October 9

This Day in History

World War II

Oct 9, 1944:

Churchill and Stalin confer

On this day in 1944, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin begin a nine-day conference in Moscow, during which the war with Germany and the future of Europe are discussed.

Germany's defeat now seemed inevitable, and Stalin was prepared to commit the USSR to intervening in the war against Japan once Germany had formally surrendered. This optimistic outlook enabled a significant portion of the talks to center on the relative spheres of influence of the two superpowers in a postwar European environment. Churchill ceded the disposition of Romania, which Stalin's troops were liberating from German control even as the conference commenced, to the Soviet Union. But the British prime minister was keen on keeping the Red Army away from Greece. "Britain must be the leading Mediterranean power." They made a deal: Romania for Greece.

Churchill was more accommodating elsewhere, willing to divvy up the spoils of war. Yugoslavia could be cut down the middle, east for Russia, west for the West. Churchill also laid out a plan by which the German populations of East Prussia and Silesia would be moved into the interior of Germany, with East Prussia split between the USSR and Poland, and Silesia handed over to Poland as compensation for territories Stalin already occupied and intended to keep.

But Churchill was insistent on one issue that would be harder to negotiate in 50-50 terms-freedom. Churchill wanted every nation to be free to select the government most amenable to its people, especially smaller, more vulnerable nations. "Let them work out their own fortunes during the years that lie ahead." Churchill was frank about the West's fear of expansionist communism. But none of what was discussed was carved in stone or even put on paper--a fact that would be all too obvious as the Cold War commenced.

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