Stalin was in an excellent bargaining position in February 1945. Russia already controlled eastern Eurpoe and its armies were approaching Berlin, whereas the Anglo-American armies had not yet crossed the Rhine. Furthermore, western advisors considered Russian assistance essential to the defeat of Japan – a task estimated to last a further 18 months following the fall of Germany.
The ‘Big Three’ agreed to divide Germany into occupation zones, to try German war criminals, and to turn over the problem of reparations, so vital to Stalin, to a commission.
A decision on the future of Germany was postponed. Concessions in the Far East were guaranteed to Stalin in return for declaring war on Japan. The boundaries of Poland were changed. Ukrainian Poland was ceded to Russia, and part of eastern Germany came under Polish control; in turn, Stalin agreed to free elections in independent Poland – a promise he never kept.