The term " Four Policemen" refers to a post-war council consisting of the Big Four that U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed as a guarantor of world peace. The members of the Big Four, called the Four Powers during World War II, were the four major Allies of World War II: the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union and China. The United Nations envisioned by Roosevelt consisted of three branches: an executive branch comprising the Big Four, an enforcement branch composed of the same four acting as the Four Policemen or Four Sheriffs, and an international assembly representing the member nations of the UN.
The Four Policemen would be responsible for keeping order within their spheres of influence: Britain in its British Empire and in Western Europe; the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe and the central Eurasian landmass; China in East Asia and the Western Pacific; and the United States in the Western hemisphere. As a preventive measure against new wars, countries other than the Four Policemen were to be disarmed. Only the Four Policemen would be allowed to possess any weapons more powerful than a rifle.
As a compromise with internationalist critics, the Big Four nations became the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, with significantly less power than envisioned in the Four Policemen proposal. When the United Nations was officially established in later 1945, France was in due course added as the fifth member of the council at that time due to the insistence of Churchill.
Roosevelt criticized the League of Nations for representing the interests of too many nations. The President said to the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov that "he could not visualize another League of Nations with 100 different signatories; there were simply too many nations to satisfy, hence it was a failure and would be a failure". Roosevelt's proposal in 1941 was to create a new international body led by a "trusteeship" of great powers that would oversee smaller countries. In September 1941, he wrote:
The State Department had begun drafting a postwar successor to the League of Nations under the auspices of Roosevelt while the United States was still formally a neutral power. Roosevelt was reluctant to publicly announce his plans for creating a postwar international body. He was aware of the risk that the American public might reject his proposals, and he did not want to repeat Woodrow Wilson's struggle to convince the Senate to approve American membership in the League of Nations. When the Atlantic Charter was issued in August 1941, Roosevelt had ensured that the charter omitted mentioning any American commitment towards the establishment of a new international body after the war. The attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 led to a change in Roosevelt's position. He transformed his trusteeship proposal into an organization centered around the Four Policemen: the United States, China, the Soviet Union, and Britain.
Roosevelt and Molotov continued their discussion of the Four Policemen in a second meeting on June 1. Molotov informed the President that Stalin was willing to support Roosevelt's plans for maintaining postwar peace through the Four Policemen and enforced disarmament. Roosevelt also raised the issue of postwar decolonization. He suggested that former colonies should undergo a period of transition under the governance of an international trusteeship prior to their independence.
China was brought in as a member of the Big Four and a future member of the Four Policemen. Roosevelt was in favor of recognizing China as a great power because he was certain that the Chinese would side with the Americans against the Soviets. He said to British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, "In any serious conflict of policy with Russia, China would undoubtedly line up on our side." The President believed that a pro-American China would be useful for the United States should the Americans, Soviets, and Chinese agree to jointly occupy Japan and Korea after the war. When Molotov voiced concerns about the stability of China, Roosevelt responded by saying that the combined "population of our nations and friends was well over a billion people."
Churchill objected to Roosevelt's inclusion of China as one of the Big Four because he feared that the Americans were trying to undermine Britain's colonial holdings in Asia. In October 1942, Churchill told Eden that Republican China represented a "Faggot voter on the side of the United States in any attempt to liquidate the British overseas empire." Eden shared this view with Churchill and expressed skepticism that China, which was then in the midst of a civil war, could ever return to a stable nation. Roosevelt responded to Churchill's criticism by telling Eden that "China might become a very useful power in the Far East to help police Japan" and that he was fully supportive of offering more aid to China.
Roosevelt's Four Policemen proposal received criticism from the liberal internationalists, who wanted power to be more evenly distributed among the member nations of the UN. Internationalists were concerned that the Four Policemen could lead to a new Quadruple Alliance.