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When Poland moved westward

Summit Teheran
Summit Teheran: The Untold Story
, by Keith Eubank (New York: Morrow, 1985)

The 1944 Yalta conference is usually understood as the occasion when Roosevelt and Churchill sold out eastern Europe, but Keith Eubank makes the case that it began the year before at Teheran, as he spelled the Persian city in his study. Here are my notes from his book, which is out of print but available second-hand from Amazon.com. As in the case of other books cited here, my interest is mostly in the conference as it affected Poland's fate postwar. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

"The city that Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin saw in November 1943 was a mixture of old and new: an old quarter with narrow alleys, and the new city, partly finished with wide avenues that intersected at right angles. As so many of the streets were unpaved, they became dusty in summer and muddy in winter. Camels still wandered the streets, and beggars lay in wait at the entrance to mosques and and bazaars.... The water, brought down from the mountains, flowed through much of the city in a network of uncemented open-air canals." (p181)

"In 1939, Germany was the most important trading nation as far as Iran was concerned." (p181) Hence the Anglo-Russian occupation of 1941.

"Late in 1941, an American military mission [was] dispatched to Iran and Iraq to implement Lend-Lease aid to British forces in the Middle East.... Churchill admitted to Roosevelt that Britain lacked the manpower resources to expand the flow of supplies to the Soviet Union. By the end of August 1942, plans were underway to give the United States Army a greater role in supplying aid to Russia through what became known as 'the Persian Corridor.'" (p185)

"[O]n September 22, 1942, the Combined Chiefs of Staff approved an American plan to create the Persian Gulf Command under Major General Donald H. Connolly.... The task given Connolly and the thirty thousand troops under his command was to develop and operate port facilities in the Persian Gulf, maintain roads leading from the Iranian ports to Teheran, operate truck convoys over these roads, and develop and operate the Iranian State Railway from the ports on the Persian Gulf to Teheran. Beyond that city, the supply route became the responsibility of the Soviet troops. Ultimately, the Persian Gulf Command would deliver five million tons of supplies to Soviet Russia." (p186)

Roosevelt to a visitor to Hyde Park earlier that month, with respect to the so-called "Curzon Line" that divided Poland, given its eastern half to the Soviet Union: "Yes I think those 1941 frontiers are as just as good as any." (quoted p360) "Roosevelt's excuse for avoiding public approval of the Curzon Line as the Polish-Soviet frontier--the upcoming presidential election [in which he feared losing the Polish-American vote]--was a half truth. To him there was a greater issue at stake than a frontier: Soviet-American friendship." (Or, more accurately, Stalin-Roosevelt friendship.) (p.361)

The Big Three turned to Poland in the evening of the conference's last day, December 1. Churchill: "What we wanted was a strong and independent Poland, friendly to Russia." British and American maps were produced showing the Curzon Line of 1919, with Lwow (Lvov, as Eubank spells it) on the Polish side. Stalin ordered Molotov to find "a correct map" with the line bulging westward in the south, putting the city in the USSR. (p366) Molotov did so. "Again the gentlemen examined the maps. Churchill announced that the 'Poles would be wise to take our advice'" because the country would still be three hundred miles square if its western border were moved to the Oder and Neisse rivers. "'He was not prepared to make a great squawk about Lvov, and (turning to Marshal Stalin) he added that he did not think that we were very far off in principle.'" (p.368) Prof. Eubank appears to be quoting from the narrative account in Foreign Relations of the United States.

The Polish government in London on January 14, 1944, declared that it would not accept a unilateral decision on the country's boundaries. "Moscow viewed the Polish reply as a rejection of the Curzon Line. Moreover, the Soviet government could not negotiate with a government with whom diplomatic relations had been broken because the Poles had joined 'in the hostile anti-Soviet slander campaign of the German occupants concerning Katyn murders.'" (p451)

Meeting with the Polish prime minister, Roosevelt stressed the need for compromise: "If personal contact could be satisfactorily established with Stalin and a more friendly atmosphere created, Roosevelt thought that Stalin would be less insistent on his territorial demands.... 'There are five times more Russians than Poles, and you cannot risk war with Russia. What alternative remains? Only to reach agreement.' By the word 'agreement,' Roosevelt explained frankly that Mikolajczyk must change the composition of the Polish government." (p464)

1944: "In July, Soviet troops had crossed the Curzon Line and Moscow had recognized the Polish Committee of National Liberation, headed by the Communist Bierut, as the administrator of the Soviet-occupied areas of Poland." (p466)

Roosevelt and Churchill had boxed themselves in: "At Teheran, because of OVERLORD [the June 1944 invasion of France], they had allowed Stalin to stake out his claims regarding Poland; at Yalta, OVERLORD had already succeeded and the Russian troops controlled most of Poland. Moreover, because they believed in the need for Soviet assistance in overthrowing Japan, they would not undo the results of Teheran. Further, Roosevelt would not now undo the Polish agreements because he wanted the Soviet Union to join in founding the United Nations at San Francisco. So Poland paid the price." (pp478-79)

"By allowing Stalin to rearrange eastern Europe and to acquire pieces of Asia, Roosevelt accepted a great change in the balance of power." (p483)

"Roosevelt had come to Teheran believing in a Stalin that never existed. 'Uncle Joe' was not the wise, paternal, kindly Russian politician [of Roosevelt's imagination].... He was a deceitful, paranoid murderer, a conniver whose mistakes had cost the lives of millions of Soviet men, women, and children. He was a man who had intentionally sent millions of his fellow citizens to Soviet prison camps, there to work themselves to death. To protect his grasp on political power, he had had untold numbers of Russian people executed by his secret police." (p484)

"[T]he success of the plans agreed upon at Teheran would determine the political map of Europe for generations to come.... In the words of Stalin, 'This war is not as in the past; whoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his own social system. Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach. It cannot be otherwise.'" (p489)

Look for Summit Teheran at Amazon.com.