World War II
The aftermath of the global economic crisis was rapidly building contradictions between the imperialist countries that were unevenly developed. There was also a crisis in international relations, especially when Versailles-Washington system collapsed. Now Germany, Italy and Japan wanted to achieve dominance over their competitors, which were Britain, France and the United States of America. Therefore, aggressive foreign policy of fascist states created a military threat to the world. The second group of countries (Allies) sought to maintain their positions, directing their actions against the fascist states, and the Soviet Union, as they were counting on mutual exhaustion of both sides in the war, therefore, further strengthen their positions in the postwar world. The Second World War turned out to be one of the biggest historical events, being the bloodiest and most destructive in human history, a war that has claimed over 50 million lives. Lasting for almost 6 years, it drew 61 states into its orbit, with 4/5 of the world population. The military struggle was waged in 40 countries in Europe, Asia and Africa.
The beginning of the World War II
The starting point of the World War II is considered to be September 1st, 1939, when German troops invaded Poland. The international situation in this period was characterized by continuously increasing stress, local conflicts in different regions of the world. The most aggressive and reactionary bourgeoisie circles sought to resolve their differences through a new intervention against the Soviet Union. In this situation, the Soviet Union had two possible ways: either to seek a military alliance with Britain and France in order to prevent aggression, or try to avoid the war by negotiating with Germany. The first option was chosen by the USSR government, when a special delegation was deployed to negotiate with Britain and France, but the parties did not reach an agreement, with Britain, France and Poland refusing to accept the Soviet proposals. Moreover, Western powers believed that they would benefit from a conflict between Germany and the Soviet Union. When the first option failed, the Soviet Union had to go another way, and start negotiating with Germany. On August 23rd, 1939, Ribbentrop arrived in Moscow, and on the same day a nonaggression pact was signed, and on August 28th both sides agreed on a secret protocol was, which divided the spheres of influence between Germany and the USSR. The essence of the document was to establish the limit of German forces advancement in case of the invasion of Poland, with troops not engaging in Latvia, Estonia and Finland.
News of Germany and the USSR signing a treaty produced a stunning impression on many politicians of that time, which led to a serious split among the countries-participants of the Anti-Comintern Pact. This contract confused Western politicians more than others, as they counted on the development of Hitler's aggression against the USSR through Poland. In this situation, Poland renounced the alliance with the Soviet Union hoping for the help of its Western allies. Now Germany could openly engage in war with Poland. Britain and France tried to negotiate with the German government, but any attempts were unsuccessful, therefore, Britain and France, later accompanied by a number of other countries (Australia, New Zealand, South-African Union, Canada) had to declare war on Germany. Some European countries along with the United States decided to stay neutral. The Soviet Union had the status of a neutral state at first as well, in accordance with the agreement.
After the defeat of Poland, some unusual situation has developed in Europe, known in history as the “phony war”, which was supported by the fact that up to April 1940 English-French coalition did not conduct any active operations against Germany. The end of the “phony war” came in April, 1940, when Nazi troops invaded Denmark and Norway, without declaring war, and occupied them. Just a month later, in May, German troops suddenly attacked Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and strengthened beating French Maginot Line, struck a powerful blow to France. So, when France was already under Hitler’s control, England was left alone, in a constant threat of attacked. Operation, associated with the landing of German troops on the British Isles, and occupation of England was planned under the name “Sea Lion”. But the plan did not come true. Then, in April 1941, Greece was invaded. These and other actions in the Balkans and the Mediterranean were intended not only to weaken England, but were used as a disguise for preparing, and attacking the USSR.
The anti-fascist coalition
The anti-fascist coalition began to form immediately after the German attack on the Soviet Union. On 22 June, 1941, Winston Churchill announced his country's readiness to assist the Soviet Union in the war. In July, 1941, a Soviet - British agreement “on joint action in the war against Germany” was signed in Moscow, with both sides taking an obligation to assist and support each other in the war against Nazi Germany, also not to negotiate or conclude an armistice or peace treaty with it, except by mutual consent. One of the first manifestations of cooperation between the USSR and Britain in the fight against Nazi Germany was their joint action in Iran. On January 29, 1942, an agreement was signed between the USSR, Britain and Iran about the alliance, with the USSR and England respecting, and ensuring the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Iran. The first step towards the formation of the anti-fascist coalition was made. Later, as a result of negotiations with the Soviet Union, allied relations with the U.S. and governments in exile in Czechoslovakia and Poland were established. A large role in the unfolding of the antifascist coalition played an Anglo-American Declaration known as the “Atlantic Charter”, that was signed on August 14, 1941, followed by a statement from the Soviet government made by the Soviet ambassador in London during the Inter-Allied Conference on September 24, 1941. Both of these documents were of an exceptionally great importance; they outlined the main goals and objectives of the anti-fascist coalition.
Following this (September 26-October 1, 1941) the Moscow Conference of the three powers - the USSR, USA and Great Britain was held, which made a number of specific agreements aimed at mobilizing resources for the Allied war against the fascist bloc in Europe. After the attack of the Japanese fleet on the U.S. military-naval base Pearl-Harbor on December 7, 1942, the U.S. became belligerent. On December 11, of the same year, Hitler Germany declared war on the United States.
Thus, the anti-fascist coalition occurred mainly in a relatively short period of time, almost half a year. In the interests of not only the Soviet Union, but also all other members of the antifascist coalition the military advantage of the fascist bloc in Europe must have been eliminated in the shortest time. In those conditions, this result could be achieved in only one way by creating a real threat to the strategic location of Nazi Germany in Europe and thus forcing the German-Fascist command to ease their pressure on the Soviet Union, to remove part of the forces from the Soviet-German front and transfer them to other theaters hostilities.
Economic results of the World War II
Immediately after the war was over a certain decrease in gross domestic product (GDP) was recorded due to the conversion of military production, which took place in both winning countries winners (UK, USA ), and in the conquered countries (Japan, Germany, Italy). There has been a decline in production in Japan (due to its dependence on external sources of energy and raw materials), and France exchanging its products for money led to a cut in the agricultural sector. Practically only the United States could use a state of war to some extent to increase its economic dominance, due to its geographical distance from the main theaters of war, therefore, only the U.S. could skillfully use that economic situation.
During the war, industrial production in this country has doubled and net profit of corporations even tripled. As a result, the United States became the owner of two thirds of industrial production and gold reserves in the whole world. In such circumstances, the U.S. acted as a sponsor of so-called program "reconstruction and development" of Europe, that was drafted by a former Chief of Staff of the United States, General George Catlett Marshall appointed in 1947 by Secretary of State. Under this program certain measures have been taken to provide emergency financial assistance in order to assist each country in rebuilding its monetary, financial, and trade system. The Marshall Plan proved to be a concrete contribution to the post-war financial problems, which allowed the Allies to replace the supply of arms, ammunition, with the supply of food and goods necessary for economic recovery in Europe. At the same time, the Marshall Plan contributed greatly to the conversion of American industry, with funds credit allowing financing the purchase of American products. Thus, from 1947 to 1955 the U.S.A. has provided European countries with $35 billion of financial aid, including $11.5 billion in military aid, and $17 billion with at no charge. For the distribution of aid under the Marshall Plan in April, 1948, the Organization for European Economic Cooperation was created, which was later renamed the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ( OECD) in 1960. The Soviet Union has criticized the idea of this plan, considering it as a mechanism of interfering in the internal affairs of European countries, dividing Europe into two opposing groups of states, as such states as the USSR, Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Finland were not provided aim by the Marshall Plan. In 1947, at the Paris Conference of 16 European countries taking part in the Marshall Plan (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Turkey, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany) a special Committee for European Economic Cooperation was established, and was to be compiled basing on detailed reports on the state of the economy, foreign exchange reserves, military destructions, restoration work, and in the end the summary application of American aid was expressed in a total of $ 29 billion. The provision of economic aid was carried out by means of bilateral agreements on the terms rejecting any nationalization of industries, providing complete freedom of private enterprise, unilaterally reducing customs tariffs on imports of U.S. goods, restricting trade with socialist countries and other specially created to U.S. economic Cooperation Administration oversees the implementation of the Marshall Plan. During 4 years of the plan (1948-1951), the United States provided the European countries with the amount of about $ 17 billion, with over 2/3 of this amount going to four leading European countries-Britain, France, Italy and Germany. The main purpose of the Marshall Plan was to restore weak European economies, creating the conditions for the revival of the U.S.A: the rapid development of intra-European trade, enhancing the most effective production capacity to achieve rapid output through intersectoral cooperation, strengthening currencies. High effectiveness of the Marshall Plan in conjunction with the implementation of its own economic programs allowed Western European countries to sharply increase production of key industrial products in 1948-1951.
In order to restore a badly shattered international monetary system, there were three parallel processes:
- Organization of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
- Implementation of the Bretton Woods system
- Organization of the European Payments Union
All of the measures taken by world community have allowed shattered countries to reach pre-war amounts of production in the matter of years.
The Second World War was the largest military conflict in the human history, with more than 60 countries, and a population of 1.7 billion taking part in it. Military spending totaled $1.384 trillion, with material damage estimated at $2.6 trillion. This war had an unprecedented scale of human losses and destruction, with more than 46 million people losing their lives in the war, 5 times more than in the World War I, including the Soviet Union lost more than 26 million, Germany approximately 6 million, Poland 5.8 million, Japan lost approximately 2 million, Yugoslavia-approximately 1.6 million, Hungary-600 thousand, France-570 thousand, Romania-approximately 460 thousand, Italy-approximately 450 thousand, Hungary-approximately 430 thousand, United States, United Kingdom and Greece-400 thousand, Belgium-88 thousand, Canada-40 thousand, and finally 12 million people lost in the death camps. Among the participating countries the Soviet Union bore the main brunt of the war. The overall length of the Soviet-German front was from 3 to 6 thousand km; fronts in North Africa and Italy-300-350 km, the Western Front-800 km. On the Soviet-German front operated from 190 to 270 enemy divisions; in North Africa-from 9 to 206; in Italy-from 7 to 26. Soviet troops captured and destroyed more than 600 divisions of Nazi Germany and its allies, when the United States and Britain defeated 176 Nazi divisions.
The World War II had important political consequences, resulting in the disappearance of two historic hearth of militarism-German (Prussian) in Europe, and the Japanese in the Far East. A new international political configuration appeared based on two centers of gravity-the USSR and the U.S., which by the end of 1940 headed in two opposite directions-West and East (bipolar world system). Communism, as a political phenomenon, lost its local character, and became one of the determining factors of global development for almost half a century.
The balance of forces within Europe changed radically, with Britain and France losing the status of pan-European hegemony, along with a dramatic increase of influence of social-democratic and communist parties, especially in Italy and France, which weakened the hegemony of the Western block over the rest of the world as a whole. The WWII also initiated the process of disintegration of the world’s colonial system, with the collapsed of not only Japanese and Italian colonial empire, but French, Belgian, Holland, UK, and U.S.A. as well. During the war the international influence of the USSR increased dramatically. Together with the U.S., the Soviet Union became one of the world leading powers. Such situation only strengthened the internal political system of Soviet society, with it emerging a much stronger state after the war in political terms. This extensive growth of Soviet influence became extremely worrying to leaders of the Western powers, and as a result, two strategic objectives were identified with respect to the USSR: prevent further expansion of the sphere of influence of the USSR, which led to the creation of a political-military alliance of Western countries led by the U.S. (NATO , 1949), and place a network of military bases U.S. on the borders of the USSR in order to maintain the anti-socialist forces within the Soviet bloc borders.
Terrible consequences of the war strengthened the global trend to unite for the sake of preventing new military conflicts, the need to create a more effective system of collective security than the League of Nations. This idea was expressed in the establishment of the United Nations in April, 1945.
"Avalon Project - World War II : Documents." Avalon Project - Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2014. <http://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/wwii.asp>.
Miller, Donald L., and Henry Steele Commager. The Story of World War II: Revised, expanded, and updated from the original. NY: Simon & Schuster, n.d. Print.
O'Neill, John, and Geoffrey Jukes. World War II: The Eastern Front, 1941-1945 (World War II: Essential Histories). NY: Rosen Publishing Group, 2010. Print.