The three leaders had met before - at the Tehran summit in late 1943. The meeting at Yalta, in the Soviet Union, took place between 4 and 11 February 1945. Stalin had refused to leave the USSR so the two Western leaders had to go to him. The three men were pleased at the way the war was going. President Roosevelt talked about the friendly, 'family' atmosphere of the meeting but beneath the surface, serious disagreements existed.
The discussions at Yalta were very wide-ranging but the future of Poland dominated. The three leaders had previously agreed that the Soviet Union would take land from Poland and Poland would, in turn, be given German land. At Yalta they argued about the details and Churchill tried to limit the changes. He was worried about taking too much land from Germany and said: 'I do not want to stuff the Polish goose until it dies of German indigestion'. There was even greater disagreement about who should govern Poland.
Eventually, Truman and Churchill thought that they had won a major concession from Stalin: the Soviet leader agreed that the Lublin government should be expanded to include some of the London Poles and he accepted that free elections should be held as soon as possible in Poland. When asked how soon these elections could be held, Stalin replied: 'It should be possible within a month.'
The terms of the Yalta Agreement
The final Agreement included a Declaration on Liberated Europe. This stated that each liberated country would be given an emergency government with representatives from any important non-fascist groups and that free elections would be held as soon as possible to set up a democratic government.
The borders of Poland were to be altered so that the USSR gained a huge amount of territory from eastern Poland. In return Poland was promised land taken from the eastern part of Germany.
The Lublin government in Poland was to be expanded so that it also included some of the London Poles. Free elections would be held in Poland as soon as possible.
The British and the Americans held many prisoners of war from Soviet territory. These were men from German occupied lands who had chosen or been forced to join the German army. At Yalta it was agreed that they would be sent back to the USSR. About 10,000 of these men were executed on their return and many more were imprisoned.
The leaders agreed that Germany should be divided into occupied zones. Churchill argued that there should be a French zone, as well as a British, American and Soviet zone. This was because Churchill was keen to restore the power of France. Stalin and Roosevelt accepted this suggestion.
The USSR agreed to help in the war against Japan. In return the USSR gained control of island territories north of Japan. This turned out to be a very good deal for the USSR because Soviet troops did not have to do very much fighting before the Japanese surrender.
The leaders agreed to the setting up of the United Nations. Stalin successfully argued that each country should have a veto on the decisions of the powerful Security Council.