World War II :
Russian Victory
Prelude to the Cold War, 1945-1948






Spoils in Europe



The UNEASY ALLIANCE was an alliance of necessity, not of choice. The war had begun over Poland, which had been invaded and partitioned by Germany and the USSR. In 1939 Britain and France were not able to take on both Germany and the Soviet Union, but they were deeply suspicious of Stalin. During the WINTER WAR, Britain and France came close to openly intervene on behalf of the Finns.
When Germany occupied the USSR - meanwhile France was occupied and Japan was preparing for a massive expansion of it's sphere of influence - Britain was merely able to hold itself, and the US, entering the theatre could not even contemplate to take on Stalin's USSR as well. Victory over Germany and Japan could only be accomplished by utilizing the USSR's will and energy to resist.
Between 1941 and June 1944, the Russian front was the major theatre of operation. The Soviet Union had to take tremendous losses - their dead are estimated at 13.6 million soldiers, 7.3 million civilians, including about 1 million Jews. By comparison, the US lost 170.000 soldiers K.I.A. On the other hand, the Soviet Union built up, with some American aid, but mainly on it's own, a massive war machine which was able to push back the German front and, in April 1944, to break it, Soviet troops pouring into Eastern Central Europe.

The western allies were preparing their INVASION OF NORMANDY, and victory now seemed only a matter of time. WINSTON CHURCHILL began to contemplate the post-war order in Europe.
Britain and the US had agreed on mutual principles for Europe's post-war order in the ATLANTIC CHARTER of August 1941. However, given the tremendous investment in human lives and suffering the Soviet Union had made, and it's significant military power, it could not be denied it's share in the determination of the continent's future.
Churchill himself came up with the plan of dividing the continent in three spheres of influence - a Soviet sphere in Eastern Central Europe, a U.S. sphere in the west, a British sphere on the western half of the Balkans peninsula (and a chain of neutral states - Switzerland, Sweden) in between. Based on this idea, the allies agreed on which areas should be liberated/occupied by which power.
On April 25th, U.S. and Soviet forces linked up at TORGAU on the Elbe river. While fighting the Germans, U.S. forces had crossed the line agreed upon and occupied areas which had been assigned to the Soviets, in Germany and Czechoslovakia. A few weeks later, U.S. forces withdrew behind the lines agreed upon.

In their respective zones, the occupying forces established a military administration, in the liberated countries provisorical civilian governments.






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This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 8th 2004

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