Bush & Yalta
Some lefties are up in arms about what George Bush said about the agreement made by FDR at Yalta. Here’s the offending paragraph from the May 7th speech in Latvia.
“As we mark a victory of six decades ago, we are mindful of a paradox. For much of Germany, defeat led to freedom. For much of Eastern and Central Europe, victory brought the iron rule of another empire. V-E Day marked the end of fascism, but not the end of oppression. The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable. Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable. The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs of history.”
At first glance, this seems to be an uncontroversial description of exactly what happened. Rather than perhaps fight the Soviet Union, FDR — who, it’s worth noting, was actually being advised by a Soviet spy, Alger Hiss — chose to allow countries like Poland or Latvia to be passed from one evil empire to another. Furthermore, the Soviet domination of those states was certainly one of the “greatest wrongs of history” and it did leave the continent “divided and unstable.”
So you’d think there would be little to argue about.
It’s simply an acknowledgement of what happened at Yalta. FDR chose to allow the Soviets to swallow Eastern Europe. Could we have done something about it? You bet we could have. In fact, Patton wanted to do just that.
So should FDR have been willing to make war on the Soviets to drive them out of Eastern Europe? Looking at it realistically — no. Although we were capable of defeating the Soviets, it could have cost hundreds of thousands of American lives, enraged a war weary American public — and keep in mind, we hadn’t even dealt with the Japanese at that point.
Given all the number of American lives that had already been lost, that the American people had been consistently told that “Uncle Joe” was our good buddy, and that the Soviets had pledged that they would allow free elections in Eastern Europe, it’s hard to imagine any President, Republican or Democrat, extending the war by trying to drive the Red Army all the way back to Mother Russia.
But even though FDR made the right choice, it doesn’t mean that there were no negative consequences of that decision. We did have a more than 40 year long Cold War with the Soviets and make no mistake about it, a lot of Americans died in places like Vietnam and Korea because of that war. Furthermore, America stood by and did nothing while the people of Eastern Europe were enslaved by the Soviets. That’s no small thing, especially for those countries that lost the freedom to govern themselves.
Given that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it, we should remember the good — and the bad — that came out of Yalta.