It is an uneasy prospect to have one leader represent the wills of the entirety of a nation, especially since in the world of diplomacy there is no way to achieve everything one party wants. In the case of World War II and the “Big Three,” as they are so called, the powerful Franklin D. Roosevelt represented the United States’ best interests. However, Roosevelt’s diplomacy was only adequate for assuring the end of World War II. What he could not detect was Russia’s growing hatred for capitalism and the countries that instituted it, namely the United States. Roosevelt’s foreign policy and leadership in regards to other nations such as Poland, Germany, and Korea, weakened the American-Soviet relationship to the point where the difference in political and governmental views took a violent turn, forcing the dawn of the Cold War.
The tension between the United States and Soviet Russia has roots all the way back in early World War II. Throughout the war, Russia bore the brunt of the casualties dealt by Nazi Germany, but blamed their losses on the West. Stalin was angered that the West, namely the United States and Great Britain, took so long to adopt a non-isolationism stance and help defend the Grand Alliance. When Germany surrendered, it was established at the Yalta conference that it would be split into four allied-occupation zones, wherein each zone would be controlled by a member of the Grand Alliance. As a result of Roosevelt’s foreign policy in Germany, the Soviets were quick to set up a Communist government in their zone, angering the American citizens and capitalist governments.
In a similar manner, Stalin established a “puppet government” in Poland, breaking the promises made at Yalta and furthering the spread of Communism in Eastern Europe. This puppet regime was continued throughout Russia’s territory, eventually creating what Churchill called “an iron curtain across the continent.” Roosevelt “negotiated contradictory agreements with Stalin and Churchill at Yalta in 1945, which failed to establish a successful framework for peaceful postwar cooperation between the West and the Soviet Union” . However, some may contend that Roosevelt acted in the Alliance’s best interest by not discussing postwar Poland and prioritizing the maintenance of the Grand Alliance. While Roosevelt had no intention of sparking a war after the “war to end all wars,” his foreign policy at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences weakened the already strained Soviet-American ties. Poland was just one marking of the oncoming Cold War, but Roosevelt’s policies sparked a variety of conflicts not only in Europe, but even in Asia, namely Korea.
While Poland and Germany were “stress points” for the United States, the Cold War was also a result of more heavily involved conflicts in Asian territories. At this time, the Soviets were tired of Roosevelt’s false promises and controversial agreements. They were angry that the United States were so opposed to Communism as well. Roosevelt had negotiated for a Soviet-American trusteeship in Korea (which, at the time, was under Japanese rule) in return for the Soviet help against Japan, but after the United States had deployed their nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrendered. Although Soviet Russia had barely helped in the war effort against Japan, they were angry that they were left out of the postwar Japanese negotiations. In addition, the Soviet Army was advancing into parts of Manchuria and Korea, the United States made an agreement to divide Korea at the 38th parallel. While there was no violence, Russia and the United States detested the others’ governmental system on the opposite side of the 38th parallel. Roosevelt’s belief in trusteeship and foreign policy within the Asian territories spurred the division of Korea and the conflict and rivalry between Russia’s communism and the United States’ capitalism.
There is no doubt that Roosevelt did what he could to support the United States’ best interests in World War II, but he lacked an ability that is rather critical for a nation to be proactive: foresight. Roosevelt’s policy in foreign nations like Poland, Germany, and Korea, and participation in key conferences such as in Yalta and Potsdam strained Soviet-American relations and eventually sparked the Cold War.
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