American presidents usually had a fairly free hand when
it came to carrying out foreign affairs. However, if they signed up to any
agreements they had to get approval from the US Congress.
Truman's speech gave a detailed account of all the issues
covered at Potsdam. This extract focuses on the discussions over German payment
As the war ended there was still a lot of Germany industry
which was in good working order but was geared to war. Much of the machinery
could be converted to other uses not connected with war. This is what Stalin
wanted to take in reparations.
This was a deeply controversial issue, partly because
Truman did not want to repeat the same mistakes that were made in the Treaty
of Versailles after the First World War. In that settlement Germany had to
pay reparations, and had to borrow money from the USA to do this. This caused
instability which helped Hitler and the Nazis to take power in Germany.
Truman feared making Germany bitter and resentful.
However, he probably did not realise how badly damaged the USSR was by the
war with Germany. Stalin was determined to gain compensation from Germany
but at the same time he did not want Truman to see how badly damaged the USSR