Clement Atlee, Harry Truman, and Joseph Stalin at Potsdam

Left to Right: United Kingdom Prime Minister Clement R. Atlee (January 3, 1883 - October 8, 1967) Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972) and Josef V. Stalin (December 18, 1878 – March 5, 1953) on or about August 1, 1945, during the Potsdam Conference. Atlee, who had just won the 1945 general election, was as surprised as everyone else that his Labour Party swept into office. Both the Soviet and the American delegations failed to take Atlee seriously in terms of foreign policy. Predecessor Winston Churchill was so upset by the election results that decades later he chose to end his autobiography at the conclusion of the election, instead of at the end of the war with Japan. Historians often refer to Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin (March 9, 1881 - April 14, 1951) as the architect of British foreign policy. Still, Atlee did not hesitate to express his convictions on the role of the Prime Minister in determining British external relations. After Churchill's Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden (June 12, 1897 - January 14, 1977) expressed concern over the Soviet Union's policy towards Turkey at Potsdam, Atlee responded that there was "a danger of our getting into a position where we and the Russians confront each other as rival great powers at a number of points of strategic importance... We ought to confront the Russians with the requirements of a world organization for peace, not with the needs of the defense of the British Empire." After winning the election, Eden went into opposition as Conservative Deputy Leader, and Atlee pressed for a grander world view that was free of pre-war prejudice and assumptions. This not only earned the ire of the foreign office but also the British Chiefs of Staff, and represented a departure from the belligerent cooperation given to the Soviets by Atlee's predecessor, Churchill. He opposed the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and pressed Roosevelt and Truman to prevent Stalin from taking over. Atlee's belief in the United Nations was a radical departure from Churchill's plans.
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
Naval History and Heritage Comma
Archival Identifier: 
USA C-1861
Date Photographed: 
Wednesday, August 1, 1945