The Potsdam Conference is perhaps best known for President Truman`s meeting with Stalin on July 24, 1945, during which the President announced to the Soviet leader that the United States had successfully detonated the first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945. Historians have often interpreted Truman`s somewhat firm attitude during the negotiations to mean that the U.S. negotiating team believed that the U.S. nuclear capabilities would strengthen its bargaining power. Stalin, however, was already well informed about the American nuclear program thanks to the Soviet secret services; he stood his ground in his positions. This situation has made negotiations difficult. The leaders of the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union, who had remained allies during the war despite their differences, never met collectively again to discuss cooperation in post-war reconstruction. The Potsdam Conference, held from 17 July to 2 August 1945 near Berlin, was the last of the three major meetings of the Second World War. The conference brought together the President of the Soviet Union, the new US President Harry S. Truman and the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (replaced on 28 July by his successor Clement Attlee).
On 26 July, the Heads of State and Government issued a statement calling for Japan`s “unconditional surrender” and hiding the fact that they had privately agreed to let Japan retain its emperor. For the rest, the conference revolved around post-war Europe. A Council of Foreign Ministers, composed of the Big Three, China and France, was agreed. The german military administration was set up with a central allied supervisory board (the requirement that access decisions be unanimous would prove crippling at a later date). The heads of state and government have reached various agreements on the German economy, with a focus on the development of agriculture and non-military industry. The institutions that controlled the Nazi economy had to be decentralized, but all of Germany would be treated as a single economic entity. War criminals would be brought to justice. Stalin`s request to define the German-Polish border was pushed back to the peace treaty, but the conference accepted his transfer from the country east of the Oder and the Neisse from Germany to Poland.
With regard to repairs, a compromise was drawn up on the basis of an exchange of capital equipment from the western zone for eastern raw materials. It resolved a dispute, but set a precedent for the management of the German economy by zone and not exhaustive, as the Western powers hoped. Although post-war Europe dominated Potsdam`s agenda, the war in the Pacific was on stage. Shortly after arriving in Potsdam, Truman received the news of the success of the atomic bomb test. He told Churchill the news, but mentioned “a new weapon” to Stalin. Truman continued to ask Stalin for help against Japan, but he knew that if the bomb succeeded, Russian aid would not be needed. In fact, the bomb would give the United States unprecedented power in the post-war world.