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15 October 2014
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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : Anglo-Soviet Treaty

26 May 1942

Location: London
Players: British Foreign Secretary Sir Anthony Eden; Soviet Foreign Secretary Vyacheslav Molotov.
Outcome: A treaty between Britain and the Soviet Union, specifying that neither country could make peace with Germany or its allies without the consent of the other.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, pictured here at the Yalta Conference in 1945
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, pictured here at the Yalta Conference in 1945©
The Anglo-Soviet Treaty was preceded by tough negotiations before it was signed by the British foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, and his Soviet counterpart, Vyacheslav Molotov, on 26 May 1942.

Stalin's ambitions for Russian territorial expansion were never far from the surface, but his tactics had to vary as the country's war fortunes fluctuated. Like Germany and Japan, he wished to advance his empire, particularly into the Balkans. During a visit to Berlin in 1940, Stalin demanded free access to the Mediterranean, knowing that he was courting war with Germany by doing so.

Barely a year later, Stalin was in no position to make demands of Germany as Hitler looked set on taking the Kremlin. Eden's diplomatic visit to Moscow in December 1941 demonstrated the fact that the Allies were anxious about the situation - if Stalin was to make a separate peace with Hitler, the Führer would have command of Europe.

Stalin kept the stakes high. He demanded that Britain recognise Russia's boundaries as they stood before the German invasion on 22 June 1941. Eden, with the support of Churchill and Roosevelt, would not agree to these Soviet demands on territory that had been part of Finland, the Baltic States, Eastern Poland and northern Romania.

The first three months of 1942 saw a change in the Allies' stance and Churchill sent word to Roosevelt that, 'The increasing gravity of the war has led me to feel that the principles of the Atlantic Charter ought not to be construed so as to deny Russia the frontiers she occupied when Germany attacked her.'

Roosevelt would not be persuaded and Molotov, now negotiating in London, continued to battle for this clause to be approved. Molotov's resolve finally gave out and the treaty was signed without the territorial clause.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.

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