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Grand Alliance


Officially termed the Anti-Hitlerite Coalition by the Soviet Union, the Grand Alliance (19411945) was a military and political coalition of countries fighting against the Axis (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Imperial Japan), and their satellites. The alliance evolved during World War II through common understandings and specific formal and informal agreements negotiated between the Big Three (United States, Soviet Union, and Great Britain) at wartime conferences, ministerial meetings, and periodic summits between the respective heads of state. In addition to the Big Three, the alliance included China, members of the British Commonwealth, France, and many other countries. While some formal agreements and modest liaison and coordinating bodies existed within the context of these agreements, particularly between the United States and Great Britain, the alliance as a whole formed few formal official policy organs.

Evolving step by step after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the alliance was a virtual marriage of necessity between the two Western democracies and Stalin's communist government, impelled by the reality of war and a common threat to all three powers, as well as the necessity of joining military and political forces to achieve victory in the war. The motives and attitudes of alliance members varied over time according to the military situation and the member states' political aims. To varying degrees, the Big Three shared certain wartime goals in addition to victory: for instance, mutual military assistance, formulation of a common unified wartime military strategy, establishment of a postwar international security organization, and elimination of any future threats from Germany and Japan.

The decisive stage in the formation of the Grand Alliance occurred after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, when, prompted by fear that Germany might win the war, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared their support for the Soviet Union as "true allies in the name of the peoples of Europe and America." Great Britain and the Soviet Union signed a mutual aid treaty in July 1941, and Stalin endorsed the peace aims of Roosevelt's and Churchill's Atlantic Charter in September. In November the United States solidified the alliance by extending lend-lease assistance to the Soviet Union. Thereafter, a steady stream of agreements and periodic meetings between unofficial representatives, ministers, and heads of state of the three countries formalized the alliance. The most important ministerial meetings took place in London (SeptemberOctober 1941) and Moscow (October 1941 and October 1943) and at the Big Three summits at Tehran (November 1943January 1944), Yalta (Crimea) (February 1945), and Potsdam (JulyAugust 1945). During wartime, tensions emerged within the alliance over such vital issues as the adequacy of lend-lease aid, military coordination among Allied armies, the opening of a second front on mainland Europe, the postwar boundaries of the Soviet Union, the political structure of liberated European countries, Soviet participation in the war against Japan, European reconstruction, and the shape and nature of postwar peace.

See also: china, relations with; france, relations with; great britain, relations with; united states, relations with; world war ii


Churchill, Winston S. (1950). The Grand Alliance. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Feis, Herbert. (1957). Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin: The War They Waged and the Peace They Sought. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Kimball, Warren F. (1997). Forged in War: Roosevelt, Stalin, Churchill and the Second World War. New York: Morrow.

Stoler, Mark A. (2000). Allies and Adversaries: The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Grand Alliance, and U.S. Strategy in World War II. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

David M. Glantz

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