrender before the Soviet declaration of war, or at least before their troops could acquire much Japanese-held territory. After the successful test of the bomb, Byrnes and Truman no longer needed or wished to accept Soviet help in the Far East. They had learned from events in eastern Europe that Soviet assistance came with a price. The State Department warned the President on April 24th that:
Soviet policy will remain a policy aimed at the achievement of maximum power with minimum responsibility and will involve the exertion of pressure in various areas. He [George Kennan] recommends that we study with clinical objectivity the real character and implications of Russian Far East aims."
Although Truman came to accept that if the Soviets received their East Asian concessions would honor the principles of the Open Door, he and Byrnes still wished to forestall Soviet entry if possible. Trumans desire to prevent Soviet entry is clear in American attempts to stall the negotiations between China and the Soviet Union over the implementation of Soviet control of the concessions. According to Alperowitz, "Byrnes was recorded as saying that he was trying to encourage Soong [T.V. Soong, Chinese Foreign Minister] to prolong the negotiations until after the United States had ended the war." It was assumed that the Soviet Union would not begin its offensive until after the China negotiations were completed.
The possibility that the USSR would play sufficiently large a part in Japanese defeat that they would request an occupation zone in Japan was one that bothered the Truman administration. This policy of delaying Soviet entry is overtly stated by Byrnes in numerous sources. Walter Brown recorded in his diary on July 24th that Mr. Byrnes "was still hoping for time [in connection with Chinese-Soviet negotiations], believing after atomic bomb Japan will surrender and Russia will not get in so much on the kill, thereby being in a position to press for claims against China." The entry in James Forrestals diaries for July 28th state, "Byrnes said he was most anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in, with particular reference to Port Arthur and Dairen." Byrnes himself wrote in Speaking Frankly in 1947 that "I would have been satisfied had the Russians determined not to enter the war." The developments in Europe were making it clear that the US would only increase its problems by allowing the USSR to have a zone of occupation in Japan.
In those nine years, I rose from third-string book reviewer to senior editor(there are seven of them). I became at last the editor who could do almost anything and was moved at need from one section of the magazine to another. For in time I had edited or written all the departmens except Business. I also became Time'sTime wished to point out how prophetically right its interpretation of foreign news had been in the past, it saw fit to reprint The Ghosts on the Roof, the sad satire I had written on the Yalta Conference the week that it took place ( I did not then know that Alger Hiss was a member of the American delegation).
This is a commonly-held fallacy. The truth is it was the Soviet bloc which was in a very poor position to do much of anything militarily after their losses in what they call "The Great Patriotic War".
SO huge were their losses, that they had women flying combat missions, and acting in combat roles on or near the front lines. Eighty percent of Soviet males born in 1923 did not survive WWII; total casualties were twelve million military, seventeen million civilians for tweny-nine million aggregate.
Consider also other factors. Stalin had only just finished his brutal and systematic elimination of Ukrainian kulaks prior to WWII, through starvation, forced internments and forced labor, and mass executions (one common tactic being to send a military detachment through remote villages where they would round up the whole village population in the town square and shoot half of them as a lesson to the others remaining to fear and obey the government. The lesson did not end there. Often the soldiers would destroy or despoil most of the food supply to insure there was barely enough for the village to subsist through the coming winter.) This resulted in losses of about ten million people
Additionally, Stalin "purged" approximately 90% of all of his highest ranking officers,and replaced them with inexperienced junior officers or enlistees newly named as officers - this in order to insure their absolute loyalty to Stalin - a quality he deemed more important, in his arrogance.
Given such significant losses, the USSR, far from being a fearsome war machine, was a ragged, demoralised, decimated figure, staggering along with a target painted on its back.
They did not have the resources, manpower or equipment, to back any serious threat, had the Allies recognised the opportunity. American, Canadian, Australian and British materiel production for the war effort had attained a level of great coordination and efficiency, and with the successful deployment of the A bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki effecting Japan's unconditional surrender, there is not much we couldn't have done, had we chosen to act.
Most of Ukraine (which initially greeted the Nazis as 'liberators') would have joined arms against Stalin's repression, as would other peoples in the region who knew Stalin and his troops for what they were.
Instead, with Alger Hiss, (Soviet agent) at his side, FDR bought the bluster and bravado of Stalin's insistence, and sold an enormous chunk of Europe up the river for the next forty plus years.
A chunk of land and people who could have been living free. We had the military strength to force the issue and the public will to do it. Stalin knew he had neither, and played the only gambit he had - played it hard.
We all deserved better.
I also became Time's most controversial foreign news editor; in the middle of World War II, I reverse the magazine's news policy toward Russia, making it clear on the basis of the weekly news that Russia was not a friend, but an enemy, who was actively using World War II to prepare World War II. With the same weekly insistence, I pointed out that China was the key to world politics, and that to lose China to Communism was to risk losing World War III. In later years, when Time wished to point out . . .
>"FDR was possibly the worst President the United States ever had...he was responsible, along with Herbert Hoover to a lesser extent, for the idea of the government as "dispenser of goodies" rather than an a utility to administer justice and shoot Nazis."<
Agreed one hundred percent, Ivan. See my post #46 on this thread for a modest explication of "what and how"...
When mere conservatism is not enough, you need a strong dose of -
(the antidote to anarchy, darwinianism, liberalism, nihilism, socialism, utopianism, wobblyism...
it cleans, shines, and leaves your window upon history streak free!)
Mr. Mundt: Did you draft, or participate in drafting, parts of the Yalta Agreement? Mr. Hiss: I think it is accurate and not an immodest statement to say that I did to some extent, yes.
Signed at Yalta, February 11, 1945
The leaders of the three Great Powers-the Soviet Union, the United States of America and Great Britain-have agreed that in two or three months after Germany has surrendered and the war in Europe has terminated the Soviet Union shall enter into the war against Japan on the side of the Allies on condition that :
1. The status quo in Outer-Mongolia (The Mongolian People's Republic) shall be preserved ;
2. The former rights of Russia violated by the treacherous attack of Japan in 1904 shall be restored, viz :
(a) the southern part of Sakhalin as well as all islands adjacent to it shall be returned to the Soviet Union,
(b) the commercial port of Dairen shall be internationalized, the preeminent interests of the Soviet Union in this port being safeguarded and the lease of Port Arthur as a naval base of the USSR restored,
(c) the Chinese-Eastern Railroad and the South-Manchurian Railroad which provides an outlet to Dairen shall be jointly operated by the establishment of a joint Soviet-Chinese Company it being understood that the preeminent interests of the Soviet Union shall be safeguarded and that China shall retain full sovereignty in Manchuria ;
3. The Kuril islands shall be handed over to the Soviet Union.
It is understood, that the agreement concerning Outer-Mongolia and the port and railroads referred to above will require concurrence of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. The President will take measures in order to obtain this concurrence on advice from Marshal Stalin.
The Heads of the three Great Powers have agreed that these claims of the Soviet Union shall be unquestionably fulfilled after Japan has been defeated.
For its part the Soviet Union expresses its readiness to conclude with the National Government of China a pact of friendship and alliance between the USSR and China in order to render assistance to China with its armed forces for the purpose of liberating China from the Japanese yoke.
February 11, 1945
J. V. STALIN
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
WINSTON S. CHURCHILL
"The Russians had about 20 million men under arms."
I think that the USSR had around 11 million men under arms in 1945, not the 20 million you posit... Having suffered around 20 million military deaths, even the manpower leves of the Soviet Union were showing strain by the end of the war.
Combined military manpower 1940 to 1945:
Hope this helps,