For two weeks in the summer of 1945, Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, and Josef Stalin gathered to reconstruct the world out of the ruins of World War II. They met “only a few miles,” as President Truman noted, “from the war-shattered seat of Nazi power” – around a baize-covered table in the Cecilienhof Palace at Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin.
The Allied powers had met twice before, engaging in the cordial horse-trading of properties and promises, to perpetuate a united military front against Germany. Potsdam, however, was different. With Germany defeated, the Allies knew victory in the Far East was imminent. The objective was no longer how to unite for victory, but how instead to divide the spoils and create a new balance of power. In The Deal, Charles L. Mee Jr. demonstrates how, with national self-interest the primary motivation, peace was destined to be sacrificed to deliberate discord. If Allied harmony would stand in the way of expanding “spheres of influence,” then it would become necessary to maintain the political expedient of aggression. What did each power want and were these objectives of sufficient importance to warrant forfeiting peace? Would the outcome have been different had Churchill’s rhetoric been less powerfully disruptive, had Stalin been surer of domestic calm, had Truman been more open? Would the history of the last seventy years have been the same?
Through logbooks, eyewitness accounts, and conference transcripts, Mee vividly reconstructs this moment in history, when three men came together to forge a peace and a new face for Western Europe and left with a tri-partite declaration of the Cold War.