One of the most peculiar things, that I believe, occurred as a result of World War II, was the alliance between the Soviet Union, the United States , and the United Kingdom. This was an alliance that was, from the get go, purely strategic and was, on several occasions, riddled with suspicions of and tensions with one another, at least the US and the UK towards the USSR and vice versa. Even so, they all had a mutual enemy that was proving to be much of a threat that they all decided to form this alliance. This alliance began in 1942 when, the United States, through the creation of the Lend-Lease Agreement, and the United Kingdom, through the creation of the 20-year Mutual Assistance Agreement, began to supply the Soviet Union with food, weapons, ammunition, and vehicles much needed for the war and, on part of the US, provide a $1 billion loan, free of interest.
And while such supplies and finances were very much welcomed and appreciated by the Soviets, and were even later credited with shortening the war (Freeze, pg. 390), what Stalin really wanted was military action. More specifically, he wanted the US and the UK to open a second front in the West to draw German forces away from Soviet territory, something he had been vying for since 1941. However, instead of opening a western front, Roosevelt and Churchill, in 1942, opted for a North African campaign that would have them moving up north towards the Italian peninsula. Much to Stalin’s disapproval, a second front in the west would not be opened until June of 1944, with the invasion of Normandy. But this was no surprise to him. In fact, Stalin had been worried that Roosevelt and Churchill would work against him on the idea of a opening a second front, if anything this was just a confirmation of his worries. Even so, he did regard the invasion of Normandy as being a “treacherous delay” as he had been led to believe that it would happen a year earlier (Butler, pg. 113-114) which, when it did not arrive, had Stalin extend peace feelers towards the Germans in 1943 (Freeze, pg. 389).
This “delay” and very unfortunate lack of communication at a very pivotal time in the war, wasn’t the only trouble these Allies had when dealing with one another. For Churchill and Roosevelt, Stalin’s evasiveness and penchant for secrecy were thought of as very irritating (Freeze, pg. 389). They also, after having to deal with the aftermath of miscommunication with Stalin, were truly terrified of the prospects of peace between the Soviets and Germans, as they viewed the Soviets as being essential to keep the Germans at bay in the Eastern front and to the eventual defeat of Japan (Freeze, pg. 389). As a result, they both realized that they would need to concede to Stalin in order maintain the alliance and keep the Soviets in the fight.
As we can see, this alliance, wasn’t the most stable. And these world leaders, were not on the friendliest of terms, but in the end they set out to achieve their shared goal, putting an end to the War in Europe . And In the following video, we see the Big Three (Jospeh Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill) meeting for the first time in Tehran, Iran at the Soviet Embassy to discuss their plans for post-war Europe. (I ask that you all pay attention to the gift giving between Churchill and Stalin and the overall interactions, or lack thereof, between the three leaders.)
After seeing their interactions, it reminds me again just how unusual this alliance truly was. Here you have three leaders, two of which have very similar backgrounds, but another who is seen as an outsider and a threat to the other two and vice versa, but even so, they worked together. Because, for the time being, they all had a common enemy and even if they viewed each other with suspicion and contempt, they all knew that they needed each other and had to suck up their pride and do what was necessary to get the job done.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History Third Edition . Oxford University Press, 2009.