A World in Flames: A Short History of the Second World War in Europe and Asia, 1939-1945

By Martin Kitchen | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER TWELVE
The Soviet Advance (August 1943-April 1945)

From the outset of the war the Soviet Union made it clear that its minimum war aim was the restoration of all the lands it had seized in collusion with Hitler. This constantly reiterated demand created considerable difficulties for the Americans and the British since it was irreconcilable with the principles of the Atlantic Charter which was published on 14 August. The Soviets endorsed the Charter with the proviso that 'the circumstances, needs and historic peculiarities of particular countries' should be respected -- in other words that the Soviet Union could ignore 'the sovereign rights of peoples' and the independence and territorial integrity' of the border states.

Whereas the United States Government initially refused to make any commitments before the peace conference the British, prompted by the ambassador in Moscow, Stafford Cripps, felt that some concessions were desirable in order to improve relations with the Soviet Union. Demands against Finland and Romania could be accepted since the Soviets had managed to force the British to declare war on these two countries. The Baltic states hardly counted for much and as there were no significant British interests involved they could be sold down the river in the interests of Allied harmony. The remaining and constant problem was Poland. The Polish Government-in-exile was established in London. It was violently anti-Soviet, insistent on its rights and had many influential sympathizers.

The Anglo-Soviet treaty of May 1942 made no mention of future frontiers and was a purely military agreement. The Soviets felt that this major concession would result in a more positive response by the western Allies to their persistent demands for a second front. On 30 May 1942 Molotov managed to get the President to promise 'the

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