Appendix B
SEXTANT and the Postwar Political Balance in Asia--A Reflection

The definitive account of the political implications of the suggested shift in power within the Allied coalition, beginning with SEXTANT, remains to be written. If, as some recent writers1 have contended, the Tehran conference marked an adjustment in the political balance of postwar Europe in favor of the USSR, it may be argued with equal plausibility that the political balance in Asia was also set in favor of the USSR, or at least against Nationalist China. At best, such conclusions are still speculative, as are equally facile conclusions on the relationships of wartime strategy and postwar political developments. Much remains to be explored and explained, and the full answer will probably not be found in the archives of the Western Allies. For example, much has been made in postwar journalistic writing of President Roosevelt's alleged promises to the Soviet Union, beginning with Tehran, of territory in which the Chinese were long interested. Little if any attention has been paid to the question of what effect the revelation at SEXTANT Of a dichotomy in thinking between the Western Allies over the importance of China's war role might have had on the Soviet Union's postwar policy for Asia.

That Stalin at Tehran was made aware of the current divergence of opinion between the Americans and British over Burma operations is evident. Sherwood, on the basis of his studies of the Hopkins Papers, has told how, shortly after Roosevelt arrived at Tehran, Stalin called at the President's quarters in the Soviet Embassy. The only other men present at this first meeting between the two wartime leaders were the two interpreters, Bohlen and Pavlov. In the course of the conversation, "Roosevelt told Stalin of his conversations with Chiang Kai-shek and the plans for offensive operations in Burma."2 In his own postwar memoirs, Churchill has revealed, "The fact that the President was in private contact with Marshal Stalin and dwelling at the Soviet Embassy, and that he had avoided ever seeing me alone since we left Cairo, . . . led me to seek a direct personal interview with Stalin."3 At the ensuing private audience with Stalin on 30 November, during which he sought to make the British position on strategy clear to the Soviet leader, Churchill stated his lack of enthusiasm for "an amphibious operation in the Bay of Bengal" for which the Americans were pressing. He also touched on how much sooner ,Japan would be beaten if the USSR entered the war in the Pacific.


The summary of the decisions of the SEXTANT Conference, sent by Roosevelt and Churchill to Stalin at the close of the meetings back in Cairo--generally worded as they were-clearly showed that China would not get the amphibious operation Chiang had wanted and the Americans had urged upon Churchill.4

It can only be guessed whether the inconsistency between the American insistence at the Moscow Conference on treating China as a great power and the failure of the Western Allies at SEXTANT to agree to bolster that position and follow through with large-scale military action was carefully noted down by the leaders in the Kremlin, already confident of victory in Europe, for future reference and possible action. If this hypothesis is correct, then one clue to Soviet maneuvering over the price for its entry into the war against Japan and over the postwar settlement for Asia must be sought well before Yalta or Potsdam at Cairo-Tehran.


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1. See especially, Wilmot, Struggle for Europe, p. 142.

2. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, p. 777.

3. Churchill, Closing the Ring, pp. 375-77.

4. Msg, President and Prime Minister to Stalin, 6 Dec 43, Item 70, Exec 10. The message is quoted in Churchill, Closing the Ring, p. 412.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation