The Corner

Yalta

What is Schlesinger saying? He writes:

The Yalta conference in February 1945 produced, according to President Bush, “one of the greatest wrongs of history.” The Yalta agreements “followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.…Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable.”

The American president is under the delusion that tougher diplomacy might have preserved the freedom of small East European nations. He forgets the presence of the Red Army. No conceivable diplomacy could have saved Eastern Europe from Soviet occupation. And military action against the Soviet Union was inconceivable so long as the Pacific War was still going on. Our military planners, in order to reduce American casualties, counted on the Red Army to enter the war against Japan. At Yalta Stalin promised a firm date in August. And in February the atom bomb seemed a fantasy dreamed up by nuclear physicists.

Putting aside his argument about what was or was not possible at the time, is he saying that the codification of the Soviet occupation wasn’t one of the “greatest wrongs of history”? It is an odd moral argument which says that because (alleged) necessity requires acceptance of a great wrong, it is no longer a great wrong because it was (allegedly) necessary.

And, as it has long been of personal interest to me, does he think the forced repatriation of Soviet deserters, refugees and rebels (such as General Vlasov’s army) to the Soviet Union was necessary? Because of Yalta, the U.S. and Britain returned perhaps hundreds of thousands of former Soviet troops to the Soviet Union who were subsequently slaughtered. Alexander Solzhenitsyn called this war crime the “last secret” of World War Two. I recall reading how the troops under British control went so far as to use the glass from their bathroom mirrors rather to slit their own throats rather than be sent back to Stalin’s Russia. Did we have to do that because the Red Army was already in Eastern Europe? And if so, why? Or is that FDR can never be wrong in Schlesinger’s eyes?

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