Decisions at Yalta: An Appraisal of Summit Diplomacy by Russell D. Buhite

By Russell D. Buhite

A examine of the effectiveness of summitry as a method of international relations. utilizing the instance of the 1945 Yalta convention among Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt, the writer argues that heads of kingdom make useless negotiators.

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His willingness to forge an alliance with the Soviets derived solely from his sense of expediency in confronting Hitler and from his belief that he might save democracy by joining one of its enemies in war against another. 11 Churchill's world view arose from his concern that a single power, regardless of its ideology, might dominate the European continent. He worried throughout the war that the Soviet Union would gain a foothold in Western Europe upon the defeat of Germany, and he developed a military strategy to invade the soft underbelly of the Continent in the hope of interposing British-American forces between the Soviets and the center of German power.

For the Soviet Union, détente arose out of the concept of coexistence, a foreign policy approach that had its origins in the early postrevolutionary period. Although Marxist-Leninist ideology postulated that the transition to socialism would require war or violent revolution, Soviet leaders in the 1920s, realizing the comparative weakness of the new Soviet state, decided that they had to avoid war with the capitalist nations in the short term. The way to do this was to concentrate on increasing Soviet strength, while downplaying the promotion of international communism.

Roosevelt was also jaunty, self-possessed, confident, cheerful, and capable of inspiring trust and affection. What he lacked in intellect he made up for in temperament. He was not good at abstractions, nor did he involve himself much with philosophical questioning, but he generally understood how to get things done and could absorb information without giving the appearance of listening. He had what one scholar has called effective intelligence. Despite his many assets, however, Roosevelt was in some ways grossly ill prepared to join his allies in organizing the peace.

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