Yalta, February 1945 | Unknown photographer

Winston Churchill, Franklin D Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin meet to discuss Europe's postwar reconstru

February 1945: American troops had crossed into Belgium the previous month, and the USSR had begun the Vistula-Oder Offensive in eastern Europe. Nazi-occupied Europe was contracting, and on 4 February the "Big Three" -- Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Britain, President Franklin D Roosevelt of the United States and the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin -- met to discuss Europe's postwar reconstruction.

Code-named the Argonaut Conference, the meetings at the Black Sea port of Yalta took place amid the utmost secrecy at the Livadia Palace. It was here that the leaders agreed to split Berlin into occupied zones following Germany's unconditional surrender.

It was also to be the ailing Roosevelt's final appearance at an international conference; he died two months later.

David Blanchflower, economics columnist at the New Statesman, says:

This meeting shaped much of our subsequent history, including the cold war. Churchill was subsequently to lose the 1945 election.

The leader who had led Britain in war was not the man to lead the nation in peace.

There is a moral in that tale.

Next: West Bank, 1 February 2006 | Oded Balilty

Previous: South Vietnam, 11 June 1963 | Malcolm Browne

Back to list.

This image features in the 50 Greatest Political Photographs (part one) special double issue of the NS. You can order your copy here.

The judges were Jason Cowley, Jonathan Dimbleby, Stuart Franklin, Rebecca McClelland and Jon Snow.