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The Yalta Agreements

"Gorbachev Factor"

Ironically, it was the conclusion of a series of agreements between the Allies in the final phases of the war that led to the reappearance of these centrifugal tendencies. The Yalta accords of the big three (February 1945) and subsequent agreements defined, in a veiled form, the postwar spheres of influence. Presented ostensibly as the foundation of a postwar peaceful settlement, they, in actual fact, sowed the seeds of future rivalry at the global and regional levels between Russia and its Western allies, and first of all, the United States.  

Joseph Stalin. Harry S. Truman and Winston Churchill at Potsdam, Germany for Conference. Photo by Jim Bates

The Yalta agreements endorsed a new balance of power that had formed toward the end of the war. As a result, the Soviet Union and the United States had developed powerful military and economic capabilities, which both were now tempted to use to attain their global political objectives. The United States had the necessary economic power augmented by its nuclear might. In its turn, the Soviet Union sought to exploit its impressive military presence in eastern and southeastern Europe and eastern Germany, as well as southeast Asia.

In a way, the Yalta agreements had laid the foundations of the future bipolar world. It was clear that each of the two sides would seek not just to maintain its presence in its corresponding sphere of interest, but also to expand it. Diametrical ideological differences and imperial cravings of the two aspiring superpowers made confrontation between them almost inevitable.

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