In the Shadow of Russia: Eastern Europe in the Postwar World

By Nicholas Halasz | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Poland

When the conference at Yalta opened on February 4, 1945, final victory was beginning to dawn on the global horizon of World War II. Soviet armies were surging toward all the enemy capital cities they had failed to capture in the previous year. The great offensive of the Western Allies moved forward relentlessly although momentarily bogged down in parrying the Nazi counterattack in the Ardennes. The Allied timetable was upset, but the very fierceness of the counterattack which delayed it spent the last forces of the Germans.

Neither was there hope left for the Axis powers in the Pacific, though military experts estimated that a struggle of two or more years might be required to defeat Japan. The last secret report to President Roosevelt intimated that the first atomic bomb would not be ready until the following August, so it was to assure Stalin's entering the war in the Pacific and to fix the time of Russian intervention, its extent and price, that he undertook the long, dangerous voyage to the Crimea. In Manchuria, intact and practically self-sufficient, Nipponese armies threatened to carry on the war even after the Japanese islands had been captured. Only the Soviet army could destroy them without an immensely complicated and dangerous assault from the sea.

As concern for the war against Japan moved into the foreground, the center of gravity in the Grand Alliance shifted from Britain toward the Soviet Union. In Malta, where Roosevelt had landed from a warship, Churchill was disturbed when he observed how ostentatiously the Americans

-3-

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