Personal and Confidential

Diplomacy of the Big Three

Gheorghe Stefan1

Abstract: The three Great Powers, U.K., U.S.A. and U.S.S.R., as main supporters of the war against the Axis forces, were very much different from each other in terms of interests, ideology and governance system. The Anglo-Soviet agreement for reciprocal assistance (July 1941) and especially the Atlantic Charter (August 1941), through which England and USA declared their mutual political objectives, accelerated the official conclusion of the United Nations Declaration (January 1, 1942, Washington) signed by twenty-six states which committed to collaboration only, while separate peace treaties with the aggressor had to be excluded. This war alliance, as its own members perceived it, was not based on trust, but on necessity; it did not result from “a deep feeling of mutually shared values or similar interests, but on the counteraction against one single enemy:” The need for timing during the war and the postwar objectives would often prove to be a challenge for the alliance. As it was only natural, the Big Three tried to avoid as much as possible the dismantling of the frail alliance in order to further fulfill the purposes which had determined them to enter the war: defeating the Axis, establishing new principles for the international order, peaceful coexistence, etc.

Keywords: secret; communization; character diplomatic; democracy; superiority


Right from the dawn of history, diplomacy proved a permanent intertwining between the field of advertising, international relations and other more or less known practices, excepting the initiated ones. Not to be confused, both the official diplomacy and the secret diplomacy represented sides of the same policy, tending to ensure interests satisfaction of the states in question, while its methods differed, of course, on the circumstances and purposes of the actions (Duculescu, 1986, p. 12).

The question where the confidential character of a “diplomatic act” stops and where the „secret diplomacy” begins, which in this case had led to the emergence of spheres of influence or interest, represented and seemed to have been for a long time a controversial and particularly present-day topic. World War II confirmed once again the important part played by the confidential or personal diplomacy in the history of international relations. Given the Big Three’s important role in the organization of the postwar world, such as the Finlandization and communization of the Central and Southern-Eastern Europe, it would be impossible to clarify the causes which led to the division of the world in spheres of influence or interest, without analyzing first the significant contribution of F. D. Roosevelt, W. Churchil, and I. V. Stalin.

F. D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), more than any other former American president, with the exception of W. Wilson, had the profile of a cosmopolite man with experience and vision. His early childhood refined education, extensive travels and his job as Deputy Minister of the Navy during the Wilson administration, contributed significantly to the consolidation of his universalist mentality. During the war, Roosevelt vacillated between intensifying and minimizing the political control of the Great Powers. Despite advocating an opened world, under the patronage of the UNO, and willing to accept the spheres of influence outside the Western hemisphere, where the American influence was and had to be maintained, he gradually abandoned the principles of Atlantic Charter under the pressure of his allies. The confessions of Cardinal F. Spellman are impressive and quite often quoted: “there will be a league of nations, but the small countries will not have access to while the power of decision lies in the hands of the Big Four” (de Lunay, 1993, pp. 302-303).

As main exponent of the parliamentary democracy, Winston Churchill met the typical criteria of a British Prime-Minister. Originating from a British upper-class family, little Wilson had several obstacles right from his childhood: “it is appalling to feel strained by everyone and remain behind right from the start” (Churchill, 1996, p. 406). Nevertheless, thanks to his formidable strength and prodigious memory, young Wilson came into prominence both in college and within the refined British society. His political opportunism made him often change sides due to his constant desire to reaching for power. As per his notes and biographical studies, W. Churchill had remarkable personal qualities: overly courageous, leadership vision, adequate language fact already acknowledged and appreciated by contemporaries. He would massively get enthusiastic about his own performance only to get bored of it afterwards. Despite being a better negotiator than F. D. Roosevelt, he would still be surprisingly unprepared, too voluble and emotional during treaties while at the same time he would be insufficiently convincing, maybe because of the Great Britain’s inferior position in relation to the other two allies. W. Churchill wrote in his memoirs: “I realized at Teheran for the first time what a small nation we are. There I sat with the great Russian bear on one side of me with paws outstretched, and, on the other side, the great American buffalo. Between the two sat the poor little English donkey, who was the only one who knew the right way home” (de Lunay, 1993, p. 303).

Iosif Visarionovici Stalin (1879-1953), by his real name Djugasvilii, was an orator and a leader in the democratic sense of the word. His ascent at the head of the Soviet state was due to his determination and ambition, while his ability to break apart and eliminate his opponents, propelled him to the supreme position of the state” (de Lunay, 1993, p. 34). The author of a psychological portrait evoked “he was a proud man with an acute sense of his own inferiority: inside him simmered intense jealousies and a vengeance spirit”. He would never forget an allusion or an insult, often proving to possess a professional patience while expecting to take vengeance (de Lunay, 1993, p. 34). While in command of the state apparatus, he was allowed to have absolute control over the internal politics through the international division of the CPSU. During the war, this lessened his personal control over the U.S.R.R.’s military operations and external politics. In international relations, Stalin had a constant suspicion and fear towards the Western countries. Nevertheless, he noticed and speculated the conflict of interests of the West. Being interested in the consolidation of people’s dictatorship, he would be impelled to get close to the Third Reich in hope of “building a wall against the Anglo-French imperialists” (Fontaine, 1992, p. 163). His unyielding obduracy and cynicisms during debates shocked the allies. When Churchill tried to remind him about Russia’s standpoint expressed in 1917, for a peace without compensations and annexations, Stalin stated: “I told you I started to become a conservator” (Gardner, 1996, p. 222).

By analyzing the personal relation’s issue of the Big Three, one could understand those leaders’ crucial importance in the direction of external politics and postwar world organization. Despite the US President and Great Britain’s Prime Minister having divergent views in relation to those from the State Department and the Foreign Office, this did not prevent them from initiating a sort of a personal diplomacy, way before the top meetings between the two and later on with the three allies. Roosevelt and Churchill were in favour of direct personal discussions with Stalin instead of those held through intermediaries. This was due to them believing he was the only person capable to harmonize U.S.R.R.’s interests with the Anglo-American ones. The Atlantic Charter represented a first step in using new dialogue concepts between the countries, thus marking the starting moment of personal topside talks. At the same time, these conferences allowed the illusory surmounting of numerous obstacles and prejudices which stood against a fruitful collaboration between the allies. In Washington, Casablanca, Quebec, Teheran, Moscow or Yalta, the Big Three placed peace above all other interests and considered it was their own duty to dispose and decide the destiny of other nations. In this respect, on the occasion of the top meetings from Teheran, Churchill evokes in these memoirs about the databases on Poland’s faith that: “I have no mandate from the Parliament and I think neither does the president for becoming a border line”. But we could, now in Teheran, see if as government leaders, could have a mutual political opinion to recommend to the Polish and advise them to accept it (Churchill, 1996, p. 51).

Even if those present in Teheran individually pleaded for responsibility towards local public opinion in each of their country, their external politics was in fact based on profound personal beliefs. His authoritarian way of managing internal and external affairs, made Harry Hopkins, the counselor of the American president, to state that “the provisions of the British Constitution and the attributions of the War Cabinet are exactly what Churchill wants” (Churchill, 1996, p. 266). The common declaration conveyed by the Big Three regarding Europe, right after the Conference from Crimea, highlighted the importance of the three statesmen alongside with their personal politics in the direction and postwar world organization. “The Premier of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the President of the United States of America have consulted with each other in the common interests of the peoples of their countries and those of liberated Europe. They jointly declare their mutual agreement to concert during the temporary period of instability in liberated Europe the policies of their three governments in assisting the peoples liberated from the domination of Nazi Germany and the peoples of the former Axis satellite states of Europe to solve by democratic means their pressing political and economic problems” (Hatchet & Springfield, 1991, p. 86). The death of the American President, F. D. Roosevelt, produced the first major breach within the coalition thus reviving the hopes of the Nazi Germany. “Roosevelt refused to believe in the Bolshevik danger, but this successor would understand it and therefore put an end to the war in the West” (Blond, 1992, p. 215). No other American president had ever made before so many concessions by showing so little prejudice and abstain in the state and personal relations with the Soviets.

With respect to the collaboration with the U.S.R.R. Prime Minister, Uncle Joe, as Roosevelt and Churchill used to call him, the American president wrote in a letter addressed to Churchill on March 18, 1942, that “I know you will not mind my being brutally frank when I tell you that I think I can personally handle Stalin better than either your Foreign Office or my State Department. Stalin hates the guts of all your top people. He thinks he likes me better, and I hope he will continue to do so” (Fontaine, 1992, p. 222). The former US ambassador in U.S.R.R., V. Bullit, stated: “he doesn’t want anything but the security for his country, and I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask nothing from him in return, la nobleesse oblige, he won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace (Fontaine, 1992, p. 223).

The president’s idealistic conviction was the product of his nativity, shallowness and trust he displayed in a matter or another. Fired up by the superiority pf the democratic feeling and by his own power to convince other, he counted deliberately on Stalin’s moderation and was determined not to let anyone shake his trust in a possible collaboration (Fontaine, 1992, p. 225). Unlike the State Department’s view and those of the Great Britain’s representatives, Churchill and the Foreign Office had a much more moderate perspective regarding a potential future collaboration, without annexations or influence areas. Consequently, they tried right from the start to limit the Soviet influence in Europe. This aspect did not prevented Churchill to declare to his War Cabinet, after the Yalta event that “Prime Minister Stalin was a very influential person in whom he had full confidence. Much depended on keeping him in the job” (Gardner, 1996, p. 304). In fact, Stalin was convinced that the presence of the Red Army in the Central and South-Eastern Europe represented he supreme argument in securing U.S.R.R. and therefore he ultimately imposed his interests during the negotiations with the allies by using as argument the installment of the communist regimes, in the image and likeness of the Soviet one, whose leaders were strictly depending on Stalin’s good will (Tudor & Panait, Dosarele Istoriei, nr. 6/197, p. 64). It is not less true that the Anglo-American’s constant hesitation during the negotiations as well as his remarkable diplomatic talent helped him to impose himself before the American President and Great Britain’s representatives. “Sa personnalité en impose à Roosevelt qu’il recontre ainsi que Churchill, aux conferences de Teheran (nov/dec1943) et du Yalta Fer 1945), obtient l’ouverture d’un second front… et sourtout ayant donné confiance à Roosevelt par la disollution du Komintern (1943), il réussit, malgré l’opposition de Churchill, à assurer l’U.R.S.S au lendemain de la guerre, la maîtresse absolue de l’Europe Orientale et Centrale” (Mourre, 1978, p. 186). The allies’ cooperation during the war, quite precipitously announced by the political and diplomatic representatives of the Big Three - US, U.K. and U.S.R.R. - was not spared of disputes, often held within the confidential diplomacy by the secret services which, competing for eliminating mutual enemies, never stopped to suspect, attack and spy on each other, prepare the action conditions for the postwar world” (Churchill, 1996, p. 37).

The testimonies of the Soviet defectors who had come to the West proved to be quite disturbing in regards to how Stalin and his collaborators managed to infiltrate in the president Roosevelt’s entourage and in the decisional group itself through Alger Hiss, Harry Hopkins and Harry Dexter White while in Yalta and Teheran” (Buzatu, 1995, p. 25). Both the penetration of the U.S. and U.K.’s military and political structures by the Soviet secret services forced the Anglo-American allies to practice an open diplomacy towards the Soviets, especially during the interallied conferences (Abdrew & Gordievski, 1994, p. 238) while they had not even one secret agent within the Russian Prime Minister’s entourage.


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1 Associate Professor, PhD, Danubius University of Galati, Romania, Address: 3 Galati Blvd., 800654 Galati, Romania, Corresponding author:

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