05/09/2010 01:56 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Yalta Delusions

The Yalta conference in February 1945 produced, according to President Bush, "one of the greatest wrongs of history." The Yalta agreements "followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact....Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable."

The American president is under the delusion that tougher diplomacy might have preserved the freedom of small East European nations. He forgets the presence of the Red Army. No conceivable diplomacy could have saved Eastern Europe from Soviet occupation. And military action against the Soviet Union was inconceivable so long as the Pacific War was still going on. Our military planners, in order to reduce American casualties, counted on the Red Army to enter the war against Japan . At Yalta Stalin promised a firm date in August. And in February the atom bomb seemed a fantasy dreamed up by nuclear physicists.

As for Eastern Europe, Stalin "held all the cards" in the words of Charles E. Bohlen, the Russian expert. But FDR managed to extract an astonishing document - the Declaration on Liberated Europe, an eloquent affirmation of "the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live." Molotov warned Stalin against signing it, but he signed it anyway. It was a grave diplomatic blunder. In order to consolidate Soviet control, Stalin had to break the Yalta agreements - which therefore could not have been in his favor.

The Declaration stands as the refutation of the myth, given new currency by the president of the United States , that Yalta caused or ratified the division of Europe . It was the deployment of armies, not negotiating concessions, that caused the division of Europe.