How did the Yalta Conference lead to the Cold War?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Yalta Conference certainly was not the cause of the Cold War, but it did indirectly contribute to it. First, a little background: The conference was held as Nazi Germany was on the verge of defeat. However, it was the Soviets who were doing a better job of pushing back...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The Yalta Conference certainly was not the cause of the Cold War, but it did indirectly contribute to it. First, a little background: The conference was held as Nazi Germany was on the verge of defeat. However, it was the Soviets who were doing a better job of pushing back the German forces. They were nearly at Berlin while the British and American armies had barely pushed into Germany. This gave Stalin a much stronger position at the conference.

Stalin and FDR had different objectives. FDR wanted to secure Russia's help in defeating Japan. Stalin wanted to extend his influence into Eastern Europe in order to create a buffer zone against the West. To this end, Stalin agreed that Russia would join the war against Japan three months after the defeat of Germany but would also be tasked with restoring the nations of Eastern Europe. Stalin promised that the Soviet Union would allow free democratic elections to take place in these countries, something that Churchill insisted on.

However, just a month after the Yalta Conference, Stalin backed out of this promise. When 16 members of the exiled Polish government were invited to Moscow to discuss establishing free Polish elections, they were arrested and sent to the gulag. Similar anti-democratic actions were taken in the rest of Eastern Europe and puppet-states of the USSR were established. This all resulted in the division of Europe between the democratic West and the communist East, a hallmark of the Cold War.

You can look at the Yalta Conference this way: Churchill and FDR had little choice but to make this devil's bargain with Stalin. By agreeing to give up influence over Eastern Europe they were avoiding a likely fight with the Soviets. There were some, such as General Patton, who felt that the war should be continued against the Soviets in order to truly restore democracy in Eastern Europe. However, most people wanted to avoid another world war and realized that this uneasy agreement, aka The Cold War, was a better alternative.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

During the Yalta or Crimea Conference, there was a gentleman's agreement among three countries: the Soviet Union, Britain, and the United States. It was the breach of this agreement that led to the Cold War.

During the 1945 conference, Winston Churchill (the British prime minister), Franklin D. Roosevelt (the US president), and Joseph Stalin (the Soviet Union premier) agreed that they would facilitate the return to normalcy in Germany and the rest of Europe after the Second World War was over. Stalin promised to make sure that there would be free and fair elections in eastern Europe. However, he did not keep that promise since the Soviet Union took advantage of the situation and placed most of eastern Europe under its command. The United States did not take kindly to this kind of misconduct and thus began the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Yalta Conference helped to contribute to the Cold War. There were several agreements made at this conference. When World War II ended, the Soviet Union didn’t follow some of them, leading to the start of the Cold War.

One agreement that was made that wasn’t followed dealt with the post-war government in Poland. We wanted to be sure that some members of the pre-war Polish government were in the post-war Polish government. The Soviet Union agreed to have this happen and to allow for free elections. After the war ended, the post-war Polish government had very few members of the pre-war Polish government in it, and there were no signs of free elections.

Another agreement was known as The Declaration of Liberated Europe. The agreement said that the people would be able to determine the kind of government they would have in their country. However, the King of Romania said he was pressured by the Soviet Union to have a communist government. This was another example showing we couldn’t trust the Soviet Union.

Partially as a result of these events, the United States and the Soviet Union entered into a period of competition and confrontation known as the Cold War.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It was really the lack of decisions reached with regard to the fate of Poland that made the Yalta Conference foresee the Cold War. The Conference itself did not exactly lead to the Cold War. It was the Soviet occupation of Poland, and the lack of recognition by US and Britain of the Soviet Union's interest, which resulted in increased tension between the US and the Soviet Union.

We should not, however, ignore some of the other decisions that were reached by the US, Britain and the Soviet Union at the conference. These involved how things would progress for the remainder of World War II and the decision to attack Japan.

Those who do not look back on the Yalta conference positively believe that Roosevelt did not do enough at the conference and basically gave away Eastern Europe to the Soviets. Others believe that Roosevelt did the best he could at the time. Roosevelt died soon after and during the presidency of Harry Truman, relations between the US and Soviet Union worsened.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Yalta Conference helped lead to the Cold War by giving the Soviet Union control over Eastern Europe.

At the conference, the Soviet Union was given the right to control Eastern Europe.  They were supposed to allow free elections in the countries of the area, but they were given control.  This led to the Cold War because it made the West feel that the USSR was bent on expanding communism.  It made them feel that the Soviets were going to try to impose communist systems on all the countries that they possibly could.  This made the West defensive and made them fear the Soviets.  This helped lead to the Cold War.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team