Atlantic Conference. President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (left) and prime-minister of Great Britain, Sir Winston Spencer Churchill (right) during the prayer concluding the agreement between both countries, which led to creation of a wide anti-fascist coalition.



In 1941 the United States of America were not at war yet, but the relations between America and Japan worsened with each month over their interests in South-East Asia. Yet the talks between the US Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, and the Japanese ambassador in Washington, Kichisaburu Nomura, were far from collapse. Therefore, the attention of the American government was still focused on European affairs.

The outbreak of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union came as no surprise to the American politicians. Long before 22 June 1941 they conducted animated talks concerning common with Germany strategy against the USSR. On 23 June the assistant secretary of state, Sumner Welles, during a press-conference in Washington made the first declaration concerning the German attack on the Soviet Union. Although he expressed far-going criticism of the communist régime, he stated that it had been the aggressive policy of the German Reich that posed threat to the American interests. He issued - although in moderated manner - from the same predicaments as Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, when he declared unconditional support to the Soviet state. On the next day president Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared economic help to the USSR. Without hesitation he sent to Moscow his trusted friend, Harry Hopkins, to see there what were the perspectives of the Germano-Soviet war and what were the materiel needs of the Soviet Union. It is worth mentioning that American generals, just like their British colleagues, considered a prompt collapse of the Soviet defences and occupation of vast areas by the German Wehrmacht.

Harry Hopkins arrived in Moscow on 29 July 1941. On the next day he met Joseph Stalin. They continued talks on the next day, 31 July 1941. As the talks closed, the American ambassador in Moscow, Laurence Steinhardt, wired to Washington that the president's envoy had been received very warmly and Stalin's frankness about the military matters had been unprecedented. Steinhardt already then realised the great importance of the talks, and their impact on the relations between the USSR and the USA. This is also a common opinion among many Soviet and American historians. For example, Hopkins' biographer, Robert Sherwood, states that during his short talks in Moscow Roosevelt's envoy obtained more information on the Soviet military potential than any foreigner ever. Until then calculations of the British and American staffs were based on the prediction of prompt collapse of the Soviet Union. After Hopkins' mission they were swept away due to new estimations of the abilities of the Soviet partner.

Stalin frankly described the situation on the Germano-Soviet front. He predicted its stabilization in the autumn, when the mobility of the German rapid troops would deteriorate, and presented the state of the mobilization of the domestic resources, as well as the list of postulates addressed to the United States. Stalin and Hopkins agreed that it would be necessary to have a conference, during which the matter of delivery of British and American supplies, first of all within the framework of the American lend-lease programme. But above all, Hopkins had dissipated Stalin's suspicions as to the intentions of the United States, and created the atmosphere, which in the years to come let to establish and maintain close and cordial relations between the USSR and the USA, as well as between Stalin and Roosevelt personally.

On the way back from Moscow, on 2 August, Hopkins came to England, where he met Churchill. Together they left for the first Anglo-American conference, which took place in the Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. There, between 9 and 14 August, were discussed political and military issues. No international agreements were signed though, especially in respect of the military problems, since America's neutrality and strong opposition of the American isolationists forced Roosevelt to be extremely careful. In those circumstances the conference consisted mostly of a series of meetings, during which political and military matters were discussed. A lot of attention was paid to seeking an answer to the question particularly important to the United States and England in respect of the Far East - what would Japan do?

But the greatest event of the conference, an event that made the history of the Second World War and the modern diplomacy, was the discussion concerning the organization of the post-war world. For the reasons of the United States' foreign and domestic policy, Roosevelt was particularly interested in that subject. Proclamation of idealistic moral principles could influence the American society according to the president's concepts. On the other hand, Roosevelt wanted the United States to become the main factor of the moral influence in the post-war world - the main hope for having the world free of wars, hunger and poverty.

On 14 August 1941 discussions in this direction resulted in proclamation of so-called Atlantic Charter, which declared general principles, according to which its members were supposed to build international peace and security. That document was based on moral principles rather than political; to Roosevelt and Churchill it was more like an element of the propaganda war with the Third Reich, and a factor that strengthened hope and resolve in the occupied and conquered countries. However, although the authors of the Atlantic Charter were thinking about the current political needs, the ideas they formulated lived longer, developed, acquired essential meaning, and ultimately shaped the policy of the anti-fascist coalition during the Second World War.

Although the Atlantic Charter did not proclaim any political programme, it was one of the few events of the Second World War that has been positively perceived by the historians in the West and in the East alike. They emphasize that despite of the current political needs it was a significant step the countries involved in the war made towards the alliance against the fascist aggression, and a fact that was binding the United States closer to that alliance. Eventually, the Atlantic Charter outgrew its authors; designed for their bilateral relations, it became a global programme. Because regardless of Churchill's or Roosevelt's intentions, it blew like a wind over the countries near and far, arising hopes not only in the occupied countries of Europe, but also in the colonies and dependent countries. Such a side effect of Churchill's and Roosevelt's conference is crucial for understanding the genesis of the break-through that the Second World War made to overcome the colonial system after 1945.

On 24 September 1942 the Atlantic Charter was discussed on an inter-Allied meeting held in London's St.James Palace. There the principles declared by the United States and the United Kingdom were endorsed in individual protocols by the governments of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, Holland, Norway, Poland, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and Yugoslavia, as well as General Charles de Gaulle, the leader of Free French.

The last accord of the Atlantic Conference was a most friendly message, signed by Roosevelt and Churchill, dispatched to Stalin. That message clearly demonstrated that both statesmen had abandoned the idea that the Soviet Union would collapse soon, and stressed that Moscow could rely on their co-operation. They also proposed to discuss a long-term tri-lateral policy, according to the preliminary agreement between Hopkins and Stalin.