Country Analysis:

Britain’s role during this time period escalated the tension leading up to WWI.  Britain had escalated the tensions leading up to WWI because Britain was very passive in the rules of the League of Nations and global collective security because Chamberlain had wanted to avoid war at all costs. Since Britain had allied with Italy in previous times, this showed the passive nature of Britain, and how Britain would also make alliances and act so that Britain would benefit from these actions.  Britain had played a role in the escalation of tensions leading to WWII because the British had wanted to have naval superiority in comparison to Japan and Germany, which thus lead further away from disarmament of all nations.  Since the British had wanted naval superiority, they had built up their navy more and more and had also demanded that Japan decrease its naval power.  From this, nations had become more suspicious in the intentions of other nations and whether or not each nation would actually disarm or who would disarm first.  The Treaty or Versailles had also forced Germany to give up all their conquered territories yet Britain would not give up any overseas territories itself.  These ideas had come from Prime Minister Chamberlain who had appeased Hitler and attended the Munich conference where he retained his passive attitude.  Churchill had opposed Chamberlain in totally different ideas in which Churchill had wanted to stop Hitler by means of war.

France’s role during this time period was that escalated tensions between nations leading up to WWI.  France escalated tensions towards WWI because France’s goals and actions during this time period had only served to escalate the tension leading to WWII.  One of France’s aims was to take back Alsace – Lorraine from the Germans, because they had felt that Alsace – Lorraine rightfully belonged to them.  Due to this mindset, the French had only made alliances in order to satisfy their own goals which blinded France from seeing the more real threat of Germany.  Since France had taken back Alsace – Lorraine, it gave France a false sense or security because France had started to treat Germany without much thought into the consequences.  In other words, France had treated Germany very badly thinking that they would be able to push Germany around without any threat of Germany fighting back. The French had also played a vital role in the escalation of tensions to WWII because during the invasion of Poland, the French had provided very little military aid to Poland even though France had promised to help defend Poland in the event of a German invasion.  Since France was one of the strongest Military forces in all of Europe, if the French had opposed Germany and avoided this Military blunder, the Germans would not have conquered Poland very easily thus allowing Germany to concentrate its military power on conquering the western side of Europe.  The Maginot line had also given the French a false sense of security, thinking that hiding behind this line would keep the Germans at bay, but in reality this last line of defence did not even phase the German military.     

During the Inter-war time period, Germany was mainly at a time of escalation because the complex relationships between it and the rest of the European nations. These incoherencies were mostly beset by the troublesome issues of war reparations and the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. For example, the Treaty of Versailles required Germany to give reparations for the damages done in World War I and the people of Germany were not treated well by the French during France’s occupation over the Ruhr so they wanted revenge for being humiliated. The United States of America tried to help Germany with its economy distress by issuing the Dawes Plan in which gave loans to Germany. However, when the Great Depression hit the United States, it pulled out since it was unable to provide loans any longer and became an isolationist. From mid 1922 to November of 1923, Germany was at a state of hyperinflation because they thought they would be able to increase their currency by printing out more cash, which only led to massive hyperinflation and a state of depression in Germany.

On the other hand, The Great Depression allowed the National Socialist Worker Party (Nazis) to rise in power in the 1920’s because Hitler promised jobs and a better standard of living for the people.He also promised them glory and redemption after the humiliating Treaty of Versailles and vowed to help Germany fulfill its destiny as a Great Power. When Hitler became Fuhrer in 1934, he passed the Enabling Act which allowed him to make decisions without consulting the Reichstag. This consolidation of power would eventually backfire on Germany, as Hitler’s madness will get out of hand. Although Hitler did help stabilize the economy by giving people jobs, he did thisthrough rebuilding the military and reoccupying the Rhineland, which is in direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Later, he would also denounce the Locarno Pact. The League of Nations and the Allies on the other hand did not do anything to stop his aggressions because they feared another war. Hitler then decides to test his limits even further by breaking another taboo and “allies” Austria. This was easily done since he was once an Austrian and there were many Germans who lived in Austria who longed to be with Germany. But this act once again violates another term of the Treaty of Versailles which states that Germany is not allowed to Anschluss with Austria but the League of Nations and the Allies still did nothing to prevent this and stop Hitler.

Seeing no response to his actions, Hitler begins to abuse the power of appeasement. Hitler meets with Britain, France and Italy in Munich Germany to discuss the sovereignty of the Sudetenland. The Munich Pact developed from this conference fulfilled Hitler’s demands because he vowed to not take anymore land if the Sudetenland was given to Germany. Through the conference, Neville Chamberlain appeased to Hitler again, still thinking that he has secured peace in his time. Hitler sees that the League of Nations, Britain and France will not do anything to prevent his aggressions as they did not want to go to war, breaks his promise and invades Czechoslovakia a few months later. Finally, in 1939, Hitler met with Stalin to negotiate a secret Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact which agreed that Russia and Germany would not attack each other and they would split up Poland. Ultimately, Hitler just wanted to avoid a two-front war and Stalin wanted to buy time because they were not ready for war. World War II was officially triggered after Hitler attacked Poland on September 11th, 1939.

After the First World War the government of Italy faced many problems. The First one was Italy was unsatisfied with Italy’s reward after WWI settlements, most of the Italians had expected to gain large amount of land after the world, but after the territorial settlement made at the Paris Peace Conference, they only gain part of their territorial reward. The second problem was general economic issue. Unemployment raised in Italy due the return of million soldiers that fought in WWI. Italian tourist trade and export was also at a standstill, due the fact that Europe was exhausted by the war. Due to the effect of those problems, the unemployed workers and peasants stirred throughout the country causing the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. After the out thrown of the government, Mussolini and his Fascism party arose in Italy, because the entire liberal parliamentary regime failed to find effective solutions the problems of economic inflation and social unrest. With the support form the peasant class, Mussolini seized political power in 1922.

After Mussolini had seized political power in 1922, he maintained his position by enforce a strict control in economic, political and social life of the Italian people. Through this period, Italians had a long period of stable government, but Mussolini’s economic policies did not fix the economic problem. Italians also felt that they didn't get their fair share of territory after First World War. THe invasion of Ethiopia would make up for these disappointments. Therefore, in 1935, Italy Invaded Ethiopia, Ethiopia quickly appealed to the League of Nations. The League demands Italy to withdraw Italy refuse, thus leave the League of Nations and join force with Nazi’s Germany. In 1936, the newly formed alliance Italy and Germany, supported the rebellion force in the Spanish Civil War, in this War new battle tactics were introduced, which farther increase the tension of another world war. 

During the Interwar Period, Japan’s government was extremely militarily oriented and nationalist. The Japanese people are proud and honour is highly regarded. As such, militarist elites in the country were aggrieved at receiving very little reward from post WWI peace settlements despite being on the victor’s side, and also for being allotted less tonnage than they had hoped at the Washington Naval Talks, which they felt favoured the Americans and the British.

At the same time, the people as well as the government also favoured imperial expansionism. They saw Japan as a glorious empire, and it should acquire more territories. In addition, they had a strong sense of nationalism from the Russo-Japanese War. Their slogan in the war was “Asia for Asians”, which bred anti-Russian sentiments in Japan. Since Manchuria existed as a buffer region between Russia and Japan, Japan sought to take over Manchuria to deter the Russian threat. However, Chinese nationalists in the Kuomintang also had interests in Manchuria that threatened existing Japanese trading rights and privileges in the region. This escalated tensions between Japan and China, and to ensure the preservation of Japanese interests in Manchuria, Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931, renaming it Manchukuo. This action taken by the Japanese was condemned by the League of Nations which asked Japan to withdraw to no effect.

Other factor that caused Japan to invade Manchuria is its physical landscape. There are mountain ranges that cover most of Japan’s inland regions, leaving very little land for agricultural expansion. Also, Japan had small land mass and limited natural resources. As such, when the Great Depression hit Japan, in order to survive, Japan resorted to invading Manchuria for land and resources.

In 1937, Japan formed the Axis Powers along with two other fascist countries Germany and Italy after signing the Tripartite Pact. The three countries had similar interests in expansionism and all three were alienated from the League of Nations.

During the Inter-war period, USA was at a time of mostly escalation. Although the Stock Market Crash in 1929 devastated American economy and dropped US down to rock-bottom, during this period, USA grew as a world power.

In 1919, the signing of the Treaty of Versailles marked the end of World War I. Thomas Woodrow Wilson (president of the United States) participated personally in the conference and suggested the fourteen points in attempt to achieve peace. He brought Germany onto the bargaining table and sought peace based on democracy, self determination, disarmament and the creation of the League of Nations. Yet the US Senate declined the Treaty and refused to make USA a member of the League of Nations. The United States aimed for isolationism and stayed out of European affairs.

Also in 1919, the Americans experienced the Red Scare. The end of the war brought a sense of insecurity and a fear of anarchist, communists and immigrants to the US. A series of violent event occurred in US that symbolized the American’s unrest. The Palmer Raids was initiated and thousand of anarchist and communist were grouped together and exiled to Russia. Other raids involved the killing of 6000 so-called communists who had been plotting a revolution. This only ended when Palmer falsely claimed to know that May 1st, the socialist Labour Day would bring massive demonstrations as a prelude to a revolution. With this, Thomas Woodrow Wilson was voted out of power and Warren G. Harding was elected in 1920.

Harding promoted a “return to normalcy,” which meant the rebirth of nativism, isolationism and the rejection of government intervention. Nativism is the act of preserving native inhabitants and calls upon the growth of national identity. Leading USA through the Roaring Twenties, Harding’s policies reflect a conservative laissez-faire attitude. This period is also known as the Jazz age, the age of intolerance and the age of wonderful nonsense, was a time of utmost escalation. New technologies and ideas rocketed American economy. The new decade was a time of change – for better or for worse. Acts of administrative scandals and the famous Teapot Dome Scandal put Harding out of power.

Then the unexpected Stock Market Crash of 1929 plummeted American economy. This brought the United States of American into the Great Depression and dragged the rest of the world with it. This depression lasted until in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president and suggest the New Deal. A series of measures involved with banking, unemployment, farm policies and business reforms occurred as an attempt to pull out of the depression. Roosevelt summarized the New Deal as a "use of the authority of government as an organized form of self-help for all classes and groups and sections of our country." Roosevelt pledged to be a good neighbour to Latin America and insisted upon isolationism. Although in isolationism the Americans still traded with Japan. However, when Japan began her territorial conquest and invaded Manchuria, USA in attempt to de-escalate tension stopped the trades with Japan. Yet instead of de-escalating tension, Japan attacked Pearl Harbour in 1941. This ended American’s pacifism and isolationism, forcing America into WWII.

During this time period, America experienced its greatest economic escalation and de-escalation. With the Roaring Twenties rocketing American advancement in every aspect and then during the Dirty Thirties, Americans were faced with the struggle meet the basic needs to survive. They played an interesting role in this time period, as they continuously announced their isolation yet still intervened on many events. Wilson’s Fourteen Points, the Dawes Plan, Young Plan, Kellogg-Briand Pact and the many times American army assisted in European wars symbolized the United States escalating power.

After accepting the humiliating Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1917, the Bolshevik government under the Vladimir Lenin was trying its best to fight off the White Army (traditionalists), win the Civil War and re-stabilize the country after the devastating aftermath of World War I. Not only did Lenin introduce the New Economic Plan, a project designed for national economic recovery and development, he also established the Cheka, which was a state security organization that protected the Bolshevik government.

After Lenin’s death in 1924, there was a struggle for power within the Soviet Union, mainly between Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin. In the end, Stalin was able to win the majority the votes and came into Russia’s highest office in 1924. Trotsky meanwhile, was exiled to Mexico, where he continued to oppose Stalin, but was then assassinated under Stalin’s orders. In trying to industrialize the country, Stalin replaced Lenin’s New Economic Plan with his Five-Year Plans starting 1927. To fuel these plans, Stalin created a nation wide famine, especially in the Ukraine region, which claimed approximately three million lives. Starting from the 1930s, Stalin’s paranoia initiated what is now known as the Great Purges and the Great Terror. For nine years, Stalin eliminated potential threats to his reign based on suspicion only. Officers, generals, party members, and even ordinary citizens “disappeared” overnight. Only through the use of terror and propaganda did Stalin achieve this without any opposition. At the end of 1939, statistics shown that another million some innocent people were killed by the Purges, increasing the death count of pre-war Russia to over four million people.

Though the Soviets are almost caught up with the Western countries in terms of industrialization, Stalin still needed much more time to rebuild his party and staff after the heavy losses. When the Germans offered to sign the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, Stalin quickly accepted the proposal in order to buy time for himself. At the time, Russia was still relatively weak as a power and could not have defended itself in case of all out war. Thus, the Non-Aggression Pact was like a saviour to the Soviets, as not only did they gain valuable time to prepare, they also obtained a sphere of influence in Poland. However, what Stalin did not expect was the rapid conquest of Poland by the Nazis. Within weeks, the Nazi Army had conquered their half of Poland and crushed the Polish opposition with the Blitzkrieg, and on Oct.17, 1939, the Red Army was forced to invade their half of Poland.

Before the rule of Stalin, Lenin and the Bolshevik party had the sole purpose of getting Russia out of World War I and re-stabilize the economy. To achieve such a goal, they even signed the humiliating Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1917. However, Stalin’s rise to power obliterated all such hopes, and put the nation into more misery than before. Though the USSR did not directly escalate the tension of war, they did on the other hand, provide Hitler with the luxury of a one-front war, which in the end could be seen as the ticket that gave Hitler everything he needed to finally start World War II.

Copyright ©2009 by Ben Pi, Tony Fu, Amere Huang, Jeff Fong, Edwin Li, Irena Liu SS 20IB