Diplomatic History of the War and Postwar Period
The League of Nations having failed through inertia and internal discord to prevent war, the major powers aligned themselves in rival groups. In September 1940, Germany, Italy, and Japan signed the Tripartite Pact in Berlin, formalizing the Axis coalition. Hitler’s invasion forced the Russians into the Franco-British camp. As the war progressed, the United States departed from its policy of strict neutrality and rendered greater and greater aid short of war to the beleaguered Allies. Blocked in negotiations with the United States from furthering its aims of expansion, Japan attacked the American base at Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and forced the United States into the war.
Meanwhile, in August 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met on shipboard off Newfoundland and subsequently issued the Atlantic Charter, in which they subscribed to certain general principles for achieving peace. The charter forbade territorial changes contrary to the wishes of the inhabitants; recognized the right of people to choose their own forms of government; promised greater freedom of trade and of the seas; and supported international cooperation to improve conditions of labor and social security. Armaments were to be reduced, and a permanent system of general security was to be created. The aggressor nations were to be disarmed. On Jan. 1, 1942, the United States, Great Britain, France, the USSR, China, and 21 other countries signed in Washington the Declaration by United Nations, pledging mutual assistance and promising not to enter into separate armistice or peace negotiations with the Axis powers. The member nations also subscribed to the Atlantic Charter’s purposes and principles.
At the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill-most probably to allay Joseph Stalin’s suspicions of the loyalty of his allies-proclaimed a policy of unconditional surrender for Germany, Italy, and Japan as the only means of maintaining the peace. This policy may have prolonged the war, but it solidified the Allied nations and may have forestalled Soviet efforts toward a separate peace with Germany in 1943.
At the Teheran Conference in late 1943, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin agreed on broad principles of operation for an international organization to mediate differences between nations and maintain peace. At Dumbarton Oaks in Washington in the fall of 1944 details were worked out, and it was decided to call the new organization the United Nations. The San Francisco Conference convened on April 25, 1945, to organize the United Nations; its charter was adopted unanimously on June 26.
War’s end found the United States and the USSR the two greatest powers in the world. By the time of the signing of the Axis satellite treaties early in 1947, the two countries were drawing apart. Friction over the treaties with Austria, Germany, and Japan and Soviet aggressive designs in eastern Europe brought increasing tension, and by the end of 1948 their relationship could be considered one of cold war. In 1950 armed conflict arose in Korea between Sovietbacked Communist forces and United Nations forces led by the United States. The cold war between the East and West continued thereafter, with the Communists striving for world domination through subversion and infiltration, and the West seeking to frustrate their designs.