What Is the United States Up To?
What motivates Americans these days? What are their priorities? Where did those convictions come from? Why are the axiomatic American truths so different from those of the rest of the world? What do Americans read? Where are they coming from? Where are they headed? Are they out front, or lagging behind? What is their agenda?
As I see it, our generations’ part of the American story, one of the most truculent in their history, which I have deemed The American Agenda, takes shape at a meeting in Yalta (Crimea, Soviet Union) from February 4th to the 11th, 1945, just before the end of second great war of the 20th century. United there, at their second and last wartime meeting, were the leaders of the three Allied countries that were to be instrumental in the defeat of German nazism, Italian fascism and Japanese imperialism: Premier Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain.
With the war in Europe practically won by these Allies, the grumpy, hard-drinking prime minister’s principal objective at the conference was to save the British Empire, which was retained, if not for long, and the British still have not closed the wound. Premier Stalin felt obliged to emerge from the war with enough control over Eastern Europe to assure that neither the Germans, nor anyone else, could march unhindered into his country. Roosevelt’s goals included consensus on thee creation of the United Nations and gaining Soviet agreement to enter the war against Japan once Hitler was defeated. None of them left Yalta completely satisfied. (Source: Wikipedia)
Roosevelt and Stalin trusted one another and foresaw possible common projects between their two countries after the war. Churchill, a British aristocrat, lifelong anti-communist hardliner, and the one who would betray the other two, felt left alone at the meeting with his big cigar. When the war in Europe ended he actually suggested to American President Harry Truman (Roosevelt having died a couple of months after the Yalta Conference) that, since they were already in Europe, a combined British-American force might invade Russia and nip communism in the bud.
The US Enters an Open Field
It is important to keep in mind at this point that, while Britain and the Soviet Union, along with many other countries in Europe and Asia, were devastated by war on their own ground with massive human and economic losses, the United States was never bombed and never saw an enemy soldier on their land. They fought in Europe and Asia, and didn’t enter the war until more than two years after Britain and six months after the Soviet Union. When the Americans finally did get into the fray it was not to form a western front in order to relieve the hard-pressed Russians who were left virtually alone to face the Germans’ lethal attack (Operation Barbarrosa) on the east beginnning in June of 1941.
Instead the Yanks followed Churchill’s lead, always prioritizing the protection of British colonies and access to Middle-East oil. So the Americans and the British dilly-dallied in North Africa and Italy for a disproportionate long time. The all-important British and American advance across the English Channel did not take place for three more years, during which the Soviet Union fought the Germans almost alone, until the Allied Normandy landing (Operation Overlord) in June of 1944. President Truman actually said, in the meantime, that the more Germans and Russians who killed one another, the better.
The Americans, having pulled themselves out of the tail end of the great depression and gotten rich from their industrial contributions to the war, were sitting on top of the world. It was around that time that a few smart, opportunistic American leaders began to think in terms of American world domination. and to act on their thoughts. What better time than the present, they must have thought, with virtually the entire world at their feet. So they began to lay the ideological groundwork and to create the institutions necessary to work their plans. From there on out, the United States essentially called the shots.
Showdown at Bretton Woods
The first step to enable the projection of American power around the globe, in July, 1944, a few months before the Yalta Conference, was an international meeting at the Mount Washington Hotel in the ski resort of Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. The meeting was called the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, though the United Nations would not be created until more than a year later. There, under the undeniable leadership of the United States, 730 delegates from all 44 Allied nations sat down from July 1 to 22, 1944, to regulate the international monetary and financial order after World War II. Out of this meeting came the establishment of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as the International Trade Organization.
The United States and Britain had secretly been planning the economic future of the world since 1940. Their attitude towards the rest of the delegates was hinted at by the economist Lord Keynes, the head of the British delegation, in a recorded conversation:
Twenty-one countries have been invited which clearly have nothing to contribute and will merely encumber the ground… The most monstrous monkey-house assembled for years.
In the accelerated approval of the agreements at Bretton Woods the Soviet Union did not join the newly-created financial entities and Soviet influence on world trade was badly damaged as a consequence. The final agreement replaced the gold standard with the U.S. dollar as the global currency. By so doing, it established America as the dominant power in the world economy. After the agreement was signed, America was the only country with the ability to print dollars. (Source: Wikipedia)
One of the reasons Bretton Woods worked for the Americans was that the U.S. was clearly the most powerful country at the table, thus able to impose its will on the others, including an often-dismayed Britain. At the time, one senior official at the Bank of England described the deal reached at Bretton Woods as “the greatest blow to Britain next to the war”, largely because it underlined the way financial power had moved from the UK to the US. Having become the largest international creditor, the US held nearly two-thirds of the world’s gold reserves and commanded half of all global industrial production. (Sources: Wikipedia and AstuteNews.com)
Three quarters of a century later, Kristina V. Minkova, St. Petersburg State University, writes in the Russian Journal of Global Initiatives: Policy, Pedagogy, Perspective:
It is my belief that Stalin was not fully aware of all the complexity of the big economic and political game between the United States and Great Britain, which gained momentum in 1943. While the latter was struggling to save the remnants of its empire and was bargaining madly for credits vitally important for its survival, the former were clearly demanding the role of world leader.
See Part 3 here tomorrow
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