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international relations, 20th-century
Encyclopædia Britannica Article

Introduction
history of the relations between states, especially the great powers, from
approximately 1900 to 2000.

The history of the 20th century was shaped by the changing relations of
the world's great powers. The first half of the century, the age of the
World Wars and the start of the Cold War, was dominated by the rivalries
of those powers. The second half saw the replacement, largely through the
agency of those wars, of the European state system by a world system with
many centres of both power and discord. This article provides a single
integrated narrative of the changing context of world politics, from the
outbreak of World War I to the 1990s. Because domestic affairs figure
heavily in the analysis of each state's foreign policies, the reader should
consult the histories of the individual countries for more detail.
For discussion of the military strategy, tactics, and conduct of the World
Wars, see World War I and World War II.

The roots of World War I, 1871–1914
Forty-three years of peace among the great powers of Europe came to an
end in 1914, when an act of political terrorism provoked two great alliance
systems into mortal combat. The South Slav campaign against Austrian rule
in Bosnia, culminating in the assassination of the Habsburg heir apparent
at Sarajevo, was the spark. This local crisis rapidly engulfed all the powers
of Europe through the mechanisms of the Triple Alliance and the Triple
Entente, diplomatic arrangements meant precisely to enhance the security
of their members and to deter potential aggressors. The long-term causes
of the war can therefore be traced to the forces that impelled the
formation of those alliances, increased tensions among the great powers,
and made at least some European leaders desperate enough to seek their
objectives even at the risk of a general war. These forces included
militarism and mass mobilization, instability in domestic and international
politics occasioned by rapid industrial growth, global imperialism, popular
nationalism, and the rise of a social Darwinist worldview. But the question
of why World War I broke out should be considered together with the
questions of why peace ended and why in 1914 rather than before or after.

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The Bismarckian system, 1871–90
The era of the great powers
The European map and world politics were less confused in the
decades after 1871 than at any time before or since. The unifications
of Italy and Germany removed the congeries of central European
principalities that dated back to the Holy Roman Empire, while the
breakup of eastern and southeastern Europe into small and quarreling
states (a process that would yield the term balkanization) was not far
advanced. There the old empires, Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and
Ottoman (Turkish), still prevailed. The lesser powers of Europe,
including some that once had been great, like the Netherlands,
Sweden, and Spain, played little or no role in the affairs of the great
powers unless their own interests were directly involved. Both physical
size and the economies of scale important in an industrial age
rendered smaller and less developed countries impotent, while the
residual habits of diplomacy dating from the Congress of Vienna of
1815 made the great powers the sole arbiters of European politics.

In the wider world, a diplomatic system of the European variety
existed nowhere else. The outcome of the U.S. Civil War and
Anglo-American settlement of the Canadian border ensured that North
America would not develop a multilateral balance-of-power system.
South and Central America had splintered into 17 independent
republics following the final retreat of Spanish rule in 1820, but the
new Latin American states were inward-looking, their centres of
population and resources isolated by mountains, jungle, and sheer
distance, and disputes among them were of mostly local interest. The
Monroe Doctrine, promulgated by the United States and enforced by
the British navy, sufficed to spare Latin America new European
adventures, the only major exception—Napoleon III's gambit in
Mexico—occurring while the United States was preoccupied with civil
war. When the United States purchased Alaska from the Russian tsar
and Canada acquired dominion status, both in 1867, European
possessions on the American mainland were reduced to three small
Guianan colonies in South America and British Honduras (Belize). North
Africa east of Algeria was still nominally under the aegis of the
Ottoman sultan, while sub-Saharan Africa, apart from a few European
ports on the coast, was terra incognita. The British had regularized
their hold on the Indian subcontinent after putting down the Indian
Mutiny of 1857–58, while the Chinese and Japanese empires remained
xenophobic and isolationist. Thus, the cabinets of the European great
powers were at the zenith of their influence.

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Europe itself, by 1871, seemed to be entering an age of political and
social progress. Britain's Second Reform Act (1867), the French Third
Republic (1875), the triumph of nationalism in Italy and Germany
(1871), the establishment of universal manhood suffrage in Germany
(1867), equality for the Hungarians in the Habsburg monarchy (1867),
emancipation of the serfs in Russia (1861), and the adoption of free
trade by the major European states all seemed to justify faith in the
peaceful evolution of Europe toward liberal institutions and prosperity.
International peace also seemed assured once Otto von Bismarck
declared the new German Empire a satisfied power and placed his
considerable talents at the service of stability. The chancellor knew
Germany to be a military match for any rival but feared the possibility
of a coalition. Since France would never be reconciled to her reduced
status and the loss of Alsace-Lorraine imposed by the treaty ending the
Franco-German War, Bismarck strove to keep France isolated. In 1873
he conjured up the ghost of monarchical solidarity and formed a
Dreikaiserbund (Three Emperors' League) with Austria-Hungary and
Russia. Such a combination was always vulnerable to Austro-Russian
rivalry over the Eastern Question—the problem of how to organize the
feuding Balkan nationalities gradually freeing themselves from the
decrepit Ottoman Empire.
After the Slavic provinces of Bosnia and Hercegovina rebelled against
Ottoman rule in 1875 and Russia made war on the Ottoman Empire two
years later, the Dreikaiserbund collapsed. Bismarck achieved a
compromise at the Congress of Berlin (1878), but Austro-Russian amity
was not restored. In 1879, therefore, Bismarck concluded a permanent
peacetime military alliance with Austria, whereupon the tsarist
government, to court German favour, agreed to a renewal of the
Dreikaiserbund in 1881. Italy, seeking aid for her Mediterranean
ambitions, joined Germany and Austria-Hungary to form the Triple
Alliance in 1882.
The next Balkan crisis, which erupted in Bulgaria in 1885, again
tempted Russia to expand its influence to the gates of Constantinople.
Bismarck dared not oppose the Russians lest he push them toward an
alliance with vengeful France. So instead he played midwife to an
Anglo-Austro-Italian combination called the Second Mediterranean
Entente, which blocked Russian ambitions in Bulgaria while Bismarck
himself concluded a Reinsurance Treaty with St. Petersburg in 1887.
Once more the Eastern Question had been defused and Germany's
alliances preserved.

The nature of the German state

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The generation of peace after 1871 rested on Germany's irenic temper,
served in turn by Bismarck's statesmanship. Should that temper
change, or less adept leadership succeed Bismarck, Germany had the
potential to become the major disrupter of European stability. For the
constitution drafted by Bismarck for the Second Reich was a
dysfunctional document designed to satisfy middle-class nationalism
while preserving the power of the Prussian crown and the Junker class
(the Prussian landed aristocracy). Apparently a federal empire,
Germany was in fact dominated by Prussia, which was larger in area
and population than all the other states combined. The king of Prussia
was kaiser and chief warlord of the German armies; the prime minister
of Prussia was the federal chancellor, responsible, not to a majority in
the Reichstag, but only to the crown. Furthermore, Prussia retained a
three-class voting system weighted in favour of the wealthy. The army
remained, in Prussian tradition, virtually a state within the state, loyal
to the kaiser alone. In sum, Germany remained a semi-autocratic
military monarchy even as it blossomed into an industrial mass society.
The lack of outlets for popular dissent and reform was especially
damaging given the cleavages that continued to plague Germany after
unification: Protestant North versus Catholic South, agriculture versus
industry, Prussia versus the other states, Junkers versus middle-class
liberals, industrialists versus the (increasingly socialist) working class.
Bismarck manipulated the parties and interests as he did foreign
powers. But toward the end of his tenure, even he realized that
German politics might someday reduce to a choice between surrender
of privilege by the old elites or a coup d'état against the liberal and
socialist groups he labeled Reichsfeinde (enemies of the Reich).
Austria-Hungary and Russia, still overwhelmingly agrarian, faced
different challenges by the end of the 19th century. Most acute for
Austria-Hungary was the nationality question. An heir to the
universalist vision of the Holy Roman Empire, Austria-Hungary was a
multinational empire composed not only of Germans and Magyars but
also of (in 1870) 4,500,000 Czechs and Slovaks, 3,100,000 Ruthenes,
2,400,000 Poles, 2,900,000 Romanians, 3,000,000 Serbs and Croats,
about 1,000,000 Slovenes, and 600,000 Italians. Thus, the Habsburgs
faced the challenge of accommodating the nationalism of their ethnic
minorities without provoking the dissolution of their empire. In British,
French, and, increasingly, Russian opinion, Austria-Hungary was simply
out of step with the times, moribund, and, after Turkey, the most
despised of states. Bismarck, however, saw Austria-Hungary as “a
European necessity”: the organizing principle in an otherwise chaotic
corner of Europe, the bulwark against Russian expansion, and the
keystone in the balance of power. But the progress of nationalism
gradually undermined the legitimacy of the old empires. Ironically,
Austria existed from 1815 to 1914 in a symbiotic relationship with her
ancient enemy, the Ottoman Empire. For as the Balkan peoples

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gradually pulled free from Constantinople, they and their cousins
across the Habsburg frontier inevitably agitated for liberation from
Vienna as well.

Russia was also a multinational empire, but with the exception of the
Poles her subject peoples were too few compared to Great Russians to
pose a threat. Rather, Russia's problem in the late 19th century was
backwardness. Ever since the humiliating defeat in the Crimean War,
tsars and their ministers had undertaken reforms to modernize
agriculture, technology, and education. But the Russian autocracy,
making no concession to popular sovereignty and nationality, was more
threatened by social change even than the Germans. Hence the
dilemma of the last tsars: they had to industrialize in order to
maintain Russia as a great power, yet industrialization, by calling into
being a large technical and managerial class and an urban proletariat,
also undermined the social basis of the dynasty.
In sum, the decades after 1871 did not sustain the liberal progress of
the 1860s. Resistance to political reform in the empires, a retreat
from free trade after 1879, the growth of labour unions, revolutionary
socialism, and social tensions attending demographic and industrial
growth all affected the foreign policies of the great powers. It was as
if, at its pinnacle of achievement, the very elements of liberal
“progress”—technology, imperialism, nationalism, cultural modernism,
and scientism—were inviting Europeans to steer their civilization
toward calamity.

The impact of industrialism and imperialism
Patterns of population
European demographic and industrial growth in the 19th century was
frantic and uneven, and both qualities contributed to growing
misperceptions and paranoia in international affairs. European
population grew at the rate of 1 percent per year in the century after
1815, an increase that would have been disastrous had it not been for
the outlet of emigration and the new prospects of employment in the
rapidly expanding cities. But the distribution of Europe's peoples
changed radically, altering the military balance among the great
powers. In the days of Louis XIV, France was the most populous—and
also the wealthiest—kingdom in Europe, and as late as 1789 it
numbered 25 million to Britain's 14.5 million. When the French
Revolution unleashed this national power through rationalized central
administration, meritocracy, and a national draft based on patriotism,
it achieved unprecedented organization of force in the form of armies

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of millions of men.

The French tide receded, at the cost of more than a million deaths
from 1792 to 1815, never to crest again. Population growth in France,
alone among the great powers, was almost stagnant thereafter; by
1870 her population of 36 million was nearly equal to that of
Austria-Hungary and already less than Germany's 41 million. By 1910
Germany's population exploded to a level two-thirds greater than
France's, while vast Russia's population nearly doubled from 1850 to
1910 until it was more than 70 percent greater than Germany's,
although Russia's administrative and technical backwardness offset to a
degree her advantage in numbers. The demographic trends clearly
traced the growing danger for France vis-à-vis Germany and the danger
for Germany vis-à-vis Russia. Should Russia ever succeed in
modernizing, she would become a colossus out of all proportion to the
European continent.
Population pressure was a double-edged sword dangling out of reach
above the heads of European governments in the 19th century. On the
one hand, fertility meant a growing labour force and potentially a
larger army. On the other hand, it threatened social discord if
economic growth or external safety valves could not relieve the
pressure. The United Kingdom adjusted through urban industrialization
on the one hand and emigration to the United States and the British
dominions on the other. France had no such pressure but was forced to
draft a higher percentage of its manpower to fill the army ranks.
Russia exported perhaps 10 million excess people to its eastern and
southern frontiers and several million more (mostly Poles and Jews)
overseas. Germany, too, sent large numbers abroad, and no nation
provided more new industrial employment from 1850 to 1910. Still,
Germany's landmass was small relative to Russia's, her overseas
possessions unsuitable to settlement, and her sense of beleaguerment
acute in the face of the “Slavic threat.” Demographic trends thus
helped to implant in the German population a feeling of both
momentary strength and looming danger.

Industry, technology, and trade
Industrial trends magnified the demographic, for here again Germany
was far and away the fastest growing economic power on the
Continent. This was so not only in the basic industries of coal and iron
and steel but also in the advanced fields of electricity, chemicals, and
internal combustion. Germany's swift development strained the
traditional balance of power in her own society and politics. By the
end of the century Germany had become a highly urbanized, industrial
society, complete with large, differentiated middle and factory
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proletariat classes, but it was still governed largely by precapitalist
aristocrats increasingly threatened by demands for political reform.

Industrialization also made possible the outfitting and supply of mass
armies drawn from the growing populations. After 1815 the monarchies
of Europe had shied away from arming the masses in the French
revolutionary fashion, and the events of 1848 further justified their
fear of an armed citizenry. But in the reserve system Prussia found a
means of making possible a rapid mobilization of the citizenry without
the risk to the regime or the elite officer corps posed by a large
standing, and idle, army. (In Austria-Hungary the crown avoided
disloyalty in the army by stationing soldiers of one ethnic group on the
soil of another.) After Prussia's stunning victory over France in 1871,
all the great powers came sooner or later to adopt the German model
of a mass army, supplied by a national network of railways and arms
industries coordinated in turn by a general staff. The industrialization
of war meant that planning and bureaucracy, technology and finance
were taking the place of bold generalship and esprit in the soldier's
craft.

The final contribution to the revolution in warfare was planned
research and development of weapons systems. Begun hesitantly in the
French navy in the 1850s and '60s, command technology—the
collaboration of state and industry in the invention of new
armaments—was widely practiced by the turn of the century, adding to
the insecurity that inevitably propelled the arms races. The
demographic, technical, and managerial revolutions of the 19th
century, in sum, made possible the mobilization of entire populations
and economies for the waging of war.
The home of the Industrial Revolution was Great Britain, whose
priority in the techniques of the factory system and of steam power
was the foundation for a period of calm confidence known (with some
exaggeration) as the Pax Britannica. The pound sterling became the
preferred reserve currency of the world and the Bank of England the
hub of international finance. British textiles, machinery, and shipping
dominated the markets of Asia, South America, and much of Europe.
The British Isles (again with some hyperbole) were “the workshop of
the world” and in consequence from 1846 led the world in promoting
free trade. British diplomacy, proudly eschewing alliances in favour of
“splendid isolation,” sought to preserve a balance of power on the
Continent and to protect the routes to India from Russian
encroachment in the Middle East or Afghanistan.
The Pax Britannica could last only as long as Britain's industrial
hegemony. But that hegemony very naturally impelled other nations
somehow to catch up, in the short term by imposing protective tariffs

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to shield domestic industries and in the longer term by granting
government subsidies (for railroads and other national development
work) and the gradual replication of British techniques. First Belgium,
France, and New England, then Germany and other states after 1850
began to challenge Britain's industrial dominance.

France (1860), Prussia (1862), and other countries then reversed
earlier policies and followed the British into free trade. But in 1873 a
financial panic, attributed by some to overextension in Germany after
receipt of France's billion-franc indemnity, ended the period of rapid
growth. In the depression of 1873–96 (actually years of slower, uneven
growth) industrial and labour leaders formed cartels, unions, and
lobbies to agitate for tariffs and other forms of state intervention to
stabilize the economy. Bismarck resisted until European agriculture
also suffered from falling prices and lost markets after 1876 owing to
the arrival in European ports of North American cereals. In 1879 the
so-called alliance of rye and steel voted a German tariff on foreign
manufactured goods and foodstuffs. Free trade gave way to an era of
neo-mercantilism. France, Austria, Italy, and Russia followed the new
(or revived) trend toward tariff protection. After 1896 the volume of
world trade rose sharply again, but the sense of heightened economic
competition persisted in Europe.

Social rifts also hardened during the period. Challenged by unrest and
demands for reforms, Bismarck sponsored the first state social
insurance plans, but he also used an attempt on the kaiser's life in
1878 as a pretext to outlaw the Social Democratic Party. Conservative
circles, farmers as well as the wealthier classes, came gradually to
distrust the loyalty of the urban working class, but industrialists shared
few other interests with farmers. Other countries faced similar
divisions between town and country, but urbanization was not
advanced enough in Russia or France for socialism to acquire a mass
following, while in Britain agriculture had long since lost out to the
commercial and industrial classes, and the working class participated
fully in democratic politics. The social divisions attending
industrialization were especially acute in Germany because of the
rapidity of her development and the survival of powerful precapitalist
elites. Moreover, the German working class, while increasingly
unionized, had few legal means of affecting state policy. All this made
for a series of deadlocks in German politics that would increasingly
affect foreign policy after Bismarck's departure.

The New Imperialism
The 1870s and '80s, therefore, witnessed a retreat from the free
market and a return to state intervention in economic affairs. The
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foreign counterpart to this phenomenon was the New Imperialism. The
great powers of Europe suddenly shook off almost a century of apathy
toward overseas colonies and, in the space of 20 years, partitioned
almost the entire uncolonized portion of the globe. Theories
postulating Europe's need to export surplus capital do not fit the facts.
Only Britain and France were capital-exporting countries in 1880, and
in years to come their investors preferred to export capital to other
European countries (especially Russia) or the Western Hemisphere
rather than to their own colonies. The British remained free-trade
throughout the era of the New Imperialism, a booming home economy
absorbed most German capital, and Italy and Russia were large net
importers of capital. Once the scramble for colonies was complete,
pressure groups did form in the various countries to argue the
economic promise of imperialism, but just as often governments had
to foster colonial development. In most cases, trade did not lead but
followed the flag.

Why, then, was the flag planted in the first place? Sometimes it was to
protect economic interests, as when the British occupied Egypt in
1882, but more often it was for strategic reasons or in pursuit of
national prestige. One necessary condition for the New Imperialism,
often overlooked, is technological. Prior to the 1870s Europeans could
overawe native peoples along the coasts of Africa and Asia but lacked
the firepower, mobility, and communications that would have been
needed to pacify the interior. (India was the exception, where the
British East India Company exploited an anarchic situation and allied
itself with selected native rulers against others.) The tsetse fly and the
Anopheles mosquito—bearers of sleeping sickness and malaria—were
the ultimate defenders of African and Asian jungles. The correlation of
forces between Europe and the colonizable world shifted, however,
with the invention of shallow-draft riverboats, the steamship and
telegraph, the repeater rifle and Maxim gun, and the discovery (in
India) that quinine is an effective prophylactic against malaria. By
1880 small groups of European regulars, armed with modern weapons
and exercising fire discipline, could overwhelm many times their
number of native troops.
The scramble for Africa should be dated not from 1882, when the
British occupied Egypt, but from the opening of the Suez Canal in
1869. The strategic importance of that waterway cannot be
overstated. It was the gateway to India and East Asia and hence a vital
interest nonpareil for the British Empire. When the khedive of Egypt
defaulted on loans owed to France and Britain, and a nationalist
uprising ensued—the first such Arab rebellion against the Western
presence—the French backed away from military occupation, although
with Bismarck's encouragement and moral support they occupied Tunis
in 1881, expanding their North African presence from Algeria. Prime

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Minister William Ewart Gladstone, otherwise an adamant
anticolonialist, then established a British protectorate in Egypt. When
the French reacted bitterly, Bismarck further encouraged French
colonial expansion in hopes of distracting them from Europe, and he
then took his own country into the fray by claiming four large
segments of Africa for Germany in 1884. In that year the king of the
Belgians cast his eye on the entire Congo basin. The Berlin West Africa
Conference of 1884–85 was called to settle a variety of disputes
involved in European colonial occupation, and over the next 10 years
all the great powers of Europe save Austria and Russia staked out
colonies and protectorates on the African continent. But whatever the
ambitions and rivalries of military adventurers, explorers, and private
empire builders on the scene, the cabinets of Europe came to
agreements on colonial boundaries with surprising neighbourliness.
Colonial wars did ensue after 1894, but never between two European
colonial powers.
It has been suggested that imperial rivalries were a long-range cause
of World War I. It has also been said that they were a safety valve,
drawing off European energies that might otherwise have erupted in
war much sooner. But the links between imperialism and the war are
more subtle. The heyday of the New Imperialism, especially after
1894, created a tacit understanding in the European elites and the
broad literate classes that the days of the old European balance of
power were over, that a new world order was dawning, and that any
nation left behind in the pursuit of world power would sink into
obscurity. This intuition must surely have fed a growing sense of
desperation among Germans, and one of paranoia among Britons,
about trends in global politics. A second point, subtler still, is that the
New Imperialism, while it did not directly provoke World War I, did
occasion a transformation of alliances that proved dangerous beyond
reckoning once the great powers turned their attention back to
Europe.

Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859, and within a
decade popularizers had applied—or misapplied—his theories of natural
selection and survival of the fittest to contemporary politics and
economics. This pseudoscientific social Darwinism appealed to
educated Europeans already demoralized by a century of higher
criticism of religious scripture and conscious of the competitiveness of
their own daily lives in that age of freewheeling industrial capitalism.
By the 1870s books appeared explaining the outcome of the
Franco-German War, for instance, with reference to the “vitality” of
the Germanic peoples by comparison to the “exhausted” Latins.
Pan-Slavic literature extolled the youthful vigour of that race, of
whom Russia was seen as the natural leader. A belief in the natural
affinity and superiority of Nordic peoples sustained Joseph

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Chamberlain's conviction that an Anglo-American–German alliance
should govern the world in the 20th century. Vulgar anthropology
explained the relative merits of human races on the basis of
physiognomy and brain size, a “scientific” approach to world politics
occasioned by the increasing contact of Europeans with Asians and
Africans. Racialist rhetoric became common currency, as when the
kaiser referred to Asia's growing population as “the yellow peril” and
spoke of the next war as a “death struggle between the Teutons and
Slavs.” Poets and philosophers idealized combat as the process by
which nature weeds out the weak and improves the human race.

By 1914, therefore, the political and moral restraints on war that had
arisen after 1789–1815 were significantly weakened. The old
conservative notion that established governments had a heavy stake in
peace lest revolution engulf them, and the old liberal notion that
national unity, democracy, and free trade would spread harmony,
were all but dead. The historian cannot judge how much social
Darwinism influenced specific policy decisions, but a mood of fatalism
and bellicosity surely eroded the collective will to peace.

Completing the alliance systems, 1890–1907
Germany's new course
In 1890 the young kaiser William II dismissed the aged Bismarck and
proclaimed a new course for Germany. An intelligent but unstable man
who compensated for a withered arm with military demeanour and
intemperate remarks, William felt keenly his realm's lack of prestige in
comparison with the British Empire. William rejected Bismarck's
emphasis on security in Europe in favour of a flamboyant Weltpolitik
(world policy) aimed at making Germany's presence abroad
commensurate with her new industrial might. Where Bismarck
considered colonies a dangerous luxury given Germany's geographic
position, the kaiser thought them indispensable for Germany's future.
Where Bismarck sought alliances to avoid the risk of war on two fronts,
the kaiser (and his chief foreign policy official, Baron von Holstein)
believed Germany should capitalize on the colonial quarrels among
France, Britain, and Russia. Where Bismarck had outlawed the
socialists and feared for the old order in Germany, the kaiser
permitted the antisocialist laws to lapse and believed he could win
over the working class through prosperity, social policy, and national
glory.
The consequences of the new course were immediate and damaging.
In 1890 Holstein gratuitously dropped Bismarck's Reinsurance Treaty

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with Russia, prompting St. Petersburg to overcome its antipathy to
republican France and conclude a military alliance in 1894. The tie was
sealed with a golden braid: between 1894 and 1914 the Russians
floated billions of francs in loans on the Paris market to finance
factory building, arms programs, and military railroads to the German
border. Russia hoped mainly for French support in its colonial disputes
with the British Empire and even went so far as to agree with
Austria-Hungary in 1897 to hold the question of the Balkans in
abeyance for 10 years, thereby freeing resources for the construction
of the Trans-Siberian Railroad and the penetration of northern China.
The German foreign office thus did not take alarm at the alliance
Bismarck had struggled so long to prevent.
The Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95 signaled the arrival of Japan on the
world stage. Having seen their nation forcibly opened to foreign
influence by Commodore Matthew C. Perry in 1853, the Japanese
determined not to suffer China's fate as a hapless object of Western
incursion. Once the Meiji Restoration established strong central
government beginning in 1868, Japan became the first non-Western
state to launch a crash program of industrialization. By the 1890s its
modern army and navy permitted Japan to take its place beside the
Europeans as an imperial power. In the war with China, Japan won
control of Korea, Taiwan, Port Arthur on the Manchurian mainland,
and other advantages. European intervention scaled back these gains,
but a scramble for concessions in China eventuated. Russia won
concessions in Manchuria, the French in South China, the Germans at
Jiaozhou Bay on the Shandong Peninsula. In 1898 the United States
annexed the Philippine Islands after the Spanish-American War. The
loser in the scramble, besides China, was Britain, which had previously
enjoyed a near monopoly in the China trade.

The threats to Britain's empire
British fortunes suffered elsewhere during this high tide of imperialism
from 1897 to 1907. The South African, or Boer, War (1899–1902)
against the independent Boer republics of the South African interior
proved longer and costlier than the British expected, and although
they won the “dirty little war” the British saw their world position
erode. Germany partitioned Samoa with the United States, and the
latter annexed the Hawaiian Islands. Germany abandoned her long
apathy toward the Middle East and won a concession for Turkish
railroads. The kaiser, influenced by his envy of Britain, his own
fondness for seafaring, and the worldwide impact of The Influence of
Sea Power upon History by the American naval scholar Captain Alfred
Thayer Mahan, determined that Weltpolitik was impossible without a

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great High Seas Fleet. The prospect of a large German navy—next to
the growing fleets of France, Russia, Japan, and the United
States—meant that Britain would no longer rule the waves alone.

The dawn of the 20th century was thus a time of anxiety for the British
Empire as well. Challenged for the first time by the commercial,
naval, and colonial might of many other industrializing nations, the
British reconsidered the wisdom of splendid isolation. To be sure, in
the Fashoda Incident of 1898 Britain succeeded in forcing France to
retreat from the upper reaches of the Nile. But how much longer could
Britain defend her empire alone? Colonial Secretary Joseph
Chamberlain began at once to sound out Berlin on the prospect of
global collaboration. A British demarche was precisely what the
Germans had been expecting, but three attempts to reach an
Anglo-German understanding, between 1898 and 1901, led to naught.
In retrospect, it is hard to see how it could have been otherwise. The
German foreign minister and, from 1900, chancellor, Bernhard, Fürst
(prince) von Bülow, shared the kaiser's and Holstein's ambitions for
world power. If, as Germany's neo-Rankean historians proclaimed, the
old European balance of power was giving way to a new world balance,
then the future would surely belong to the Anglo-Saxons (British
Empire and America) and Slavs (Russian Empire) unless Germany were
able to achieve its own place in the sun. Bülow agreed that “our
future lies on the water.” German and British interests were simply
irreconcilable. What Britain sought was German help in reducing
Franco-Russian pressure on the British Empire and defending the
balance of power. What Germany sought was British neutrality or
cooperation while Germany expanded its own power in the world.
Bülow still believed in Holstein's “free hand” policy of playing the
other powers off against each other and accordingly placed a high
price on German support and invited Britain to join the Triple Alliance
as a full military partner. Understandably, the British declined to
underwrite Germany's continental security.
The failure of the Anglo-German talks condemned both powers to
dangerous competition. The German navy could never hope to equal
the British and would only ensure British hostility. But equality was not
necessary, said Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz. All Germany needed was a
“risk fleet” large enough to deter the British, who would not dare
alienate Germany and thus lose their only potential ally in the
continuing rivalry with France and Russia. In this way Germany could
extract concessions from London without alliance or war. What the
Germans failed to consider was that Britain might someday come to
terms with its other antagonists.
This was precisely what Britain did. The Edwardian era (1901–10) was
one of intense concern over the decline of Britain's naval and

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commercial dominance. German firms shouldered aside the British in
numerous markets (even though they remained each other's best
trading partners). The new German navy menaced Britain in her home
waters. The French and Russian fleets, not to mention the Japanese,
outnumbered the Royal Navy's Asian squadron. The French, Italian, and
potential Russian presence in the Mediterranean threatened the British
lifeline to India. Soon the Panama Canal would enable the United
States to deploy a two-ocean navy. Accordingly, the foreign secretary,
Lord Lansdowne, set about reducing the number of Britain's potential
opponents. First, he cemented friendly relations with the United
States in the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty (1901). He then shocked the world
by concluding a military alliance with Japan, thereby securing British
interests in East Asia and allowing the empire to concentrate its
regional forces on India. But when growing tension between Russia and
Japan over Manchuria appeared likely to erupt in war in 1904, France
(Russia's ally) and Britain (now Japan's ally) faced a quandary. To
prevent being dragged into the conflict, the French and British
shucked off their ancient rivalry and concluded an Entente Cordiale
whereby France gave up opposition to British rule in Egypt, and Britain
recognized French rights in Morocco. Though strictly a colonial
arrangement, it marked another step away from isolation for both
Britain and France and another step toward it for the restless and
frustrated Germans.
The Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05 was an ominous turning point.
Contrary to all expectations, Japan triumphed on land and sea, and
Russia stumbled into the Revolution of 1905. U.S. President Theodore
Roosevelt mediated the Treaty of Portsmouth ending the war, and the
tsar quelled the revolutionary flames with promises of parliamentary
government, but the war resonated in world diplomacy. Japan
established itself as the leading Asian power. The example of an
Oriental nation rising up to defeat a European great power
emboldened Chinese, Indians, and Arabs to look forward to a day when
they might expel the imperialists from their midst. And tsarist Russia,
its Asian adventure a shambles, looked once again to the Balkans as a
field for expansion, setting the stage for World War I.

The Triple Entente
In 1905 the Germans seized on Russia's temporary troubles to pressure
France in Morocco. Bülow believed he had much to gain—at best he
might force a breakup of the Anglo-French entente, at worst he might
provoke a French retreat and secure German rights in Morocco. But at
the Algeciras Conference in 1906, called to settle the Morocco dispute,
only Austria-Hungary supported the German position. Far from

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breaking the Entente Cordiale, the affair prompted the British to begin
secret staff talks with the French military. The United States, Russia,
and even Italy, Germany's erstwhile partner in the Triple Alliance, took
France's side. For some years Italian ambitions in the Mediterranean
had been thwarted, and the attempt to conquer Abyssinia in 1896 had
failed. The German alliance seemed to offer little, while Rome's other
foreign objective, the Italian irredenta in the Tirol and Dalmatia, was
aimed at Austria-Hungary. So in 1900 Italy concluded a secret
agreement pledging support for France in Morocco in return for French
support of Italy in Libya. The Russo-Japanese War also strengthened
ties between France and Russia as French loans again rebuilt Russia's
shattered armed forces. Finally, and most critically, the defeated
Russians and worried British were now willing to put to rest their old
rivalry in Central Asia. The Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 made a
neutral buffer of Tibet, recognized Britain's interest in Afghanistan,
and partitioned Persia into spheres of influence. Foreign Secretary Sir
Edward Grey also hinted at the possibility of British support for Russian
policy in the Balkans, reversing a century-old tradition.
The heyday of European imperialism thus called into existence a
second alliance system, the Triple Entente of France, Britain, and
Russia. It was not originally conceived as a balance to German power,
but that was its effect, especially in light of the escalating naval race.
In 1906 the Royal Navy under the reformer Sir John Fisher launched
HMS Dreadnought, a battleship whose size, armour, speed, and
gunnery rendered all existing warships obsolete. The German
government responded in kind, even enlarging the Kiel Canal at great
expense to accommodate the larger ships. What were the British,
dependent on imports by sea for seven-eighths of their raw materials
and over half their foodstuffs, to make of German behaviour? In a
famous Foreign Office memo of January 1907, Senior Clerk Sir Eyre
Crowe surmised that Weltpolitik was either a conscious bid for
hegemony or a “vague, confused, and unpractical statesmanship not
realizing its own drift.” As Ambassador Sir Francis Bertie put it, “The
Germans aim to push us into the water and steal our clothes.”
For France the Triple Entente was primarily a continental security
apparatus. For Russia it was a means of reducing points of conflict so
that the antiquated tsarist system could buy time to catch up
technologically with the West. For Britain the ententes, the Japanese
alliance, and the “special relationship” with the United States were
diplomatic props for an empire beyond Britain's capacity to defend
alone. The three powers' interests by no means coincided—disputes
over Persia alone might have smashed Anglo-Russian unity if the war
had not intervened. But to the Germans the Triple Entente looked
suspiciously like encirclement designed to frustrate their rightful
claims to world power and prestige. German attempts to break the

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encirclement, however, would only alarm the entente powers and
cause them to draw the loose strings into a knot. That in turn tempted
German leaders, fearful that time was against them, to cut the
Gordian knot with the sword. For after 1907 the focus of diplomacy
shifted back to the Balkans, with European cabinets unaware, until it
was too late, that alliances made with the wide world in mind had
dangerously limited their freedom of action in Europe.

Militarism and pacifism before 1914
Anxiety and the arms race
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Europe before 1914
succumbed to hubris. The conventional images of “armed camps,” “a
powder keg,” or “saber rattling” almost trivialize a civilization that
combined within itself immense pride in its newly expanding power
and almost apocalyptic insecurity about the future. Europe bestrode
the world, and yet Lord Curzon could remark, “We can hardly take up
our morning newspaper without reading of the physical and moral
decline of the race,” and the German chief of staff, Helmuth von
Moltke, could say that if Germany backed down again on Morocco, “I
shall despair of the future of the German Empire.” France's stagnant
population and weak industry made her statesmen frantic for security,
Austrian leaders were filled with foreboding about their increasingly
disaffected nationalities, and the tsarist regime, with the most
justification, sensed doom.

Whether from ambition or insecurity, the great powers armed as never
before in peacetime, with military expenditures reaching 5 to 6
percent of national income. Military conscription and reserve systems
made available a significant percentage of the adult male population,
and the impulse to create large standing armies was strengthened by
the widespread belief that firepower and financial limitations would
make the next war short and violent. Simple reaction also played a
large role. Fear of the “Russian steamroller” was sufficient to expand
Germany's service law; a larger German army provoked the outmanned
French into an extension of national service to three years. Only
Britain did without a large conscripted army, but her naval needs were
proportionally more expensive.
In an age of heavy, rapid-fire artillery, infantry rifles, and railroads,
but not yet including motor transport, tanks, or airplanes, a premium
was placed by military staffs on mass, supply, and prior planning.
European commanders assumed that in a continental war the opening
frontier battles would be decisive, hence the need to mobilize the

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maximum number of men and move them at maximum speed to the
border. The meticulous and rigid advance planning that this strategy
required placed inordinate pressure on the diplomats in a crisis.
Politicians might hold back their army in hopes of saving the peace
only at the risk of losing the war should diplomacy fail. What was
more, all the continental powers embraced offensive strategies. The
French general staff's “cult of attack” assumed that élan could carry
the day against superior German numbers. Its Plan XVII called for an
immediate assault on Lorraine. The Germans' Schlieffen Plan addressed
the problem of war on two fronts by throwing almost the entire
German army into a sweeping offensive through neutral Belgium to
capture Paris and the French army in a gigantic envelope. Troops could
then be transported east to meet the slower-moving Russian army.
Worked out down to the last railroad switch and passenger car, the
Schlieffen Plan was an apotheosis of the industrial age: a mechanical,
almost mathematical perfection that wholly ignored political factors.
None of the general staffs anticipated what the war would actually be
like. Had they glimpsed the horrific stalemate in the trenches, surely
neither they nor the politicians would have run the risks they did in
1914.
Above the mass infantry armies of the early 20th century stood the
officer corps, the general staffs, and at the pinnacle the supreme war
lords: kaiser, emperor, tsar, and king, all of whom adopted military
uniforms as their standard dress in these years. The army was a natural
refuge for the central and eastern European aristocracies, the
chivalric code of arms sustaining almost the only public service to
which they could still reasonably lay claim. Even in republican France
a nationalist revival after 1912 excited public morale, inspired the
military buildup, and both fueled and cloaked a revanche aimed at
recovery of the provinces lost 40 years before. Popular European
literature poured forth best sellers depicting the next war, and
mass-circulation newspapers incited even the working classes with
news of imperial adventures or the latest slight by the adversary.

The peace movements
Various peace movements sprang up to counter the spirit of militarism
before 1914. Most numerous and disturbing to those responsible for
national defense were the socialists. The Second International took the
Marxist view of imperialism and militarism as creatures of capitalist
competition and loudly warned that if the bosses provoked a war, the
working classes would refuse to take part. Jean Jaurès defined the
proletariat as “masses of men who collectively love peace and hate
war.” The 1912 Basel Conference declared the proletariat “the herald

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of world peace” and proclaimed “war on war.” Sober observers like
George Bernard Shaw and Max Weber doubted that any putative sense
of solidarity among workers would outweigh their nationalism, but the
French government kept a blacklist of agitators who might try to
subvert mobilization. Some of Germany's leaders imagined that war
might provide the opportunity to crush socialism by appeals to
patriotism or martial law.

A liberal peace movement with a middle-class constituency flourished
around the turn of the century. As many as 425 peace organizations
are estimated to have existed in 1900, fully half of them in
Scandinavia and most others in Germany, Britain, and the United
States. Their greatest achievements were the Hague conferences of
1899 and 1907, at which the powers agreed to ban certain inhumane
weapons but made no progress toward general disarmament. The
liberal peace movement also foundered on internal contradictions. To
outlaw war was to endorse the international status quo, yet liberals
always stood ready to excuse wars that could claim progressive ends.
They had tolerated the wars of Italian and German unification, and
they would tolerate the Balkan Wars against the Ottoman Empire in
1912–13 and the great war in 1914. Another solution for many peace
advocates was to transcend the nation-state. Norman Angell's The
Great Illusion (1910) argued that it already had been transcended:
that interdependence among nations made war illogical and
counterproductive. To Marxists this image of capitalism was ludicrous;
to Weber or Joseph Schumpeter it was correct but beside the point.
Blood was thicker than class, or money; politics dominated economics;
and irrationality, reason.

The one European statesman most sympathetic to the peace
movements was, not surprisingly, Britain's Liberal foreign secretary, Sir
Edward Grey. Citing the waste, social discord, and international
tension caused by the naval arms race he made several overtures to
Germany in hopes of ending it. When these failed, Britain had little
choice but to race more quickly than the Germans. Even radical
Liberals like David Lloyd George had to admit that however much they
might deplore arms races in the abstract, all that was liberal and good
in the world depended on the security of Britain and its control of its
seas.

The Balkan crises and the outbreak of war, 1907–14
Growing tensions and German isolation
In the end, war did not come over the naval race or commercial

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competition or imperialism. Nor was it sparked by the institutional
violence of the armed states, but by underground terrorism in the
name of an oppressed people. Nor did it come over the ambitions of
great powers to become greater, but over the fear of one great power
that unless it took vigorous action it might cease to exist altogether. It
began in the Balkans.
In 1897 Austria-Hungary and Russia had agreed to put their dispute
over the Balkans on ice. When the agreement ran out in 1907, the
Ottoman Empire still ruled Macedonia, ringed by Greece, Montenegro,
Serbia, and Bulgaria. But everything else had changed. For now
Austria-Hungary's only reliable ally was Germany, whose Weltpolitik
had led it to join the competition for influence at Constantinople.
Russia was looking again at the Balkans for foreign policy advantage
and enjoying, for the first time, a measure of British tolerance. In
Serbia, the state most threatening to Vienna because of its ethnic tie
to the Serbs and Croats inside the Dual Monarchy, a fundamental
political shift had occurred. In previous years Vienna had neutralized
Serbia by bribing the ruling Obrenović dynasty, but in 1903 the rival
Karageorgević clan seized control in Belgrade in a bloody coup d'état
and shifted to a violently anti-Austrian policy. Finally, in 1908, a cabal
of officers known as the Young Turks staged the first modernizing
revolution in the Muslim world and tried to force the sultan to adopt
liberal reforms. In particular the Young Turks called for parliamentary
elections, thereby placing in doubt the status of Bosnia and
Hercegovina, provinces still under Ottoman sovereignty but
administered by Austria-Hungary since 1878. The Austro-Hungarian
foreign minister, Aloys Aehrenthal, proposed to settle the Bosnian
issue and to crush Serbian ambitions once and for all by annexing the
provinces. To this purpose he teased the Russian foreign minister,
Aleksandr Petrovich Izvolsky, with talk of a quid pro quo: Russia's
acquiescence in annexation in return for Austria-Hungary's in the
opening of the Dardanelles to Russian warships. When instead
Aehrenthal acted unilaterally, and Izvolsky's straits proposal was
rejected, the Russians felt betrayed. Their response was to increase
aid and comfort to their client Serbia and to determine never again to
back down in the Balkans.
German politics were also approaching a breaking point. Chancellor
von Bülow had governed, with the support of Tirpitz, the kaiser, and
the moderate and conservative parties in the Reichstag, on the basis
of a grand compromise of which the navy was the linchpin. Agrarian
interests continued to demand protection against foreign foodstuffs,
but the tariffs imposed to that end harmed German industrial exports.
A large armaments program, especially naval, compensated heavy
industry for lost foreign markets. The losers in the
tariffs-plus-navy-legislation arrangement were consumers, who were

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taxed for the defense program after they had paid higher prices for
bread. Popular resentment tended to increase the socialist vote, and
the other parties could command a majority only by banding together.

Soon, however, the expensive dreadnought race provoked a fiscal
crisis that cracked the Bülow bloc and, in 1909, elevated Theobald von
Bethmann Hollweg to the chancellorship. He faced the choice of
ending the naval race and moderating Germany's Weltpolitik or making
democratic concessions to the left or somehow rebuilding the coalition
of conservative agrarians and industrialists in the teeth of socialist
opposition. Bethmann showed signs of preferring the first course but
was undercut by the pressure of industry, Tirpitz's naval propaganda,
and the kaiser's bravado, symbolized by a damaging Daily Telegraph
interview (1908) in which he made inflammatory remarks about the
British. When in 1912 Lord Haldane was dispatched to Berlin to discuss
a suspension of the naval arms race, the kaiser spoiled chances for an
accord by introducing a new naval bill two days before his arrival. The
British then accelerated their own dreadnought construction. By now
the failure of German policy was apparent. Clearly the British would
not permit Germany to challenge their sea power, while the German
army agreed in 1912 to tolerate further naval expansion only if the
army were granted a sharp increase in funding as well. In the 1912
elections the Social Democrats won 110 seats and became the largest
party in the Reichstag.
Domestic and foreign stalemate obsessed Germany's political and
military leadership. Reform at home meant an end to the privileged
positions of the various elites; retreat abroad meant the end of
Germany's dreams of world power. A bold stroke, even at the risk of
war, seemed the only way out of the double impasse. In 1911 Foreign
Minister Alfred von Kiderlen-Wächter tried to force the issue in
Morocco, where the French clearly aimed at a formal protectorate in
defiance of the Algeciras accords. Germany sent the gunboat Panther
to the Moroccan port of Agadir in defense of “German interests”
there. Britain again stood with France, however, and Kiderlen-Wächter
acquiesced in a French Morocco in exchange for portions of French
colonies in Central Africa. In France this accommodation of Germany
brought down the government of Premier Joseph Caillaux, who was
succeeded by Raymond Poincaré, a determined nationalist and
advocate of military preparedness who quickly secured passage of an
expansion of the standing army. In Britain, Winston Churchill, then
first lord of the Admiralty, withdrew his fleet from the Mediterranean
to home waters, making mandatory even closer military coordination
with France.
This Second Moroccan Crisis confirmed Germany's isolation, while the
British, French, and Russian military buildups meant that time was on

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the side of the entente. Moltke had already raised the notion of
preventive war, and in the kaiser's war council of December 1912 he
blustered, “War, the sooner the better.” To be sure, jingoism of this
sort could be found in every great power on the eve of the war, but
only the leaders in Berlin—and soon Vienna—were seriously coming to
view war not as simply a possibility but as a necessity.

The final prewar assault on the Ottoman empire also began in 1911.
Italy cashed in her bargain with France over Libya by declaring war on
Turkey and sending a naval squadron as far as the Dardanelles.
Simultaneously, Russian ministers in the Balkans brought about an
alliance between the bitter rivals Serbia and Bulgaria in preparation
for a final strike against Ottoman-controlled Europe. The First Balkan
War erupted in October 1912, when Montenegro declared war on
Turkey, followed quickly by Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece. The Young
Turks ended the conflict with Italy, ceding Libya, but failed to contain
the Balkan armies. In May 1913 the great powers imposed a
settlement; Macedonia was partitioned among the Balkan states, Crete
was granted to Greece, and Albania was given its independence.
Landlocked Serbia, however, bid for additional territory in Macedonia,
and Bulgaria replied with an attack on Serbia and Greece, thus
beginning the Second Balkan War in June 1913. In the peace that
followed in August, Bulgaria lost most of her stake in the former
Turkish lands plus much of the southern Dobruja region to Romania.
Serbia, however, doubled its territory and, flushed with victory,
turned its sights on the Austro-Hungarian provinces of Bosnia and
Hercegovina.

The final crisis
How might the Habsburg empire survive the rise of particularist
nationalism in eastern Europe? Austrian statesmen had debated the
question for 50 years, and the best answer seemed to be some form of
federalism permitting political autonomy to the nationalities. Reforms
of this nature had always been vetoed by the Hungarians, who stood to
lose their own position vis-à-vis the German-Austrians and the
minorities in their half of the empire. Conrad Franz, Graf (count) von
Hötzendorf, chief of the general staff, favoured preventive war against
Serbia to stifle nationalist agitation for good and reinforce the old
order. Archduke Francis Ferdinand wrote, however, “I live and shall
die for federalism; it is the sole salvation for the monarchy, if anything
can save it.” Out of favour with the court for his morganatic marriage
and resented by the Hungarians and by conservatives, the heir
apparent was also feared by Slavic radicals as the one man who might
really pacify the nationalities and so frustrate their dreams of a

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Greater Serbia. Hence, the archduke was a marked man among the
secret societies that sprang up to liberate Bosnia. Such is the logic of
terrorism: its greatest enemies are the peacemakers.

The National Defense (Narodna Odbrana) was formed in Serbia in 1908
to carry on pro-Serbian and anti-Austrian agitation across the border.
Its nonviolent methods were deemed insufficient by others, who in
1911 formed the secret society Union or Death (Ujedinjenje ili Smrt),
also known as the Black Hand, led by the head of Serbian military
intelligence, Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević. The latter had been
involved in the 1903 assassinations of the Obrenović family and
favoured terrorist action over intellectual propaganda. With his
support, if not on his direct orders, a band of youthful romantics
conspired to assassinate Francis Ferdinand during his state visit to
Sarajevo. On June 28, 1914, which happened to be the Serbian
national holiday, the archduke and his wife rode in an open car
through the streets of the Bosnian capital. A bomb was thrown but
missed. The archduke completed his official duties, whereupon the
governor of Bosnia suggested they deviate from the planned route on
the return trip for safety's sake. But the lead driver in the procession
took a wrong turn, the cars stopped momentarily, and at that moment
the 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip fired his revolver, killing both royal
passengers.

Reaction in Vienna, and Europe generally, was surprisingly restrained.
No one imagined that the outrage had more than local importance,
much less that Bismarck's prophecy about “some damned fool thing in
the Balkans” starting the next war was about to be fulfilled. Conrad
von Hötzendorf saw the deed as pretext for his preventive war against
Serbia, but the aged emperor Francis Joseph preferred to await an
inquiry to determine the extent of Serbian complicity. Germany, on
the other hand, pressed for a firm riposte and in the kaiser's famous
“blank check” memo promised to support whatever action Austria
might take against Serbia. The Germans expected Russia to back down,
since its military reforms would not be complete for several years, but
even if Russia came to Serbia's aid, the German high command was
confident of victory. Bethmann was less so. A move against Serbia
could lead to a world war, he warned on July 7. Yet Bethmann went
along in the vain hope of localizing the conflict.
Austrian Foreign Minister Leopold, Graf von Berchtold, now advocated
a firm policy toward Serbia lest Austria's prestige deteriorate further
and the Balkan states unite behind Russia. Gróf (count) Tisza, the
prime minister of Hungary, insisted, however, that diplomatic and
legal justifications precede such a clash of arms: Austria must first
present a list of demands for redress. Should Serbia accept, the
empire would win a “brilliant diplomatic success”; should Serbia

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refuse, war could be waged with Austria-Hungary posing as the
aggrieved party. In no case was Austria to annex any Serbian territory.

The Russian response to any Austrian initiative would be critical, and
by chance the president and prime minister of France, Poincaré and
René Viviani, were paying a state visit to St. Petersburg in July.
Strangely, there is no record of the Franco-Russian conversations, but
it is known that Poincaré assured the Russians that France would stand
by her alliance commitments. On July 23, just after the French leaders
left for home, Vienna presented its ultimatum to Belgrade, demanding
dissolution of the secret societies, cessation of anti-Austrian
propaganda, and Austrian participation in the investigation of the
Sarajevo crime. Serbia was given 48 hours to respond.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Dmitriyevich Sazonov, erupted at
news of the ultimatum and insisted on military measures. The French
ambassador, Maurice-Georges Paléologue, with or without instructions
from his departed chiefs, encouraged Sazonov, for if Austria's
prestige—and very future—were at stake in the Balkans, so too were
tsarist Russia's, for which the Balkans was the only region left in which
to demonstrate its vitality. But now Germany was competing for
influence over the Young Turks, courting Bulgaria, and plotting to
smash Serbia. The German slogan “From Berlin to Baghdad,” referring
originally only to railroads, took on ominous new political meaning. On
July 25 the Russian Council of Ministers decided that if Austrian forces
entered Serbia, Russia would mobilize its army. This precipitous,
indeed anticipatory, decision reflected Russia's size and the
inadequacy of its rail network. Sazonov seems to have considered
mobilization a political threat, but given the mechanistic timetables
that were integral to the planning of all the European general staffs, it
could only provoke countermobilizations and an inexorable drift into
war.
On July 25 Serbia accepted all the Austro-Hungarian conditions save
those two that directly compromised its sovereignty. Two days later
Berchtold persuaded Francis Joseph to initiate war. At the same
moment the kaiser, returning from a yachting expedition, tried
belatedly to restrain Vienna. On July 28 Austria declared war and
bombarded Belgrade, and on the same day the tsar approved the
mobilization of the Russian army against Austria, and alarms went off
all over Europe. Sir Edward Grey, Kaiser William, and the Italian
government all proposed negotiations, with the Austrians to occupy
Belgrade as a pledge of Serbian compliance. The German ambassador
in St. Petersburg assured the Russians that Austria meant to annex no
Serbian territory. But it was too little and far too late. In St.
Petersburg the generals protested that partial mobilization would
disrupt their contingency plans: How could Russia prepare to fight

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Austria-Hungary while leaving naked her border with Austria's ally
Germany? The weak and vacillating tsar Nicholas II was persuaded, and
on the afternoon of July 30 he authorized general mobilization of the
Russian army.

The previous day Poincaré and Viviani had finally arrived back in Paris,
where they were met with patriotic crowds and generals anxious for
military precautions. In Berlin, anti-Russian demonstrations and
equally anxious generals called for immediate action. On the 31st,
when all the other powers had begun preparations of some sort and
even the British had put the fleet to sea (thanks to Winston Churchill's
foresight), Germany delivered ultimatums to Russia, demanding an end
to mobilization, and to France, demanding neutrality in case of war in
the east. But Russia and France could scarcely accede without
abandoning the Balkans, each other, and their own security. When the
ultimatums expired, the Schlieffen Plan was put into effect. Germany
declared war against Russia on August 1 and against France on August 3
and demanded safe passage for its troops through Belgium. Refused
again, Germany invaded Belgium in force.
On August 3, Italy took refuge in the fact that this was not a defensive
war on Austria-Hungary's part and declared its neutrality. That left
only Britain, faced with the choice of joining its entente partners in
war or standing aloof and risking German domination of the Continent.
Britain had little interest in the Serbian affair, and the kingdom was
torn by the Irish question. The cabinet was in doubt as late as August
2. But the prospect of the German fleet in the English Channel and
German armies on the Belgian littoral settled the issue. On the 3rd
Britain demanded that Germany evacuate Belgium, and Grey won over
Parliament with appeals to British interests and international law. On
August 4, Britain declared war on Germany.

The war-guilt question
The search for causes
Debate over the origins of World War I was from the start partisan and
moral in tone. Each of the belligerents published documentary
collections selected to shift the blame and prove that it was fighting in
self-defense. Serbia was defending itself against Austrian aggression.
Austria-Hungary was defending its very existence against terror plotted
on foreign soil. Russia was defending Serbia and the Slavic cause
against German imperialism. Germany was defending its lone reliable
ally from attack and itself from entente encirclement. France, with
most justification, was defending itself against unprovoked German

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attack. And Britain was fighting in defense of Belgium, international
law, and the balance of power.

In the Treaty of Versailles (1919) the victorious coalition justified its
peace terms by forcing Germany and its allies to acknowledge guilt for
the war. This tactic was historically dubious and politically disastrous,
but it stemmed from the liberal conviction, as old as the
Enlightenment, that peace was normal and war an aberration or crime
for which clear responsibility—guilt—could be established. Almost at
once, revisionist historians examined the thousands of documents that
governments made available after 1920 and challenged the Versailles
verdict. Yes, the German government had issued the risky “blank
check” and urged Vienna on an aggressive course. It had swept aside
all proposals for mediation until events had gained irreversible
momentum. It had, finally, surrendered its authority to a military plan
that ensured the war could not be localized. Indeed, the whole course
of German foreign policy since 1890 had been restless and
counter-productive, calling into existence the very ring of enemies it
then took extreme risks to break. But on the other hand, Russia's hasty
mobilization expanded the crisis beyond the Balkans, initiated a round
of military moves, and contributed to German panic. Given the
military realities of the age, Sazonov's notion of Russian mobilization
as a mere “application of pressure” was either disingenuous or foolish.
France could be faulted for not restraining Russia and for issuing its
own “blank check.” Even the British might have done more to preserve
peace, either through more vigorous mediation or by making clear that
they would not remain neutral in a continental war, thus deterring the
Germans. Finally, what of the states at the heart of the crisis? Surely
Belgrade's use of political terrorism in the name of Greater Serbia, and
Austria-Hungary's determination to crush its tormentors, provoked the
crisis in the first place. By the 1930s moderate historians had
concluded, with Lloyd George, that no one country was to blame for
the war: “We all stumbled into it.”
The failure of documentary research to settle the war-guilt question
led other historians to look behind the July 1914 crisis for long-range
causes of the war. Surely, they reasoned, such profound events must
have had profound origins. As early as 1928 the American Sidney B. Fay
concluded that none of the European leaders had wanted a great war
and identified as its deeper causes the alliance systems, militarism,
imperialism, nationalism, and the newspaper press. (Marxists, of
course, from the publication of Lenin's Imperialism, the Highest Stage
of Capitalism in 1916, held finance capitalism to be accountable for
the war.) In this view the polarization of Europe into alliance systems
had made “chain-reaction” escalation of a local imbroglio almost
predictable. Militarism and imperialism had fed tensions and appetites
among the great powers, while nationalism and sensationalist

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journalism had stoked popular resentments. How else could one
explain the universal enthusiasm with which soldiers and civilians alike
greeted the outbreak of war? Such evenhanded sentiments, along with
the abstraction of the terms of analysis that exculpated individuals
while blaming the system, were both appealing and prescriptive. In
the 1930s British statesmen in particular would strive to learn the
lessons of 1914 and so prevent another war. As another generation's
hindsight would reveal, the lessons did not apply to the new situation.

After World War II and the Cold War had left the issues of 1914 passé,
a committee of French and German historians agreed that World War I
had been an unwilled disaster for which all countries shared blame.
Only a few years later, however, in 1961, that consensus shattered.
The German historian Fritz Fischer published a massive study of
German war aims during 1914–18 and held that Germany's government,
social elites, and even broad masses had consciously pursued a
breakthrough to world power in the years before World War I and that
the German government, fully aware of the risks of world war and of
British belligerency, had deliberately provoked the 1914 crisis.
Fischer's thesis sparked bitter debate and a rash of new interpretations
of World War I. Leftist historians made connections between Fischer's
evidence and that cited 30 years before by Eckhart Kehr, who had
traced the social origins of the naval program to the cleavages in
German society and the stalemate in the Reichstag. Other historians
saw links to the Bismarckian technique of using foreign policy
excursions to stifle domestic reform, a technique dubbed “social
imperialism.” Germany's rulers, it appeared, had resolved before 1914
to overthrow the world order in hopes of preserving the domestic
order.
Traditionalist critics of Fischer pointed to the universality of
imperialistic, social Darwinist, and militaristic behaviour on the eve of
the war. The kaiser, in his most nationalistic moods, only spoke and
acted like many others in all the great powers. Did not Sazonov and
the Russian generals, in their unrecorded moments, yearn to erase the
humiliation of 1905 and conquer the Dardanelles, or Poincaré and
General J.-J.-C. Joffre wonder excitedly if the recovery of
Alsace-Lorraine were finally at hand, or the Primrose and Navy leagues
thrill to the prospect of a Nelsonian clash of dreadnoughts? Germans
were not the only people who grew weary of peace or harboured
grandiose visions of empire. To this universalist view, leftist historians
like the American A.J. Mayer then applied the “primacy of domestic
policy” thesis and hypothesized that all the European powers had
courted war as a means of cowing or distracting their working classes
and national minorities.
Such “new left” interpretations triggered intense study of the

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connections between domestic and foreign policy, leading to the
conclusion that a postulation of internal origins of the war, while
obvious for Austria and plausible for Russia, failed in the cases of
democratic Britain and France. If anything, internal discord made for
reticence rather than assertion on the part of their foreign policy
elites. The conservative historian Gerhard Ritter even challenged the
Fischer thesis in the German case. The real problem, he argued, was
not fear of the Social Democrats but the age-old tension between
civilian and military influence in the Prussian-German government.
Politicians, exemplified by Bethmann, did not share the eagerness or
imprudence of the general staff but lost control of the ship of state in
the atmosphere of deepening crisis leading up to 1914. Finally, a
moderate German historian, Wolfgang J. Mommsen, dispensed with
polemics altogether. Germany's rapid industrialization and the
tardiness of modernization in Austria-Hungary and Russia, he
concluded, created instabilities in central and eastern Europe that
found expression in desperate self-assertion. Echoing Joseph
Schumpeter, Mommsen blamed the war on the survival of precapitalist
regimes that simply proved “no longer adequate in the face of rapid
social change and the steady advance of mass politics.” This
interpretation, however, amounted to an updated and elaborated
version of the unsophisticated consensus that “we all stumbled into
it.” Were the World Wars, then, beyond human control?

Thus, the search for long-range causes, while turning up a wealth of
new information and insight, ran ultimately aground. After all, if
“imperialism” or “capitalism” had caused the war, they had just as
assuredly caused the unprecedented era of peace and growth that
preceded it. Imperialist crises, though tense at times, had always been
resolved, and even Germany's ambitions were on the verge of being
served through a 1914 agreement with Britain on a planned partition
of the Portuguese empire. Imperial politics were simply not a casus
belli for anyone except Britain. Military preparedness was at a peak,
but armaments are responses to tensions, not the cause of them, and
they had, perhaps, served to deter war in the numerous crises
preceding 1914. Capitalist activity tied the nations of Europe together
as never before, and in 1914 most leading businessmen were advocates
of peace. The alliance systems themselves were defensive and
deterrent by design and had served as such for decades. Nor were they
inflexible. Italy opted out of her alliance, the tsar was not bound to
risk his dynasty on behalf of Serbia, or the kaiser his on behalf of
Austria-Hungary, while the French and British cabinets might never
have persuaded their parliaments to take up arms had the Schlieffen
Plan not forced the issue. Perhaps the 1914 crisis was, after all, a
series of blunders, in which statesmen failed to perceive the effects
their actions would have on the others.

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The centrality of the Habsburg monarchy
Perhaps a long-range view that is still serviceable is precisely the one
derived from old-fashioned analysis of the balance-of-power system,
forgotten amid the debates over national or class responsibility. This
view, suggested by Paul Schroeder in 1972, asks not why war broke out
in 1914 but why not before? What snapped in 1914? The answer, he
argued, is that the keystone of European balance, the element of
stability that allowed the other powers to chase imperial moonbeams
at will, was Austria-Hungary itself. The heedless policies of the other
powers, however, gradually undermined the Habsburg monarchy until
it was faced with a mortal choice. At that point, the most stable
member of the system became the most disruptive, the girders of
security—the alliances—generated destructive pressures of their own,
and the European system collapsed. To be sure, Austria-Hungary was
threatened with her own nationality problem, aggravated by Serbia. It
could better have met that threat, however, if the great powers had
worked to ameliorate pressures on it, just as they had carried the
declining Ottoman Empire for a full century. Instead, the ambitions of
Russia, France, and Britain, and the stifling friendship of Germany,
only served to push Austria-Hungary to the brink. This was not their
intention, but it was the effect.

The central fact of global politics from 1890 to 1914 was Britain's
relative decline. This occurred naturally, as industrial power diffused,
but was aggravated by the particular challenge of Germany.
Overextended, the British sought partners to share the burdens of a
world empire and were obliged in return to look kindly on those
partners' ambitions. But the resulting Triple Entente was not the cause
of Germany's frustrations in the conduct of Weltpolitik. Rather it was
the inability of Germany to pursue an imperial policy à outrance.
Situated in the middle of Europe, with hostile armies on two sides, and
committed to the defense of Austria-Hungary, Germany was unable to
make headway in the overseas world despite her strength. By contrast,
relatively weak France or hopelessly ramshackle Russia could engage in
adventures at will, suffer setbacks, and return to the fray in a few
years. Schroeder concluded: “The contradiction between what
Germany wanted to do and what she dared to do and was obliged to do
accounts in turn for the erratic, uncoordinated character of German
world policy, its inability to settle on clear goals and carry them
through, the constant initiatives leading nowhere, the frequent
changes in mid-course.” All Germany could do was bluff and hope to
be paid for doing nothing: for remaining neutral in the Russo-Japanese
War, for not building more dreadnoughts, for letting the French into
Morocco, for not penetrating Persia. Of course, Germany could have
launched an imperialist war in 1905 or 1911 under more favourable

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circumstances. It chose not to do so, and German might was such that
prior to 1914 the other powers never considered a passage of arms
with Germany.

Instead, Triple Entente diplomacy served to undermine
Austria-Hungary. Everyone recognized that it was the “sick man of
Europe” and that its demise would be inconvenient at very best and
would almost certainly expose the ethnic mare's nest of southeastern
Europe to civil war or Russian or German domination. Yet no one did
anything about it. France could scarcely afford to—its security was too
tightly bound to Russia's—but France's policy of wooing Italy out of the
Triple Alliance was a grave setback, not for Germany but for
Austria-Hungary. Russia brazenly pushed the Slavic nationalities
forward, thinking to make gains but never realizing that tsarism was as
dependent on Habsburg survival as Austria-Hungary had been on
Ottoman survival. Only Britain had the capacity to maneuver, to
restrain the likes of Serbia and Russia and take some of the
Austro-Hungarian burden off Germany's shoulders. And indeed it had
done so before—in 1815–22, 1878, and 1888. But now the British chose
vaguely to encourage Russia in the Balkans, letting Austria-Hungary, as
it were, pay the price for distracting Russia from the frontiers of India.
So by 1914 Austria was encircled and Germany was left with the choice
of watching her only ally collapse or risking a war against all Europe.
Having chosen the risk, and lost, it is no surprise that the Germans (as
well as the other powers) gave vent to all their prewar bitterness and
pursued a thorough revision of world politics in their own favour.

World War I, 1914–18
World War I has aptly been called a war of illusions that exposed in sharp
relief all the follies of the prewar generation. The war plans of the
generals had misfired at once, and expectations that the intensity of
modern firepower would serve the offense, or that the war must be brief,
proved horribly false. Germany expected to achieve hegemony in Europe
as a step toward world power, and instead world powers were called into
play to prevent hegemony in Europe. Socialists thought war would bring
general strikes and revolution, and instead the war inspired patriotic
national unity. Monarchists hoped war would bolster the old regimes, and
instead it cast down the remaining dynasties of eastern Europe. Liberals
hoped that war would promote the spread of freedom, and instead it
forced even democratic governments to impose censorship, martial law,
and command economies subordinated to the dictates of centralized
bureaucracy. Each nation in its own way sacrificed one by one those values
it claimed to be fighting for in the belief that final victory would make
good all the terrible cost. And with terrible irony World War I also ended in
various plans for peace as illusory as the plans for war had been. As the
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historian William McNeill wrote, “the irrationality of rational,
professionalized planning could not have been made more patently
manifest.”

World War I can be divided, without undue violence to reality, into three
periods: the initial battles, struggles for new allies, and mobilization on
the home fronts, occupying the period from 1914 to 1916; the onset of
ideologized warfare in the Russian revolutions and American entry in 1917;
and the final four-way struggle of 1918 among German imperialism, Allied
war-aims diplomacy, Wilsonian liberal internationalism, and Leninist
Bolshevism.

Military stalemate and new belligerents
From grand plans to the trenches
The first months of war resounded with the collision of the war plans
pored over for decades by the general staffs of Europe. The original
German plan for a two-front war, drafted by Helmuth von Moltke the
elder, had called for taking the offensive against Russia and standing
on the defensive in the rugged Rhineland. The plan showed military
prudence and complemented the stabilizing diplomacy of Bismarck.
But Alfred, Graf von Schlieffen, presided over the German military in
the era of Kaiser William's Weltpolitik and adopted a more ambitious
and risky course. His plan, conceived in 1891 and completed by 1905,
envisioned a massive offensive in the west to knock out the compact
French forces in six weeks, whereupon the army could shift eastward
to confront the plodding Russians. But a quick decision could be
achieved in France only by a vast enveloping action. The powerful
right wing of the German army must descend from the north and pass
through the neutral Low Countries. This would virtually ensure British
intervention. But Schlieffen expected British aid to be too little and
too late. In sum, the Schlieffen Plan represented a pristine militarism:
the belief that all factors could be accounted for in advance, that
execution could be flawless, that pure force could resolve all political
problems including those thrown up by the plan itself. In the event,
the Germans realized all of the political costs of the Schlieffen Plan
and few of the military benefits.

Like the Germans, the French had discarded a more sensible plan in
favour of the one implemented. French intelligence had learned of the
grand lines of the Schlieffen Plan and its inclusion of reserve troops in
the initial assault. General Victor Michel therefore called in 1911 for a
blocking action in Belgium in addition to an offensive into
Alsace-Lorraine. But this required twice the active troops currently

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available. France would either have to give up the Belgian screen or
the offensive. The new chief of staff, J.-J.-C. Joffre, refused to
believe that Germany would deploy reserve corps in immediate
combat and gave up the screen.

The traditional British way of war had been maritime: destroy the
enemy's fleet, impose a blockade, and use land forces only to secure
key points or aid continental allies at decisive moments. In Sir John
Fisher's phrase, the army “should be regarded as a projectile fired by
the navy.” The prewar conversations with France, however, led the
War Office to consider how Britain's army might help in case of war
with Germany. General Henry Wilson insisted that even Britain's six
divisions of professionals could tilt the balance between France and
Germany and won his case for a British Expeditionary Force. Privately,
he conceded that six divisions were “fifty too few” and hoped for a
mass conscript army on continental lines.
By October 1914 all the plans had unraveled. After the German defeat
in the Battle of the Marne, the Western Front stabilized into an
uninterrupted line for 466 miles from Nieuwpoort on the Belgian coast
south to Bapaume, then southeast past Soissons, Verdun, Nancy, and
so to the Swiss frontier. Both sides dug in, elaborated their trench
systems over time, and condemned themselves to four years of hellish
stalemate on the Western Front.

The situation was little better on the other front. A necessary
assumption of the Schlieffen Plan was the inadequacy of the Russian
rail network to support a rapid offensive. By 1914, however, railroads
through Poland were much improved, and the Russian general staff
agreed to take the offensive in case of war to relieve the pressure on
France. Similarly, the Germans had asked the Austrian commander,
Conrad von Hötzendorf, to attack Russia and ease the threat to
Germany. Austria also had a two-front war, however, and an army too
small to fight it. Owing to penury and its nationality problems, the
monarchy fielded fewer battalions in 1914 than it had in the war of
1866. As the saying went, Austria was always “en retard d'une armée,
d'une année et d'une idée” (“one army, one year, and one idea
behind”). Austria's solution was to send one army south against Serbia
and one to Galicia against the Russians and to deploy a third as need
required. The reserves, a third of Austria's already outnumbered
forces, spent the opening battles shuttling back and forth on the rails.
Austria failed to penetrate Serbian defenses, while the Germans
smashed the Russian attack into East Prussia. In the east, too,
stalemate set in.
By mid-1915 the Germans had overcome supply problems and were
better prepared for trench warfare than the Allies. They also

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pioneered the concept of “defense in depth,” making a second trench
line the main barrier to assault. Allied generals responded with longer
and denser artillery bombardments but thereby relinquished the
element of surprise. Such tactics turned western battlefields into seas
of wreckage, with a “storm of steel” raging above, and condemned
hundreds of thousands of men for the sake of a few thousand yards of
no-man's-land. Allied attacks in 1915 cost the British more than
300,000 casualties and the French 1,500,000. The only German
initiative, the Second Battle of Ypres, introduced poison gas to the
Western Front. But no commander could see a means of breaking the
deadlock, and all confessed their strategy to be one of attrition.

The war at sea and abroad
The stalemate on land was matched by stalemate at sea when the
British decided to impose a distant rather than close blockade of the
German coast. This reduced the danger to the Grand Fleet and, it was
hoped, might entice the German navy to venture out for a decisive
battle. Admiral von Tirpitz was prepared to run such a risk, believing
that the technical superiority of his High Seas Fleet would balance out
Britain's numerical edge. Only by risking all on a major fleet action
might Germany break the blockade, but the Kaiser and civilian
leadership wished to preserve their fleet as a bargaining chip in
eventual peace talks, while the British dared not provoke an
engagement, since a major defeat would be disastrous. Admiral John
Jellicoe, it was said, was “the only man who could lose the war in an
afternoon.”

In the wide world, the Allies cleared the seas of German commerce
raiders and seized the German colonial empire. In the Pacific, New
Zealanders took German Samoa and Australians German New Guinea.
On Aug. 23, 1914, the Japanese empire honoured its alliance with
Britain by declaring war on Germany. Tokyo had no intention of aiding
its ally's cause in Europe but was pleased to occupy the Marshall and
Caroline archipelagos and lay siege to Germany's Chinese port of
Tsingtao, which surrendered in November. Germany's African colonies
were, on the outbreak of war, immediately cut off from
communications and supply from home, but military operations were
needed to eliminate the German presence. By early 1916, Togoland
(Togo) and Kamerun (Cameroon) fell to Anglo-French colonial forces
and German South West Africa (Namibia) to the South Africans. Only in
German East Africa was a native force under Lieutenant Colonel Paul
von Lettow-Vorbeck, numbering initially just 12,000 men, able to
survive for the entire war, tying down 10 times that number of Allied
troops.

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Efforts to break the stalemate
Thus all the armies and navies of Europe faced each other across
fortified front lines. The prewar plans had succumbed to the
technological surprise of 1914–15: that the withering firepower of
machine guns, cartridge rifles, and rapid-fire artillery favoured the
defense. Infantry in deep trenches, fronted with mines and barbed
wire and backed by artillery, could not be dislodged by frontal attack.
Accordingly, military and political leaders spent the war groping for
means of breaking the stalemate in the trenches. First, neutrals might
be enticed to enter the war, perhaps throwing enough weight into the
balance to provide victory. Second, new weapons, tactics, and
theatres might break the deadlock or achieve strategic goals
elsewhere. Third, more and more men and matériel might be squeezed
out of the home economy to tip the balance of forces or wear down
the enemy by economic attrition. The first of these means determined
much of the diplomatic history of the war. The second stimulated
technological developments such as poison gas, tanks, and submarines,
as well as the peripheral campaigns of southern Europe and the Middle
East. The third determined the evolution of war economies and the
character of what came to be called total war.

The first of the European neutrals to join the fray was the Ottoman
Empire. Having lost the Balkans before 1914 and fearing partition of
their Arab possessions by the Triple Entente, the Young Turks under
Enver Paşa looked to Germany, whose military efficiency they
admired. Enver led in negotiating a secret German-Ottoman treaty,
signed Aug. 2, 1914. But the Grand Vizier and others in the Sultan's
court held back, even after extracting a German loan—tantamount to a
bribe—of £5,000,000. The war party then resorted to more extreme
measures. The Ottoman fleet, reinforced by two German cruisers,
entered the Black Sea in October, bombarded Odessa and the Crimean
ports, and sank two Russian ships. The commander then falsified his
account to make it appear that the enemy had provoked the action.
The outraged Russians declared war on November 1. The Ottoman
Empire's alliance with the Central Powers was a serious blow to the
Entente, for it effectively isolated Russia from its Western allies and
weakened their hand in the Balkan capitals. The Turks concluded,
however, that a Triple Entente victory in the war would lead to the
partition of their empire even if they remained neutral (Allied
negotiations had already begun to this effect), whereas joining forces
with Germany gave them at least a fighting chance to survive and
perhaps even win some spoils from Russia. Enver also declared a jihad,
or holy war, inciting Muslims to rise up against British and Russian rule
in India, Persia, and Central Asia.

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Turkish forces deployed along the coasts of the Dardanelles and on the
Caucasus frontier with Russia, where severe fighting began in the
rugged mountains. Enver, with German encouragement, took the
strategic offensive when he ordered 10,000 troops from Syria to attack
the Suez Canal in late January 1915. After crossing the Sinai Peninsula
the tired soldiers found Indian and Australasian divisions in training, as
well as gunboats and other equipment they could not match. The Turks
fell back to Palestine and never menaced the canal again.
The vulnerability and value of the Dardanelles in turn attracted the
British. When Russia requested a Western assault on Turkey to relieve
the pressure in the Caucasus, War Secretary Lord Kitchener and First
Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill promoted an attack on the
Dardanelles. By capturing Constantinople, the British could link up
with the Russians, knock Turkey out of the war, and perhaps entice
the Balkan states to rally to the Allied cause. The British War Council
created an amphibious force of British, Australians, and New
Zealanders to capture the heights of the Gallipoli Peninsula. On April
25 the “Anzac” (Australian and New Zealand) forces went ashore, but
their assaults on the heights of Sari Bair were turned back through the
charismatic leadership of the young Turkish officer Mustafa Kemal. A
sweltering, bloody deadlock dragged on into the summer. Five more
divisions and another amphibious landing, at Suvla Bay in August,
failed to take the rugged heights in the face of human wave
counterattacks by the Turks. Cabinet opinion gradually turned against
the campaign, and the Allied force of 83,000 was evacuated—a
dangerous operation conducted with great skill—in January 1916. The
Turks had lost some 300,000 men, the Allies about 250,000 to battle
and disease. Gallipoli was, in Clement Attlee's words, “the one
strategic idea of the war.” Its failure, through bad leadership,
planning, and luck, condemned the Allies to seek a decision in bloody
battles of attrition on the Western Front.

The other peripheral front that enticed Allied strategists was Austria's
border with Italy. Though a member of the Triple Alliance, the Rome
government maintained on Aug. 3, 1914, that it was not bound to fight
since Austria had not been attacked nor had it consulted with Italy as
the treaty required. Prime Minister Antonio Salandra, a nationalist
dedicated to the Irredentists' goal of recovery of Trentino and Trieste
from Austria, announced that Italy would be informed by sacro
egoismo. This, he explained, was a mystical rather than cynical
concept, but it set off seven months of haggling over what the Allies
would offer Italy to enter the war, and what the Central Powers would
offer for neutrality. Some considerations were objective: Italy's 4,160
miles of coastline made defense against the Anglo-French fleet
virtually impossible; any gains extorted from the Central Powers for
neutrality would hardly be secure should those powers win the war;

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and neutrality was incompatible with Italy's tenuous claim to be a
Great Power. What was more, all the Central Powers could offer was
Trentino, and even that promise had to be forced from Vienna by
German pressure.

After a clumsy intervention by the Russian foreign minister, Sazonov,
in which he tried to secure Italy's help and still protect Serbian
interests on the Dalmatian coast, negotiations moved to London. Berlin
dispatched ex-chancellor Bülow and Roman Catholic statesman
Matthias Erzberger to Rome to plead for the Central Powers. On April
26, the day after the first Gallipoli landing, the Treaty of London
committed Italy to enter the war against Austria-Hungary within a
month. In return the Allies promised Italy Trentino, part of South Tirol,
Trieste, a third of Dalmatia (at the expense of Serbian ambitions), a
mandate over Albania, a portion of German East Africa, all of Libya, a
part of Asia Minor, and a 1,250,000,000-lira war chest from Britain.
Still, a month of crisis followed in Rome as journalists like Gabriele
D'Annunzio and Benito Mussolini stoked war fever and parliamentary
power-broker Giovanni Giolitti (backed by Bülow) maneuvered for
peace and parecchio—the “much” that might be obtained from Austria
without lifting a rifle. After a Cabinet crisis Salandra returned to
power to declare war on Austria-Hungary on May 23, 1915 (though Italy
did not declare war on Germany until August 1916).
General Luigi Cadorna's war plan called for a strategic defense in the
mountainous Trentino while half the Italian army concentrated for
attack along the Isonzo River to the south. In June 1915 he launched
the first of 11 battles of the Isonzo, wasting some 250,000 men against
the rocky parapets and spirited Austrian defenders. The southern front
became another deadlock, while Italy's weak finances and industry
would only make her a continuing drain on Anglo-French resources.

After Turkey and Italy, attention turned to the neutral Balkan states.
The entry of the Balkan states on the side of the Central Powers would
doom Serbia and open direct communications between Germany and
Turkey. Balkan participation on the Allied side would isolate Turkey
and complete the encirclement of Austria-Hungary. The Central
Powers had the upper hand in Bulgaria, still smarting from its defeat in
the Second Balkan War and allied with Turkey as of Aug. 2, 1914. The
Allies had little to offer Bulgaria except bribes, especially after their
failure at Gallipoli. German offers proved irresistible: Macedonia (from
Serbia) and parts of the Dobruja and Thrace should Romania and
Greece intervene. Bulgaria joined the Central Powers on Sept. 6, 1915.
In Romania the Allies had the upper hand despite a treaty, renewed in
1913, binding Bucharest and its Hohenzollern dynasty to the Triple
Alliance. Romania's main ambition was to annex Transylvania, a
Habsburg province populated largely by Romanians, but Prime Minister

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Ionel Brătianu determined to stay neutral and observe the fortunes of
war.

In 1915 those fortunes appeared to favour the Central Powers on the
Turkish, Italian, Serbian, and Russian fronts. The Russian front
collapsed in the face of a German offensive in May, allowing the
Central Powers to reoccupy Galicia, Lithuania, and Courland in the
north. In July the Germans resumed the drive and threatened to pincer
the entire Russian army in Poland. Warsaw fell on August 5 and
Brest-Litovsk on the 26th, whereupon the German armies outran their
supplies and halted the drive on a line stretching from Riga on the
Baltic to Czernowitz on the Romanian border. Russian losses were
apocalyptic: more than a million men captured and at least as many
killed and wounded in 1915. Technical inferiority, shortage of
munitions, and poor tactics led to terrible wastage of men in the
attack and lack of mobility on the defense. The inadequacy of the
Russian state and economy in modern war now stood revealed.
Desertions increased and morale plummeted. On September 5, Tsar
Nicholas himself took over supreme command, a chivalrous move but
one that would identify the crown with future disasters.
In 1916 German strategists again turned west with the expressed
intention of bleeding France white and breaking her army's spirit. The
object of attack was to be the fortress of Verdun, and the plan called
for the substitution of ordnance for manpower as much as possible,
thereby using Germany's industrial might to kill Frenchmen in the most
efficient way. The assault began on February 21, following an
avalanche of shells and poison gas, and continued without interruption
for five months. France's civilian and military leadership turned Verdun
into a national symbol of resistance, symbolized by General Philippe
Pétain's famous order of the day: “Ils ne passeront pas!” Verdun was
the most intensive battle in history and cost France and Germany more
than 300,000 men each.
In December 1915 an Allied conference at Chantilly had decided to
coordinate simultaneous attacks on all fronts. Given Verdun,
responsibility for the Western assault fell to the British. After
elaborate preparation and a week of bombardment the cream of
“Kitchener's New Army” went over the top on July 1, 1916, and strode
in formation toward the German lines. By mid-November the Somme
offensive had gained about six and a half miles across a 30-mile front
at the cost of 420,000 Britons, 194,000 Frenchmen, and 440,000
Germans.
On the Eastern Front in 1916 the Russian command dutifully took up
the offensive to relieve the pressure on Verdun and in coordination
with the push on the Somme. But failures in leadership and supply,

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poor intelligence and tactics again thwarted the courage of Russia's
peasant-soldiers, 100,000 of whom were lost in a March attack that
achieved nothing. The last gasp of the tsarist army followed in June.
Russian attacks at Lutsk, Buchach, and Czernowitz beginning June 4
achieved total surprise, captured 200,000 men, and overran Bukovina
by the end of the month. This apparent revival of Russia's fortunes
prompted the Romanians, finally, to declare war on Austria-Hungary
on Aug. 27, 1916. Half the Romanian army—12 divisions—joined the
offensive and advanced into Transylvania, expecting to deal the final
blow to staggering Austria-Hungary. Instead, Germany, Turkey, and
Bulgaria promptly declared war on Romania. The Romanians held out
for a month against a German-Austrian-Bulgarian attack at the Vulcan
and Szurduk (Surduc) passes, but the Central Powers broke through
and captured Bucharest on December 6. The Romanian gambit ended
in disaster as the Germans acquired their oil and wheat and the
Russians inherited an additional 300 miles of frontline. Meanwhile, the
Russian offensive degenerated into frontal assaults and closed in
August. Russia had lost 500,000 men—the last trained reserves of the
tsarist army.

By the end of 1916 what may be called the traditional phase of the war
had run its course. Despite ever greater expenditures of men and
matériel and the accession of neutral powers to one side or the other,
victory remained elusive. Henceforth the coalitions would rely all the
more on breaking the internal cohesion of the enemy or on calling
forth global forces to tip the balance. The resort to revolution,
especially in Russia, and extra-European powers, especially the United
States, would have profound consequences for Europe's future in the
20th century, while internal mobilization for total war had already
gone far to reshape European societies.

War mobilization at home and abroad
The invention of total war
When the first campaigns failed and the belligerents steeled
themselves to fight a long war of attrition, World War I became
total—that is, a war fought without limitations, between entire
societies and not just between armies, with total victory the only
acceptable outcome. It became such a war because, for the first time,
the industrial and bureaucratic resources existed to mobilize an entire
nation's strength, because the stalemate required total mobilization,
and because the tremendous cost and suffering of such a war seemed
to preclude settling for a negotiated truce. Only victory might redeem
the terrible sacrifices already made by both sides; and if final victory

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were the only acceptable end, then any means could be justified in
pursuit of it.

The first violent battles of 1914 nearly expended prewar munitions
reserves. By mid-war the artillerymen of the Western Front might fire
more shells in a single day than were expended in the entire
Franco-German War. Clearly the home front—the war economy—would
be the most decisive of all. And yet the governments, expecting a
short war, were unprepared for economic mobilization and had to
adjust to emergencies and shortages as they arose. In Germany the
process began in the first days of war when private manufacturers,
especially Walther Rathenau, suggested a state bureau to distribute
raw materials to industry. Over the years it became a model for new
agencies, boards, and commissions controlling production, labour,
rationing, travel, wages and prices. By late 1917, Germany came to
dominate the economies of Austria-Hungary and the occupied regions
by the same means. In all the belligerent nations, to a greater or
lesser degree, civil and economic liberties, the free market, even
national sovereignty, gave way to a kind of military socialism in the
crucible of war. All the belligerents met their labour needs through
employment of old men, children, and women (a fact that ensured the
success of the suffragist movement in Europe after the war). The Allies
also engaged in economic war through agreements with neutral
countries on the Continent not to re-export goods to Germany and
through preemptive purchase of everything from Chilean nitrates to
Romanian wheat.
An economic problem that could be postponed was the financial one.
The belligerents immediately ended controvertibility of their
currencies according to the gold standard and liquidated their holdings
overseas. By late 1915 the British and French also began to float
sizable loans on the American market, even as they themselves
underwrote the war efforts of weaker economies like the Italian and
Russian. British, Germans, and Americans covered a fraction of the
war's expense through income and other taxes, but World War I was
financed primarily through war bonds and secondarily through loans
from abroad. This pattern would exacerbate the diplomatic and
domestic political climates after the war, when the bills for the four
years' wastage came due.

The weapon of morale
The mass conscripted army and labour force, the employment of
women and children, and the mobilization of science, industry, and
agriculture meant that virtually every citizen contributed to the war
effort. Hence all governments tried to stoke morale on the home
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front, subvert that of the enemy, and sway the opinions of neutrals. A
variety of techniques for manipulating information were used,
including particularly censorship and vilification of the enemy. German
propaganda depicted Russians as semi-Asiatic barbarians and the
French as mere cannon fodder for the bloated, envious British Empire
lusting to destroy Germany's power, prosperity, and Kultur. The French
Maison de la Presse and British Ministry of Information took German
war guilt for granted and made great play of the atrocities committed
by the “Hun” in Belgium and on the high seas, where defenseless
passenger ships were treacherously torpedoed. War hatred whipped up
by such propaganda made it all the more difficult to justify negotiating
a truce.
The Allies proved more adept than the Germans at psychological
warfare. Propaganda was distributed across German lines by shells,
planes, rockets, balloons, and radio. Such activities were given into
the hands of an Inter-Allied Propaganda Commission in 1918. The Allies
also, especially after 1917, identified themselves with such universal
principles as democracy and national self-determination, while the
German war effort had only a narrow national appeal. The most
important target of propaganda was the United States. In the first
weeks of war the British cut the German transatlantic cables and
subsequently controlled the flow of news to America. German
attempts to influence U.S. opinion were invariably clumsy, while the
British, aided by the common language, reminded Americans of their
common values for which German militarism had no respect. In
political warfare, German attempts to arouse the Muslim world and
incite India to rebellion were stillborn, while their exploitation of the
situation in Ireland, culminating in the Easter Rising of 1916,
backfired. The aristocratic and continental German officials seemed
out of their element when either trying to appeal to the masses or
looking beyond Europe. But their one success was nothing less than the
Russian Revolution of 1917 (see below The Russian Revolution).

War aims and peace feelers
War aims of the belligerents
For what were the nations of Europe making such total and mortal
commitments? In public each government insisted it was fighting first
in self-defense, then for victory and some hallowed national goal like
naval security for Britain, Alsace-Lorraine for France, or
Constantinople for Russia. But in private, now that peacetime
constraints were torn off, each indulged greater ambitions. German
war aims took shape at once in the September Program of Bethmann.

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While debate exists over how much this document reflected
Bethmann's real views, it did come to represent the prevailing view of
the military, which in turn came to speak increasingly for Germany as
a whole. The dream of world power seemed within reach through the
acquisition of Belgian and French colonies that, when joined to
Germany's and perhaps Portugal's, would constitute a Mittelafrika of
immense proportions. In Europe the Germans determined to assure
that France and Russia would pose no threat in the future and to
create an economic base suitable for a world power. This notion of a
single economic bloc from Berlin to Baghdad, including Belgium, the
Longwy-Briey mines of France, Poland, Courland, the Ukraine, and the
Balkans, was popularized as Mitteleuropa in a 1915 best-seller by
Friedrich Naumann. How committed Germany's civilian leadership was
to this hegemonic plan is disputed: Bethmann favoured abandoning
much of it in hopes of a negotiated peace. But a war-aims majority
held the balance in the Reichstag until 1917 and in the military until
the bitter end.

On Sept. 5, 1914, the entente powers solemnly and severally
renounced any separate peace, but throughout the war they felt
constrained to bolster each other's will to fight with promises of spoils.
Hence the purchase of Italy's belligerency and the shocking willingness
of Britain and France to consign Constantinople to Russia in March
1915. In general, Allied ambitions added up to the partition of the
German and Ottoman empires and security against Germany in Europe
and on the seas. Partition of Austria-Hungary was not an initial Allied
aim. In the spring of 1915 France and Russia exchanged letters
promising that both could do as they wished on their borders with
Germany, implying a free hand for Russia in Galicia and East Prussia
and the same for France on the Rhine. French industry contemplated
an advance into the Saar and Rhine regions to end France's inferiority
in coal production (which would only be exacerbated by the return of
Alsace-Lorraine with its rich iron deposits). For the French army and
foreign ministry, however, the main motive for separating the
Rhineland from Germany was security: what Poincaré called “breaking
Prussian militarism” and Aristide Briand “guarantees of lasting peace.”
In 1917 Paris and St. Petersburg were close to a formal treaty on the
German boundaries when the Russian Revolution intervened.
The Allies specified their colonial claims in an agreement of April
1916: Britain won influence in Mesopotamia and part of Syria; France
in the rest of Syria, Lebanon, Cilicia, and southern Kurdistan; and
Russia in Armenia and northern Kurdistan; Palestine was placed under
joint Anglo-French administration. The Sykes–Picot Agreement in May
also divided much of the Ottoman Empire into British and French
spheres. The Agreement of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne of April 1917
promised Italy concessions on the Anatolian coast; one Allied motive in

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this was to persuade Rome to scale down its claims on Austria-Hungary
in hopes of a separate peace with Vienna (see below War-weariness
and diplomacy). Finally, the French began in 1916 to formulate a
second set of war aims directed, not at Germany, but at their own
allies. British currency supports, loans, coal shipments at fixed prices,
and other benefits helped sustain the French war effort, and the
minister of commerce, Etienne Clémentel, lobbied for an extension of
these supports beyond an armistice lest France win the military
struggle only to lose the postwar economic struggle. The British agreed
at the Allied Economic Conference of 1916, and the following year the
French placed even greater hopes of economic solidarity in the newly
associated power, the United States.

Attitude of the United States
Since 1783 the United States had acquired a number of foreign policy
traditions. George Washington, in his Farewell Address, admonished his
young and vulnerable country to avoid alliances that would drag it into
disputes in which it had no interest. Thus was born a powerful
isolationist and exclusivist tradition. The Monroe Doctrine declared the
Western Hemisphere off-limits to European adventurism, giving birth
to a regionalist and paternalist tradition vis-à-vis Latin America. After
the Civil War, belief in America's Manifest Destiny directed national
attention to the West Coast and beyond. Then the war against Spain in
1898 yielded colonial possessions in the Caribbean and Pacific and
inspired the building of a two-ocean navy and of a Panama Canal to
serve it. By 1914, when the canal opened, the United States was
already the greatest industrial power in the world, yet its tradition of
exclusivity and its tiny standing army gave the Europeans excuse to
ignore America's potential might.
In August 1914 President Woodrow Wilson implored the American
people to be “neutral in thought as well as deed” with respect to the
European war. In so doing he was not only honouring tradition but also
applying his own religious principles to foreign policy. His agenda upon
entering the White House in 1913 had been domestic reform, and he
had written that it would be an irony of fate should foreign policy
come to dominate in his administration. Yet when fate so decreed,
Wilson preferred to trust his own motives and methods rather than the
advice of his secretaries of state or his other advisers. Wilson deplored
the war and earnestly wished to bring about a just and lasting peace
through U.S. mediation, for what greater mission could Providence
assign to that “city on a hill,” the United States of America?
American power began to figure in the balance of war almost from the
start. Trading was suspended on the New York Stock Exchange when

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war broke out, but when it resumed in November 1914, Europeans sold
most of the $4,000,000,000 worth of securities they held before the
war. U.S. loans to belligerents were at first declared “inconsistent
with the true spirit of neutrality,” but the large Anglo-French orders
for U.S. munitions, raw materials, and food created an economic
boom, and by 1915 the Allies needed credit to continue their
purchases. An initial £200,000,000 loan in September 1915 led
eventually to billions being floated on the U.S. market and a complete
reversal of the financial relationship between the Old World and the
New. By 1917 the United States was no longer a debtor nation but the
world's greatest creditor. U.S. firms also inherited many overseas
markets, especially in Latin America, which the British and Germans
could no longer serve.

To Americans neutrality seemed both moral and lucrative—the United
States, said Wilson, was “too proud to fight.” But the failure of his
peace initiatives, the German assaults on neutrals' rights at sea, and
the cumulative effect of Allied propaganda and German provocations
conjoined to end U.S. neutrality by 1917. On Feb. 4, 1915, Germany
declared the waters around the British Isles a war zone in which Allied
ships would be sunk, without warning if necessary. While this
procedure dispensed with traditional civilities like boarding, search
and seizure, and care of civilians, effective submarine warfare
required it. Underwater craft relied on stealth and surprise and
exposed themselves to easy destruction once they made their presence
known. Thus, even though the British blockade interfered with neutral
shipping more than the German blockade, the latter appeared far
more beastly. The sinking of the Cunard liner Lusitania on May 7, 1915,
which killed over a thousand passengers, including 128 U.S. citizens,
outraged U.S. public opinion despite the rightful German claim that
she was carrying munitions (173 tons worth). Two more passenger
ships, the Arabic and Hesperia, went down in August and September,
respectively, whereupon American diplomatic protests caused civil
officials in Berlin to overrule the military command and call off
unrestricted submarine warfare, although the issue did not remain
settled.
Wilson's own peace initiatives, including an offer of mediation by
Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan in 1914 and a trip to Europe
by Wilson's personal aide and adviser, Colonel Edward M. House, in
1915, were unsuccessful. Early in 1916 House returned to Europe and
on February 22 in London agreed to a formula whereby the United
States would summon a peace conference and—if Germany refused to
attend or proved unreasonable—“would leave the conference as a
belligerent on the side of the Allies.” Wilson later drew back from the
guarantee and added the word “probably” after “would.” But the
British themselves shied from promoting such a conference, while the

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other belligerents also ducked the suggestion lest they compromise the
determination of their people or incur the distrust of allies.
By the end of 1916 Germany had 102 U-boats ready for service, many
of the latest type, and the chief of the naval staff assured the Kaiser
that unrestricted submarine warfare would sink 600,000 tons of Allied
shipping per month and force Britain to make peace within five
months. Bethmann fought to delay escalation of the submarine war in
hopes of another Wilsonian peace move. But the President held off
new initiatives during his reelection campaign. When he had still not
acted by December 1916, Bethmann was forced to make a deal with
his own military, which consented to tolerate a German peace offer in
return for Bethmann's endorsement of unrestricted submarine warfare
if the offer failed. But the army helped ensure that the German note
(released December 12) would fail by insisting on implicit retention by
Germany of Belgium and other battlefield conquests. Wilson followed
on the 18th with an invitation to the two camps to define their war
aims as a prelude to negotiation. The Allies demanded evacuation of
occupied lands and guarantees against Germany in the future. The
Germans stuck to their December note, and the military command
decided to resume unrestricted submarine warfare on February 1.

The United States broke diplomatic relations with Germany on
February 3 and commenced the arming of merchant ships on March 9.
Meanwhile, German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann,
anticipating war with the United States over the U-boat issue, cabled
an offer of alliance to Mexico on January 16, promising Mexico its own
“lost provinces” of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico in case of war with
the United States. British intelligence intercepted the Zimmermann
telegram and leaked it to Washington, further inflaming American
opinion. When U-boats proceeded in mid-March to sink the Algonquin,
City of Memphis, Vigilancia, and Illinois (the latter two without
warning), Wilson went before Congress and in a lofty and moving
address reviewed the reasons why America was forced to take up the
sword—why, “God helping her, she can do no other.” On April 6, 1917,
Congress declared war on Germany, and the United States became an
Associated (not an Allied) Power. Henceforth World War I hinged on
whether the U-boats could force Britain to her knees and the German
armies overwhelm the sagging Western Front before the men and
matériel of the aroused Yankees could arrive in France.

The crises of 1917
War-weariness and diplomacy

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For every belligerent, 1917 was a year of crisis at home and at the
front, a year of wild swings and near disasters, and by the time it was
over the very nature of the war had changed dramatically. A French
offensive in the spring soon ground to a standstill, sparking a wave of
mutinies and indiscipline in the trenches that left the French army
virtually useless as an offensive force. The British offensive of
July–November, called variously Passchendaele or the Third Battle of
Ypres, was a tactical disaster that ended in a viscous porridge of mud.
That offensive action could be ordered under such conditions is a
measure of how far Western Front generals had been seduced into a
gothic unreality. Allied and German casualties “in Flanders Fields,
where poppies grow” numbered between 500,000 and 800,000. The
British Army, too, neared the end of its offensive capacities.

For two years the Italian front had been left unchanged by the first
nine battles of the Isonzo, but the underfinanced and
underindustrialized Italian war effort gradually eroded. The Tenth
Battle of the Isonzo (May–June 1917) cost Italy dearly, while the
Eleventh (August–September) registered a “success” amounting to
some five miles of advance at a cost of over 300,000 casualties,
pushing the total for the war to more than 1,000,000. With peace
propaganda, strikes, and Communist agitation spreading throughout
Italy, and the Austrians in need of stiffening, the German high
command reinforced the Austrians at Caporetto. Within days the
Italian commander had to order a general retreat. The Germans broke
the line of the Tagliamento as well, and not until the Italians
regrouped at the Piave on November 7 did the front stabilize.
Caporetto cost Italy 340,000 dead and wounded, 300,000 prisoners,
and another 350,000 deserters: an incredible 1,000,000 in all,
suggesting that the Italian army, like the French, was on strike against
its own leadership.

Among the Central Powers also, 1917 intensified the yearning for
peace. Polish, Czech, and Yugoslav leaders had formed committees in
exile to agitate for the autonomy or independence of their peoples,
while war-weariness among those at home grew with food shortages,
bad news from the front, and desertions among the troops. When
Emperor Francis Joseph died in November 1916 after 68 years on the
throne, there was a sense that the empire must die with him.
Austro-Hungarian officials already had begun to look for a way out of
the war—which meant a way out of the German alliance. The new
Habsburg foreign minister, the Polish Ottokar, Graf Czernin, raised the
issue of war aims and peace at his first ministerial meeting with the
new emperor, Charles. A negotiated peace could only be one without
victors or vanquished, conquests or indemnities—so said Czernin 10
days before Wilson's own “Peace Without Victory” speech. The only
means of achieving such a peace, however, was for Austria-Hungary's

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ally Germany to restore Belgium and, perhaps, Alsace-Lorraine.

The first Austrian demarches, made through Scandinavia, came to
nothing, and so Charles, Czernin, and the Empress Zita tried again in
late January 1917 through the intermediary of her brother, Prince
Sixtus of Bourbon-Parma, on leave from service in the Belgian army. In
March, Charles drafted a letter in which he asked Sixtus to convey to
the President of France his “lively sympathies” and support for the
evacuation of Belgium and the lost provinces. The cautious French
premier, Alexandre Ribot, shared the news in April with Lloyd George,
who said simply, “That means peace.” But Baron Sonnino, at the
Conference of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, refused to consider peace
with Austria-Hungary (the only enemy Italy was interested in fighting)
and warned Lloyd George against attempts to split their alliance.
Charles's second letter, in May, which inexplicably told the French and
British of an “Italian peace offer” that was never made, only put the
Allies on their guard.
Simultaneously the parliamentary forces of Germany rose in protest
against the war, the erosion of civilian authority, and the war-aims
stubbornness of the military command. A moderate annexationist
deputy, Matthias Erzberger, met with Czernin and Emperor Charles in
April 1917 and learned that Austria-Hungary's military strength was
near its end. In May a Reichstag committee demanded that the army
be placed under civilian control. The Kaiser and the military high
command replied with scorn. In July, Bethmann was forced to resign
and the army assumed de facto control of Germany. When the Kaiser
appointed a nonentity, Georg Michaelis, as chancellor, the Reichstag
passed a peace resolution on July 19 by a vote of 212–126. But the
resolution could have no bearing on the ruling circles, to whom
compromise with the foreign enemy meant surrender to the domestic
forces of reform.

In mid-August, Pope Benedict XV tried to preserve momentum toward
a truce by calling on all parties to evacuate occupied regions, but the
German government again refused to surrender Belgium, while the
American reply to the Vatican seemed to insist on the democratization
of Germany. Emperor Charles and Czernin were likewise unable to
make headway, for the Allies were not at this point seeking a general
peace but only a separate peace with Austria-Hungary that would
leave Germany stranded. This Vienna could not in honour do, nor
Berlin permit. The United States declared war on Austria-Hungary on
Dec. 7, 1917, and, when the French government leaked news the
following spring of the Austrian peace correspondence, Charles and
Czernin were forced to humble themselves before the Kaiser and
German high command at Spa. Austria-Hungary had become a virtual
satellite of the German military empire.

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The Ottoman Empire in 1917 began to give way before the relatively
mild but incessant pressure on fronts the other powers considered
sideshows. Baghdad fell to British forces in March. Sir Edmund Allenby,
having promised Lloyd George that he would deliver Jerusalem to the
British people “as a Christmas present,” made good his promise on
December 9. The political future of Palestine, however, was a source
of confusion. In the war-aims treaties, the British had divided the
Middle East into colonial spheres of influence. In their dealings with
the Arabs the British spoke of independence for the region. Then, on
Nov. 2, 1917, the Balfour Declaration promised “the establishment in
Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” albeit without
prejudice to “the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish
communities.” Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour was persuaded that
this action was in British interest by the energetic appeals of Chaim
Weizmann, but in the long run it would cause no end of difficulty for
British diplomacy.
The one flank on which Turkey had not been besieged was the Balkan,
where an Allied force remained in place at Salonika pending resolution
of the Greek political struggle. The Allies continued to back Prime
Minister Eleuthérios Venizélos, who, because King Constantine still
favoured the Central Powers, had fled Athens in September 1916 and
set up a provisional government under Allied protection at Salonika.
Finally, the Anglo-French forces deposed Constantine in June 1917 and
installed Venizélos in Athens, whereupon Greece declared war on the
Central Powers. By the end of 1917, therefore, Turkey, like Austria,
was exhausted, beleaguered on four fronts, and wholly dependent on
German support.

The Russian Revolution
While Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey all
survived their crises of 1917 and found the will and stamina for one
last year of war, Russia succumbed. In three years of war Russia had
mobilized roughly 10 percent of its entire population and lost over half
of that number in battle. The home economy was stretched to the
limit, and even the arms and food it could produce were subject to
vagaries of transport and corruption in the supply services. Inflation
and food shortages panicked the towns, and shortages of fuel isolated
the countryside. Suddenly, on March 12, 1917, the parliament and
Petrograd soviet (workers' and soldiers' council) joined forces to form a
Provisional Government. Three days later the Tsar abdicated.
Two leading ministers in the new regime, Aleksandr Kerensky and
Pavel Milyukov, hoped to streamline the state and invigorate the war
effort. Political liberals, they valued Russia's ties to Britain and France

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and even looked forward to capturing Constantinople as a means of
legitimating the new regime. Kerensky assured the Allies on March 17
that Russia would fight “unswervingly and indefatigably” until victory.
The local soviets and leftist parties, however, forced a declaration in
April by which “free Russia” renounced domination over other nations
and their territories. When Prince Gyorgy Lvov, the prime minister,
promised to accept the revolutionary formula of “no annexations, no
indemnities” on May 15, Milyukov stepped down as foreign minister.
President Wilson was especially moved by the spectacle of Russia
embracing democracy, and all the Allies could now truly depict their
cause as moral and ideological: “to make the world safe for
democracy,” as Wilson said, in opposition to militarism and
imperialism. Russia's ability to fight steadily and rapidly deteriorated,
however. The Petrograd soviet called for abolition of the officer corps,
and the Provisional Government abolished courts-martial and issued a
Declaration of Soldiers' Rights.

The Provisional Government's decision to continue the war was a grave
disappointment to the Germans. Since 1914 they had dabbled in
revolutionary intrigues in hopes of shattering Russia from within. The
campaign took two forms: collaboration with nationalist agitators
among the Finns, Baltic peoples, Poles, Ukrainians, and Georgians; and
support for Russian social revolutionaries. Lenin, leader of the most
virulent wing of Russian Marxists, the Bolsheviks, was living in Kraków
when the war broke out and was promptly arrested. An Austrian Social
Democrat, Victor Adler, persuaded the Austrian minister of the interior
that Lenin was an ally in the fight against Russia, whereupon he was
released into Switzerland. Another Russian émigré and Socialist,
Alexander Helphand, impressed the German ambassador in
Constantinople with his revolutionary connections and was soon
briefing the German foreign ministry in Berlin. In March 1915 the
Germans set aside the first 2,000,000 of what would eventually total
41,000,000 marks spent on secret subversion in Russia.
After the first Eastern Front victories in 1915, Berlin had hoped to
entice Russia into a separate peace, and efforts to that end continued
up to March 1917. Behind the scenes, however, Helphand's
organization, supported by the German foreign office, worked to
spread revolutionary and pacifist ideas inside Russia. After Kerensky's
declaration that Russia would stay in the war, the German command
determined to facilitate Lenin's return to Russia. On April 9, 1917, he
and his comrades were placed aboard a special security train in Zürich
for the trip across Germany, continued by boat to Sweden and thence
by rail to Petrograd.
Bolshevik propaganda penetrated the army, which even the Russian
high command confessed was “a huge, weary, shabby, and ill-fed mob

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of angry men.” In an attempt to restore it to fighting trim, General
Lavr Kornilov urged on Kerensky a number of reforms (August 16), but
behind Kornilov were conspirators hoping for military dictatorship.
Kerensky grasped the danger to himself, forbade troop movements to
the capital lest they support a coup, and then had Kornilov arrested.
The division between the centre and right gravely weakened the
Provisional Government and strengthened the Bolsheviks, who took the
lead in denouncing this “counterrevolutionary plot.” The Provisional
Government, bereft of authority and will, hoped to hold on until
elections for a Constituent Assembly in December. Lenin, knowing that
he stood to lose by the fact and the result of free elections, struck in
November, and the Provisional Government collapsed in the face of
the Bolshevik coup d'état.
One of Lenin's first acts as revolutionary dictator of Russia was to
attempt to transform the European war of nations into a war of
classes. His ringing speech of November 8 appealed to workers and
soldiers everywhere to force an immediate armistice, end secret
diplomacy, and negotiate a peace of “no annexations, no
indemnities.” Lenin, Leon Trotsky, and Karl Radek promptly organized
to spread revolution abroad. The expected uprisings occurred
nowhere, but peace was mandatory for Russia if the Bolshevik regime
were to survive. On December 15, therefore, Lenin's regime signed an
armistice with the Central Powers.

Last battles and armistice
Russia's withdrawal from the war
The events of 1917 meant that World War I was no longer a two-sided
contest. Rather, four visions of the future competed for the allegiance
of governments and peoples. Germany fought on in hope of victory and
domination of the Continent. The Allies fought on to frustrate
Germany and realize their own ambitious war aims. Wilson's America
fought as an “associated power” for a liberal internationalist agenda
opposed to German and Allied imperialism alike. Finally, Lenin's Russia
raised a second challenge to the old diplomacy in the name of Socialist
internationalism. German, Allied, Wilsonian, and Bolshevik images of
the peace differed so radically that the war was now as much
ideological as it was military.
Lloyd George and Wilson replied to Lenin's peace initiatives with
speeches of their own to reassure their peoples, contrast their liberal
goals with those of the Germans, and perhaps persuade Russia to
remain in the field. Lloyd George insisted before the Trades Union

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Congress (Jan. 5, 1918) that “we are not fighting a war of aggression
against the German people,” and he stressed autonomous
development for all peoples, including those of Austria-Hungary.
Wilson's Fourteen Points speech (Jan. 8, 1918) called for (1) open
covenants, openly arrived at; (2) freedom of the seas; (3) lowering of
economic barriers; (4) reduction of armaments; (5) colonial
arrangements respecting the will of the peoples involved; (6) national
self-determination for the peoples of Russia; (7) restoration of
Belgium; (8) return of all invaded territory plus Alsace-Lorraine to
France; (9) Italian recovery of her irredente; (10) autonomy for the
nationalities of Austria-Hungary; (11) restoration of the Balkan states
and access to the sea for Serbia; (12) autonomy for the peoples of the
Ottoman Empire and free navigation through the Dardanelles; (13) an
independent Poland with access to the sea; and (14) a “general
association of nations” offering “mutual guarantees of political
independence and territorial integrity.” In his Four Principles
(February 11) and Five Particulars (September 27) speeches Wilson
elaborated his views on national self-determination, a truly
revolutionary idea with global, but unpredictable, implications.

Allied assurances failed to dissuade the Bolsheviks from exiting the
alliance. Lenin took power on the slogan “Peace, Bread, and Land,”
and he needed to be free of the war in order to consolidate Bolshevik
power. A peace conference convened at Brest-Litovsk on Dec. 22,
1917, but it proceeded slowly while the two sides—one imperialist, the
other incipiently totalitarian—bickered about the definition of
“national self-determination.” On Jan. 7, 1918, Trotsky asked for
adjournment, still hoping for revolutionary outbreaks abroad. In fact,
a mutiny in the Austrian fleet and a general strike movement in Berlin
did occur but were easily suppressed. The Bolshevik leadership now
faced three bad choices: to defy the Germans and risk conquest and
overthrow; to relent and sign over half of European Russia to German
control; or to pursue what Trotsky called “neither war nor peace”
while awaiting the revolution in Germany. He also wished to avoid any
sign of collusion with the German military, lest the Bolsheviks appear
to be collaborationists. In the meantime the Germans and Austrians
concluded the Brotfrieden (“bread peace”) with representatives of
wheat-rich Ukraine. When, however, Bolshevik forces began to
penetrate Ukraine—and the German high command tired of Trotsky's
rhetoric—the Germans broke off talks and ordered the army to resume
its advance. The French ambassador immediately offered the
Bolsheviks all aid if they would fight the Germans, but Lenin ordered
an immediate capitulation. Germany now presented even harsher
peace terms, and on March 3 the Bolsheviks signed. The Romanians
then made peace on the 5th, and newly independent Finland signed a
treaty with Germany on the 7th.

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In the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk the Bolshevik regime turned over to
Germany 34 percent of Russia's population, 32 percent of Russia's
farmland, 54 percent of Russia's industrial plant, 89 percent of Russia's
coal mines, and virtually all of its cotton and oil. These economic gains
in the east, plus the release of troops who could now be shifted to the
Western Front, revived German hopes that victory was achievable
before the Americans arrived in force.
Negative views of the Bolshevik Revolution predominated from the
start in Western capitals, although some people on the left in London,
Paris, and Washington sympathized with it or thought it would bring
much needed “efficiency” to Russia. The French and British had talked
of supporting this or that Russian faction with arms or cash and had
agreed on a tentative division of southern Russia into areas of
responsibility. The German advance of February then caused the Allied
missions to flee Petrograd and reassemble in remote Vologda, where
they waited to see what direction the Bolsheviks would take. The
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk answered the question. It was an unparalleled
disaster for the beleaguered Allies, who now had to consider
intervention in Russia. First, if they could link up with nationalist
Russians and reopen the Eastern Front, they might save their
exhausted armies in France from facing the full might of the Central
Powers. Second, it would be most helpful if they could save Allied war
matériel that had stacked up in Russian ports (some 162,495 tons of
supplies in Arkhangelsk alone) from seizure by the Germans or
Bolsheviks and distribute it to Russians still willing to fight Germans.

When the German onslaught on the Western Front opened in March,
the French and British became desperate for a diversion in the East. In
March 1918 an Anglo-French expedition docked at Murmansk, followed
in June by an American cruiser and 150 marines. An Anglo-French force
occupied Arkhangelsk in August, and 4,500 U.S. soldiers under British
command joined them in September. These tiny contingents, totaling
about 28,000 men, were never meant to overthrow the Bolshevik
regime, although the British hoped they might serve as magnets for
White Russian forces opposing the Bolsheviks.
The Japanese, seeking an imperial foothold on the Asian mainland,
used Brest-Litovsk as pretext to occupy Vladivostok in April. Wilson
then committed U.S. troops to Siberia in order to keep an eye on the
Japanese and to make contact with 30,000 Czechoslovak legionnaires,
mostly former prisoners of war from the Habsburg armies seeking to
escape Russia to fight for an independent Czech state. The
Czechoslovak Legion, released and armed by the Kerensky
government, at first declared neutrality toward Russian politics, but
when the Bolsheviks tried to disarm them, skirmishes ensued, and the
legion became strung out along the 6,000-mile-long Trans-Siberian

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Railway. The Allied interventions also became entangled in the
erupting Russian Civil War. Bolsheviks controlled Petrograd, Moscow,
and the core regions of Russia, while White governments were
established by Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak in Omsk and General Anton
Denikin in Odessa.

The eastern minorities
The saga of the Czechoslovak Legion was symbolic of the growing
vigour of the national movements inside the Habsburg Empire. Early in
the war the subject peoples had remained loyal to beloved old Francis
Joseph. But martial law, which fell especially hard on minorities, war
weariness, hunger, and the example of the Russian Revolution
converted moderates among the Czechs, Galician Poles, and South
Slavs to the cause of independence. The Czechs and Slovaks were
brilliantly served by Tomáš Masaryk and Edvard Beneš, who lobbied for
Allied recognition of a Czech national council. The Polish movement,
led by Józef Piłsudski, sought to establish similar national institutions
and cooperated with the Central Powers after their Two Emperors'
Manifesto (Nov. 5, 1916) promised autonomy to the Poles. The Polish
National Committee in France, and famed pianist Ignacy Paderewski in
the United States, also pleaded the Polish cause. Yugoslav (or South
Slav) agitation was complicated by rivalries between the Serbs
(Orthodox, Cyrillic alphabet, and politically stronger) and the Croats
and Slovenes (Roman Catholic, Latin alphabet, politically
disinherited), as well as Serbia's and Italy's conflicting claims to the
Dalmatian coast. In July 1917 the factions united in the Corfu
Declaration that envisioned a Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.
All the committees then gathered in Rome for a Congress of Oppressed
Nationalities in April 1918.

The Allies stood aloof from the nationalities while hope persisted of
detaching Austria-Hungary from Germany. But in 1918 the Allies took
up the revolutionary weapon. In April 1918 Masaryk sailed to the
United States, won personal recognition from Wilson and Secretary of
State Robert Lansing, and concluded the Pittsburgh Convention by
which Slovak-Americans, on behalf of their countrymen, agreed to join
the Czechs in a united state. The Czechoslovak National Council won
official recognition as a co-belligerent and de facto
government-in-exile from France in June, Britain in August, and the
United States in September. Only their quarrel with Italy kept the
Yugoslavs from achieving the same. Thus, de facto governments were
prepared to assume control of successor states as soon as Habsburg
authority should collapse, internally or on the military fronts.

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Germany's final battles
Ironically the Germans did not take maximum advantage of
Brest-Litovsk after all, leaving about a million men—60 divisions—in the
East in order to coerce the Ukrainians into relinquishing foodstuffs, to
pursue political goals in the Baltic, and to ensure Bolshevik
compliance. Facing virtual starvation as economic exhaustion
deepened and the Allied blockade grew more effective, the German
high command decided on a series of all-out attacks on the Western
Front, beginning in March 1918. But tactical errors, together with the
Allies' creation at last of a unified command and the arrival in strength
of eager U.S. divisions, blunted and then turned back the offensives.
By late July it was clear that Germany had lost the war. The 1918
offensives cost 1,100,000 men and drained the Reich of reserves.
Morale plummeted on the Western Front and at home. Then on Aug. 8,
1918, British, Australian, and Canadian divisions struck on the Somme
and overwhelmed German forces not adequately dug in. The 20,000
casualties, and an equal number of prisoners taken in one day,
testified to the broken spirit of the German troops. Further Allied
successes followed, and on Sept. 29, 1918, General Erich Ludendorff,
the chief of staff, informed the Kaiser that the army was finished. The
next day the new chancellor, the moderate Maximilian, Prince of
Baden, was authorized to seek an armistice. On the night of October
3–4 he requested an armistice from President Wilson on the basis of
the Fourteen Points.
While negotiations began for an armistice in the West, Germany's allies
elsewhere collapsed. The collapse of the Bulgarian front before the
Franco-Serbian offensive ended with the French cavalry capture of
Skopje on September 29, whereupon the Allies accepted Bulgaria's
petition for peace in the Armistice of Salonika. This opened
Constantinople to attack and prompted the Turks as well to sue for
peace. It also left Austria-Hungary, stymied on the Italian front, with
little recourse. On October 4 Vienna appealed to President Wilson for
an armistice on the basis of the Fourteen Points. But the U.S. note of
the 18th indicated that autonomy for the nationalities no longer
sufficed and thus amounted to the writ of execution for the Habsburg
Empire. On October 28, in Prague and Kraków, Czech and Polish
committees declared independence from Vienna. The Croats in Zagreb
did the same on the 29th pending their union with the Serbs, and
Germans in the Reichsrat proclaimed rump Austria an independent
state on the 30th. The Armistice of Villa Giusti (November 4) required
Austria-Hungary to evacuate all occupied territory, the South Tirol,
Tarvisio, Gorizia, Trieste, Istria, western Carniola, and Dalmatia, and
to surrender its navy. Emperor Charles, his empire gone, pledged to
withdraw from Austria's politics on November 11 and from Hungary's on

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the 13th.

The first U.S. note responding to the German request for an armistice
was sent on October 8 and called for evacuation by Germany of all
occupied territory. The German reply sought to ensure that all the
Allies would respect the Fourteen Points. The second U.S. note
reflected high dudgeon about Germany's seeking assurances, given her
own war policies. In any case, the British, French, and Italians (fearing
Wilsonian leniency and angry about not being consulted after the first
note) insisted that their military commands be consulted on the
armistice terms. This in turn gave the Allies a chance to ensure that
Germany be rendered unable to take up resistance again in the future,
whatever the eventual peace terms, and that their own war aims
might be advanced through the armistice terms—e.g., surrender of the
German navy for the British, occupation of Alsace-Lorraine and the
Rhineland for the French. Wilson's second note, therefore, shattered
German illusions about using the armistice as a way of sowing discord
among the Allies or winning a breathing space for themselves. The
third German note (October 20) agreed to the Allies setting the terms
and indicated, by way of appeasing Wilson, that Maximilian's civilian
cabinet had replaced any “arbitrary power” (Wilson's phrase) in Berlin.
The third U.S. note (October 23) specified that the armistice would
render Germany incapable of resuming hostilities. Ludendorff wanted
further resistance, but the Kaiser instead asked for his resignation on
the 26th. The next day Germany acknowledged Wilson's note.

Some Allied leaders, most notably Poincaré and General John Pershing,
bitterly disputed the wisdom of offering Germany an armistice when
her armies were still on foreign soil. Marshall Ferdinand Foch drafted
military terms harsh enough for the skeptics, however, and Georges
Clemenceau could not in good conscience permit the killing to go on if
Germany were rendered defenseless. Meanwhile, House, sent by
Wilson to Paris to consult with the Allies, threatened a separate
U.S.-German peace to win Allied approval of the Fourteen Points on
November 4 (excepting a British reservation about “freedom of the
seas,” a French one about “removal of economic barriers and equality
of trade conditions,” and a clause enjoining Germany to repair war
damage). House and Wilson jubilantly concluded that the foundations
of a liberal peace were in place: substitution of the Fourteen Points
for the Allies' “imperialist” war aims and the transition of Germany to
democracy. The fourth U.S. note (November 5) informed the Germans
of Allied agreement and the procedures for dealing with Foch.
Germany, however, seemed to be moving less toward democracy than
toward anarchy. On October 29 the naval command ordered the High
Seas Fleet to leave port for a last-ditch battle, prompting a mutiny,
then full insurrection on November 3. Workers' and soldiers' councils

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formed in ports and industrial cities, and a socialist Republic of
Bavaria was declared on the 8th. Two days later Maximilian announced
the abdication of Kaiser William II and his own resignation, and the
Social Democratic leader Friedrich Ebert formed a provisional
government. On the 10th the Kaiser went into Dutch exile. The
armistice delegation led by Erzberger, meanwhile, met with Foch in a
railway carriage at Rethondes on the 8th. Erzberger, begging for
amelioration of the Allies' terms and especially for the lifting of the
blockade so that Germany might be fed, raised the spectre of
Bolshevism. Receiving only minor concessions, the Germans relented
and signed the Armistice on Nov. 11, 1918. It called on Germany to
evacuate and turn over to Allied armies all occupied regions,
Alsace-Lorraine, the left (west) bank of the Rhine, and the
bridgeheads of Mainz and Koblenz. A neutral zone of 10 kilometres on
the right bank of the Rhine was also to be evacuated, the entire
German navy surrendered, and the treaties of Brest-Litovsk and
Bucharest renounced. Germany was also to turn over a large number of
locomotives, munitions, trucks, and other matériel—and to promise
reparation for damage done.

The collapse of the old order
The four years' carnage of World War I was the most intense physical,
economic, and psychological assault on European society in its history.
The war took directly some 8,500,000 lives and wounded another
21,000,000. The demographic damage done by the shortage of young,
virile men over the next 20 years is incalculable. The cost of the war has
been estimated at more than 200,000,000,000 1914 dollars, with some
$36,800,000,000 more in damage. Much of northern France, Belgium, and
Poland lay in ruin, while millions of tons of Allied shipping rested at the
bottom of the sea. The foundation stone of prewar financial life, the gold
standard, was shattered, and prewar trade patterns were hopelessly
disrupted.
Economic recovery, vital to social stability and the containment of
revolution, depended on political stability. But how could political
stability be restored when four great empires—the Hohenzollern,
Habsburg, Romanov, and Ottoman—had fallen, the boundaries of old and
new states alike were yet to be fixed, vengeful passions ran high, and
conflicting national aims and ideologies competed for the allegiance of
the victors? In World War I, Europe lost its unity as a culture and polity,
its sense of common destiny and inexorable progress. It lost much of its
automatic reverence for the old values of country, church, family, duty,
honour, discipline, glory, and tradition. The old was bankrupt. It
remained only to decide which newness would take its place.

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The damage wrought by war would live on through the erosion of faith in
19th-century liberalism, international law, and Judeo-Christian values.
Whatever the isolated acts of charity and chivalry by soldiers struggling in
the trenches to remain human, governments and armies had thrown
away, one by one, the standards of decency and fair play that had
governed European warfare, more or less, in past centuries. Total war
meant the starving of civilians through naval blockade, torpedoing of
civilian craft, bombing of open cities, use of poison gas in the trenches,
and reliance on tactics of assault that took from the private soldier any
dignity, control over his fate, or hope of survival. World War I
subordinated the civilian to the military and the human to the machine.
It remained only for such imperious cynicism to impose itself in
peacetime as well, in totalitarian states modeled on war government,
until the very distinction between war and peace broke down in the
1930s.

Peacemaking, 1919–22
The bells, flags, crowds, and tears of Armistice Day 1918 testified to the
relief of exhausted Europeans that the killing had stopped and underscored
their hopes that a just and lasting peace might repair the damage, right
the wrongs, and revive prosperity in a broken world. Woodrow Wilson's call
for a new and democratic diplomacy, backed by the suddenly commanding
prestige and power of the United States, suggested that the dream of a
New Jerusalem in world politics was not merely Armistice euphoria. A
century before, Europe's aristocratic rulers had convened in the capital of
dynasties, Vienna, to fashion a peace repudiating the nationalist and
democratic principles of the French Revolution. Now, democratic
statesmen would convene in the capital of liberty, Paris, to remake a
Europe that had overthrown monarchical imperialism once and for all in
this “war to end war.”
In fact, the immense destruction done to the political and economic
landmarks of the prewar world would have made the task of peacemaking
daunting even if the victors had shared a united vision, which they did not.
Central and eastern Europe were in a turmoil in the wake of the German,
Habsburg, Russian, and Ottoman collapses. Revolution sputtered in Berlin
and elsewhere, and civil war in Russia. Trench warfare had left large
swaths of northern France, Belgium, and Poland in ruin. The war had cost
millions of dead and wounded and more than $236,000,000,000 in direct
costs and property losses. Ethnic hatreds and rivalries could not be
expunged at a stroke, and their persistence hindered the effort to draw or
redraw dozens of boundaries, including those of the successor states
emerging from the Habsburg empire. In the colonial world the war among
the imperial powers gave a strong impetus to nationalist movements. India
alone provided 943,000 soldiers and workers to the British war effort, and

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the French empire provided the home country with 928,000. These men
brought home a familiarity with European life and the new anti-imperialist
ideas of Wilson or Lenin. The war also weakened the European powers
vis-à-vis the United States and Japan, destroyed the prewar monetary
stability, and disrupted trade and manufactures. In sum, a return to 1914
“normalcy” was impossible. But what could, or should, replace it? As the
French foreign minister Stéphen Pichon observed, the war's end meant only
that “the era of difficulties begins.”
The Paris Peace Conference ultimately produced five treaties, each named
after the suburban locale in which it was signed: the Treaty of Versailles
with Germany (June 28, 1919); the Treaty of Saint-Germain with Austria
(Sept. 10, 1919); the Treaty of Neuilly with Bulgaria (Nov. 27, 1919); the
Treaty of Trianon with Hungary (June 4, 1920); and the Treaty of Sèvres
with Ottoman Turkey (Aug. 10, 1920). In addition, the Washington
Conference treaties on naval armaments, China, and the Pacific (1921–22)
established a postwar regime in those areas.

Competing visions of stability
The idealist vision
According to the armistice agreement the peace was to be based on
Wilson's Fourteen Points. But the French and British had already
expressed reservations about them, and, in many cases, the vague
Wilsonian principles lent themselves to varying interpretations when
applied to complex realities. Nevertheless, Wilson anticipated the
peace conference with high hopes that his principles would prevail,
either because of their popularity with common people everywhere, or
because U.S. financial leverage would oblige European statesmen to
follow his lead. “Tell me what is right,” he instructed his delegation on
the George Washington en route to Paris, “and I will fight for it.”
Unique among the victor powers, the United States would not ask any
territorial gains or reparations and would thereby be free to stand
proudly as the conference's conscience and honest broker.
Wilsonianism, as it came to be called, derived from the liberal
internationalism that had captured large segments of the
Anglo-American intellectual elite before and during the war. It
interpreted war as essentially an atavism associated with authoritarian
monarchy, aristocracy, imperialism, and economic nationalism. Such
governments still practiced an old diplomacy of secret alliances,
militarism, and balance of power politics that bred distrust, suspicion,
and conflict. The antidotes were democratic control of diplomacy,
self-determination for all nations, open negotiations, disarmament,

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free trade, and especially a system of international law and collective
security to replace raw power as the arbiter of disputes among states.
This last idea, developed by the American League to Enforce Peace
(founded in 1915), found expression in the Fourteen Points as “a
general association of nations” and was to be the cornerstone of
Wilson's edifice. He expected a functioning League of Nations to
correct whatever errors and injustices might creep in to the treaties
themselves.

Liberal internationalism set the tone for the Paris Peace Conference.
European statesmen learned quickly to couch their own demands in
Wilsonian rhetoric and to argue their cases on grounds of “justice”
rather than power politics. Yet Wilson's principles proved, one by one,
to be inapplicable, irrelevant, or insufficient in the eyes of European
governments, while the idealistic gloss they placed on the treaties
undermined their legitimacy for anyone claiming that “justice” had
not been served. Wilson's personality must bear some of the blame for
this disillusionment. He was a proud man, confident of his objectivity
and prestige, and he insisted on being the first U.S. president to sail to
Europe and to conduct negotiations himself. He had visited Europe
only twice before, as a tourist, and now delayed the peace conference
in order to make a triumphant tour of European capitals. Moreover,
the Democrats lost their Senate majority in the elections of November
1918, yet Wilson refused to include prominent Republicans in his
delegation. This allowed Theodore Roosevelt to declare that Wilson
had “absolutely no authority to speak for the American people.”
Wilson's flaws exacerbated the difficulty of promoting his ideals in
Paris and at home. Still, he was a prophet in world politics, both as
lawgiver and as seer. Only a peace between equals, he said, can last.

The realist vision
Georges Clemenceau also approached peacemaking as a personal
quest, stacking the French delegation with loyal supporters and
minimizing the influence of the foreign ministry, the army, and
parliament. Even political enemies hailed Clemenceau (known as “the
tiger”) as “père la victoire,” and he determined not to betray the
soldiers' victory in the peace negotiations to come. But the French
vision of a just peace contrasted sharply with Wilson's. France alone in
1914 had not chosen war, but had been summarily attacked. France
had provided the major battleground, suffered the most physical
damage, and sacrificed a generation of manhood. France faced the
most massive task of reconstruction, the most direct threat of German
revenge, and the most immediate responsibility for executing the
armistice and peace treaties by dint of its contiguity with Germany.

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Clemenceau, therefore, sought material advantage from the peace
according to a traditional balance-of-power viewpoint and did so with
almost universal support in the government. The 77-year-old
Clemenceau, who had begun his political career during the German
siege of Paris in 1870–71, placed little faith in Germany's sudden
conversion to democracy, nor in Wilson's lofty idealism, which he
characterized with irony as “noble candour.” The French government
judged early on that Wilson's dream of a prosperous German republic
taking its place in the council of nations was the primary obstacle to a
peace serving France's real needs. Indeed, his decision to accept the
armistice may have been influenced by the fact that a more thorough
victory over Germany would also have meant another million American
soldiers at the front and proportionally greater U.S. influence over the
peace.

Postwar France faced a severe triple crisis. The first involved future
security against German attack: Germany remained far more populous
and industrial than France, and now France's erstwhile eastern ally,
Russia, was hors de combat. The French would try to revive an
anti-German alliance system with the new states in eastern Europe,
but the only sure way to restore a balance of power in Europe was to
weaken Germany permanently. The second crisis was financial. France
had paid for the war largely by domestic and foreign borrowing and
inflation. To ask the nation to sacrifice further to cover these costs
was politically impossible. Indeed, any new taxes would spark bitter
social conflict over which groups would bear the heaviest burdens. Yet
France also faced the cost of rebuilding the devastated regions and
supporting an army capable of forcing German respect for the eventual
treaty. The French, therefore, hoped for inflows of capital from
abroad to restore their national solvency. Third, France faced a crisis
in her heavy industry. The “storm of steel” on the Western Front made
obvious the strategic importance of metallurgy in modern war.
Recovery of Alsace-Lorraine lessened France's inferiority to Germany in
iron but by the same token worsened her shortage of coal, especially
metallurgical coke. European coal production was down 30 percent
from prewar figures by 1919, creating acute shortages everywhere. But
France's position was especially desperate after the flooding of French
mines by retreating German soldiers. To realize the industrial
expansion made possible by the recovery of Alsace-Lorraine, France
needed access to German coal and markets and preferably a cartel
arrangement allowing French industry to survive German competition
in the peacetime to come.
Wilson's program was not without promise for France if collective
security and Allied solidarity meant permanent British and American
help to deter future German attacks and restore the French economy.
In particular, the French hoped that the wealthy United States would

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forgive the French war debts. On the other hand, if Britain and the
United States pursued their own interests without regard to French
needs, then France would be forced to find solutions to its triple crisis
through harsher treatment of Germany.

In some respects, Britain stood between France and the United States.
It would be more accurate, however, to view Britain as the third point
of a triangle, attached to the interests of France in some cases, to the
principles of the United States in others. Hence, Prime Minister David
Lloyd George, second only to Wilson in liberal rhetoric, was accused by
Americans of conspiring with Clemenceau to promote old-fashioned
imperialism, and, second only to the French in pursuing balance of
power, was accused by Clemenceau of favouring the Germans. But
that was Britain's traditional policy: to prop up the defeated power in
a European war and constrain the ambitions of the victor. To be sure,
in the election campaign held after the Armistice, Lloyd George's
supporters brandished slogans like “Hang the Kaiser” and “Squeeze the
German lemon til the pips squeak,” but at the peace conference to
come, Lloyd George equivocated. Britain would take the toughest
stand of all on German reparations in hopes of ameliorating its own
financial situation vis-à-vis the United States, but otherwise promoted
a united, healthy Germany that would contribute to European recovery
and balance the now ascendant power of France. Of course, Lloyd
George also demanded a ban on German naval armaments and
partition of Germany's colonies.
Exhausted Italy was even less able than France to absorb the costs of
war. Labour unrest compounded the usual ministerial instability and
enhanced the public appeal of anti-Communist nationalists like Benito
Mussolini. But the hope that the war would prove somehow worthwhile
put peace aims at the centre of Italian politics. In April 1918 the terms
of the Treaty of London were proclaimed on the floor of Parliament,
sparking months of debate between nationalists and Wilsonians over
their propriety. By January 1919, however, Prime Minister Vittorio
Emanuele Orlando and Foreign Minister Sidney Sonnino had won a
mandate for a firm position at the peace conference in favour of all
Italy's claims with the exception of that to the entire Dalmatian coast.
The other victorious Great Power, Japan, suffered the least human
and material loss in the war and registered astounding growth.
Between 1913 and 1918 Japanese production exploded, foreign trade
rose from $315,000,000 to $831,000,000, and population grew 30
percent until 65,000,000 people were crowded into a mountainous
archipelago smaller than California. Clearly Japan had the potential
and the opportunity for rapid expansion in the Pacific and East Asia.
Finally, the defeated Germans also looked with hopes to the peace

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conference. Throughout the first half of 1919 the new Weimar
Republic (so called after the site of its constitutional convention) was
in gestation, and the Germans hoped that their embrace of democracy
might win them a mild peace. At the very least they hoped to exploit
differences among the victors to regain diplomatic equality, as
Talleyrand had done for France at the Congress of Vienna. Instead, the
Allies found compromise among themselves so arduous that they could
brook no further negotiation with Germany. German delegates were
not invited to Paris until May, and the “preliminaries of peace”
became, with few exceptions, the final treaty. To Germans, Wilson's
promise of “open covenants, openly arrived at” proved a sham, and
the final treaty a Diktat.

The Versailles Diktat
Hammering out the treaty
The Paris Peace Conference opened on Jan. 18, 1919, in a politically
charged atmosphere. The delegations of 27 nations harassed the Great
Powers with their various and conflicting complaints and demands. The
Great Powers, in turn, sent five delegates each, supported by
sprawling staffs of geographers, historians, and economists. Clearly,
peace could not be made in such a global assembly; hence the five
leading victors created a Council of Ten—the heads of government and
their foreign ministers. But even this proved unwieldy, and since Italy
and Japan tended to focus on questions of local interest, major
decisions were hammered out in private by an informally constituted
Big Three: Wilson, Lloyd George, and Clemenceau. The French had
tried to impose a schedule of priorities for the conference, but Wilson
insisted on tackling the League of Nations first in order to prevent the
others from rejecting the League or using it as a bargaining chip in
later disputes. The French were skeptical of the idealistic basis of the
League but hoped that it might be turned into an instrument of
security committing the British and Americans to the defense of the
new European order. In this they were disillusioned, for the British
viewed the League less as a means for mobilizing force against an
aggressor than as a means of preventing future conflicts in the first
place. The Covenant of the proposed League provided for a plenary
assembly of all members and a council of the Great Powers and
outlined a system of sanctions against aggressor states. But the British
chose to focus on moral sanctions (not unlike Wilson's belief in the
“court of world opinion”), or at most economic sanctions, and
participation in military sanctions was made voluntary. The Covenant
also contained machinery for declaring boundary changes, implying
that the League's primary function was to secure peace, not to secure

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the status quo. Upon final rejection in April of a Franco-Italian plan for
tougher collective security and an international force adequate to
enforce peace, French newspapers scorned the League as a toothless
debating society. And since Clemenceau had succeeded in having
Germany barred from the League pending good behaviour, the German
press denounced it as a “League of Victors.”
In mid-February Wilson returned to the United States to attend to
presidential duties, and in his absence committees went to work on
the details of the German treaty. Foremost in the minds of the French
was security against future German attack. As early as November 1918
Marshal Ferdinand Foch drafted a memo identifying the Rhine as “the
frontier of democracy” and arguing for the separation of the Rhineland
from Germany and its occupation in perpetuity by Allied troops. This
plan echoed earlier French war aims: The victory of 1871 had created
a unified Germany; the defeat of 1918 should undo it. Foch's
occupation forces tried also to locate and encourage the Rhenish
autonomist tendencies that grew up for a brief time in 1919 out of the
desire to escape the burden of defeat and fear of the Communist
agitation in Berlin. But the primary French argument was strategic:
Four times in a century German armies had invaded France from the
Rhineland (1814, 1815, 1870, 1914), and a united Germany would
remain potentially overwhelming. As General Fayolle put it, “One
speaks of the League, but what can this hypothetical society do
without a means of action? One promises alliances, but alliances are
fragile, like all human things. There will always come a time when
Germany will have a free hand. Take all the alliances you want, but
the greatest need for France and Belgium is a material barrier.”
André Tardieu, Clemenceau's chief aide, sought to give the Rhineland
scheme a Wilsonian gloss in a lengthy memo distributed on February
25. The Rhenish people, he claimed, were largely Celtic, Catholic, and
liberal and resented the rule of Germanic, Protestant, and
authoritarian Prussia. They had been loyal citizens of the French
Republic and Empire from 1792 to 1815. Thus an autonomous
Rhineland would serve both self-determination and the defense of
democracy. The British and Americans rejected Tardieu's brief in the
strongest terms and warned that dismemberment of Germany would
only create “a new Alsace-Lorraine” and the seeds of a new war. In
April, after Wilson returned to Paris, he and Lloyd George countered
with an unprecedented offer: an Anglo-American guarantee to fight on
the side of France in case of future German aggression. The French
were again skeptical. In a future war the United States and Britain
would need months or years to raise and transport armies, by which
time France might be lost. On the other hand, how could Clemenceau
refuse an unlimited extension of the wartime coalition? On March 17
he proposed a mixed solution—the guarantee treaties, plus material

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safeguards including German disarmament, demilitarization, and Allied
occupation of the Rhine.
This acrimonious debate over security overlapped with the
negotiations over reparations. The latter was perhaps an even more
emotional issue, since the financial settlement would affect every
taxpayer in every country. The moral issues also seemed clearer:
Surely Germany, and not her victims, should pay for reconstruction;
surely the wealthy British and Americans should forgive France's war
debt, a small sacrifice beside those made by France in the joint effort.
The French government had borrowed 26,000,000,000 francs from its
own people during the war and owed another $3,600,000,000 to Britain
and the United States. The franc had lost 70 percent of its value. Yet
French hopes for Allied economic unity were dashed when the U.S.
Treasury refused to discuss abrogation of war debts, rejected French
and Italian proposals for a “financial League of Nations,” and opposed
economic favouritism of all kinds in accord with the Fourteen Points.
The British, in turn, repudiated the resolutions of the 1916 Allied
Economic Conference and refused to forgive France her debt so long as
the United States insisted on repayment from London.
“If it is France or Germany that must be ruined,” wrote a conservative
French journal about the reparations debate, “let us be sure that it is
Germany!” The French chamber refused to vote a tax on capital and
relied on German payments to cover the cost of repairing the
devastated regions. Wilson accepted German responsibility for war
damage, but the British vastly inflated reparations by insisting on
repayment for “invisible damage” like sunken ships and cargo, lost
markets and production, and veterans' pensions. On the other hand,
the British favoured setting a fixed indemnity in the treaty, while the
French claimed that Germany should agree to pay whatever reparation
ended up costing. When negotiations failed to fix either a total sum or
the percentage shares to flow to France, Britain, Belgium, and the
others, the U.S. delegation recommended on March 24 that the whole
problem be postponed. On April 5 it was agreed that a Reparations
Commission would determine, by May 1, 1921, the amount and timing
of German payments and be empowered to declare defaults and
sanctions in case of noncompliance. But in the meantime Germany
would make immediate transfers totaling 20,000,000,000 gold marks.
Thus the peace conference obliged the Germans to sign an open
account and adjourned without plans to stabilize currencies or settle
war debts.

In economic matters the French delegation laboured to improve the
imbalance in heavy industry between Germany and France. At first
Clemenceau fought hard for annexation of the Saar—the French
“frontier of 1814”—and then settled for French control of the Saar coal

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mines and a League of Nations administration for 15 years, at which
time the Saarlanders would hold a plebiscite to decide their
permanent status. Germany was also obliged to deliver 20,000,000
tons of coal per year to France and Belgium and to allow the products
of Alsace-Lorraine into Germany duty-free for five years.

Such punitive clauses ensured German feebleness for some time to
come. France, on the other hand, now possessed both the largest army
in Europe and a set of natural allies among the new states in eastern
Europe. Not surprisingly, many British observers came to consider
France the primary threat to dominate the Continent. In late March
Lloyd George's eloquent Fontainebleau Memorandum warned that
vindictiveness in the hour of victory would serve not justice and
reconciliation but German revanchism and Bolshevik propaganda.
Nevertheless Clemenceau, under attack from President Poincaré,
Marshal Foch, and the parliament for “giving up the Rhine,” dared not
compromise further. On April 22, Wilson and Lloyd George accepted
his material guarantees of security in addition to the Anglo-American
pacts. These included the limitation of the German army to 100,000
men with no offensive weapons; demilitarization of a zone extending
50 kilometers east of the Rhine; and an Allied occupation of the left
bank of the Rhine, with bridgeheads at Cologne, Koblenz, Mainz, and
Kehl. The occupation would be divided into three zones, to be
evacuated serially at five-year intervals.

Reaction to the treaty
On May 7 the German delegation was finally summoned to receive the
draft treaty. Additional important clauses called for the abolition of
the German high seas fleet, the general staff, and conscription;
partition of Germany's African colonies; cession of the
Eupen-et-Malmédy district to Belgium, Alsace-Lorraine to France, most
of Upper Silesia and West Prussia to Poland, including a corridor to the
Baltic that cut Germany in two; plebiscites to determine whether
Allenstein and Marienwerder should go to Poland and Schleswig to
Denmark; a League of Nations administration for the free city of
Danzig (to provide Poland a coastal port); prohibition of Anschluss
(union) between Germany and Austria; and abrogation of the Treaty of
Brest-Litovsk. Finally, Article 231 enjoined Germany to accept full
responsibility for the war caused “by the aggression of Germany and
her allies.”
The draft treaty caused acute consternation in Germany (though it left
Germany intact and was mild compared to Germany's terms to Russia
at Brest-Litovsk), and the German delegation argued without success
for substantial revisions. The Germans could not reject the treaty,

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however, without inviting a continuation of the Allied blockade,
revolutionary outbreaks, an Allied military advance, or French
intrigues against German unity. (On June 1, Foch's generals in the
occupation implicated themselves in an abortive separatist putsch
aimed at creating a “Rhineland Republic” and thereby magnified
German—and British—suspicions.) Hence, the German
delegation—frock-coated professionals bearing little resemblance to
the spike-helmeted militarists the Allies meant to punish—affixed their
signatures to the treaty in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles on the fifth
anniversary of the Sarajevo assassination (June 28, 1919). The Weimar
coalition of Democrats, Social Democrats, and the Catholic Centre
party ratified the treaty on July 9. German nationalists, however,
denounced acceptance of the treaty as treason and immediately began
propounding the myth that the German army had been “stabbed in the
back” by Socialists and defeatists, the “November criminals” who
signed the Armistice, and the liberal parties who signed the Versailles
Diktat. The war-guilt clause was particularly damaging, since any
historical evidence suggesting that Germany did not bear sole guilt for
the war would tend to undermine the treaty's legitimacy.

Allied delegates and populations were scarcely happier with the treaty
than the Germans. British diplomat Harold Nicolson echoed the views
of disillusioned Wilsonians when he left the signing ceremony in
disgust, “and thence to bed, sick of life.” Economist John Maynard
Keynes quit the peace conference in protest and returned to Britain to
write a scathing critique of Wilson and the treaty, whose economic
clauses, he said, stymied European recovery. Nor were the French
satisfied. Marshal Foch despaired of containing the power of a united
Germany and prophesied: “This is not peace, but a truce for 20 years.”
Poincaré predicted willful German default and Allied disputes over
execution. Clemenceau had to exploit all his prestige to win
parliamentary ratification, and still he lost the presidential election
that followed.
As for Wilson, the treaty he had personally helped to fashion, and the
global obligations it imposed on the United States, proved unpopular
with various factions in American politics, including nationalists,
isolationists, “Monroe Doctrine” regionalists, xenophobes, and tariff
protectionists. The immediate postwar years also gave rise to the “red
scare,” the first legislation limiting immigration to the United States
on an ethnic basis, and the belief that Wilson had been duped by the
clever Europeans so that the war redounded only to the benefit of
Anglo-French imperialism. But it is not true that the United States
retreated at once into isolationism. The debate over Versailles was
essentially a debate over the terms on which the United States would
continue to play a role in world affairs. Most important was fear that
Article 10 of the League Covenant might embroil the United States in

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foreign quarrels and even violate the Constitution. The Senate
Committee on Foreign Relations, led by Henry Cabot Lodge, eventually
proposed ratification of the Treaty of Versailles subject to 14
reservations, but Wilson insisted on an all-or-nothing strategy and
embarked on a hectic national tour to mobilize public support. In
October 1919 he suffered a debilitating stroke, and on November 19
the Senate voted down the treaty. Further compromise led to a final
vote on March 19, 1920, but Wilson instructed his own loyalists to
reject any reservations. The 49–35 vote fell short of the necessary
two-thirds majority. By failing to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, the
United States also rejected the League of Nations (which its own
president had forced on the Europeans), the security guarantee by
which Clemenceau had been persuaded to give up the Rhineland, and
U.S. commitment to the economic and political reconstruction of
Europe. All this gave those who clung to the belief that the French
cause had been betrayed the opportunity to deal even more harshly
with Germany.

The West and the Russian Civil War
Bolshevik diplomacy
France's deep fears about a future German threat sprang in large part
from the elimination of Russia as a factor in the European balance.
Indeed, the Russian question was at least as important as the German
one and absorbed as much time and worry at the peace conference.
After Brest-Litovsk, Anglo-French policy turned sharply anti-Bolshevik,
and Clemenceau and Foch worked to build a cordon sanitaire in
eastern Europe against German and Bolshevik expansion alike. The
Lenin regime also repudiated the tsarist debts to Britain and France
(the latter being more delicate since most of it dated from before the
war and was owed to private bondholders). But Wilson still believed in
the innate desire of the Russian people for democracy and searched
desperately for ways to end the civil war and liberalize the Reds, the
Whites, or both. As early as July 1918 he wrote Colonel Edward House:
“I have been sweating blood over what is right and feasible to do in
Russia. It goes to pieces like quicksilver under my touch.”

After Brest-Litovsk the Bolsheviks came quickly to a two-track policy
toward the West. Their rhetoric still condemned Allied and German
imperialists in vitriolic terms, but their deeds aimed at securing their
own survival at all costs. These included attempts to open negotiations
with Allied governments, to exploit differences among them, to
persuade them to withdraw support for the Whites, and to encourage
the opposition to intervention in Russia that already existed among

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French and British workers and soldiers. On the other hand, the Red
Terror launched by the Bolsheviks in 1918, including the murder of the
royal family, convinced many in the West that this new breed was
beyond the pale. U.S. Secretary of State Robert Lansing called
Bolshevism “the most hideous and monstrous thing that the human
mind has ever conceived.” When, in August 1918, the Cheka (secret
police) arrested 200 British and French residents of Moscow, invaded
their consulates, and murdered the British naval attaché, opinion
spread in Paris and London that the Bolsheviks were thugs and bandits,
if not German agents. In the autumn the Allies imposed a blockade on
the Moscow regime and broke the last contacts (diplomatic missions
and the Red Cross) that still existed.

The Bolsheviks' paramount need was a breathing spell in which to
consolidate their power, mobilize the economy in the lands under
their control, and subdue the White armies. By the end of 1918 these
forces included the Cossacks of General Anton Denikin in the south,
supported by the French from Odessa; the Ukrainian separatists;
General Nikolay Yudenich's army of the Baltic; a puppet government in
the north supported by the Anglo-French from Arkhangelsk; and the
government of Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak at Omsk in Siberia. American
and Japanese troops occupied Vladivostok on the Pacific. The
Bolsheviks had also invaded Estonia only to be met by local troops, a
British naval squadron, Yudenich's Russian nationalists, and even
General Rüdiger von der Goltz's German veterans seeking to maintain
German authority on the Baltic. Against these disparate and
uncoordinated forces the Bolsheviks deployed the Red Army under the
command of Leon Trotsky. In the opening stages of the Revolution they
experimented with a “people's army” in which ranks were abolished
and officers were elected by the troops. This quickly gave way to
traditional military practice and even recruitment of ex-tsarist officers
and technicians. By the turn of 1919 the Red Army numbered in the
millions.
Lenin instructed the new commissar for foreign affairs, Georgy
Chicherin, to try to separate the United States from the Allies. In
October and November 1918 he addressed long notes to Wilson
protesting Allied intervention and proposing a cease-fire in return for
Allied evacuation. Then in December, Maksim Litvinov appealed to
Wilson in terms drawn from the Fourteen Points, ending with the plea
auditur et altera pars (“let the other side be heard”). Some historians
have judged these demarches as a genuine opportunity for early
reconciliation between the Bolsheviks and the West. Others consider
them the equivalent of the Brest-Litovsk negotiations with the
Germans, a “peace offensive” designed to serve the internal security
of the regime. The Western powers, however, were confused about
how to influence events in Russia. In January 1919, Lloyd George

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showed Wilson an intelligence report indicating that the Allied
interventions, if not increased massively, would only strengthen the
appeal of the Bolsheviks. He favoured negotiation; Clemenceau
favoured a stronger intervention.

Given the Bolsheviks' single-minded dedication to power and ideology
(which was, after all, their sole source of legitimacy), it is difficult to
imagine how Allied–Soviet friendship, or a compromise settlement
among the Russian factions, could have emerged. Nevertheless, the
snarled diplomacy of the two sides during the peace conference
widened the gap between them. Lenin had postponed his summons to
European Socialists to form the Third (or Communist) International
(Comintern) until January lest it spoil his efforts to open negotiations
with the West. He finally issued the call on Jan. 25, 1919, just as the
Paris Peace Conference finally decided to make an initiative. It
appeared, therefore, as if Lenin was intent on remaining an
international outlaw seeking to destroy the very governments with
which he claimed to want normal relations. The Comintern was
founded on March 2, and at its second congress (July 1920) Lenin
insisted that member parties accede to 21 conditions imposing rigorous
Communist discipline and subordinating local parties to the will of
Moscow. It divided European Socialists, most of whom rejected the
Communists' violent tactics, Lenin's dictatorship, or both. From its
inception, therefore, the Comintern was an arm of Soviet foreign
policy more than a vehicle of Socialist internationalism.

Allied approaches to the Bolsheviks
Meanwhile, Wilson and Lloyd George agreed on an appeal directed to
the White forces (and radioed to the Bolsheviks) to declare a
cease-fire and send representatives to the island of Prinkipo
(Büyükada), in the Sea of Marmara. This was a fruitless gesture, since
neither the Red nor the White regime could survive except by the
other's total destruction. The Bolsheviks ignored the call for a truce
but accepted the invitation; the Whites, with French encouragement,
candidly declined both. The Big Three were informed of the failure on
February 12, two days before Wilson's return to the United States.
Winston Churchill then hurried to Paris to urge on Wilson a vigorous
Allied military campaign on behalf of the Whites. But even if the Big
Three had agreed to launch an anti-Bolshevik crusade, their war-weary
populations, depleted treasuries, and aroused labour unions would not
have permitted it.
Five days later Colonel House, who was given charge of Russian
matters by Wilson, asked a young American liberal, William Bullitt, to
journey to Russia for direct talks with Lenin. Bullitt reached Petrograd

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on March 8, spoke with Chicherin and Litvinov, then went on to
Moscow. Lenin offered an immediate cease-fire and negotiations in
return for the cessation of Allied occupation, aid to the Whites, and
the blockade. The Bolsheviks, in turn, promised amnesty to all
Russians who had collaborated with the Allies. Bullitt returned to Paris
in great excitement at the end of March, only to be denied an
audience with Wilson and to find the conference near collapse over
the Rhineland question. Lloyd George was under pressure from
parliamentary Tories to avoid conciliating Lenin, while the general
level of Allied anxiety had been raised by declaration of a Soviet
republic in Bavaria and Béla Kun's Communist coup d'état in Hungary
on March 21. Kun immediately invaded Czechoslovakia and appealed to
Lenin for help (which the Bolsheviks were in no condition to provide).
On April 10 a Romanian army attacked Hungary, and successive Red
and White terrors ensued. The episodes ended on May 1, when German
federal troops deposed the Bavarian Communists, and August 1, when
Kun fled the approaching Romanian army.

Historians debate whether the Bullitt mission was a missed
opportunity. Considering the Bolsheviks' final victory, the Allies would
have done well to extricate themselves on Lenin's March 1919 terms.
On the other hand, the document held out little hope for a Russia in
line with Western principles or interests. Allied acceptance would have
obliged them to pull out their own forces, cut off aid to the Whites,
and resume trade with the Bolsheviks. If hostilities had then
resumed—on any pretext—the Reds would have been able to crush the
divided Whites and solidify their control. On the other hand, Lenin was
hard pressed in the spring of 1919—Kolchak was launching a major
offensive—and was probably sincere in seeking relief. Bullitt himself
was consumed with bitterness over his reception in Paris and rebuked
Wilson for having “so little faith in the millions of men, like myself, in
every nation who had faith in you.” (Bullitt testified before the Senate
against the Versailles treaty and retired to France until, in 1933, he
was appointed the first U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union.
Disillusioned with Stalin, he soon resigned.)
The fourth approach by the peace conference to Russia grew out of
letters from the director of European food relief, Herbert Hoover
(March 28), and the Norwegian explorer and philanthropist Fridtjof
Nansen (April 3) urging massive deliveries of food to Russia. The way to
fight Communism, they argued, was with bread, not guns. Colonel
House procured Allied consent to offer relief to Russia, but only if
Russian transportation facilities were placed at the disposal of an
Allied commission. The Bolsheviks replied in derisory terms on May 13,
since the conditions would have meant de facto Allied control of
Russia. (In 1921 the American relief commission nonetheless began
distribution of food that saved countless Russians from starvation.)

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Consolidation of the Revolution
The peace conference's inability to frame a common policy toward the
Lenin regime meant that Russia's future was now solely a military
matter. By May, Kolchak's offensive reached its greatest extent,
approaching Moscow from the east, and the French and British
resolved to recognize the Whites. Wilson also gave up on the Reds and
began cajoling White leaders to pledge democratization of Russia in
the event of their victory. But the Red Army turned back Kolchak in
the summer, and the Allies gave up in the north, evacuating
Arkhangelsk, after a number of clashes with Red forces, on Sept. 30,
1919, and Murmansk on October 12.

The Russian Civil War was a vast, protean struggle fought out in five
major theatres with rapid thrusts over hundreds of miles made possible
by railroads and cavalry. The Reds took good advantage of their
interior lines, while their control of Russia's industrial heartland and
trunk rail lines and their ruthless requisitioning (known as “War
Communism”) procured enough food and supplies for them to outlast
their enemies. The outcome was not inevitable, but the inability of
the far-flung White forces to coordinate their actions exposed them to
defeat in detail. Denikin took Kiev in September 1919, but a Soviet
counteroffensive forced him steadily back until his last base fell in
March 1920. Command in the south fell to General Pyotr Wrangel.
Meanwhile, the Red Army drove out Kolchak and recaptured Omsk in
November 1919. On April 25, 1920, war broke out between the Soviets
and Poland as the Polish leader, Marshal Józef Piłsudski, pursued his
ambition of a grand Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian empire. On May 7 the
Poles captured Kiev, but a Soviet counterstroke drove them out (June
11), captured Vilnius (July 15), and soon threatened Warsaw itself.
Alarms arose in western Europe over the possible sovietization of
Poland and even a German-Bolshevik alliance to overthrow the Treaty
of Versailles. But Piłsudski, with advice from French attaché General
Maxime Weygand, hurled back the overextended Reds, took 66,000
prisoners, and recaptured extensive Belorussian territories. Distressed
by the resistance of the Poles to the Revolution, Lenin counseled
peace, as at Brest-Litovsk, even on humiliating terms. A preliminary
treaty (October 12) and final Treaty of Riga (March 18, 1921) fixed the
Soviet-Polish border just to the west of Minsk and far to the east of the
Curzon Line proposed at Paris.
Peace with Poland freed the Red Army to turn south and eliminate the
last resistance from Wrangel, who evacuated the Crimea on Nov. 14,
1921. Soviet forces invested the Caucasus as well, setting up an
“autonomous” federation of Communist regimes in Georgia, Armenia,

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and Azerbaijan. The original anti-imperialism of the Bolsheviks thus
gave way to a policy of domination of all the subject nationalities of
the Russian Empire that the Bolsheviks could subdue. On Oct. 25, 1922,
the Japanese withdrew from Vladivostok under U.S. pressure, bringing
all foreign interventions in Russia to a close.

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics came into existence on Dec. 30,
1922. In the World War and Civil War, Russia had lost Poland, Finland,
the Baltic states, and Bessarabia. The Communist government had
survived, but the Revolution had failed to spread. Hence, the
Bolshevik leaders were left to construct a permanent relationship to
an outer world which they defined as implacably hostile. The Western
powers, in turn, faced the challenge of living with a Great Power that
repudiated, at least publicly, all norms of international behaviour.

Central Europe and the Middle East
The reorganization of central Europe
Although the Habsburg Empire had ceased to exist, the peace
conference dealt with the new republics of Austria and Hungary as
defeated powers and systematically favoured the interests of the
successor states that had arisen from the ruins of the empire in the
last weeks of the war. It was Wilson's hope that peace and self-rule
might finally bless the troubled regions between Germany and Russia
through strict application of the principle of nationality. But
east-central Europe comprised a jumble of peoples with conflicting
claims based on language, ethnicity, economics, geography, military
considerations, and historic ties. What was more, the new states
themselves were in no case homogeneous. The name Yugoslavia could
not hide the rivalries within that kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and
Slovenes. Czechoslovakia was born of an alliance of convenience
among Czechs, Slovaks, and Ruthenes. Historic Poland embraced
Ukrainians, Germans, Lithuanians, and Yiddish-speaking Jews.
Romania, enlarged by the accession of Transylvania and Bessarabia,
now numbered millions of Ukrainians, Hungarians, Jews, and other
minorities. In short, the Balkanization of central Europe raised as many
political disputes as it solved and created many little multinational
states in place of a few empires.
Poland was a favourite of the Americans and the French by dint of
historic sympathies, the votes of Polish-Americans, and Clemenceau's
hope for a strong Polish ally in Germany's rear. The Fourteen Points
promised Poland an outlet to the sea, but the resulting Polish Corridor
and free city of Danzig contained 1,500,000 Kashubians and Germans.

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In the north, the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia won
their independence from Moscow and were sheltered by the British
fleet. But an example of the difficulties in applying national
self-determination was the Polish-Lithuanian quarrel over the
disposition of Vilnius. That town (according to 1897 Russian statistics)
was 40 percent Jewish, 31 percent Polish, 24 percent Russian, and 2
percent Lithuanian. Vilnius Province, however, was 61 percent
Russian, 17 percent Lithuanian, 12 percent Jewish, and 8 percent
Polish. In December 1919 the Supreme Allied Council provisionally
awarded Vilnius to Lithuania. Poland and Czechoslovakia similarly
quarreled over the coal-rich Teschen district. Poles predominated in
the district, but historic claims lay with Bohemia. In the end the Great
Powers merely ratified the de facto partition effected by occupying
Polish and Czech troops—a solution that favoured Czechoslovakia and
left a bitterness the two states could ill afford and never overcame.
Finally, the Polish-German conflict over Upper Silesia, another
coal-rich region of mixed nationality, proved that even the League of
Nations could not make an objective judgment. The March 1921
plebiscite called for in the Treaty of Versailles (one of the few
concessions awarded the German delegation) showed German
preponderance in the region as a whole but Polish majorities in the
vital mining districts. The British delegation in the League argued that
Germany could hardly be expected to pay reparations if it lost yet
another rich source of coal, while the French sought to weaken
Germany further and bolster the Polish economy. Finally, in October
1922, Poland was granted the greater portion of the mines.

The Treaty of Saint-Germain disposed of the Austrian half of the
former Habsburg monarchy. Tomáš Masaryk and Edvard Beneš, sincere
Wilsonians, exploited their personal goodwill to win two major
concessions that otherwise violated the principle of national
self-determination. First, they retained for Czechoslovakia the entire
historic province of Bohemia. This afforded the vulnerable new state
the military protection from Germany of the Sudeten mountains, but it
also brought 3,500,000 Sudeten Germans under the rule of Prague.
Second, Czechoslovakia received territory stretching south to
Bratislava on the Danube, providing it with a riverine outlet but
creating a minority of a million Magyars. The Austrian boundary with
Yugoslavia at Klagenfurt was fixed by plebiscite in Austria's favour in
October 1920, as was the division of the Burgenland district between
Austria and Hungary in December 1921.
Italy's boundaries with Austria and Yugoslavia became one of the most
volatile issues of the peace conference owing to Italian truculence and
Wilsonian sanctimoniousness. Orlando clung to the Allied promises that
had enticed Italy into the war in the first place. But Wilson, offended
by the secret war-aims treaties, vented his frustration on Italy. He

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went so far as to plead his case publicly in the French press on April
24, 1919, a violation of diplomatic etiquette that provoked the Italians
to bolt the conference. Upon their return, a compromise of sorts was
achieved: Italy received Trieste, parts of Istria and Dalmatia, and the
Upper Adige as far as the Brenner Pass with its 200,000
German-speaking Austrians. But Wilson refused to budge on Fiume, a
province whose hinterland was Yugoslav but whose port city was
Italian. On June 19 Orlando's government fell over the issue. In August
Fiume was declared a free city, and in September a band of Italian
freebooters led by the nationalist poet Gabriele D'Annunzio declared
Fiume a free state. Such passions among Italians over their “mutilated
victory” helped prepare the way for the triumph in 1922 of Mussolini's
Fascists.
The Treaty of Trianon, delayed until 1920 by the Communist coup in
Hungary, partitioned that ancient kingdom among its neighbours.
Transylvania, including its minority of 1,300,000 Magyars, passed to
Romania. The Banat of Temesvár (Timişoara) was divided between
Romania and Yugoslavia, Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia passed to
Czechoslovakia, and Croatia to Yugoslavia. All told, Hungary's territory
shrank from 109,000 to 36,000 square miles. The armies of rump
Austria and Hungary were limited to 35,000 men.

The Treaty of Neuilly with Bulgaria marked yet another stage in the
old struggles over Macedonia dating back to the Balkan wars and
beyond. Bulgaria lost its western territories back to the kingdom of
Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes and nearly all of Western Thrace to
Greece, cutting the Bulgarians off from the Aegean. Their armed
forces were likewise limited to 20,000 men. Austria, Hungary, and
Bulgaria also accepted war guilt and reparations obligations, but these
were later remitted in light of their economic weakness.

The settlement in east-central Europe was a generally well-meaning
attempt to apply the principle of nationality under the worst
imaginable circumstances. The new governments all faced aggrieved
minorities, not to mention the onerous tasks of state-building—drafting
constitutions, supporting currencies, raising armies and police—with no
democratic tradition or financial resources beyond what they could
borrow from the already strapped British and French. Austria in
particular was a head without a body—over a quarter of its population
lived in Vienna—yet was forbidden union with Germany. Hungary
suffered violations of self-determination to an even greater degree
and was bound to become a centre of aggressive revanche. Disputed
borders, ethnic tensions, and local ambitions hampered economic and
diplomatic cooperation among the successor states and would make
them easy prey to a resurgent Germany, or Russia, or both.

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The reorganization of the Middle East
The Treaty of Sèvres likewise dismembered the Ottoman Empire. Here
again secret war-aims treaties reflected Allied ambitions in the Middle
East, but Wilson was less willing to challenge them given his belief that
the Arab peoples were not ready for self-rule. To avoid the tinge of
imperialism, the victors took control of the former Ottoman (and
German) territories under “mandates” from the League: Class A
mandates for those lands to be prepared for independence (Iraq,
Transjordan, and Palestine entrusted to Britain; Syria and Lebanon to
France); Class B mandates for those judged not ready for self-rule in
the foreseeable future (Tanganyika to Britain, Cameroons and
Togoland divided between Britain and France, and Rwanda-Urundi to
Belgium); and Class C mandates (German South West Africa to South
Africa, Kaiser Wilhelms Land [New Guinea] to Australia, German Samoa
to New Zealand, and the Mariana, Marshall, and Caroline islands to
Japan).
The victors also agreed, informally, that southeastern Anatolia would
be a French sphere of influence, while Italy received the Dodecanese
Islands and a sphere in western and southern Anatolia. The Greek
government of Venizélos, still a British client, occupied Smyrna (İzmir)
and its hinterland, to the consternation of the Italians, who considered
this poaching on their zone. Armenia was a special consideration
because of its Christian population and the wartime deaths of
hundreds of thousands (some claimed millions) of Armenians—through
battle, mass murder, or forced deportation—at the hands of the Young
Turks, who considered them a seditious element. Talk of an American
mandate for Armenia gave way to independence. The collapse of the
tsarist regime spared the Allies from having to award Constantinople
and the Straits to Russia. The British proposed a League of Nations
regime under U.S. administration for these areas, but Wilson refused
this responsibility, while Indian Muslims protested any weakening of
the Islāmic caliphate. So the status of Constantinople remained in
abeyance, although the Straits were demilitarized and an
Anglo-French-Italian commission regulated free passage. In August
1920 the helpless sultan's delegation signed the Treaty of Sèvres.
It was a dead letter. Mustafa Kemal, the Turkish war hero, rallied his
army in the interior and rebelled against the foreign influence in
Anatolia and Constantinople. Unwilling to dispatch British armies,
Lloyd George encouraged the Greeks to enforce the treaty instead.
Indeed, Venizélos harboured a dream, the megali idea, of conquering
the entire Turkish littoral and making the Aegean Sea a “Greek lake”
as in ancient times. The Treaty of Sèvres, therefore, was the signal for
the start of a Greco-Turkish War. By the end of 1920 the Greeks had
fanned out from İzmir, occupied the western third of Anatolia, and

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were threatening the Turkish Nationalists' capital of Ankara. In March
1921 the British and French proposed a compromise that was rejected
by the Turks, who nonetheless kept open diplomatic links in an effort
to split the Allies. But as Kemal, later called Atatürk, put it: “We could
not flatter ourselves that there was any hope of diplomatic success
until we had driven the enemy out of our territory by force of arms.”
The tide of battle turned in August 1921, and the Greeks were forced
to retreat precipitously through a hostile countryside. The French then
made a separate peace with Ankara, settled their Syrian boundary,
and withdrew support for the Anglo-Greek adventure. In March 1921
Turkey also signed a treaty of friendship with the new U.S.S.R.
regulating the border between them and dooming the briefly
independent Armenian and Trans-caucasian republics.
Another Allied offer (March 1922) could not tempt Kemal, who now
had the upper hand. His summer attack routed the Greeks, who
engaged in a panicky naval evacuation from İzmir which the Turks
reentered on September 9. Kemal then turned north toward the Allied
zone of occupation at Çanak (now Çanakkale) on the Dardanelles
Strait. The French and Italians pulled out, and the British
commissioner was authorized to open hostilities. At the last moment
the Turks relented, and the Armistice of Mudanya (October 11) ended
the fighting. Eight days later Lloyd George's Cabinet was forced to
resign. A new peace conference produced the Treaty of Lausanne (July
24, 1923), which returned eastern Thrace to Turkey and recognized
the Nationalist government in return for demilitarization of the
Straits. The Treaty of Lausanne was to prove a durable solution to the
old “Eastern question.”
The Young Turk and Kemalist rebellions were models for other Islāmic
revolts against Western imperialism. Persian nationalists had
challenged the shah and Anglo-Russian influence before 1914 and
flirted with the Young Turks (hence with Germany) during the war. By
August 1919, however, British forces had contained both domestic
protest and an ephemeral Bolshevik incursion and won a treaty from
Tehrān providing for British administration of the Persian army,
treasury, and railroads in return for evacuation of British troops. The
Anglo-Persian Oil Company already controlled the oil-rich Persian Gulf.
In June 1920, however, nationalist agitation resumed, forcing the shah
to suspend the treaty. In Egypt, under British occupation since 1882
and a protectorate since 1914, the nationalist Wafd Party under Saʿd
Zaghlūl Pasha, agitated for full independence on Wilsonian principles.
Their three weeks' revolt of March 1919, suppressed by Anglo-Indian
troops, gave way to passive resistance and bitter negotiations between
Zaghlūl and the British high commissioner, Edmund Allenby. On Feb.
28, 1922, the British ended the protectorate and granted legislative
power to an Egyptian assembly, though they retained military control

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of the Suez Canal.

In India, where Britain controlled the fate of some 320,000,000 people
with a mere 60,000 soldiers, 25,000 civil servants, and 50,000
residents, the war also sparked the first mass movement for
independence. Out of hostility to Britain's Turkish policies, Islāmic
leaders joined forces with Hindus in protest against the British raj.
Edwin Montagu promised constitutional reform in July 1918, but the
Indian National Congress deemed it insufficient. In 1919 famine, the
return of Indian war veterans, and the inspiration of Mohandas Gandhi
provoked a series of ever larger demonstrations until, on April 13, a
nervous British general at Amritsar ordered his troops to open fire, and
379 Indians were killed. The amīr of Afghanistan, Amānollāh Khān,
then sought to exploit the unrest in India to throw off the informal
protectorate Britain enjoyed over his country. Parliament hastily
approved the Montagu reforms, vetoed a campaign through the Khyber
Pass, and so staved off a general uprising. But the Indian independence
movement became a British preoccupation.
Other challenges to the empire arose from white minorities. After the
Armistice, Lloyd George finally bowed to Irish demands for
independence. After much negotiation and a threatened revolt in the
northern counties, the compromise of December 1921 established the
Irish Free State as a British dominion in the south while predominantly
Protestant Northern Ireland remained in the United Kingdom. (The
Sinn Féin nationalists continued to protest the treaty until, in 1937,
Éire achieved complete independence, Ulster remaining British.) In
South Africa the war propelled General Jan Smuts to international
prominence and an influential role at the peace conference. South
African expansionists clung to their own version of manifest destiny
and dreamed of absorbing German South West Africa, Bechuanaland,
and Rhodesia to forge a vast empire on the southern third of the
continent. The British Colonial Office sternly resisted such ambitions.
Yet the white minority of 1,500,000, dwarfed by a population of
5,000,000 blacks, 200,000 Indians, and 600,000 Chinese labourers, was
itself split among Boer nationalists, “reconciled Boers,” and British.
The nationalists cited Wilsonian principles in a symbolic claim to
restore the independent Transvaal and Orange republics in 1919 and
remained a disaffected nationality within the Union of South Africa.

The non-European revolts, however—in Turkey, Persia, Egypt, India,
and China—were the first expressions of what would become a major
theme of the 20th century. Native elites, often educated in Europe
and citing the anti-imperialist ideas of Wilson or Lenin, formed the
first cadre of mass movements for decolonization. Often alienated
from Europeans by their colour and customs, but no longer able to fit
comfortably into their pre-modern societies, they became deracinated

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agitators for independence and modernization. Their growing numbers
demonstrated that European imperialism, even as it reached its
greatest extent through the 1919 treaties, must inevitably be a passing
phenomenon.

The new balance in East Asia
The three Pacific powers
World War I also overthrew the power structure in East Asia and the
Pacific. Before 1914 six imperial rivals had struggled for concessions on
the East Asian coast. But the war eliminated Germany and Russia from
colonial competition and weakened Britain and France, leaving the
United States, Japan, and China in an uncomfortable triangular
relationship that would persist until 1941.

Americans, largely ignorant of Asian realities, harboured a mix of
attitudes before 1914. Contemptuous of what seemed to some of
them, at least, as a barbaric and frozen Chinese culture, they
nevertheless saw China as an unequalled opportunity for both Christian
proselytizing and commercial exploitation. American investment in
China in 1914 was only a quarter that of Japan and a 10th that of
Britain, but moralism and manifest destiny both seemed to endow the
United States with a special mission in China. On the other hand,
Americans admired Japan for its mastery of modern technology but by
the same token feared it as the primary obstacle to U.S. hopes for
China. In 1899, a year after American acquisition of the Philippines
and a year before the Boxer Rebellion, Secretary of State John Hay
circulated his two “Open Door” notes imploring the Great Powers to
eschew the dismemberment of China and to preserve free commercial
access for all. The growing Japanese fleet worried American naval
planners, who drafted at the time of the Russo-Japanese War the
“Plan Orange” contingency for war with Japan. (They also conceded
the impossibility of defending the Philippines against Japanese
attack.)
The Chinese Revolution of 1911–12, inspired by the democratic
principles of Sun Yat-sen (educated in Hawaii and British Hong Kong),
expelled the Manchu dynasty and elevated the Nationalist Party, or
Kuomintang (KMT), to power. But Sun quickly gave way in 1913 to
General Yüan Shih-kʾai, whose failure to unify the giant land of
400,000,000 condemned China to a struggle among rival warlords that
kept it in turmoil until at least 1928. Even as the Chinese revolted
against foreign influence and exploitation, they remained nonetheless
vulnerable to imperial predations or, conversely, dependent on foreign

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protection. In 1913 the Wilson administration entered office with a
decidedly pro-Chinese leaning, and at the same time many Americans
on the West Coast had become alarmed about the growing presence
and success of enterprising Japanese immigrants and had begun to
seek, in Washington and California, to legalize various forms of
discrimination against them.

Japanese expansion during World War I only magnified American
concern. After seizing Germany's Pacific islands and Chiao-chou Bay on
the strategic Shantung Peninsula, Japan imposed on China the
“Twenty-one Demands” (January 1915), claiming greatly expanded
economic privileges and rights in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia (Sept.
3, 1916). After U.S. entry into the war, the Peking regime (but not the
Nationalists in Canton) declared war on the Central Powers (Aug. 14,
1917) in hopes of defending its interests at the peace conference. The
United States moved to end the embarrassment stemming from its
co-belligerency with both China and Japan through the Lansing–Ishii
Agreement of Nov. 2, 1917, in which Japan paid lip service to the Open
Door while the United States recognized Japan's “special interests” in
China. Wilson also sent troops to Vladivostok to monitor the Japanese
intervention in Siberia.
The Paris Peace Conference exposed the two branches of Japanese
expansionism, rooted in a bursting population and a booming industry
in need of raw materials and markets. Delegate Saionji Kimmochi
demanded the inclusion of a clause in the League of Nations Covenant
proscribing racial discrimination, a principle that would have obliged
the United States, Canada, and Australia to admit immigrants from
Japan on equal terms with those of other nations. This was politically
impossible for Wilson and Lloyd George to accept. The Japanese also
demanded the rights formerly held by Germany at Chiao-chou, which
Peking resisted vehemently. Finally Saionji agreed to drop the
racial-equality plank in return for the granting of Japan's Chinese
demands and threatened to reject the League of Nations if they were
denied. Against Lansing's advice, Wilson acquiesced. Announcement of
the terms provoked the anti-Western May Fourth Movement in China
and caused it to be the only state that refused even to sign the Treaty
of Versailles. Japan's triumph was an inauspicious precedent for
diplomatic extortion by imperialist states from liberal states at the
expense of helpless third parties.

The organization of power in the Pacific
In the United States, liberal internationalists, balance-of-power
realists, Protestant churches with Chinese missions, and xenophobes
all decried the cynical expansionism of Japan and what they took to be
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Wilson's capitulation. The Republican administration of Warren G.
Harding in 1921 therefore determined to continue an ambitious naval
construction plan dating from before the war and to pressure London
to terminate the Anglo-Japanese Alliance dating from 1902. War debts
gave the United States financial leverage over the British, as did
American influence (based in a large Irish-American segment of the
electorate) in the Irish question then reaching its climax. In June 1921
the British Commonwealth Conference bowed to this pressure and
decided not to renew the alliance. This in turn confronted the
Japanese with the prospect of a Britain aligned with Washington, not
Tokyo, as well as a costly arms race against the world's two leading
naval powers. A postwar business slump and worker unrest also
suggested to Tokyo the wisdom of a tactical retreat.

Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes invited the Great Powers to
Washington, D.C., to forge a new order for East Asia and the Pacific. A
Four-Power Pact negotiated at the conference (November
1921–February 1922) enjoined the United States, Japan, Britain, and
France to respect each other's Pacific island dependencies for 10
years. A Nine-Power Pact obliged all parties to respect “the
sovereignty, the independence, and the territorial and administrative
integrity of the state of China” and the commercial Open Door. A
separate Sino-Japanese agreement provided for Japanese evacuation
of Shantung. In a Five-Power Treaty on naval armaments, Britain, the
United States, Japan, France, and Italy agreed severally to maintain
the naval balance of capital ships in the ratios 5:5:3:1.67:1.67 and
agreed not to fortify their Pacific possessions. The latter three powers
protested, but the United States frankly threatened to use its superior
resources to dwarf the Japanese fleet, while France and Italy could
not afford to compete with the British. France was also hoping for
British support at this time in the struggle over German reparations
(see below The postwar guilt question). Still, domestic displeasure
with the treaties forced both the French and Japanese cabinets to
resign.

Hughes's balance-of-power diplomacy for the Pacific seemed to reflect
a realist turn in American statecraft in reaction to Wilson's idealism
insofar as the United States flexed its muscle to compel the British and
Japanese to keep hands off China and limit armaments. But in so doing
the United States assumed responsibility as the balancer and container
of Japanese power, for the naval agreement still left the Japanese
fleet dominant in Asian waters. Moreover, the Japanese had clearly
bowed to force majeure and, while resigned for the time being, would
shrug off these constraints as soon as the Great Depression began to
sap American resolve. In the long run, East Asian stability could come
only through a strong and united China, for a weak and divided China
represented constant temptation to a Japan bursting with strength,

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anxious for outlets, and resentful of Anglo-American containment.

The postwar guilt question
Looking back on 1919–21 from the perspective of World War II, historians
easily concluded that the Paris peacemakers had failed. In fact, debate
over a “postwar guilt question” began even before the Big Three had
completed their work. Anglo-American liberals felt betrayed by Wilson's
failure to fashion a new diplomacy, while exponents of traditional
diplomacy ridiculed Wilson's self-righteous intrusions. As Harold Nicolson
put it: “We had hoped to call a new world into existence; we ended only
by fouling the old.” In other words, the peace amounted to a
self-defeating mixture of contradictory ends or of tough ends and gentle
means. Many Britons said the Treaty of Versailles was too harsh, would
destroy Germany's economy and fragile new democracy, and would drive
the bitter Germans to embrace militaristic revanche or Bolshevism. Many
Frenchmen replied that the treaty was too mild, that a united Germany
would resume its drive for hegemony, and that German democracy was
sheeps' clothing put on for Wilson's benefit. Historians persuaded by the
former argument often cast the peace conference as a morality play,
with the messianic Wilson frustrated in his lofty mission by the atavistic
Clemenceau. Those persuaded by the second argument speculate that
the French plan for a permanent weakening of Germany might have made
for a stabler Europe but for Wilson's and Lloyd George's moralizing,
which, incidentally, served American and British interests at every turn.
Clemenceau said: “Wilson speaks like Jesus Christ, but he operates like
Lloyd George.” And Lloyd George, when asked how he had done at Paris,
said, “Not badly, considering I was seated between Jesus Christ and
Napoleon.”
Such caricatures skirt the facts that the war was won by the greatest
coalition in history, that the peace could only take the form of a grand
compromise, and that ideas are weapons. Once taking them up to great
effect in the war on Germany, the Big Three could not cynically shrug
them off any more than they could their constituents' interests, hopes,
and fears. A purely Wilsonian peace, therefore, was never a possibility,
nor was a purely power-political one on the order of the Congress of
Vienna. Perhaps the new diplomacy was revealed as a sham or a disaster,
as many professional diplomats claimed. Perhaps Wilson's moral
insinuations only gave all parties grounds to depict the peace as
illegitimate, one man's justice being always another's abomination. But it
was still the old diplomacy that had spawned the hideous war in the first
place. The pursuit of power without regard to justice, and the pursuit of
justice without regard to power, were both doomed and dangerous
occupations—such seemed to be the lesson of Versailles. The democratic
states would spend the next 20 years searching in vain for a synthesis.

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In the 1960s this portrait of the peace conference as a Manichaean duel
gave way to new interpretations. New left historians depicted
peacemaking after World War I as a conflict between social classes and
ideologies, hence as the first episode in the Cold War. Arno J. Mayer
wrote of 1919 as an “international civil war” between the “forces of
movement” (Bolsheviks, Socialists, labour, and left-Wilsonians) and the
“forces of order” (the Russian Whites, Allied governments, capitalists,
and conservative power-politicians). While this thesis attracted overdue
attention to the domestic political concerns of the Big Three, it imposed
an equally dualistic set of categories, derived from the “primacy of
domestic policy” paradigm, on the convoluted events of 1919. Perhaps it
is most accurate to describe the Paris Peace Conference as the birthplace
of all the major tactics, confrontational and conciliatory, for dealing with
the Bolshevik phenomenon that have reappeared time and again to the
present day. Prinkipo was the first attempt to get Communists and their
opponents to substitute negotiations for force. Bullitt made the first stab
at détente: direct negotiation of a modus vivendi. Churchill was the first
“hawk,” declaring that the only thing Communists understand is force.
And Hoover and Nansen first acted on the theory that Communism is a
social disease for which aid, trade, and higher standards of living were
the cure.
Thus, to say that the democratic, free-market statesmen at Paris were
anti-Bolshevik is to state the obvious; to make this the wheel around
which all else turned is to ignore the subtle. As Marshal Foch observed in
counseling against exaggeration of the Bolshevik threat: “Revolution
never crossed the frontiers of victory.” That is, Communism was a
product not just of privation, but of defeat, as in Russia, Germany, and
Hungary. Perhaps, as Churchill thought, the Western democracies were
not obsessed enough with the Bolshevik threat. They also understood it
poorly, differed as to tactics, and were continually absorbed in other
issues. Yet the failure to reintegrate Russia into the European order was
as poisonous to future stability as the German peace.

Whatever one's interpretation and assessment of the personalities and
policies that collided at Paris, the overall settlement was surely doomed,
not only because it sowed seeds of discord in almost every clause, but
because all the Great Powers scurried from it at once. Germans
denounced Versailles as a hypocritical Diktat and determined to resist it
as much they were able. Italians fulminated against the “mutilated
victory” given them by Wilson and then succumbed to Fascism in 1922.
The Russian Communists, not privy to the settlements, denounced them
as the workings of rapacious rival imperialisms. From the start, the
Japanese ignored the League in favour of their imperial designs, and they
soon held the Washington treaties to be unfair, confining, and dangerous
to their economic health. The United States, of course, rejected
Versailles and the League. Only Britain and France remained to make a

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success of Versailles, the League, and the chronically unstable successor
states. But by 1920 British opinion was already turning against the treaty,
and even the French, bitter over their “betrayal” at the hands of the
United States and Britain, began to lose faith in the 1919 system. It was a
new order that many yearned to overthrow and few were willing to
defend.

A fragile stability, 1922–29
The 1920s are usually depicted as a bridge between the turmoil of the war
and the turmoil of the 1930s, a brief truce in the “Thirty Years' War” of
the 20th century. The disputes over execution of the Treaty of Versailles
suggest a continuation of the Great War by other means, while the
economic and security arrangements of mid-decade, and the era of good
feeling they engendered, were flawed from their inception and collapsed
with the onset of the Great Depression. Still, the postwar decade was
Shakespeare's “time for frighted peace to pant.” The conflicts of the early
1920s notwithstanding, weary populations had no stomach for war and
demanded, in President Harding's words, a “return to normalcy,” however
fragile it might prove.

A broken world
The failure of democratic consensus
But what was normal in a world broken by total war? The pillars of the
antebellum system—the balance of power, the non-interventionist
state, the gold standard, and the free-market economy—lay in ruins
and in any case reflected a faith in the natural play of political and
economic forces that many Europeans had ceased to share. Wilsonians
and Leninists blamed balance-of-power diplomacy for the war and fled
from such normalcy. Technocrats, impressed by the productivity of
regulated war economies, hoped to extend them into peacetime to
promote recovery and dampen competition. Some economists and
politicians even applauded the demise of the gold standard (“a
barbarous relic,” said Keynes) since inflation seemed the only means
of financing jobs and veterans' pensions, thus stabilizing domestic
societies. Finally, the free-market economy that had made high
growth rates and technological dynamism seem normal from 1896 to
1914 was itself challenged by Socialists on the left and corporate
interest groups on the right. In every case governments found it easier
to try to shift the burden of reconstruction on to foreign powers,
through reparations, loans, or inflation, than to impose taxes and
austerity on quarreling social groups at home. It soon became clear

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that the effects of the war would continue to politicize economic
relations within and between countries; that the needs of internal
stability conflicted with the needs of international stability; that old
dreams clashed with new realities, and new dreams with old realities.

The search for a new stability
The lack of consensus on democracy itself also hampered the quest for
a new stability. Wilson expected victory to mean a heyday of
democracy in which the will of the people would oblige states to value
peace and compromise. Instead, Communists and Fascists alike
challenged democratic assumptions and elevated social class, race,
and the state to the role Wilson reserved for the individual. In terms of
the distribution of world power, the 1920s gave rise to a false
normalcy, an Indian summer of European Great Power politics thanks
to the peripheral roles played by the United States and the Soviet
Union. In diplomacy, affairs of state came to be conducted
increasingly by politicians meeting in grand conferences or at the
League of Nations rather than by experts communicating with
precision through written notes. Inevitably, style replaced substance
at such meetings as prime ministers worried as much about their
political image at home as about the actual issues at hand. The prime
ministers of France and Britain held no less than 23 meetings from
1919 to 1923. As French Ambassador Camille Barrère complained,
“Politicians have replaced diplomats at these conferences and seem to
believe that nations conduct business like deputies in the
Palais-Bourbon.” But the trend was irreversible, for the crises of war
and peace impressed on voters how much foreign policy affected their
pocketbooks and daily lives, and they were sure to hold their elected
officials responsible. Technological developments—the telephone, the
wireless, and soon the airplane—also tended to reduce the role of
professional ambassadors to that of messengers.

Behind the contradictory mixture of old and new in politics lay a
profound cultural confusion. For the cultural shock of the Great War
had turned modernist iconoclasm from the conceit of bohemian cliques
into a new conventional wisdom. Respect for elders, for established
authority, for “bourgeois” decency and restraint, died in the trenches.
Faith in God and faith in reason, the two abiding fonts of Western
culture, withered under the war's barbarizing bombardment, as did the
belief in human progress born of the Enlightenment and the Industrial
Revolution. Science and technology, those engines of progress, had
only perfected an economy of death, and turned soldiers and civilians
into mere cogs in the war machine. In the 1920s Einsteinian relativity,
or a debased and popularized notion of it, replaced the comfortable

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order of the Newtonian universe, offering skeptics a pseudoscientific
justification for their rejection of absolute moral values. Popular
Freudianism, depicting man as the victim of irrational, subconscious
drives, seemed to describe the behaviour of 1914–18 better than the
old Aristotelian psychology of man as a rational, moral creature.
Nietzsche's transvaluation of values, implying that in a social Darwinist
world compassion and charity were suicidal and force and mastery
progressive, became a fad. To vulgar minds on the right and the left,
Nietzsche's critique of modern mass civilization was an anthem for a
politics of the violent deed. And while some artists despaired of man's
fate in the crucible of the machine age, there were others, like the
German Bauhaus school, who extolled steely power or, like the Italian
Futurists, even modern war.

Oswald Spengler's 1918–22 best-seller The Decline of the West mourned
the engulfing of Kultur by the cosmopolitan anthill of Zivilisation and
argued that only a dictatorship could arrest the decline. Sociologist
Max Weber hoped for charismatic leadership to overcome bureaucracy.
Much painting, music, and film of the 1920s illustrated the theme of
decline: Paul Klee's Cubist depiction of literally broken people and
societies; George Grosz's looks beneath the veneer of respectable
society to the rot underneath; the broken musical scales of Arnold
Schoenberg; and the political drama of Bertolt Brecht. The
intelligentsia of the 1920s leveled a comprehensive assault on
bourgeois values, forms, and traditions. Tradition won scarcely more
respect in the salons of Paris and London. The decade that was to have
spawned a democratic diplomacy prepared the way instead for the
totalitarian diplomacy of the 1930s.
To be sure, these were the years when European statesmen, in
historian Charles Maier's words, set themselves the task of “recasting
bourgeois Europe” and pioneered corporatist compromise among
organized interest groups and bureaucracies when the increasingly
polarized parliaments were unable to distribute the costs and benefits
of reconstruction. By 1925 they had made a good show of it, as
currencies and world trade stabilized and food, coal, and industrial
production again reached 1913 levels. But the American economy
alone boomed following the postwar slump of 1920–21. Between 1922
and 1929, U.S. steel production climbed 70 percent, oil 156 percent,
and automobiles 255 percent. Overall, national income soared 54
percent in those years; by 1929 the U.S. economy accounted for 44.8
percent of global industrial output, compared to 11.6 percent for
Germany, 9.3 for Britain, 7.0 for France, and 4.6 for the Soviet Union.
Yet the demobilization of American armed forces and United States
refusal to make political-military engagements abroad meant that this
mighty power existed in semi-isolation from the rest of the world.
France and Britain, though engaged, lacked the resources and the will

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to run the risks inherent in trying to reintegrate Germany and Russia
into the European order. A world with such disparities in the
distribution of power and responsibility could not be returned to
normal. It could only be given the appearance of normalcy by pasting
paper constitutions, paper money, and paper treaties over the absence
of common values, common interests, or a true balance of power.

Reparations, security, and the German question
The continuing problem of Germany
The Great War failed to solve the German question. To be sure,
Germany was exhausted and in the shackles of Versailles, but its
strategic position actually improved in the war. Britain and France
were at least as exhausted, Russia was in chaos and her boundary
driven far to the east, and Italy was disaffected from her former allies,
so that Germany's eastern and southern approaches now consisted of a
broad ring of weak states. If and when Germany escaped Versailles,
therefore, it might pose a greater threat to Europe than in 1914.
This danger obsessed postwar French leaders, but they quarreled
among themselves over the proper response: strict execution of the
Versailles treaty and perhaps even the breaking of German unity, or a
Wilsonian policy of “moral disarmament” and reconciliation? In late
1919 the French electorate returned a staunchly conservative decision.
The peace conference had not solved France's triple crisis of security,
finance, and industrial reconstruction. Postwar French governments
undertook to replace the abortive Anglo-American guarantee with an
alliance system of Germany's neighbours. Belgium shrugged off
neutrality, which had failed spectacularly to shelter it in 1914, and
concluded a military alliance with France in September 1920. The
Franco-Polish alliance (February 1921) and a Franco-Czechoslovak
entente (January 1924) created an eastern counterweight to Germany.
But these states, while wedded to the Versailles system, needed more
protection than they offered. France could come to their aid only by a
vigorous offensive against Germany from the west, which in turn
required access to the bridgeheads over the Rhine. Thus, not only
French security but that of east-central Europe as well depended on
German disarmament and Allied occupation of the Rhineland.
French finances were strained by the costs of rebuilding the
devastated regions, the army, imperial obligations, and the refusal of
the French chamber to accept sizable new taxes until Germany had
paid reparations or France's war debts were annulled. To the extent
that Germany reneged, France would face deficits imperiling its

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currency. As to industrial reconstruction, France depended on
Germany for the coal needed to revive iron and steel production and
at the same time was forced to countenance a cartel arrangement to
escape Germany's economic competition.

Far from sympathizing with France's plight, the United States and
Britain quickly withdrew from the Versailles treaty. Britain found itself
in the midst of a postwar economic slump magnified by its wartime
losses in ships and markets. Lloyd George had promised the veterans a
land “fit for heroes,” yet unemployment reached 17 percent in 1921.
The war had accelerated the decline of the aging British industrial
plant and the economy more generally. Unemployment never dipped
much below 10 percent during the decade before the onset of the
Great Depression, and in the early 1920s the pressure was on the
British government to boost employment by reviving trade. Keynes
argued persuasively that while Europe could never recover until the
German economy took its natural place at the centre, virtually every
clause of the treaty seemed designed to prevent that particular return
to normalcy. To be sure, the British needed the reparations debt from
Germany on the books to balance against their own war debts to the
United States. But soon after the war Lloyd George came to favour
German recovery in the interest of trade. The entente with France
became strained as early as 1920 over the issues of reparations,
Turkey, and the coal shortage of that year, from which Britain
garnered windfall profits at the expense of the French.

German politics and reparations
Germany, meanwhile, weathered both the leftist agitation of 1919 and
the right-wing Kapp Putsch of March 1920. But elections showed a
swing to the centre-right in German politics away from the parties that
had voted to ratify Versailles. The insecure coalition cabinets of the
early 1920s, therefore, found themselves with little room to maneuver
on the foreign stage. They dared not rebel openly against Versailles,
but dared not endorse fulfillment too eagerly in the face of domestic
opinion. Nor could the weak Berlin government take forceful measures
to end inflation, impose taxes, or regulate big business. The industrial
magnates of the Ruhr thus acquired a virtual veto power over national
policy by dint of their importance to the economy, a fact the
embittered French did not fail to notice. German leaders themselves
differed over how to win relief from the treaty. Army chief Hans von
Seeckt and the eastern division of the foreign office thought in
Bismarckian terms and favoured close ties with Russia, despite its
obnoxious regime. But other economic and foreign policymakers
preferred to rely on Britain and the United States to restrain France

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and revise the treaty. German diplomats soon synthesized these
approaches, threatening closer ties with Moscow in order to win
concessions from the West.

The Reparations Commission bickered throughout 1920 over the total
sum to be demanded of Germany and its distribution among the Allies.
At the Spa Conference (July 1920), France won 52 percent of German
payments, Britain 22 percent, Italy 10, and Belgium 8. At the
conferences of Hythe, Boulogne, and Brussels, France presented a
total bill of 230,000,000,000 gold marks, although the British warned
that this was far beyond Germany's capacity to pay. But when German
foreign minister Walter Simons offered a mere 30,000,000,000 (Paris
Conference, February 1921), French Premier Aristide Briand and Lloyd
George made a show of force, seizing in March the Ruhr river ports of
Düsseldorf, Duisburg, and Ruhrort, taking over the Rhenish customs
offices, and declaring a 50 percent levy on German exports. Finally, on
May 5, 1921, the London conference presented Berlin with a bill for
132,000,000,000 gold marks, to be paid in annuities of 2,000,000,000
plus 26 percent ad valorem of German exports. The Germans protested
adamantly that this was “an injustice without equal.” Historians have
differed sharply as to whether the obligations were within the capacity
of the German economy. But the May 1921 schedule was less harsh
than it seemed, for the bill was divided into three series—A bonds
totaling 12,000,000,000 marks, B bonds for 38,000,000,000, and the
unlikely C bonds in the amount of 82,000,000,000. The latter would
not even be issued until the first two series were paid and existed as
much to balance against the Allies' debts to the United States as
actually to be paid by Germany. Nevertheless, Chancellor Konstantin
Fehrenbach resigned rather than accept this new Diktat, and his
successor, Joseph Wirth, acquiesced only under threat of occupation
of the Ruhr.

The “fulfillment” tactic adopted by Wirth and his foreign minister,
Walther Rathenau, was to make a show of good faith to demonstrate
that the reparations bill was truly beyond Germany's capacity. They
were aided in this by the continuing deterioration of the paper mark.
The prewar value of the mark was about 4.2 to the dollar. By the end
of 1919 it reached 63, and after the first payment of 1,000,000,000
marks under the London plan, the mark fell to 262 to the dollar. The
French argued that the inflation was purposeful, designed to feign
bankruptcy while allowing Berlin to liquidate its internal debt and
German industrialists like Hugo Stinnes and Fritz Thyssen to borrow,
expand, and dump exports on the world market. Recent research
suggests, however, that the government did not fully understand the
causes of the inflation even though it recognized its social utility in
stimulating employment and permitting social expenditures. Of course,
the reparations bill, while not the cause of inflation, was a strong

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disincentive to stabilization for Berlin could hardly plead bankruptcy if
it boasted a strong currency, a balanced budget, and a healthy
balance of payments. And insofar as the German government was
dependent on those who benefited most from inflation—the
industrialists—it was incapable of implementing austerity measures.
This financial tangle might have been avoided by a program of
reparations-in-kind whereby German firms delivered raw and finished
goods directly to the Allies. The Seydoux Plan of 1920 and the
Wiesbaden Accords of 1921 embraced such a mechanism, but the Ruhr
magnates, delighted that the French might “choke on their iron” in
the absence of German coal, and the British, fearful of any continental
cartel, together torpedoed reparations-in-kind. By December 1921,
Berlin was granted a moratorium.

Allied politics and reparations
At the Cannes Conference (January 1922) the Allies searched for
common ground on reparations, a security pact, and Lloyd George's
scheme for a grand economic conference including Soviet Russia. But
the French chamber rebelled, and Briand was replaced as prime
minister by the wartime president, Poincaré. A hard-headed lawyer
from Lorraine, Poincaré was determined to relieve France's triple crisis
without sacrificing its treaty rights. He approached London for a
security pact, only to learn that the British were not willing to
guarantee the Rhenish demilitarized zone and demanded French
concessions on reparations in return. In June a conference of
international bankers in Paris recommended loans to stabilize the
German mark, but only if Germany were granted a long moratorium on
reparations. (Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress created the World War
Foreign Debt Commission to pressure the Allies to fund their war
debts.) The grand economic conference promoted by Lloyd George was
held at Genoa in April and May 1922 and was the first to bring German
and Russian delegations together with the Allies on a status of
equality. But the Soviets refused to recognize the tsarist regime's
prewar debts and then shocked the Allies by signing the Treaty of
Rapallo (April 16) with Germany, an innocuous document (providing for
annulment of past claims and restoration of diplomatic relations) that
nonetheless appeared to signal an unholy alliance between the two
European outcasts. (Innocuous or not, Rathenau was assassinated by
German rightists on June 24; Erzberger, signer of the Armistice, had
also been murdered in 1921.) French representatives also bargained
directly with the Ruhr magnates late in 1922, hoping for a coal-for-iron
exchange and market-sharing, but the German price was evacuation of
the Rhineland and substantial revision of the Treaty of Versailles.
Meanwhile, the German mark tumbled to 7,500 to the dollar in

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December. Poincaré concluded that only force would break the
deadlock. As he told the Belgians in July, “I will propose a short
moratorium subject to guarantees. If England refuses I will act alone.
The German industrialists conspire to destroy the mark. They hope to
ruin France.”

The new German Cabinet of Wilhelm Cuno made a desperate appeal to
the United States. Secretary of State Hughes responded on December
29 with an offer to convene a committee of experts to study means of
stabilizing the mark, but he held out no hope that the United States
might relent on war debts. When the Reparations Commission declared
that Germany had defaulted on its 1922 timber deliveries (Britain
dissenting), Poincaré had his mandate to take sanctions. On Jan. 11,
1923, French and Belgian troops began to occupy the Ruhr. If the
Germans submitted peacefully, the Ruhr would constitute a
“productive guarantee,” generating coal and receipts for France and
giving her a valuable bargaining chip. If the Germans resisted, the
French might take whatever measures seemed fit, up to and including
political change in the Rhineland.

German workers protested the occupation of the Ruhr with an
immense sitdown strike that proprietors and the government quickly
joined. Berlin supported this passive resistance with unemployment
relief that, in seeking to prove that the hated French could not “mine
coal with bayonets,” completed the destruction of the German
currency. The railroads, mines, factories, and public services in the
Ruhr and Rhineland ground to a halt. Poincaré steeled his will and
dispatched French engineers and workers to revive the Rhine-Ruhr
complex through the Inter-Allied Control Commission for Factories and
Mines (MICUM) and a Franco-Belgian directorate for the railroads. The
Allied Rhineland Commission (Britain dissenting) seized all executive,
legislative, and judicial power in the occupied territories, expelled
16,000 uncooperative German officials (and more than 100,000 persons
in all), and sequestered all German government property, energy
resources, and transportation. France began covertly subsidizing
separatist agitation. The Ruhr adventure thus became an economic
war of attrition with stakes potentially as high as in a shooting war. If
France retreated, the Treaty of Versailles was as good as dead; if
Germany collapsed, the Rhineland might be lost.

The paper mark reached 4,000,000 to the dollar in August, and the
Reich treasury was at the end of its tether. Business in non-occupied
Germany was choking, and social unrest was spreading. Bavarian
rightists called for war or separatism, while the Communist Party made
gains in the cities. Gustav Stresemann, the conservative,
business-oriented politician who replaced Cuno, finally ended passive
resistance in September 1923 “to preserve the life of the nation and

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the state.” But Poincaré, instead of naming his terms to Germany,
apparently threw away the victory and accepted, after nine months'
delay, Hughes's invitation to form a committee of experts. Poincaré's
inaction baffled contemporaries, but in fact he had little to gain from
dealing with Berlin. Only Britain and the United States could cancel
France's war debts, stabilize the mark with loans to fund reparations,
and offer security pacts or legitimize an autonomous Rhenish state,
while only the Ruhr magnates could satisfy French industrial needs. So
Poincaré ordered his Ruhr army commander to negotiate directly with
Thyssen, Stinnes, Krupp, and their colleagues for the MICUM Accords
(November 23) under which German industry went back to work, while
he himself saw to the mandate of the international committee of
experts.

Poincaré's plans misfired, however, for by the time the committee of
experts began its deliberations at the turn of 1924, France's dearly
purchased leverage had eroded and Germany had begun to recover.
Troops expelled Communists from the governments of Saxony and
Thuringia, a Communist putsch in Hamburg misfired, and Bavarian
police quashed the Nazi putsch led by Adolf Hitler and Ludendorff.
Hjalmar Schacht, recently appointed president of the Reichsbank,
halted the inflation with a temporary currency called the Rentenmark,
and on New Year's Day 1924 the president of the Bank of England,
Montagu Norman, extended a 500,000,000 gold mark credit to back a
new German mark. In October 1923, meanwhile, rowdy bands
supported by the French occupation began to seize public buildings
from Aachen to Speyer and to proclaim a Rhineland Republic. These
separatists had no support from the population or from genuine
Rhenish notables like the mayor of Cologne, Konrad Adenauer, and
their actions only further discredited French policy in the eyes of
Britain. By January the separatists had been driven out or murdered by
fellow Germans. Finally, the French franc also succumbed to the
pressure it had been under since the war. Poincaré tried austerity
measures, but a new collapse in March forced him to borrow
$89,000,000 from J.P. Morgan, Jr., of New York to stabilize the
exchange rate. All these blows to France's position told in the report of
the committee of experts under American Charles G. Dawes, released
in April 1924. It called for a grand loan to Germany and the resumption
of reparations payments, but made the latter contingent on French
withdrawal from the Ruhr and restoration of German economic unity.
Jacques Seydoux, an economist in France's foreign ministry, had
predicted this outcome as early as November 1923: “There is no use
hiding the fact that we have entered on the path of the ‘financial
reconstruction of Europe.' We will not deal with Germany as conqueror
to vanquished; rather the Germans and Frenchmen will sit on the same
bench before the United States and other lending countries.” On May
11, 1924, the French electorate defeated Poincaré in favour of the

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Cartel des Gauches (a leftist coalition) under Édouard Herriot, who
favoured a policy of accommodation with Germany.

The agreements of mid-decade
Reparations agreements
Out of the exhaustion of France and Germany after the Ruhr struggle
and the desire of American bankers and British diplomats to promote
their reconciliation, the period 1924–26 finally produced agreements
on reparations, security, and industrial cooperation. An interim
reparations plan, the Dawes Plan, emerged from the London
conference of July–August 1924. Expecting to join Ramsay MacDonald,
Britain's first Labour prime minister, in Socialist brotherhood, Herriot
instead found himself a supplicant whose bargaining points were few
and feeble. France was obliged to evacuate the Ruhr (by August 1925),
to end sanctions on the Rhine, and to promise never again to impose
sanctions on Germany without the unanimous agreement of the
Reparations Commission. The United States would lend $200,000,000
to Germany to “prime the pump,” and Germany would pay from
1,000,000,000 to 2,500,000,000 marks in reparations for five years.
The French government, by contrast, issued bonds worth
44,000,000,000 francs from 1919 to 1925 to finance reconstruction of
its devastated regions. In the end, Germany received more money in
loans than it ever paid in reparations, so that the cost of repairing war
damage was borne ultimately by the taxpayers, investors, and
consumers of the Allied nations and the United States.
The influx of American capital through the Dawes Plan nevertheless
broke the postwar spiral of inflation, default, and hostility and made
possible a return to the gold standard. Germany stabilized its currency
in 1924, Britain followed in 1925, and France did so in 1926 (officially
in 1928). The smaller countries of Europe and Latin America, in turn,
pegged their currencies against either the dollar, the pound, or the
franc. Finally, the French government agreed in the Mellon–Berenger
Accords (April 20, 1926) to fund its war debts at the favourable rates
offered by the United States. The new gold standard and the cycle of
international transfers, however, depended on a continuous flow of
American capital. Should that flow ever cease, the normalcy so
painfully achieved would quickly be imperiled.

Security and the League of Nations
With respect to security, France had achieved nothing. Of course, the

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Versailles restrictions on German armaments were still in force, as was
France's rear alliance system, but in striving for collective security the
French suffered a series of disappointments. The League of Nations
Assembly Resolution XIV of September 1922 endorsed the disarmament
commission's recommendation for a treaty on collective security. The
Czechoslovakian delegation, led by Edvard Beneš, quickly rose to a
position of leadership in security matters, with the support of French
and British proponents of the League such as Lord Robert Cecil, whose
Draft Treaty of Mutual Assistance came under discussion in 1923. Beneš
rightly criticized the Draft Treaty for requiring unanimity on the
League Council to declare sanctions against an aggressor, for only in
rare cases was the accused party's guilt obvious to all, as the 1914 case
itself illustrated. Beneš also wanted a mechanism for pacific
settlement of disputes before resort to arms. More telling, however,
was opposition to the concept of collective security in British opinion.
Canada, Australia, and other dominions especially opposed an
instrument that might involve them in war over some obscure conflict
in eastern Europe. In July 1924 London rejected the Draft Treaty.
Beneš submitted an improved Geneva Protocol (or Protocol for the
Pacific Settlement of International Disputes) in October. Under the
protocol, states would agree to submit all disputes to the Permanent
Court of International Justice, any state refusing arbitration was ipso
facto the aggressor, and the League Council could impose binding
sanctions by a two-thirds majority. France enthusiastically supported
the Geneva Protocol, but British Foreign Secretary Austen Chamberlain
rejected it in March 1925.
Herriot had made it known that France would not proceed with the
first partial evacuation of the Rhineland, scheduled for January 1925,
unless he could show the French people some guarantee of security.
Chamberlain suggested to Stresemann in February 1925 that the
Germans themselves reassure France through a regional security pact.
Stresemann took up the idea, seeing in it a way to head off a bilateral
Anglo-French alliance. Herriot's government fell in April, but Aristide
Briand stayed on as foreign minister to carry through negotiations.
Stresemann and Briand met and embraced at Locarno, swore to put
the war behind them once and for all, and signed five treaties (Oct.
16, 1925) designed to pacify postwar Europe. Locarno seemed truly a
second peace conference and was greeted with cheers and relief in
world capitals. The main treaty, the Rhineland Pact, enjoined France,
Belgium, and Germany to recognize the boundaries established by the
Treaty of Versailles as inviolate and never again to resort to force in
an attempt to change them. Moreover, the pact was guaranteed by
Britain and Italy, who pledged to resist whatever country violated the
demilitarized Rhineland. Germany also signed arbitration agreements
with France, Belgium, Poland, and Czechoslovakia, agreeing to submit

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future disputes to international authority.

Locarno seemed a giant step forward. Rather than a Diktat, it was a
voluntary recognition by Germany of the 1919 borders in the west.
Britain had been brought in to guarantee not only France but also
demilitarization of the Rhineland. Italy's adherence was a bonus.
Germany had negotiated as an equal and looked forward to further
abridgement of the Versailles restrictions. Above all, Briand hoped,
Locarno was the start of the “moral disarmament” of Germany. But
some contemporaries, and many historians, criticized Locarno for
being an incomplete system, as dangerous as it was seductive. By way
of granting German equality, Britain had guaranteed Germany against
French attack as much as France against Germany. “England,” said
Poincaré, “becomes the arbiter of Franco-German relations.” To be
sure, France still promised to help Poland and Czechoslovakia in case
of German attack, but, after Locarno, Prague and Warsaw discounted
the French commitment. What was more, Locarno all but invited
German revisionism in the east by explicitly providing not for
recognition but for arbitration on Germany's eastern borders. Changes
in French military policy also boded ill for eastern Europe. Since 1919,
Foch and Pétain had quarreled over whether to adopt an offensive or
defensive contingency plan for the French army. In the wake of
Locarno the Pétain faction won, and France began to design an
imposing system of concrete fortresses along the border with
Germany. This Maginot Line (after Minister of War André Maginot) was
not meant to preclude offensive action by the French army but was in
effect (in Foch's words) a “Great Wall of China” that would breed a
false sense of security and weaken France's will to take the offensive
on behalf of her eastern allies.

Finally, the aftermath of the Ruhr episode provided French and
German industry with a chance to normalize their relations. The
evacuation of the Ruhr restored Germany's coal leverage, and Berlin
recovered tariff sovereignty in 1925 under the Treaty of Versailles, but
the French inflation of 1924–26 shifted the export price advantage
from Germany to France. Long and complicated four-way negotiations
(French and German public and private sectors) produced a
Franco-German steel syndicate in 1926 providing for coal-for-iron
exchanges and an international committee to fix production quotas
quarterly. The latter awarded France a 31 percent share compared to
43 percent for Germany, a marked improvement over the 1 to 4 ratio
France had suffered before 1914. Franco-German commercial treaties
followed in 1926–27.
The agreements of mid-decade ended the bickering and uncertainty of
the immediate postwar years and made Germany a partner in the new
Europe. In every case, however, the compacts replaced French rights

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under Versailles with voluntary agreements dependent on both
Anglo-American support and German goodwill.

Italy and east-central Europe
Fascism and Italian reality
The peoples of east-central Europe enjoyed a degree of freedom in the
1920s unique in their history. But the power vacuum in the region
resulting from the temporary impotence of Germany and Russia pulled
in other Great Powers—chiefly Mussolini's Italy and France—seeking
respectively to revise or uphold the 1919 order.
Fascism was the most striking political novelty of the interwar years.
Fascism defied precise definition. In practice it was an anti-Marxist,
antiliberal, and antidemocratic mass movement that aped Communist
methods, extolled the leadership principle and a “corporatist”
organization of society, and showed both modern and antimodern
tendencies. But the three states universally acknowledged to be
Fascist in the 1930s—Italy, Germany, and Japan—were most similar in
their foreign, rather than their domestic, ideology and policy. All
embraced extreme nationalism and a theory of competition among
nations and races that justified their revolts—as “proletarian
nations”—against the international order of 1919. In this sense,
Fascism can be understood as the antithesis of Wilsonianism rather
than of Leninism.

In the first decade of Mussolini's rule, changes in Italian diplomacy
were more stylistic than substantive. But recent historiography argues
that this decade of relatively good behaviour was a function of the
continuing constraints on Italian ambitions rather than moderation in
Fascist goals. Mussolini proclaimed upon taking power that “treaties
are not eternal, are not irremediable,” and declared loudly and often
his determination to restore Italian grandeur. This would be
accomplished by revision of the “mutilated victory,” by the
transformation of the Mediterranean into an Italian mare nostrum, and
by the creation of “a new Roman Empire” through expansion and
conquest in Africa and the Balkans. Such reveries reflected not only
Mussolini's native grandiloquence but also Italy's relative poverty and
surplus rural population and need for markets and raw materials
secure from the competition of more developed powers. In this sense,
Italy was a sort of weak Japan. And like the Japanese, Italians bristled
at the tendency of the Great Powers to treat them, in Mussolini's
words, “as another Portugal.” Still, Fascist bluster seemed safely
unmatched in actions, and London in particular was pleased with the

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tendency of the Fascist foreign minister Dino Grandi to “take refuge on
rainy days under the ample and capacious mantle of England” in
traditional Italian fashion. More than once Grandi dissuaded Il Duce
from provocative actions, taking care not to offend his vanity. The
Italian navy's inferiority to the British and French, and the army's need
for reorganization, also suggested prudence.

Fascist diplomacy
Italian diplomacy in the 1920s, therefore, was a mix of bombast and
caution. At the Lausanne Conference, Mussolini dramatically stopped
his train to oblige Poincaré and Curzon to come to him. He made Italy
the first Western power to offer a trade agreement and recognition to
the Bolsheviks and was proud of Italy's role in the League (though he
considered it “an academic organization”) and as a guarantor of the
Locarno Pact. In the Mediterranean, Mussolini protested French rule in
Tunis and asserted for Italy a moral claim to the province. But he
satisfied his thirst for action against weaker opponents. He broke the
Regina Agreement with the Sanūsī tribesmen of Libya, which had
limited Italian occupation to the coast, and by 1928 completed Italy's
conquest of that poor and weak country.

Italy's main sphere of activity was the Balkans. When an Italian general
surveying the border of a Greek-speaking district of Albania was killed
in August 1923, Mussolini ordered a naval squadron to bombard the
Greek isle of Corfu. The League of Nations awarded Italy an indemnity,
but not the island. In January 1924, Wilson's Free State of Fiume
disappeared when Yugoslav Premier Nikola Pašić granted Italian
annexation in the Treaty of Rome. Diplomatic attempts to regularize
relations between Belgrade and Rome, however, could not overcome
Yugoslavia's suspicion of Italian ambitions in Albania. In 1924 a coup
d'état, ostensibly backed by Belgrade, elevated the Muslim Ahmed Bey
Zogu in Tiranë. Once in power, however, Ahmed Zogu looked to Italy.
The Tiranë Pact (Nov. 27, 1926) provided Italian economic aid and was
followed by a military alliance in 1927 and finally a convention (July 1,
1928) declaring Albania a virtual protectorate of Italy. Ahmed Zogu
then assumed the title of King Zog I.

To the north, Italian diplomacy aimed at countering French influence
among the successor states. In 1920 the French even courted Hungary
and toyed with the idea of resurrecting a Danubian Confederation, but
when the deposed Habsburg King Charles appeared in Hungary in March
1921, Allied protests and a Czech ultimatum forced him back into
exile. Hungarian revisionism, however, motivated Beneš to unite those
states that owed their existence to the Treaty of Trianon. A
Czech–Yugoslav alliance (Aug. 14, 1920), Czech–Romanian alliance
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(April 23, 1921), and Romanian–Yugoslav alliance (June 7, 1921)
together formed what was known as the Little Entente. When Charles
tried again in October to claim his throne in Budapest, the Little
Entente threatened invasion. While France had not midwived the
combination, it associated strongly with the successor states through
Franco–Czech (Oct. 16, 1925), Franco–Romanian (June 10, 1926), and
Franco–Yugoslav (Nov. 11, 1927) military alliances. The latter implied
that France would side with Belgrade against Rome in case of war and
exacerbated the strained relations between France and Italy.

Mussolini had more luck in the defeated states of central Europe,
Austria and Hungary. But in the former case, Italy was not siding with
the revisionists. In return for financial aid to end its own
hyperinflation, Austria had promised the League of Nations in 1922
that it would not seek Anschluss with Germany. Mussolini proclaimed
in May 1925 that he, too, would never tolerate the Anschluss but set
out to curry favour with the Austrian government. An Italo-Hungarian
commercial treaty (Sept. 5, 1925), a friendship treaty (April 5, 1927)
moving Hungary “into the sphere of Italian interests,” and a
rapprochement with Bulgaria in 1930 completed Italy's alignments with
the states defeated in the war. Hungary in particular attracted
Mussolini's sympathy. But as long as the combined will of the Little
Entente, backed by France, opposed revisionism, Italy alone could
force no alterations. On the other hand, military or economic
cooperation among the congeries of states in east-central Europe also
proved impossible. Czech–Polish rivalry continued, however illogical,
and after Piłsudski's coup d'état in Poland in 1926 even the
internationalist Beneš sought to steer German revisionism against
Poland rather than Austria and the Danubian basin. The Little Entente
and French alliances, therefore, amounted to a fair-weather system
that would collapse in the first storm.

The invention of Soviet foreign policy
Lenin's diplomacy
In November 1920 Lenin surprised Western observers and his fellow
Bolsheviks alike by declaring that “we have entered a new period in
which we have . . . won the right to our international existence in the
network of capitalist states.” By 1921, the generally accepted turning
point in Soviet policy, Bolshevism had made the transition from a
revolutionary movement to a functioning state. The Civil War was won,
the New Economic Policy ended the brutal “War Communism” and
restored a measure of free market activity to peasants, and the Soviet
government was organized along traditional ministerial lines (though

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subject to the dictates of the Communist Party). Russia was
ready—needed—to pursue traditional relations with foreign powers in
search of capital, trade, and technology for reconstruction. The
emergence of what Stalin called “Socialism in one country” therefore
obliged the Soviets to invent out of whole cloth a “Communist” foreign
policy.

That invention took shape as a two-track approach whereby Russia
(from 1922 the U.S.S.R.) would on the one hand continue to operate as
the centre of world revolution, dedicated to the overthrow of the
capitalist powers, and yet conduct an apparently regular existence as
a nation-state courting recognition and assistance from those same
powers. The first track was the responsibility of the Comintern (Third
International) under Grigory Zinovyev and Karl Radek; the second, of
the Narkomindel (foreign commissariat) directed from 1920 to 1930 by
the timid and cultured prewar nobleman, Georgy Chicherin. The
Comintern enjoyed direct access to the Politburo, whereas the
Narkomindel had no voice even in the Central Committee until 1925. In
practice, however, the foreign policy interests of the U.S.S.R.
dominated even the Comintern to such an extent that other
Communist parties were not factions in their own country's politics so
much as Soviet fifth columns operating abroad. When subversive
activity flagged, diplomacy came to the fore; when diplomacy was
unfruitful, revolution was emphasized. The goal was not to encourage
“peace” or “progressive reform” in the West, but solely to enhance
Soviet power. Thus Lenin instructed Comintern parties “to unmask not
only open social patriotism but also the falseness and hypocrisy of
social pacifism”; in other words, to do all that was possible to
undermine Moscow's rivals on the left as well as on the right through
the infiltration and subversion of Western labour unions, armed forces,
newspapers, and schools. Yet Moscow readily ignored or confounded
the efforts of local Communists when diplomatic opportunities with
foreign countries seemed promising. The scent of betrayal this caused
made mandatory the secrecy, discipline, and purges demanded of
Communist parties abroad.
At the third congress of the Comintern in 1921 even Trotsky, the
impassioned advocate of world revolution, admitted that the struggle
of the proletariat in other countries was slackening. At that time the
mutiny of Russian sailors at Kronshtadt and widespread famine in
Russia impelled the party to concentrate on consolidating its power at
home and reviving the economy. The Soviets, therefore, turned to the
capitalists who, Lenin jeered, would “sell the rope to their own
hangmen” in search of profits. Indeed, Western leaders, especially
Lloyd George, viewed the vast Russian market as a kind of panacea for
Western industrial stagnation and unemployment. But he and others
misunderstood the nature of the Soviet state. Private property,

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commercial law, and hard currency no longer existed in Russia; one did
business, not in a market, but on terms laid down by a state monopoly.
What was more, by 1928 the whole point of trade was to allow the
Soviet economy to catch up to the West in the shortest possible time
and thus achieve complete self-sufficiency. It was, in George Kennan's
words, a “trade to end all trade.”
The Anglo-Russian commercial pact of March 1921 and secret contacts
with German military and civilian agents were the first Soviet openings
to the Great Powers. Both culminated the following year in the Genoa
Conference, where the Soviet representatives appeared, to the relief
of their counterparts, in striped pants and on good behaviour. Indeed,
having seized power as the minority faction of a minority party, the
Bolsheviks sought legitimacy abroad as the most adamant sticklers for
etiquette and legalism. But the Western powers insisted on an end to
Communist propaganda and recognition of the tsarist debts as
prerequisites to trade. Chicherin countered with a fanciful claim for
reparations stemming from the Allied interventions, at the same time
denying that Moscow bore any responsibility for the doings of the
Comintern. As Theodore von Laue has written, “To ask the Soviet
regime . . . to refrain from making use of its revolutionary tools was as
futile as to ask the British Empire to scrap its fleet.” Instead, a
German-Russian knot was tied in the Treaty of Rapallo, whereby the
U.S.S.R. was able to take advantage of Germany's bitterness over
Versailles to split the capitalist powers. Trade and recognition were
not the only consequences of Rapallo; in its wake began a decade of
clandestine German military research on Russian soil.
Upon the occupation of the Ruhr the Soviets declared solidarity with
the Berlin government. By August 1923, however, with Stresemann
seeking negotiations with France and German society disintegrating,
revolutionary opportunism again took precedence. The Politburo went
so far as to designate personnel for a German Communist government,
and Zinovyev gave German Communists the signal to stage a putsch in
Hamburg. When it proved a fiasco, the Soviets returned to their
Rapallo diplomacy with Berlin. The political victories of the leftists
MacDonald in Britain and Herriot in France then prompted recognition
of the Soviet government by Britain (Feb. 1, 1924), Italy (February 7),
France (October 28), and most other European states. Later in 1924,
however, publication during the British electoral campaign of the
infamous (and probably forged) “Zinovyev letter” ordering Communists
to disrupt the British army created a sensation. British police also
suspected Communists of subversive activities during the bitter
General Strike of 1926 and launched the “Arcos raid” on the Soviet
trade delegation in London in May 1927. Anglo-Soviet relations did not
resume until 1930.

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Stalin's diplomacy
Lenin's incapacity and death (Jan. 21, 1924) triggered a protracted
struggle for power between Trotsky and Joseph Stalin. In foreign policy
their conflict seemed one of an emphasis on aiding the European
peoples “in the struggle against their oppressors” (Trotsky) versus an
emphasis on “building Socialism in one country” (Stalin). But that was
largely a caricature meant to discredit Trotsky as an “adventurer.”
During the intraparty struggle, however, Soviet foreign policy drifted.
The “partial stabilization of capitalism in the West” through the Dawes
Plan and the Locarno treaties was a rude setback for Moscow. When
Germany later joined the League of Nations, the Soviet press warned
Germany against this “false step” into “this wasp's nest of
international intrigue, where political sharpers and thieving
diplomatists play with marked cards, strangle weak nations, and
organize war against the U.S.S.R.” But the Germans were not about to
throw away their Russian card. Negotiations to expand the Rapallo
accord produced the Treaty of Berlin (April 24, 1926) by which
Germany pledged neutrality in any conflict between the U.S.S.R. and a
third power, including the League of Nations. Germany also provided a
300,000,000-mark credit and in the late 1920s accounted for 29
percent of Soviet foreign trade.
From 1921 on, the Politburo judged Asia to be the region that offered
the best hope for Socialist expansion, although this required
collaboration with “bourgeois nationalists.” The Bolsheviks suppressed
their own subject nationalities at the first opportunity, yet declared
their solidarity with all peoples resisting Western imperialism. In 1920
they paid homage to the “great and famous Amīr Amānollāh” in
cementing relations with the new Afghan leader, and they were the
first to sign treaties with Nationalist Turkey. In September 1920 the
Comintern sponsored a conference of “the peoples of the East” at
Baku. Zinovyev and Radek presided over a contentious lot of Central
Asian delegates, whose own quarrels, of which the Armenian-Turkish
was the most vitriolic, made a mockery of any notion of regional or
political solidarity. Thereafter, Soviet Asian activity went
underground, alternately aiding Communists against nationalists like
Reza Khan and Mustafa Kemal, and aiding nationalists against the
European powers.
The centrepiece of Soviet designs in Asia could only be China, whose
liberation Lenin viewed in 1923 as “an essential stage in the victory of
socialism in the world.” In 1919 and 1920 the Narkomindel made much
of its revolutionary sympathy for China by renouncing the rights
acquired by tsarist Russia in its concessionary treaties. But soon the
Soviets were sending troops into Outer Mongolia, allegedly at the
request of local Communists, and concluding their own treaty with

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Peking (May 31, 1924) that granted the U.S.S.R. a virtual protectorate
over Outer Mongolia—its first satellite—and continued ownership of the
Chinese Eastern Railway in Manchuria.
The political disintegration of China, and their own devious tactics,
inevitably complicated Soviet policy. While pursuing superficially
correct relations with Peking, the Politburo placed its future hopes on
the Canton-based Nationalists (KMT), whose members were impressed
by the Bolsheviks' example of how to seize and master a vast
undeveloped country. In 1922 the Comintern directed Chinese
Communists to enroll in the KMT even as Adolf Yoffe renounced all
Soviet intentions of importing Marxism into China. The Communist
presence in the KMT grew rapidly until, after Sun Yat-sen's death in
March 1925, Comintern agent Mikhail Borodin became the main
strategist for the KMT. Still, the Soviets were uncertain how to
proceed. In March 1926, Trotsky counseled caution lest precipitate
attacks on foreign interests in China impel the imperialists—including
Japan—into anti-Soviet action. Indeed, Stalin did his best to woo
Tokyo, noting that Japanese nationalism had great anti-Western
potential.

On March 20, 1926, Chiang Kai-shek turned the tables with a coup that
elevated him within the KMT and landed many Communists in prison.
Ignoring the outrage of the Chinese Communists, Borodin remained in
Chiang's good graces, whereupon Chiang staged the northern
expedition in which he greatly expanded KMT power with the help of
Communist organizations in the countryside. But Borodin also advised
leftist KMT members to leave the south for a new base in the Wu-han
cities to escape Chiang's immediate control. This “Left KMT” or
“Wu-han Body” was to steer the KMT in a Communist direction and
eventually seize control. The Soviet Party Congress in January 1927
even declared China the “second home” of world revolution, and
Stalin confided to a Moscow audience that Chiang's forces were “to be
utilized to the end, squeezed out like a lemon, and then thrown
away.” But Chiang preempted again by ordering a bloody purge of
Shanghai Communists on April 12–13, 1927. Trotsky blamed Stalin's lack
of faith in revolutionary zeal for the debacle, declaring that he should
have unleashed the Communists sooner. Instead, the Left KMT eroded,
many of its former adherents going over to Chiang. With the party thus
fractured, Stalin changed his mind and ordered an armed revolt by
Communists against the KMT. This, too, ended in carnage, and by
mid-1928 only scattered bands (one under Mao Zedong) remained to
take to the hills.
Stalin's triumph at home and failure in China ended the formative era
of Soviet foreign policy. The Politburo had expelled Zinovyev, Radek,
and Trotsky by October 1926; the Party Congress condemned all

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deviation from the Stalinist line in December 1927; and Trotsky went
into exile in January 1929. Thenceforth Soviet foreign policy and the
Comintern line reflected the will of one man. Communist parties
abroad likewise purged all but Stalinists and reorganized in rigid
imitation of the U.S.S.R.'s ruthless dictatorship. The Sixth Party
Congress (summer 1928) anathematized social democracy in the
strongest terms ever and strengthened its call for subversive activities
against democratic institutions. Above all, Stalin declared after an
ephemeral war scare of 1926 that the era of peaceful coexistence with
capitalism was coming to an end and ordered vigorous measures to
prepare the U.S.S.R. for war. The New Economic Policy gave way to
the First Five-Year Plan (Oct. 1, 1928) for collectivization of
agriculture and rapid industrialization, which condemned millions of
peasants to expropriation, starvation, or exile to Siberia, but enabled
the regime to sell wheat abroad to pay for industrial goods. Stalin
imported entire factories from the United States, France, Italy, and
Germany as the basis for the Soviet steel, automotive, aviation, tire,
oil, and gas industries. In 1927 he launched the first of the show trials
of industrial “wreckers” who had allegedly conspired with
reactionaries and foreign agents, and in 1929 he purged all those—the
“Right Opposition”—who questioned the Five-Year Plan.

The Bolsheviks interpreted their survival and consolidation in the 1920s
as confirmation of their reading of the objective forces of history. In
fact, Soviet foreign policy could boast of few successes. It was the
Allied defeat of Germany in 1918 and the Red Army's military prowess
that permitted the revolution to survive; the Versailles restraints on
Germany and cordon sanitaire in eastern Europe that sheltered Russia
from the West as much as it sheltered Europe from Bolshevism;
American pressure on Japan that restored Vladivostok to the U.S.S.R.;
Anglo-French recognition that opened much of the world to Soviet
trade; and Western technology that enabled Stalin to hope for rapid
economic modernization. The link with Germany was a Soviet
achievement, but even it had a double edge, for it helped Germany to
prepare for its own remilitarization. Of course, Stalin was ultimately
right that a crisis of capitalism and new round of imperialism and war
were just around the corner, but in part it was Comintern assaults on
Western liberals and Socialists that helped to undermine the fragile
stability of the 1920s.

The United States, Britain, and world markets
U.S. leverage in world markets
The economic dislocations and technological advances of the war, the

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relative rise of American power, and territorial changes in the colonial
world all made stabilization of world markets a pressing issue in the
1920s. The resolution of this issue was chiefly the responsibility of the
two economies that bestrode the world: the United States and the
British Empire. Their interests diverged in many regions. At the Allied
Economic Conference of 1916 the British and French had projected a
postwar Allied cartel to control raw materials, while in 1918 the British
drafted plans for excluding American capital from the British Empire.
At the peace conference Wilson and Lloyd George engaged in
backstage debate over the allocation of United States and Allied
shipping with an eye to expanding their respective countries' share of
world trade. On the heels of the merchant shipping rivalry came naval
competition that culminated in the breaking of the Anglo-Japanese
Alliance and the Washington Treaty limitations. Finally, the war debts
raised the issue of whether Britain would seek a “debtors' cartel” with
the French to defy Wall Street, or join the United States in a
“creditors' cartel.” At stake in the U.S.–British disputes was their
relative global power in coming decades.

Traditional American protectionism triumphed after the electoral
victory of the Republicans. The Fordney–McCumber Tariff (September
1922) was the highest in U.S. history and angered the Europeans,
whose efforts to acquire dollars through exports were hampered even
as the United States demanded payment of war debts. In raw materials
policy, however, the United States upheld the Open Door. Secretary of
Commerce Herbert Hoover rejected both statist economic competition
that bred war and laissez-faire competition that bred cycles of boom
and bust. Instead, he advocated formal cooperation among firms of
various nations to stabilize the price and supply of commodities, raise
living standards, and yet avoid the waste and oppression of regulatory
bureaucracies. This “third alternative” would create “a new economic
system, based neither on the capitalism of Adam Smith nor upon the
Socialism of Karl Marx.” By dint of leverage and persuasion, the United
States gradually brought Britain around to this model of informal
entente. By late 1922 London bankers also took the American position
on war debts, and the two nations also cooperated in such new areas
as transoceanic cables and radio. Of surpassing importance for national
power in the mechanized 20th century, however, was oil.
After the Great War, known oil reserves outside the industrial powers
themselves were concentrated in the British mandates of the Middle
East, Persia, the Dutch East Indies, and Venezuela. The Royal
Dutch/Shell Group and Anglo-Persian Oil Company dominated oil
exploration and production in Asia, but increasingly they confronted
revolutionary nationalism, Bolshevik agitation (in Persia), and U.S.
opposition to imperialism. When the British and French agreed at San
Remo (1920) to coordinate their oil policies in the Middle East, the

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American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. State Department protested
any exclusion of U.S. firms. What was more, the United States invoked
the Mineral Lands Leasing Act of 1920 against the Dutch, denying them
access to American reserves in retaliation for Shell's monopoly in the
East Indies. In 1921, Hoover and Secretary of State Hughes encouraged
seven private firms to form an American Group, led by Standard Oil of
New Jersey, to seek a share of Mesopotamian oil reserves, while State
Department expert Arthur Millspaugh outlined a plan for worldwide
Anglo-American reciprocity. The British, fearing American retaliation
and anxious to have help against native rebellions, granted the
American Group a 20 percent share of the rich Mesopotamian fields. In
1922 a similar arrangement spawned the Perso-American Petroleum
Company. In 1925 the Iranian nationalist Reza Khan, inspired in part by
the Kemalist revolt in Turkey, seized power and had himself
proclaimed Reza Shah Pahlavi, but he was unable to play the British
and Americans off against each other. Oil politics and nationalism in
the Middle East, therefore, presaged events of the post-1945 era.
(Another anticipation occurred in Palestine, where the Balfour
Declaration encouraged thousands of Jewish Zionists to immigrate,
leading to bloody clashes with Palestinian Arabs in 1921 and 1929.)
Reciprocity also triumphed in U.S.–Dutch oil diplomacy, and Standard
Oil of New Jersey acquired a 28 percent share in the East Indies by
1939.

U.S. leverage in Latin-American affairs
In Venezuela and Central America the situation was the reverse.
During the war the State Department endorsed all-American oil
concessions, but, in accordance with the principle of reciprocity,
Hughes instructed his Latin-American ambassadors in 1921 to respect
foreign interests. Latin America in general became far more of an
American sphere of influence during the war than ever before owing to
the growth of American commerce at Britain's expense. Central
American governments now relied on New York banks to manage their
public finance rather than those of London and Paris, while the U.S.
share of Latin-American trade totaled 32 percent, double Britain's
share, though British capital still predominated in the economics of
Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.
Ever since the 17 republics of mainland Latin America emerged from
the wreck of the Spanish Empire in the early 19th century, North
Americans had viewed them with a mixture of condescension and
contempt that focused on their alien culture, racial mix, unstable
politics, and moribund economies. The Western Hemisphere seemed a
natural sphere of U.S. influence, and this view had been

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institutionalized in the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 warning European
states that any attempt to “extend their system” to the Americas
would be viewed as evidence of an unfriendly disposition toward the
United States itself. On the one hand, the doctrine seemed to
underscore republican familiarity, as suggested by references to “our
sister republics,” “our good neighbors,” our “southern brethren.” On
the other hand, the United States later used the doctrine to justify
paternalism and intervention. This posed a quandary for the Latin
Americans, since a United States strong enough to protect them from
Europe was also strong enough to pose a threat itself. When Secretary
of State James G. Blaine hosted the first Pan-American Conference in
1889, Argentina proposed the Calvo Doctrine asking all parties to
renounce special privileges in other states. The United States refused.

After the Spanish–American War in 1898 the United States
strengthened its power in the Caribbean by annexing Puerto Rico,
declaring Cuba a virtual protectorate in the Platt Amendment (1901),
and manipulating Colombia into granting independence to Panama
(1904), which in turn invited the United States to build and control the
Panama Canal. In the Roosevelt Corollary (1904) to the Monroe
Doctrine the United States assumed “an international police power” in
cases where Latin-American insolvency might lead to European
intervention. Such “dollar diplomacy” was used to justify—and
probably made inevitable—the later “gunboat diplomacy” of U.S.
military intervention in Santo Domingo, Nicaragua, and Haiti. In his
first term President Wilson also became embroiled in the Mexican
Revolution. An affront to U.S. sailors led to his bombardment of
Veracruz (1914), and border raids by Pancho Villa prompted a U.S.
expedition into northern Mexico (1916). The Mexican Constitution of
1917 then granted to the state all subsoil resources to prevent their
exploitation by U.S. firms. Such revolutionary efforts to nationalize
resources, however, only meant that they went undeveloped or were
exploited at home by corrupt officials, while the United States
retaliated by cutting off loans and trade. The Latin-American dilemma
of weakness and disunity in proximity to a mighty and united power
was thus insoluble through unilateral efforts or a Pan-American
movement dominated by Washington.

Wilson's proposed League of Nations seemed to offer Latin America a
means of circumventing U.S. influence. But the United States inserted
Article 21 to the effect that “Nothing in this Covenant shall be deemed
to affect the validity of international engagements, such as treaties of
arbitration or regional understandings like the Monroe Doctrine.”
Secretary of State Hughes later defended U.S. behaviour by candidly
questioning the ability of some Latin-American states to maintain
public order, sound finance, and the rule of law. When the Chaco
dispute between Bolivia and Paraguay erupted into war, League of

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Nations President Briand offered his personal good offices, but he
refused to assert League authority for fear of irritating the United
States. In the end, the Pan-American Commission of Inquiry assumed
jurisdiction.

Latin-American protests grew in volume, especially in 1926, when a
Mexican-supported leftist rebellion in Nicaragua prompted U.S.
Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg to report to the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee on “Bolshevist Aims and Policies in Mexico and
Latin America.” But intervention by United States marines in
Nicaragua only paved the way for the dictatorial regime of the
Somozas. At the Pan-American Conference of 1928, rivalry between
Argentina and Brazil and the Chaco contestants, and the caution of
other states, precluded their presenting a united Latin-American front.
But the U.S. administrations of the decade did labour to improve the
American image. The Clark Amendment of 1928 repudiated the
Roosevelt Corollary, while Hoover toured 10 Latin-American nations
after his election as president and repudiated the “big brother” role.
In the 1920s, therefore, the United States continued to squeeze out
European influence in Latin America but was itself moving slowly
toward the “Good Neighbor” policy of the 1930s.

The Locarno era and the dream of disarmament
The Locarno treaties promised a new era of reconciliation that seemed
fulfilled in the mid-to-late 1920s as the European and world economies
recovered and the German electorate turned its back on extremists of
the right and left. Locarno had also anticipated Germany's entry into the
League. But the prospect of expanding the League Council kicked off an
indelicate scramble for Council seats as Britain supported Spain, France
supported Poland, and Brazil insisted that it represent Latin America
(angering the Argentines). Sweden and Czechoslovakia helped to break
the deadlock by magnanimously sacrificing their seats, although Brazil in
the end quit the League. Finally, on Sept. 8, 1927, Stresemann led a
German delegation into the halls of Geneva, pledging that Germany's
steadfast will was to labour for freedom, peace, and unity. Briand, by
now the statesman most associated with “the spirit of Geneva,” replied
in like terms: “No more blood, no more cannon, no more machine-guns! .
. . Let our countries sacrifice their amour-propre for the sake of the
peace of the world.” The same month, Stresemann tried to capitalize on
the goodwill during an interview with Briand at Thoiry. He suggested a
1,500,000,000-mark advance on German reparations payments (to ease
the French fiscal crisis then nearing its climax) in return for immediate
evacuation of the last two Rhineland zones. The French chamber would
likely have rejected such a concession, and in any case Poincaré, again in
power, stabilized the franc soon after.
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The very goodwill expressed at Geneva—and removal of the Interallied
Military Control Commission from Germany in January 1927—prompted
London and Washington to ask why the French (despite their pleas of
penury when war debts were discussed) still maintained the largest army
in Europe. France clung firm to its belief in military deterrence of
Germany, even when isolated in the League of Nations Disarmament
Preparatory Commission, but the German demand for equality of
treatment under the League Charter impressed the Anglo-Americans. To
avert U.S. suspicions, Briand enlisted Secretary Kellogg's participation in
promoting a treaty by which all nations might “renounce the resort to
war as an instrument of national policy.” This Kellogg–Briand Pact, signed
on Aug. 27, 1928, and eventually subscribed to by virtually the entire
world, marked the high point of postwar faith in paper treaties and irenic
promises.

On July 3, 1928, Chancellor Hermann Müller (a Social Democrat) and
Stresemann decided to force the pace of Versailles revisionism by
claiming Germany's moral right to early evacuation of the Rhineland. In
return they offered a definitive reparations settlement to replace the
temporary Dawes Plan. The French were obliged to consider the offer—a
revival of Thoiry—because the French chamber had refused to ratify the
1926 agreement with the United States on war debts on the ground that
it did not yet know what could be expected of Germany in reparations. So
another committee of experts under another American, Owen D. Young,
drafted a plan that was approved at the Hague Conference of August
1929. The Young Plan projected German annuities lasting until 1989. In
return, the Allies abolished the Reparations Commission, restored
German financial independence, and promised evacuation of the
Rhineland by 1930, five years ahead of the Versailles schedule.
Why did Briand and even Poincaré make so many concessions between
1925 and 1929? Briand, of course, had sincerely hoped for Germany's
“moral disarmament,” and both concluded that France's treaty rights had
become a wasting asset. Better to sacrifice them now in return for
concessions and goodwill, since they would expire sooner or later
anyway. But Stresemann was far from accepting the status quo. His policy
of accommodation was designed to achieve the gradual abolition of the
Versailles strictures until Germany recovered its prewar freedom of
action, at which time he could set out to restore its prewar boundaries as
well. For instance, he showed no interest in an “Eastern Locarno”
ensuring the boundaries of the successor states. That is not to say,
however, that Stresemann anticipated the use of force or the revival of
Germany's extreme war aims.
As the decade of the 1920s came to a close, most Europeans expected
prosperity and harmony to continue. Briand even went so far as to
propose in 1929 that France and Germany explore virtual political

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integration in a European union, asking only that Germany confirm her
1919 boundaries as immutable. But Stresemann died suddenly on Oct. 3,
1929, and three weeks later the New York stock market crashed. In the
storms to come, the need for firm, material guarantees of security would
be greater than ever. But on June 30, 1930, in accordance with the Young
Plan, the last Allied troops departed the German Rhineland for home.

The origins of World War II, 1929–39
The 1930s were a decade of unmitigated crisis culminating in the outbreak
of a second total war. The treaties and settlements of the first postwar era
collapsed with shocking suddenness under the impact of the Great
Depression and the aggressive revisionism of Japan, Italy, and Germany. By
1933 hardly one stone stood on another of the economic structures raised
in the 1920s. By 1935 Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime had torn up the Treaty of
Versailles and by 1936 the Locarno treaties as well. Armed conflict began
in Manchuria in 1931 and spread to Abyssinia in 1935, Spain in 1936, China
in 1937, Europe in 1939, and the United States and U.S.S.R. in 1941.
The context in which this collapse occurred was an “economic blizzard”
that enervated the democracies and energized the dictatorial regimes.
Western intellectuals and many common citizens lost faith in democracy
and free-market economics, while widespread pacifism, isolationism, and
the earnest desire to avoid the mistakes of 1914 left Western leaders
without the will or the means to defend the 1919 order. This combination
of demoralized publics, stricken institutions, and uninspired leadership led
historian Pierre Renouvin to describe the 1930s simply as “la décadence.”

The militant authoritarian states on the other hand—Italy, Japan, and
(after 1933) Germany—seemed only to wax stronger and more dynamic.
The Depression did not cause the rise of the Third Reich or the bellicose
ideologies of the German, Italian, and Japanese governments (all of which
pre-dated the 1930s), but it did create the conditions for the Nazi seizure
of power and provide the opportunity and excuse for Fascist
empire-building. Hitler and Mussolini aspired to total control of their
domestic societies, in part for the purpose of girding their nations for wars
of conquest which they saw, in turn, as necessary for revolutionary
transformation at home. This ideological meshing of foreign and domestic
policy rendered the Fascist leaders wholly enigmatic to the democratic
statesmen of Britain and France, whose attempts to accommodate rather
than resist the Fascist states only made inevitable the war they longed to
avoid.

The economic blizzard

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Political consequences of the Depression
The debate over the origins of the Great Depression and the reasons
for its severity and length is highly political, given the implications for
the validity of theories of free market, regulated, and planned
economies, and of monetary and fiscal policy. It is usually dated from
the New York stock-market crash of October 1929, which choked the
domestic and international flow of credit and severely damaged global
trade and production. Wall Street prices fell from an index of 216 to
145 in a month, stabilized in early 1930, then continued downward to
a bottom of 34 in 1932. Industrial production fell nearly 20 percent in
1930. Unlike previous swings in the business cycle, this financial panic
did not eventuate in the expected period of readjustment, but rather
defied all governmental and private efforts to restore prosperity for
years until it seemed to a great many that the system itself was
breaking down.

Mutual recriminations flew across the Atlantic. Americans blamed the
Europeans for the reparations tangle, for pegging their currencies too
high upon the return to gold, and for misuse of the American loans of
the 1920s. Europeans blamed the United States for its insistence on
repayment of war debts, high tariffs, and the unfettered speculation
leading to the stock-market crash. Certainly all of these factors
contributed. More tangibly, however, a sudden contraction of
international credit in June 1928 made an international emergency
likely. Since the Dawes Plan of 1924, Europe had depended for capital
and liquidity on the availability of American loans, but increasingly
American investors were flocking to the stock market with their
savings, and new capital issues for foreign account in the United States
dropped 78 percent, from $530,000,000 to $119,000,000. Loans to
Germany collapsed from $200,000,000 in the first half of 1928 to
$77,000,000 in the second half and to $29,500,000 for the entire year
of 1929. A world crisis was also brewing in basic commodities, a
market in which prices had been depressed throughout the decade.
Mechanization of agriculture stimulated overproduction, and Soviet
dumping of wheat on the world market to earn foreign exchange for
the First Five-Year Plan compounded the problem.

The Smoot–Hawley Tariff, the highest in U.S. history, became law on
June 17, 1930. Conceived and passed by the House of Representatives
in 1929, it may well have contributed to the loss of confidence on Wall
Street and signaled American unwillingness to play the role of leader
in the world economy. Other countries retaliated with similarly
protective tariffs, with the result that the total volume of world trade
spiraled downward from a monthly average of $2,900,000,000 in 1929
to less than $1,000,000,000 by 1933. The credit squeeze, bank failures,
deflation, and loss of exports forced production down and
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unemployment up in all industrial nations. In January 1930 the United
States had 3,000,000 idle workers, and by 1932 there were more than
13,000,000. In Britain 22 percent of the adult male work force lacked
jobs, while in Germany unemployment peaked in 1932 at 6,000,000. All
told, some 30,000,000 people were out of work in the industrial
countries in 1932.
The Depression naturally magnified European bitterness over the
continuing international obligations, but the weakest link in the
financial chain was Austria, whose central bank, the Creditanstalt, was
on the verge of bankruptcy. In March 1931, Stresemann's successor as
German foreign minister, Julius Curtius, signed an agreement with
Vienna for a German–Austrian customs union, but French objections to
what they saw as a first step toward the dreaded Anschluss provoked a
run on the Creditanstalt and forced Berlin and Vienna to renounce the
union on September 3.
The panic then spread to Germany, rendering the Reichsbank unable
to meet its obligations under the Young Plan. President Hoover
responded on June 20, 1931, with a proposal for a one-year
moratorium on all intergovernmental debts. Short of a general
recovery or global agreement on the restoration of trade, however,
the moratorium could only be a stopgap. Instead, every country fled
toward policies of protection, self-sufficiency, and the creation of
regional economic blocs in hopes of isolating itself from the world
collapse. On Sept. 21, 1931, the Bank of England left the gold
standard, and the pound sterling promptly lost 28 percent of its value,
undermining the solvency of countries in eastern Europe and South
America. In October a national coalition government formed to take
emergency measures. The Ottawa Imperial Economic Conference of
1932 gave birth to the British Commonwealth of Nations and a system
of imperial preferences, signaling the end of Britain's 86-year-old
policy of free trade.

The Lausanne Conference of June–July 1932 took up the question of
what should be done after the Hoover Moratorium. Even the French
granted the impossibility of further German payments and agreed to
make an end of reparations in return for a final German transfer of
3,000,000,000 marks (which was never made). The United States,
however, still insisted that the war debts be honoured, whereupon the
French parliament willfully defaulted, damaging Franco-American
relations.

Failures of the League
Panicky retrenchment and disunity also rendered the Western powers

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incapable of responding to the first violation of the postwar territorial
settlements. On Sept. 10, 1931, Viscount Cecil assured the League of
Nations that “there has scarcely ever been a period in the world's
history when war seemed less likely than it does at the present.” Just
eight days later officers of Japan's Kwantung Army staged an explosion
on the South Manchurian Railway to serve as pretext for military
adventure. Since 1928, China had seemed to be achieving an elusive
unity under Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists (KMT), now based in
Nanking. While the KMT's consolidation of power seemed likely to keep
Soviet and Japanese ambitions in check, resurgent Chinese nationalism
also posed a threat to British and other foreign interests on the
mainland. By the end of 1928, Chiang was demanding the return of
leased territories and an end to extraterritoriality in the foreign
concessions. On the other hand, the KMT was still split by factions,
banditry continued widespread, the Communists were increasingly
well-organized in remote Kiangsi, and in the spring of 1931 a rival
government sprang up in Canton. To these problems were added
economic depression and disastrous floods that took hundreds of
thousands of lives.

Japan, meanwhile, suffered rudely from the Depression because of her
dependence on trade, her ill-timed return to the gold standard in
1930, and a Chinese boycott of Japanese goods. But social turmoil only
increased the appeal of those who saw in foreign expansion a solution
to Japan's economic problems. This interweaving of foreign and
domestic policy, propelled by a rabid nationalism, a powerful
military-industrial complex, hatred of the prevailing distribution of
world power, and the raising of a racialist banner (in this case,
antiwhite) to justify expansion, all bear comparison to European
Fascism. When the parliamentary government in Tokyo divided as to
how to confront this complex of crises, the Kwantung Army acted on
its own. Manchuria, rich in raw materials, was a prospective sponge for
Japanese emigration (250,000 Japanese already resided there) and the
gateway to China proper. The Japanese public greeted the conquest
with wild enthusiasm.

China appealed at once to the League of Nations, which called for
Japanese withdrawal in a resolution of October 24. But neither the
British nor U.S. Asiatic fleets (the latter comprising no battleships and
just one cruiser) afforded their governments (obsessed in any case
with domestic economic problems) the option of intervention. The tide
of Japanese nationalism would have prevented Tokyo from bowing to
Western pressure in any case. In December the League Council
appointed an investigatory commission under Lord Lytton, while the
United States contented itself with propounding the Stimson Doctrine,
by which Washington merely refused to recognize changes born of
aggression. Unperturbed, the Japanese prompted local

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collaborationists to proclaim, on Feb. 18, 1932, an independent state
of Manchukuo, in effect a Japanese protectorate. The Lytton
Commission reported in October, scolding the Chinese for provocations
but condemning Japan for using excessive force. Lytton recommended
evacuation of Manchuria but privately believed that Japan had “bitten
off more than she can chew” and would ultimately withdraw of its own
accord. In March 1933, Japan announced its withdrawal instead from
the League of Nations, which had been tested and found impotent, at
least in East Asia.
The League also failed to advance the cause of disarmament in the
first years of the Depression. The London Naval Conference of 1930
proposed an extension of the 1922 Washington ratios for naval
tonnage, but this time France and Italy refused to accept the inferior
status assigned to them. In land armaments, the policies of the powers
were by now fixed and predictable. Britain and the United States
deplored “wasteful” military spending, especially by France, while
reparations and war debts went unpaid. But even Herriot and Briand
refused to disband the French army without additional security
guarantees that the British were unwilling to tender. Fascist Italy,
despite its financial distress, was unlikely to take disarmament
seriously, while Germany, looking for foreign-policy triumphs to
bolster the struggling Republic, demanded equality of treatment:
Either France must disarm, or Germany must be allowed to expand its
army. The League Council nonetheless summoned delegates from 60
nations to a grand Disarmament Conference at Geneva beginning in
February 1932. When Germany failed to achieve satisfaction by the
July adjournment it withdrew from the negotiations. France, Britain,
and the United States devised various formulas to break the deadlock,
including a No Force Declaration (Dec. 11, 1932), abjuring the use of
force to resolve disputes, and a five-power (including Italy) promise to
grant German equality “in a system providing security for all nations.”
On the strength of these the Disarmament Conference resumed in
February 1933. By then, however, Adolf Hitler was chancellor of the
German Reich.
A common impression of Herbert Hoover is that he was passive in the
face of the Depression and isolationist in foreign policy. The truth was
almost the reverse, and in the 1932 campaign his Democratic
opponent, Franklin Roosevelt, was the more traditional in economic
policy and isolationist in foreign policy. Indeed, Hoover bequeathed to
his successor two bold initiatives meant to restore international
cooperation in matters of trade, currency, and security: the London
Economic Conference and the Geneva Disarmament Conference. The
former convened in June 1933 in hopes of restoring the gold standard
but was undermined by President Roosevelt's suspension of the gold
convertibility of the dollar and his acerbic message rejecting the

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conference's labours on July 3. At home, Roosevelt proposed the series
of government actions known as the New Deal in an effort to restore
U.S. productivity, in isolation, if need be, from the rest of the world.
The Disarmament Conference came to a similar end. In March, Ramsay
MacDonald proposed the gradual reduction of the French army from
half a million to 200,000 men and the doubling of Germany's Versailles
army to the same figure, accompanied by international verification.
But a secret German decree of April 4 created a National Defense
Council to coordinate rearmament on a massive scale. Clearly the
German demand for equality was a ploy to wreck the conference and
serve as pretext for unilateral rearmament.

Negotiations were delayed by a sudden initiative from Mussolini in
March calling for a pact among Germany, Italy, France, and Britain to
grant Germany equality, revise the peace treaties, and establish a
four-power directorate to resolve international disputes. Mussolini
appears to have wanted to downgrade the League in favour of a
Concert of Europe, enhancing Italian prestige and perhaps gaining
colonial concessions in return for reassuring the Western powers. The
French watered down the plan until the Four-Power Pact signed in
Rome on June 7 was a mass of anodyne generalities. Any prospect that
the new Nazi regime might be drawn to collective security disappeared
on Oct. 14, 1933, when Hitler denounced the unfair treatment
accorded Germany at Geneva and announced its withdrawal from the
League of Nations.

The rise of Hitler and fall of Versailles
Failure of the German Republic
The origins of the Nazi Third Reich must be sought not only in the
appeal of Hitler and his party but also in the weakness of the Weimar
Republic. Under the republic, Germany boasted the most democratic
constitution in the world, yet the fragmentation of German politics
made government by majority a difficult proposition. Many Germans
identified the republic with the despised Treaty of Versailles and, like
the Japanese, concluded that the 1920s policy of peaceful cooperation
with the West had failed. What was more, the republic seemed
incapable of curing the Depression or dampening the appeal of the
Communists. In the end, it self-destructed. The first Depression-era
elections, in September 1930, reflected the electorate's flight from
the moderate centrist parties: Communists won 77 seats in the
Reichstag, while the Nazi delegation rose from 12 to 107. Chancellor
Heinrich Brüning, unable to command a majority, governed by
emergency decree of the aged president, Paul von Hindenburg.

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The National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nazis) exploited the
resentment and fear stemming from Versailles and the Depression. Its
platform was a clever, if contradictory, mixture of socialism,
corporatism, and virulent assertion in foreign policy. The Nazis outdid
the Communists in forming paramilitary street gangs to intimidate
opponents and create an image of irresistible strength, but unlike the
Communists, who implied that war veterans had been dupes of
capitalist imperialism, the Nazis honoured the Great War as a time
when the German Volk had been united as never before. The army had
been “stabbed in the back” by defeatists, they claimed, and those who
signed the Armistice and Versailles had been criminals; worse,
international capitalists, Socialists, and Jews continued to conspire
against the German people. Under Nazism alone, they insisted, could
Germans again unify under ein Reich, ein Volk, ein Führer and get on
with the task of combating Germany's real enemies. This amalgam of
fervent nationalism and rhetorical socialism, not to mention the
charismatic spell of Hitler's oratory and the hypnotic pomp of Nazi
rallies, was psychologically more appealing than flaccid liberalism or
divisive class struggle. In any case, the Communists (on orders from
Moscow) turned to help the Nazis paralyze democratic procedure in
Germany in the expectation of seizing power themselves.
Brüning resigned in May 1932, and the July elections returned 230 Nazi
delegates. After two short-lived rightist cabinets foundered,
Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor on Jan. 30, 1933. The
president, parliamentary conservatives, and the army all apparently
expected that the inexperienced, lower-class demagogue would submit
to their guidance. Instead, Hitler secured dictatorial powers from the
Reichstag and proceeded to establish, by marginally legal means, a
totalitarian state. Within two years the regime had outlawed all other
political parties and coopted or intimidated all institutions that
competed with it for popular loyalty, including the German states,
labour unions, press and radio, universities, bureaucracies, courts, and
churches. Only the army and foreign office remained in the hands of
traditional elites. But this fact, and Hitler's own caution at the start,
allowed Western observers fatally to misperceive Nazi foreign policy as
simply a continuation of Weimar revisionism.
Adolf Hitler recounted in Mein Kampf, the autobiographical harangue
written in prison after his abortive putsch of 1923, that he saw himself
as that rare individual, the “programmatic thinker and the politician
become one.” Hitler distilled his Weltanschauung from the social
Darwinism, anti-Semitism, and racialist anthropology current in prewar
Vienna. Where Marx had reduced all of history to struggles among
social classes, in which revolution was the engine of progress and the
dictatorship of the proletariat the culmination, Hitler reduced history
to struggle among biologic races, in which war was the engine of

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progress and Aryan hegemony the culmination. The enemies of the
Germans, indeed of history itself, were internationalists who warred
against the purity and race-consciousness of peoples—they were the
capitalists, the Socialists, the pacifists, the liberals, all of whom Hitler
identified with the Jews. This condemnation of Jews as a racial group
made Nazism more dangerous than earlier forms of religious or
economic anti-Semitism that had long been prevalent throughout
Europe. For if the Jews, as Hitler thought, were like bacteria poisoning
the bloodstream of the Aryan race, the only solution was their
extermination. Nazism, in short, was the twisted product of a secular,
scientific age of history.

Hitler's worldview dictated a unity of foreign and domestic policies
based on total control and militarization at home, war and conquest
abroad. In Mein Kampf he ridiculed the Weimar politicians and their
“bourgeois” dreams of restoring the Germany of 1914. Rather, the
German Volk could never achieve their destiny without Lebensraum
(“living space”) to support a vastly increased German population and
form the basis for world power. Lebensraum, wrote Hitler in Mein
Kampf, was to be found in the Ukraine and intermediate lands of
eastern Europe. This “heartland” of the Eurasian continent (so named
by the geopoliticians Sir Halford Mackinder and Karl Haushofer) was
especially suited for conquest since it was occupied, in Hitler's mind,
by Slavic Untermenschen (subhumans) and ruled from the centre of
the Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy in Moscow. By 1933 Hitler had
apparently imagined a step-by-step plan for the realization of his
goals. The first step was to rearm, thereby restoring complete
freedom of maneuver to Germany. The next step was to achieve
Lebensraum in alliance with Italy and with the sufferance of Britain.
This greater Reich could then serve, in the distant third step, as a base
for world dominion and the purification of a “master race.” In
practice, Hitler proved willing to adapt to circumstances, seize
opportunities, or follow the wanderings of intuition. Sooner or later
politics must give way to war, but because Hitler did not articulate his
ultimate fantasies to the German voters or establishment, his actions
and rhetoric seemed to imply only restoration, if not of the Germany
of 1914, then the Germany of 1918, after Brest-Litovsk. In fact, his
program was potentially without limits.

European responses to Nazism
European reaction to the rise of Nazism was cautious, but not at first
overtly hostile. The Four-Power Pact and a concordat with the Vatican
(July 20, 1933), negotiated by the Catholic Franz von Papen, conferred
a certain legitimacy on the Nazi regime. (Hitler sought to end Vatican

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support for the Catholic Centre Party while he proceeded to
subordinate the churches and to corrupt Christianity into a
state-centred form of neo-paganism. Pope Pius XI, like every other
European statesmen after him, thought that he could appease and
moderate the Nazis.) On Jan. 26, 1934, Hitler shocked all parties by
signing a nonaggression pact with Poland. This bit of duplicity
neutralized France's primary ally in the east while helping to secure
Germany over the dangerous years of rearmament. The new Polish
foreign minister, Józef Beck, was in turn responding to the dilemma of
Poland's central position between Germany and the U.S.S.R. He hoped
to preserve a balance in his relations with the two giant neighbours
(Poland signed a three-year pact with Moscow in July 1932) but feared
the Soviets (from whom Poland had grabbed so much territory in 1921)
more than the still-weak Germans. The pact with Germany was meant
to run for 10 years.

France was the nation most concerned by the Nazi threat and most
able to take vigorous action. But fear of another war, the defeatist
mood dating from the failure of the Ruhr occupation, the passivity
engendered by the Maginot Line (due for completion in just five
years), and domestic strife exacerbated by the Depression and the
Stavisky scandal of 1933, all served to hamstring French foreign policy.
As in the Weimar Republic, Communists and monarchists or Fascist
groups like the Croix de Feu and Action Française battled in the
streets. In February 1934 a crowd of war veterans and rightists
stormed the parliament, and the Édouard Daladier Cabinet was forced
to resign to head off a coup d'état. The new foreign minister, Louis
Barthou, had been a friend of Poincaré and made a final effort to
shore up France's security system in Europe: “All these League of
Nations fancies—I'd soon put an end to them if I were in power. . . . It's
alliances that count.” But alliances with whom? The French Left was
adamantly opposed to cooperation with Fascist Italy, the Right
despised cooperation with the Communist Soviet Union. Britain as
always eschewed commitments, while Poland had come to terms with
Germany. Nevertheless, the moment seemed opportune; both Italy
and the U.S.S.R. now made clear their opposition to Hitler and desire
to embrace collective security.
To be sure, Mussolini was gratified by the triumph of the man he liked
to consider his younger protégé, Hitler, but he also understood that
Italy fared best while playing off France and Germany, and he feared
German expansion into the Danubian basin. In September 1933 he
made Italian support for Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss
conditional on the latter's establishment of an Italian-style Fascist
regime. In June 1934 Mussolini and Hitler met for the first time, and in
their confused conversation (there was no interpreter present)
Mussolini understood the Führer to say that he had no desire for

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Anschluss. Yet, a month later, Austrian Nazis arranged a putsch in
which Dollfuss was murdered. Mussolini responded with a threat of
force (quite likely a bluff) on the Brenner Pass and thereby saved
Austrian independence. Kurt von Schuschnigg, a pro-Italian Fascist,
took over in Vienna. In Paris and London it seemed that Mussolini was
one leader with the will and might to stand up to Hitler.

Stalin, meanwhile, had repented of the equanimity with which he had
witnessed the Nazi seizure of power. Before 1933, Germany and the
U.S.S.R. had collaborated, and Soviet trade had been a rare boon to
the German economy in the last years of the Weimar Republic. Still,
the behaviour of German Communists contributed to the collapse of
parliamentarism, and now Hitler had shown that he, too, knew how to
crush dissent and master a nation. The Communist line shifted in
1934–35 from condemnation of social democracy, collective security,
and Western militarism to collaboration with other anti-Fascist forces
in “Popular Fronts,” alliance systems, and rearmament. The United
States and the U.S.S.R. established diplomatic relations for the first
time in November 1933, and in September 1934 the Soviets joined the
League of Nations, where Maksim Litvinov became a loud proponent of
collective security against Fascist revisionism.

Thus, Barthou's plan for reviving the wartime alliance and arranging an
“Eastern Locarno” began to seem plausible—even after Oct. 9, 1934,
when Barthou and King Alexander of Yugoslavia were shot dead in
Marseille by an agent of Croatian terrorists. The new French foreign
minister, the rightist Pierre Laval, was especially friendly to Rome.
The Laval–Mussolini agreements of Jan. 7, 1935, declared France's
disinterest in the fate of Abyssinia in implicit exchange for Italian
support of Austria. Mussolini took this to mean that he had French
support for his plan to conquer that independent African country. Just
six days later the strength of German nationalism was resoundingly
displayed in the Saar plebiscite. The small, coal-rich Saarland,
detached from Germany for 15 years under the Treaty of Versailles,
was populated by miners of Catholic or social democratic loyalty. They
knew what fate awaited their churches and labour unions in the Third
Reich, and yet 90 percent voted for union with Germany. Then, on
March 16, Hitler used the extension of French military service to two
years and the Franco-Soviet negotiations as pretexts for tearing up the
disarmament clauses of Versailles, restoring the military draft, and
beginning an open buildup of Germany's land, air, and sea forces.

In the wake of this series of shocks Britain, France, and Italy joined on
April 11, 1935, at a conference at Stresa to reaffirm their opposition to
German expansion. Laval and Litvinov also initialed a five-year
Franco-Soviet alliance on May 2, each pledging assistance in case of
unprovoked aggression. Two weeks later a Czech-Soviet pact

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complemented it. Laval's system, however, was flawed; mutual
suspicion between Paris and Moscow, the failure to add a military
convention, and the lack of Polish adherence meant that genuine
Franco-Soviet military action was unlikely. The U.S.S.R. was in a state
of trauma brought on by the Five-Year Plans, the slaughter and
starvation of millions of farmers, especially in the Ukraine, in the
name of collectivization, and the beginnings of Stalin's mass purges of
the government, army, and Communist party. It was clear that Russian
industrialization was bound to overthrow the balance of power in
Eurasia, hence Stalin was fearful of the possibility of a preemptive
attack before his own militarization was complete. But he was even
more obsessed with the prospect of wholesale rebellion against his
regime in case of invasion. Stalin's primary goal, therefore, was to
keep the capitalist powers divided and the U.S.S.R. at peace. Urging
the liberal Western states to combine against the Fascists was one
method; exploring bilateral relations with Germany, as in the 1936
conversations between Hjalmar Schacht and Soviet trade
representative David Kandelaki, was another.
Italy and Britain looked askance at the Franco-Soviet combination,
while Hitler in any case sugar-coated the pill of German rearmament
by making a pacific speech on May 21, 1935, in which he offered
bilateral pacts to all Germany's neighbours (except Lithuania) and
assured the British that he, unlike the Kaiser, did not intend to
challenge them on the seas. The Anglo-German Naval Agreement of
June 18, which countenanced a new German navy though limiting it to
not larger than 35 percent the size of the British, angered the French
and drove a wedge between them and the British.

Italian aggression
The Stresa Front collapsed as soon as Paris and London learned the
price Mussolini meant to exact for it. By 1935 Mussolini had ruled for
13 years but had made little progress toward his “new Roman Empire”
that was to free Italy from the “prison of the Mediterranean.” What
was more, Il Duce concluded that only the crucible of war could fully
undermine the monarchy and the church and consummate the Fascist
revolution at home. Having failed to pry the French out of their North
African possessions, Mussolini fixed on the independent African empire
of Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Italy had failed in 1896 to conquer Abyssinia,
thus to do so now would erase a national humiliation. This spacious
land astride Italy's existing coastal colonies on the Horn of Africa
boasted fertile uplands suitable for Italy's excess rural population, and
Mussolini promised abundant raw materials as well. The conquest of
Abyssinia would also appear to open the path to the Sudan and Suez.

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Finally, this landlocked, semifeudal kingdom seemed an easy target. In
fact, Emperor Haile Selassie had begun a modernization program of
sorts, but this only suggested that the sooner Italy struck, the better.
The Italian army was scarcely prepared for such an undertaking, and
Mussolini made matters worse by ordering ill-trained blackshirt
brigades to Africa and entrusting the campaign to a Fascist loyalist,
Emilio De Bono, rather than to a senior army officer. The military
buildup at Mitsiwa left little doubt as to Italian intentions, and Britain
tried in June to forestall the invasion by arranging the cession of some
Abyssinian territories. But Mussolini knew that the British
Mediterranean fleet was as unready as his own and expected no
interference.

De Bono's absurdly large army invaded Ethiopia from Eritrea on Oct. 3,
1935. Adwa, the site of the 1896 debacle, fell in three days, after
which the advance bogged down and Mussolini replaced De Bono with
Marshal Pietro Badoglio. The League Council promptly declared Italy
the aggressor (October 7), whereupon France and Britain were caught
on the horns of a dilemma. To wink at Italy's conquest would be to
condone aggression and admit the bankruptcy of the League; to resist
would be to smash the Stresa Front and lose Italian help against the
greater threat, Germany. The League finally settled on economic
sanctions but shied away from an embargo on oil, which would have
grounded the Italian army and air force, or closure of the Suez Canal,
which would have cut the Italian supply line. The remaining sanctions
only vexed Italy without helping Abyssinia. Germany, no longer a
League member, ignored the sanctions and so healed its rift with
Rome.

In December, Laval and Sir Samuel Hoare, the British foreign
secretary, contrived a secret plan to offer Mussolini most of Abyssinia
in return for a truce. This Hoare–Laval Plan was a realistic effort to
end the crisis and repair the Stresa Front, but it also made a mockery
of the League. When it was leaked to the press, public indignation
forced Hoare's resignation. The Italians finally took the fortress of
Mekele on November 8, but their slow advance led Mussolini to order a
major offensive in December. He instructed Badoglio to use whatever
means necessary, including terror bombing and poison gas, to end the
war.

The first German move
Hitler observed the Abyssinian war with controlled glee, for dissolution
of the Stresa Front—composed of the guarantors of Locarno—gave him
the chance to reoccupy the Rhineland with minimal risk. A caretaker

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government under Albert Sarraut was in charge of France during a
divisive electoral campaign dominated by the leftist Popular Front,
and Britain was convulsed by a constitutional crisis stemming from King
Edward VIII's insistence on marrying an American divorcée. On March 7,
1936, Hitler ordered a token force of 22,000 soldiers back across the
bridges of the Rhine. Characteristically, he chose a weekend for his
sudden move and then softened the blow with offers of nonaggression
pacts and a new demilitarized zone on both sides of the frontier. Even
so, Hitler assured his generals that he would retreat if the French
intervened.
German reoccupation and fortification of the Rhineland was the most
significant turning point of the interwar years. After March 1936 the
British and French could no longer take forceful action against Hitler
except by provoking the total war they feared. Why did the French,
especially, not act to prevent this calamity to their defensive posture?
They were not taken by surprise—Hitler's preparations had been
noted—and Sarraut himself told French radio listeners that “Strasbourg
would not be left under German guns.” Moreover, the French army still
outnumbered the German and could expect support from
Czechoslovakia and possibly Poland. On the other hand, the French
army commander, General Maurice Gamelin, vastly overestimated
German strength and insisted that a move into the Rhineland be
preceded by general mobilization. The French Cabinet also concluded
that it should do nothing without the full agreement of the British. But
London was not the place to look for backbone. Prime Minister Stanley
Baldwin shrugged, “They might succeed in smashing Germany with the
aid of Russia, but it would probably only result in Germany going
Bolshevik,” while the editor of The Times asked, “It's none of our
business, is it? It's their own back-garden they're walking into.” By
failing to respond to the violation, however, Britain, France, and Italy
had broken the Locarno treaties just as gravely as had Germany.

The strategic situation in Europe now shifted in favour of the Fascist
powers. In June, Mussolini appointed as foreign minister his son-in-law
Galeazzo Ciano, who concluded an agreement with Germany on July 11
in which Italy acquiesced in Austria's behaving henceforth as “a
German state.” The Rome–Berlin Axis followed on November 1, and the
German–Japanese Anti-Comintern Pact, another vague agreement
ostensibly directed at Moscow, on November 25. Finally, Belgium
unilaterally renounced its alliance with France on October 14 and
returned to its traditional neutrality in hopes of escaping the coming
storm. As a direct result of the Abyssinian imbroglio, the militant
revisionists had come together and the status quo powers had
splintered.
Meanwhile, on May 5, 1936, Italian troops had entered Addis Ababa

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and completed the conquest of Abyssinia, although the country was
never entirely pacified, despite costly and brutal repression. The
Abyssinian war had been a disaster for the democracies, smashing both
the Stresa Front and the credibility of the League. As the historian
A.J.P. Taylor wrote, “One day [the League] was a powerful body
imposing sanctions, seemingly more effective than ever before; the
next day it was an empty sham, everyone scuttling from it as quickly
as possible.” In December 1937, Italy, too, quit the League of Nations.

British appeasement and American isolationism
The rationale of appeasement
It is time to explore the roots of democratic lethargy in the face of
Fascist expansionism in the 1930s. British policy, in particular, which
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain would proudly term
“appeasement,” conjures up images of naive, even craven surrender
to Nazi demands. In the minds of British statesmen, however,
appeasement was a moral and realistic expression of all that was
liberal and Christian in British culture. First, 1914 cast a dark shadow
on the opinion leaders of the 1930s, who determined this time to shun
arms races and balance-of-power and commercial competition, and so
to spare the world another horrible war. Second, the overextended
British Empire lacked the resources to confront threats from Japan in
Asia, Italy in the Mediterranean, and Germany in Europe all at once.
Wisdom dictated that Britain come to terms with the greatest and
closest to home of its potential adversaries, Germany. Third, the
British public was understandably provincial about central Europe and
had no desire (in the popular French phrase) “to die for Danzig.” This
sentiment was even more pronounced in the British dominions. Fourth,
many Tory and Labour leaders, while put off by Hitler's ideology and
brutality, shared his antipathy to Versailles and urged “fair play” in
cases where German nationals were separated from the fatherland.
Thus, Wilsonian national self-determination perversely made the Nazis
appear to be on the side of principle. Fifth, the appeasers also
presumed that the Nazis would become less rambunctious once their
grievances were removed. Sixth, some demoralized Englishmen
believed the propagandistic claim that Fascism was the only bulwark
against the spread of Bolshevism. Seventh, domestic opinion in Britain
favoured a passive reliance on the League of Nations somehow to
prevent another catastrophe—Baldwin's policy of sanctions without war
in Abyssinia, as the chief case in point, earned his party a huge
electoral victory in November 1935. Nor had pacifism flagged since
1933, when the Oxford Union “Resolved that this house refuses to fight
for King and Country.”

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Voices of dissent existed. Some Left-Labourites warned that Fascism
must be stopped sooner or later, while a few Tory backbenchers led by
Winston Churchill demanded rearmament. In the mid-1930s a source in
the Air Ministry leaked data to Churchill suggesting that Germany's air
force was rapidly overtaking Britain's. Fear of the Luftwaffe only
provided another excuse for appeasement, however, for aviation had
developed to the point that theorists like the Italian Giulio Douhet
could argue that air bombardment would win the next war in 48 hours
by leveling enemy cities. In an air age, the English Channel no longer
sheltered Britain from destruction.
Many of these same considerations afflicted French policy: fear of
another total war and of destruction from the air, apathy toward
eastern Europe, and ideological confusion. The election of May 3,
1936, brought victory for the Popular Front, which formed a Cabinet
under the Socialist Léon Blum, but his economic policies threw France
into a turmoil of strikes, capital flight, and recrimination. “Better
Hitler than Blum,” said some on the right.

The civil war in Spain
The Spanish Civil War highlighted the contrast between democratic
bankruptcy and totalitarian dynamism. In 1931 the Spanish monarchy
gave way to a republic whose unstable government moved steadily to
the left, outraging the army and church. After repeated provocations
on both sides, army and air force officers proclaimed a Nationalist
revolt on July 17, 1936, that survived its critical early weeks with
logistical help from Portugal's archconservative premier, António
Salazar. The Nationalists, rallying behind General Francisco Franco,
quickly seized most of Old Castile in the north and a beachhead in the
south extending from Córdoba to Cádiz opposite Spanish Morocco,
where the insurrection had begun. But the Republicans, or loyalists, a
Popular Front composed of liberals, Socialists, Trotskyites, Stalinists,
and anarchists, took up arms to defend the Republic elsewhere and
sought outside aid against what they styled as the latest Fascist threat.
Spain became a battleground for the ideologies wrestling for mastery
of Europe.
The civil war posed a dilemma for France and Britain, pitting the
principle of defending democracy against the principle of
noninterference in the domestic affairs of other states. The
ineffectual Blum at first fraternally promised aid to the Popular Front
in Madrid, but he reneged within a month for fear that such
involvement might provoke a European war or a civil war in France.
The British government counseled nonintervention and seemingly won
Germany and Italy to that position, but Hitler, on well-rehearsed

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anti-Bolshevik grounds, hurriedly dispatched 20 transport planes that
allowed Franco to move reinforcements from Morocco. Not to be
outdone, Mussolini sent matériel, Fascist “volunteers,” and,
ultimately, regular army formations. The Italians performed miserably
(especially at Guadalajara in March 1937), but German aid, including
the feared Condor Legion, was effective. Hitler expected to be paid
for his support, however, with economic concessions, and he also saw
Spain as a testing-ground for Germany's newest weapons and tactics.
These included terror bombing such as that over Guernica in April
1937, which caused far fewer deaths than legend has it but which
became an icon of anti-Fascism through the painting of Pablo Picasso.
International aid to the Republicans ran from the heroic to the
sinister. Thousands of leftists and idealistic volunteers from
throughout Europe and America flocked to International Brigades to
defend the Republic. Material support, however, came only from
Stalin, who demanded gold payment in return and ordered Comintern
agents and commissars to accompany the Soviet supplies. These
Stalinists systematically murdered Trotskyites and other “enemies on
the left,” undermined the radical government of Barcelona, and
exacerbated the intramural confusion in Republican ranks. The upshot
of Soviet intervention was to discredit the Republic and thereby
strengthen Western resolve to stay out.

The war dragged on through 1937 and 1938 and claimed some 500,000
lives before the Nationalists finally captured Barcelona in January 1939
and Madrid in March. During the final push to victory, France and
Britain recognized Franco's government. By then, however, the
fulcrum of diplomacy had long since shifted to central Europe. The
Nationalist victory did not, in the end, redound to the detriment of
France, for Franco politely sent the Germans and Italians home and
observed neutrality in the coming war, whereas a pro-Communist
Spain might have posed a genuine threat to France during the era of
the Nazi–Soviet pact.

The return of U.S. isolationism
The extreme isolationism that gripped the United States in the 1930s
reinforced British appeasement and French paralysis. To Americans
absorbed with their own distress, Hitler and Mussolini appeared as
slightly ridiculous rabble-rousers on movie-house newsreels and
certainly no concern of theirs. Moreover, the revisionist theory that
the United States had been sucked into war in 1917 through the
machinations of arms merchants or Wall Street bankers gained
credence from the Senate's Nye Committee inquiries of 1934–36. U.S.
isolationism, however, had many roots: liberal abhorrence of arms and

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war, the evident failure of Wilsonianism, the Great Depression, and
the revisionism of American historians, who were among the leaders in
arguing that Germany was not solely responsible for 1914. Nor were
isolationists restricted only to the Great Plains states or to one
political party. Some members of Congress favoured punctilious
defense of U.S. interests in the world but rejected involvement in the
quarrels of others. Some were full-fledged pacifists even if it meant
surrendering certain U.S. rights abroad. Left-wing isolationists warned
that another great war would push the United States in the direction
of Fascism. Conservative isolationists warned that another great war
would usher in socialism.
These factions disputed among themselves over the wording of
legislation, but their collective strength was enough to carry a number
of bills designed to prevent a recurrence of the events of 1914–17. The
Johnson Act of 1934 forbade American citizens to lend money to
foreign countries that had not paid their past war debts. The
Neutrality acts of 1935 and 1936 prohibited sale of war matériel to
belligerents and forbade any exports to belligerents not paid for with
cash and carried in their own ships. Thus, the United States was not to
acquire a stake in the victory of any side or expose its merchant ships
to submarines. The effect of these acts, however, was to preclude
American aid to Abyssinia, Spain, and China, and thus hurt the victims
of aggression more than the aggressors.

The United States did take steps in the 1930s, however, to mobilize
the Western Hemisphere for the purposes of fighting the Depression
and resisting European, especially German, encroachments. Roosevelt
gave this initiative a name in his first inaugural address: the Good
Neighbor Policy. Building on steps taken by Hoover, Roosevelt pledged
nonintervention in Latin domestic affairs at the Montevideo
Pan-American Conference of 1933, signed a treaty with the new Cuban
government (May 29, 1934) abrogating the Platt Amendment, mediated
a truce in the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay in 1934 (with a
peace treaty following in July 1938), and negotiated commercial
treaties with Latin-American states. As war approached overseas,
Washington also promoted pan-American unity on the basis of
nonintervention, condemnation of aggression, no forcible collection of
debts, equality of states, respect for treaties, and continental
solidarity. The Declaration of Lima (1938) provided for pan-American
consultation in case of a threat to the “peace, security, or territorial
integrity” of any state.

Japan's aggression in China
The first major challenge to American isolationism, however, occurred
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in Asia. After pacifying Manchukuo, the Japanese turned their sights
toward North China and Inner Mongolia. Over the intervening years,
however, the KMT had made progress in unifying China. The
Communists were still in the field, having survived their Long March
(1934–35) to Yen-an in the north, but Chiang's government, with
German and American help, had introduced modern roads and
communications, stable paper currency, banking, and educational
systems. How might Tokyo best round out its continental interests: by
preemptive war or by cooperating with this resurgent China to expel
Western influence from East Asia? The chief of the operations section
of the Japanese general staff favoured collaboration and feared that
an invasion of China proper would bring war with the Soviets or the
Americans, whose economic potential he understood. Supreme
headquarters, however, preferred to take military advantage of
apparent friction between Chiang and a North China warlord. In
September 1936, when Japan issued seven secret demands that would
have made North China a virtual Japanese protectorate, Chiang
rejected them. In December Chiang was even kidnapped by the
commander of Nationalist forces from Manchuria, who tried to force
him to suspend fighting the Communists and to declare war on Japan.
This Sian Incident demonstrated the unlikelihood of Chinese
collaboration with the Japanese program and strengthened the war
party in Tokyo. As in 1931, hostilities began almost spontaneously and
soon took on a life of their own.

An incident at the Marco Polo Bridge near Peking (then known as
Pei-p'ing) on July 7, 1937, escalated into an undeclared Sino-Japanese
war. Contrary to the Japanese analysis, both Chiang and Mao Zedong
vowed to come to the aid of North China, while Japanese moderates
failed to negotiate a truce or localize the conflict and lost all
influence. By the end of July the Japanese had occupied Peking and
Tientsin. The following month they blockaded the South China coast
and captured Shanghai after brutal fighting and the slaughter of
countless civilians. Similar atrocities accompanied the fall of Nanking
on December 13. The Japanese expected the Chinese to sue for peace,
but Chiang moved his government to Han-k'ou and continued to resist
the “dwarf bandits” with hit-and-run tactics that sucked the invaders
in more deeply. The Japanese could occupy cities and fan out along
roads and rails almost at will, but the countryside remained hostile.
World opinion condemned Japan in the harshest terms. The U.S.S.R.
concluded a nonaggression pact with China (Aug. 21, 1937), and
Soviet-Mongolian forces skirmished with Japanese on the border.
Britain vilified Japan in the League, while Roosevelt invoked the
Stimson Doctrine in his “quarantine speech” of October 5. But
Roosevelt was prevented by the Neutrality acts from aiding China even
after the sinking of U.S. and British gunboats on the Yangtze.

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On March 28, 1938, the Japanese established a Manchukuo-type
puppet regime at Nanking, and spring and summer offensives brought
them to the Wu-han cities (chiefly Han-k'ou) on the Yangtze. Chiang
stubbornly moved his government again, this time to Chungking, which
the Japanese bombed mercilessly in May 1939, as they did Canton for
weeks before its occupation in October. Such incidents, combined with
the Nazi and Fascist air attacks in Spain and Abyssinia, were omens of
the total war to come. The United States finally took a first step in
opposition to Japanese aggression on July 29, 1939, announcing that it
would terminate its 1911 commercial treaty with Japan in six months
and thereby cut off vital raw materials to the Japanese war machine.
It was all Roosevelt could do under existing law, but it set in train the
events that would lead to Pearl Harbor.

Anschluss and the Munich Pact
The German-Austrian union
Heightened assertiveness also characterized foreign policies in Europe
in 1937. But while Hitler's involved explicit preparations for war,
Britain's consisted of explicit attempts to satisfy him with concessions.
The conjuncture of these policies doomed the independence of
Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, and set Europe on a slippery
slope to war.

By the end of 1936, Hitler and the Nazis were total masters of
Germany with the exceptions of the army and the foreign office, and
even the latter had to tolerate the activities of a special party
apparatus under the Nazi “expert” on foreign policy, Joachim von
Ribbentrop. Nazi prestige, bolstered by such theatrics as the Berlin
Olympics, the German pavilion at the Paris Exhibition, and the
enormous Nürnberg party rallies, was reaching its zenith. In September
1936, Hitler imitated Stalin again in his proclamation of a Four-Year
Plan to prepare the German economy for war under the leadership of
Hermann Göring. With the Rhineland secured, Hitler grew anxious to
begin his “drive to the east,” if possible with British acquiescence. To
this end he appointed Ribbentrop ambassador to London in October
1936 with the plea, “Bring me back the British alliance.” Intermittent
talks lasted a year, their main topic being the return of the German
colonies lost at Versailles. But agreement was impossible, since Hitler's
real goal was a free hand on the Continent, while the British hoped, in
return for specific concessions, to secure arms control and respect for
the status quo.
Meanwhile, Stanley Baldwin, having seen the abdication crisis through

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to a finish, retired in May 1937 in favour of Neville Chamberlain. The
latter now had the chance to pursue what he termed “active
appeasement”: find out what Hitler really wants, give it to him, and
thereby save the peace and husband British resources for defense of
the empire against Italy and Japan. By the time of Lord Halifax's
celebrated visit to Berchtesgaden in November 1937, Hitler had
already lost interest in the talks and begun to prepare for the
absorption of Austria, a country in which, said Halifax, Britain took
little interest. Hitler had also taken measures to complete the
Nazification of foreign and defense policy.

On November 5, Hitler made a secret speech in the presence of the
commanders of the three armed services, War Minister Werner von
Blomberg, Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath, and Göring. The
Führer made clear his belief that Germany must begin to expand in the
immediate future, with Austria and Czechoslovakia as the first targets,
and that the German economy must be ready for full-scale war by
1943–45. On November 19, Hitler replaced Schacht as minister of
economics. Two months later he fired generals Blomberg and Werner
von Fritsch in favour of the loyal Walther von Brauchitsch and Wilhelm
Keitel and replaced Neurath with Ribbentrop. Historians have debated
whether the November 5 speech was a blueprint for aggression, a plea
for continued rearmament, or preparation for the purges that
followed. But there is no denying that the overheated Nazi economy
had reached a critical turn with labour and resources fully employed
and capital running short. Hitler would soon have to introduce
austerity measures, slow down the arms program, or make good the
shortages of labour and capital through plunder. Since these material
needs pushed in the same direction as Hitler's dynamic quest for
Lebensraum, 1937 merely marked the transition into concrete
time-tables of what Hitler had always desired. Nazification of the
economy, the military, and the foreign service only removed the last
vestige of potential opposition to a risky program of ruthless conquest.
German intrigues in Austria had continued since 1936 through the
agency of Arthur Seyss-Inquart's Nazi movement. When Papen, now
ambassador to Vienna, reported on Feb. 5, 1938, that the Schuschnigg
regime showed signs of weakness, Hitler invited the Austrian dictator
to a meeting on the 12th. In the course of an intimidating tirade Hitler
demanded that Nazis be included in the Vienna government.
Schuschnigg, however, insisted that Austria remain “free and German,
independent and social, Christian and united,” and scheduled a
plebiscite for March 13 through which Austrians might express their
will. Hitler hurriedly issued directives to the military, and when
Schuschnigg was induced to resign, Seyss-Inquart simply appointed
himself chancellor and invited German troops to intervene. A
last-minute Italian demarche inviting Britain to make colonial

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concessions in return for Italian support of Austria met only “indignant
resignation” and Anthony Eden's irrelevant complaints about Italy's
troops in Spain. A French plea for Italian firmness, in turn, provoked
Ciano to ask: “Do they expect to rebuild Stresa in an hour with
Hannibal at the gates?” Still, Hitler waited nervously on the evening of
March 11 until he was informed that Mussolini would take no action in
support of Austria. Hitler replied with effusive thanks and promises of
eternal amity. In the nighttime invasion, 70 percent of the vehicles
sent into Austria by the unprepared Wehrmacht broke down on the
road to Vienna, but they met no resistance. Austrians cheered
deliriously on the 13th, when Hitler declared Austria a province of the
Reich.

The taking of Czechoslovakia
The Anschluss outflanked the next state on Hitler's list,
Czechoslovakia. Once again Hitler could make use of national
self-determination to confuse the issue, as 3,500,000 German-speakers
organized by another Nazi henchman, Konrad Henlein, inhabited the
Czech borderlands in the Sudeten Mountains. Already on February 20,
before the Anschluss, Hitler had denounced the Czechs for alleged
persecution of this German minority, and on April 21 he ordered Keitel
to prepare for the invasion of Czechoslovakia by October even if the
French should intervene. Chamberlain was intent on appeasing Hitler,
but this meant “educating” him to seek redress of grievances through
negotiation, not force. He issued a stern warning to Germany during
the spring war scare while pressuring Beneš to compromise with
Henlein. Germany, however, had instructed Henlein to display
obstinacy so as to prevent agreement. In August a worried British
Cabinet dispatched the elderly Lord Walter Runciman to mediate, but
Henlein rejected the program of concessions he finally arranged with
Beneš. As the prospect of war increased, the British appeasers grew
more frantic. In the spring the editor of the leftist New Statesman
thought “armed resistance to the dictators was now useless. If there
was a war we should lose it.” General Edmund Ironside, ruing the
prime minister's reluctance to rearm, sneered that “Chamberlain is of
course right. . . . We cannot expose ourselves now to a German attack.
We simply commit suicide if we do.” And a shocking Times editorial
called for the partition of Czechoslovakia, a view shared by Hitler at
the Nürnberg party rally, where he condemned “Czechia” as an
“artificial state.” Chamberlain then journeyed to Berchtesgaden and
proposed to give the Germans all they demanded. Hitler, nonplussed,
spoke of the cession of all Sudeten areas at least 80 percent German
and agreed not to invade while Chamberlain won over Paris and
Prague.

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The French Cabinet of Édouard Daladier and Georges-Étienne Bonnet
agreed, after the latter's frantic pleas to Roosevelt failed to shake
American isolation. The Czechs, however, resisted handing over their
border fortifications to Hitler until September 21, when the British and
French made it clear that they would not fight for the Sudetenland.
Chamberlain flew to Bad Godesberg the next day only to be met with a
new demand that the entire Sudetenland be ceded to Germany within
a week. The Czechs, fully mobilized as of the 23rd, refused, and
Chamberlain returned home in a funk: “How horrible, fantastic,
incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas
masks here because of a quarrel in a far-away country between people
of whom we know nothing.” But his sorrowful address to Parliament
was interrupted by the news that Mussolini had proposed a conference
to settle the crisis peacefully. Hitler agreed, having seen how little
enthusiasm there was in Germany for war and on the advice of Göring,
Joseph Goebbels, and the generals. Chamberlain and Daladier, elated,
flew to Munich on September 29.
The awkward and pitiful Munich Conference ended on the 30th in a
compromise prearranged between the two dictators. The Czechs were
to evacuate all regions indicated by an international commission
(subsequently dominated by the Germans) by October 10 and were
given no recourse—the agreement was final. Poland took the
opportunity to grab the Teschen district disputed since 1919.
Czechoslovakia was no longer a viable state, and Beneš resigned the
presidency in despair. In return, Hitler promised no more territorial
demands in Europe and consultations with Britain in case of any future
threat to peace. Chamberlain was ecstatic.

Why did the Western powers abandon Czechoslovakia, which, by dint
of its geography, democracy, military potential (more than 30 divisions
and the Škoda arms works), and commitment to collective security,
could rightly be called “the keystone of interwar Europe”? No
completely persuasive answer is possible, but this height of
appeasement can be accounted for by politics, principles, and
pragmatism. There is no question that the Munich settlement was
extremely popular. Chamberlain returned to London claiming “peace
for our time” and was greeted by applauding throngs. So was Daladier.
The relief was so evident even in Germany that Hitler swore he would
allow no more meddling by “English governesses” to cheat him of his
war. Of course, the euphoria was not universal: aside from the Czechs,
who wept in the streets, Churchill spoke for a growing minority when
he observed that the British Empire had just suffered its worst military
defeat and had not fired a shot.
Could Czechoslovakia have been defended? Or was Munich a necessary
evil to buy time for Britain to rearm? Certainly British air defenses

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were unready, while France's scarcely existed, and the strength of the
Luftwaffe, so recently discounted by the British Cabinet, was now
exaggerated. The French and Czech armies still outnumbered the
German, but French intelligence also magnified German strength,
while the army had no plans for invading Germany in support of the
Czechs. The Munich powers were criticized for ignoring the U.S.S.R.,
which had claimed readiness to honour its alliance with Prague. The
U.S.S.R., however, would hardly confront Germany unless the Western
powers were already engaged, and the ways open to them were few
without transit rights across Poland. The West discounted Soviet
military effectiveness in light of Stalin's 1937 purge of his entire officer
corps down to battalion level. The Soviets were also distracted by
division-scale fighting that broke out with Japanese forces on the
Manchurian border in July–August 1938. At best, a few squadrons of
Soviet planes might have been sent to Prague.
Of course, the moral cause of liberating the Sudeten Germans was
ludicrous in view of the nature of the Nazi regime and was far
outweighed by the moral lapse of deserting the doughty Czechs.
(French ambassador André François-Poncet, upon reading the Munich
accord, choked, “Thus does France treat her only allies who had
remained faithful to her.”) That betrayal, in turn, seemed more than
outweighed by the moral cause of preventing another war. In the end,
the war was delayed only a year, and whatever the military realities of
1938 versus 1939, the appeasement policy was an exercise in
self-delusion. Chamberlain and his ilk did not begin their reasoning
with an analysis of Hitlerism and then work forward to a policy.
Rather, they began with a policy based on abstract analysis of the
causes of war, then worked backward to an image of Hitler that suited
the needs of that policy. As a result, they gave Hitler far more than
they ever gave the democratic statesmen of Weimar and, in the end,
the freedom to launch the very war they slaved to prevent.
Hitler had no intention of honouring Munich. In October the Nazis
encouraged the Slovak and Ruthene minorities in Czechoslovakia to set
up autonomous governments and then in November awarded Hungary
the 4,600 square miles north of the Danube taken from it in 1919. On
March 13, 1939, Gestapo officers carried the Slovak leader Monsignor
Jozef Tiso off to Berlin and deposited him in the presence of the
Führer, who demanded that the Slovaks declare their independence at
once. Tiso returned to Bratislava to inform the Slovak Diet that the
only alternative to becoming a Nazi protectorate was invasion. They
complied. All that remained to the new president in Prague, Emil
Hácha, was the core region of Bohemia and Moravia. It was time, said
Hácha with heavy sarcasm, “to consult our friends in Germany.” There
Hitler subjected the elderly, broken-spirited man to a tirade that
brought tears, a fainting spell, and finally a signature on a “request”

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that Bohemia and Moravia be incorporated into the Reich. The next
day, March 16, German units occupied Prague, and Czechoslovakia
ceased to exist.

Technology, strategy, and the outbreak of war
Rearmament and tactical planning
The Anglo-French defection from east-central Europe doomed the
balance of power of interwar Europe. That the Western powers were
unwilling and unable to defend the balance was in part the product of
inadequate military spending and planning over the course of the
decade. Still, decisions were taken in the last 24 months of peace that
would shape the course of World War II.

The central problem posed for all defense establishments was how to
respond to the lessons of the 1914–18 stalemate. The British simply
determined not to send an army to the Continent again, the French to
turn their border into an impregnable fortress, and the Germans to
perfect and synthesize the tactics and technologies of the last war into
a dynamic new style of warfare: the Blitzkrieg (“lightning war”).
Blitzkrieg was especially suited to a country whose geostrategic
position made likely a war on two fronts and dictated an offensive
posture: a Schlieffen solution made plausible by the
internal-combustion engine. Whether or not Hitler actually planned for
the type of war with which the general staff was experimenting is
debatable. Perhaps he only made a virtue of necessity, for the Nazis
had by no means created a full war economy in the 1930s. Since
Blitzkrieg attacks by tank columns, motorized infantry, and aircraft
permitted the defeat of enemies one by one with lightning speed, it
required only “armament in width,” not “armament in depth.” This in
turn allowed Hitler to mollify the German people with a “guns and
butter” economy, with each new conquest providing the resources for
the next. Blitzkrieg also allowed Hitler to conclude that he might
successfully defy other Great Powers whose combined resources
dwarfed those of Germany. After Munich, German rearmament
accelerated. Hitler may have been right to launch his war as soon as
possible, on the calculation that only by seizing the resources of the
entire continent could the Reich prevail against the British Empire or
the Soviet Union.
After Versailles the British government had established the Ten-Year
Rule as a rationale for holding down military spending: Each year it
was determined that virtually no chance existed of war breaking out
over the next decade. In 1931 expenditures were cut to the bone in

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response to the worldwide financial crisis. The following year, in
response to Japanese expansion, the Ten-Year Rule was abolished, but
Britain did not make even a gesture toward rearmament until 1935.
These were “the years the locust hath eaten,” said Churchill.
Understandably, British strategy fixed on the imperial threats from
Japan and Italy and envisioned the dispatch of the Mediterranean fleet
to Singapore. But Britain's defensive posture, budgetary limits, and
underestimation of Japan's capabilities, especially in the air, made for
a desultory buildup in battleships and cruisers rather than aircraft
carriers. The British army in turn was tied up in garrisoning the
empire; only two divisions were available for the Continent.

After March 1936 the Defence Requirements Committee recognized
that home air defense must become Britain's top priority and
commanded development of a high-speed, single-wing fighter plane.
But two years passed before Sir Warren Fisher finally persuaded the Air
Ministry to concentrate on fighter defense in its Scheme M, adopted in
November 1938. At the time of Munich, therefore, the Royal Air Force
possessed only two squadrons of Spitfires and Hurricanes, lacked
oxygen masks sufficient to allow pursuit above 15,000 feet, and had
barely begun deployment of that new wonder, radar. Only after
Hitler's occupation of Prague was conscription reinstated (April 27,
1939) and a continental army of 32 divisions planned. Throughout the
era of appeasement the British expected to resist Japan and come to
terms with Germany. Instead, by dint of the mistaken choices in naval
technology and the eleventh-hour attention to air defense, Britain
would be humiliated by Japan and withstand Germany.
Of all the Great Powers, France most expected the next war to
resemble the last and so came to rely on the doctrine of the
continuous front, the Maginot Line, and the primacy of infantry and
artillery. The Maginot Line was also a function of French demographic
weakness vis-à-vis Germany, especially after military service was cut
to one year in 1928. This siege mentality was the polar opposite of the
French “cult of the attack” in 1914 and ensured that Colonel Charles
de Gaulle's 1934 book depicting an all-mechanized army of the future
would be ignored. As late as 1939 the French war council insisted that
“no new method of warfare has been evolved since the termination of
the Great War.” Even though French military spending held steady
through the Depression, France's army and air force were ill-designed
and not deployed for offense or mobile defense, even if their aged and
hidebound commanders had had the will to conduct them.

Soviet preparations and technical choices also presaged the defeats to
come in the early years of the war. Communist doctrine decreed that
matériel, not generalship, was decisive in war, and Stalin's Five-Year
plans concentrated on steel, technology, and weapons. Soviet planners

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also benefited from the work of some outstanding aviation designers,
whose experimental planes broke world records and whose fighters
performed well in the early days of the Spanish war. But Stalin's
obsession with domestic security outweighed rational planning for
national security. In 1937 Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky and his
weapons research teams were liquidated or consigned to the gulag.
Then Stalin ordered the 1936-vintage fighter planes into mass
production at the very time the Germans were upgrading their
Messerschmidts. The Soviets were sufficiently impressed by Douhet's
theories to invest in heavy bombers that would be of marginal use
against a Blitzkrieg and defenseless without fighter cover. Stalin's
advisers also misunderstood the use of tanks, placing them in the front
line rather than in mobile reserves. These mistakes almost spelled the
death of Bolshevism in 1941.

Little need be said of Italian preparations. Italy's industrial base was so
small, and its leaders so inept, that Mussolini had to order local
Fascists to make a visual count of airplanes on fields around the
country to contrive an estimate of his air strength. In August 1939,
Ciano appealed to Mussolini not to join Hitler in unleashing war, given
the deplorable state of Italian armed forces. This apprehensiveness
was shared by the Italian generals and indeed by most military leaders
of the 1930s. The Great War had revealed the vanity of planning, the
vagaries of technical change, and the terrible cost of industrial war. In
1914 the generals had pushed for war while civilian leaders hung back;
in the 1930s the roles were reversed. Only in Japan, which had won
easy victories at little cost in 1914, did the military push for action.

Poland and Soviet anxiety
Hitler's cynical occupation of Prague, giving the final lie to all his
peaceful protestations after Munich, prompted much speculation
about the identity of his next victim: Romania with its oil reserves, the
Ukraine, Poland, or even the “Germanic” Netherlands, which suffered
an invasion scare in January? Chamberlain himself, offended in
conscience and ego, attacked Hitler's mendacity and evident intention
of dominating the continent by force. In a speech on March 17, 1939,
he gave voice to the new conviction of “the man on the street” that
Hitler could not be trusted and must be stopped. Three days later
Hitler renewed his demand for a “corridor across the [Polish] Corridor”
to East Prussia and restoration of Danzig to the Reich. On the 22nd he
underscored his seriousness by forcing Lithuania to cede Memel
(Klaipėda).
After 10 days of hand wringing, during which Colonel Beck repeated
Poland's opposition to seeking help from Moscow, the British Cabinet

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declared a unilateral military guarantee of Polish security on March 31,
solemnized in a bilateral treaty on April 6. It seemed an extraordinary
turnaround in British policy: the apparent end of appeasement. In
fact, it was a last desperate effort by Chamberlain to preserve
appeasement and teach Hitler to settle foreign disputes by diplomacy,
as at Munich, and not by force, as at Prague. But the pace of Fascist
expansion was irreversible and even contagious. Mussolini had grown
irritable over Hitler's succession of coups and his own junior-partner
status, so Italy occupied Albania on April 7 and expelled its erstwhile
client King Zog. Hitler, who reacted to the British guarantee with the
oath, “I'll cook them a stew they'll choke on!” renounced his 1934 pact
with Poland and the Anglo-German Naval Treaty on the 28th. Germany
and Italy then turned their Axis into a military alliance known as the
Pact of Steel on May 22.
How could Britain and France ever make good on their pledges to
defend Poland? British planning called only for a naval blockade in the
early stages of war, while the French (despite a promise to attack)
contemplated no action beyond French soil. The answer was that the
Polish guarantee was a military bluff unless the Red Army could
somehow be enlisted. So finally, in the late spring of 1939, the
Western allies went in search of collaboration with Moscow.

Stalin had witnessed events during the era of appeasement with
growing suspicion and moved his pieces on the chessboard with
deftness and cynicism. His overriding purpose was to deflect the
thrusts of Germany and Japan elsewhere or—if the U.S.S.R. were
forced to fight—make certain that the Western powers were likewise
engaged. German reoccupation of the Rhineland had been a military
setback, since it freed Germany for adventures to the east, but a
diplomatic boon, since it enhanced the value of the Soviet alliance for
France. The Anti-Comintern Pact had opened the terrible possibility
for the Soviet Union of a war on two fronts, but it soon developed that
Berlin and Tokyo were both expecting the other to stand guard over
Russia while they pursued booty in central Europe and China
respectively. Now Britain and France were promising to fight Hitler
over Poland, thereby handing Stalin the choice of joining the Western
powers in war or dealing separately with Germany to avoid conflict
entirely. Fearing that war might unleash rebellion at home, Stalin
chose to become the greatest appeaser of all.
It is often said that Munich forced Stalin to conclude that the Western
powers were pushing Nazi Germany to the east and thus reluctantly to
consider rapprochement with Hitler. But one might just as well
interpret Litvinov's passionate pleas for collective security as a ploy to
provoke conflict between Germany and the West while the U.S.S.R.
huddled in safety behind its Polish buffer. The incident that made

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possible the union of the two dictators, as historian Adam Ulam has
shown, was not Munich but the British guarantee of Poland. Before
that act Stalin faced the prospect of an unopposed German march into
Poland, whereupon the U.S.S.R. would be in mortal danger. After that
act, Hitler could seize Poland only at the cost of war with the West,
whereupon Hitler would need the U.S.S.R. as an ally. The British
guarantee thus made Stalin the arbiter of Europe.

In a contest for Soviet friendship, however, the Allies were at a
distinct disadvantage. All they could offer Stalin was the likelihood of
war, albeit in alliance with them. On May 3, Stalin replaced Foreign
Minister Litvinov, pro-Western and a Jew, with Vyacheslav Molotov—a
clear signal of his willingness to improve relations with the Nazis. The
Western powers accordingly stepped up their appeals to Moscow for an
alliance, but they faced two lofty hurdles. First, Stalin demanded the
right to occupy the Baltic states and portions of Romania. While
Westerners could scarcely expect to enlist the Red Army in their cause
without giving something in return, they could not justify turning free
peoples over to Stalinist tyranny. Second, the Poles, as always, refused
to invite the Red Army onto lands they had wrested from that same
army just 18 years before. By July, Stalin was also demanding that a
military convention precede the political one to ensure that he was
not left in the lurch. Ironically, the only ploy likely to persuade Stalin
of Western sincerity was a blunt threat that the West would not fight
for Poland unless the U.S.S.R. participated.
Since the spring of 1939 the U.S.S.R. had been sending signals to Berlin
that Hitler alternately acknowledged and ignored. His hatred for the
Moscow regime was overcome, however, by the urgings of Ribbentrop
and the unease of his generals. The Soviets, for their part, were again
fighting heavy battles along the Manchurian border and were in need
of security in Europe. Soviet bargaining power was enhanced by the
fact that Hitler had a timetable: He had ordered the invasion of
Poland by August 26. Negotiations dragged on from July 18 to August
21, when Hitler insisted that Stalin receive Ribbentrop and conclude
their business two days hence. On Aug. 23, 1939, therefore,
Ribbentrop and Molotov signed the German–Soviet Nonaggression Pact
in Moscow, then raised their glasses as Stalin, the leader of world
Communism, toasted the German people and their beloved Führer and
vowed never to betray them. This nonagression pact was in fact a pact
of aggression against Poland, which was to be partitioned, roughly
along the old Curzon Line. Hitler also granted the U.S.S.R. a free hand
in Finland, the Baltic states, and Bessarabia.
Hitler expected that his successful wooing of Russia would oblige
Britain and France to withdraw their pledge to Poland. The free
peoples were indeed shocked by the news from Moscow, but far from

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succumbing, they steeled their will to resist. The world situation, so
cloudy since 1933, suddenly seemed clear, and scales fell from many
eyes. The abstract and often effete ideological debate over
democratic decadence and the relative merits of Fascism and
Communism came suddenly to an end. Both vaunted ideologies now
seemed so much lying propaganda, and their patrons so many
gangsters. The day after the pact Chamberlain wrote to Hitler to warn
that British resolve was as firm as ever, and on the 25th he signed a
full alliance with Poland. British determination and the news that Italy
was not ready for war prompted Hitler to delay his invasion a week in
hopes of detaching Britain with promises of treaties and guarantees of
the British Empire. When Chamberlain refused, Hitler demanded that a
Polish plenipotentiary be sent to Berlin on August 30 to settle the
matter of Danzig and the Polish Corridor. Should the Poles refuse,
their obstinacy might give London an excuse to leave them to their
fate. Colonel Beck, however, had seen the fate of Schuschnigg and
Hácha, and he would not submit to a Hitlerian kidnapping or to
another Munich. When Hitler's ultimatum expired, the German army
staged a border incident and invaded Poland in force on the morning
of Sept. 1, 1939. The British and French parliaments, confident that
their governments had turned every stone in search of peace, declared
war on Germany on September 3.

Hitler's war or Chamberlain's?
For two decades after 1939, German guilt for the outbreak of World War
II seemed incontestable. The Nürnberg war-crimes trials in 1946 brought
to light damning evidence of Nazi ambitions, preparations for war, and
deliberate provocation of the crises over Austria, the Sudetenland, and
Poland. Revelation of Nazi tyranny, torture, and genocide was a powerful
deterrent to anyone in the West inclined to dilute German guilt. To be
sure, there were bitter recriminations in France and Britain against those
who had failed to stand up to Hitler, and the United States and the
U.S.S.R. alike were later to invoke the lessons of the 1930s to justify Cold
War policies: Appeasement only feeds the appetite of aggressors; there
must be “no more Munichs.” Nonetheless, World War II was undeniably
Hitler's war, as the ongoing publication of captured German documents
seemed to prove.
The British historian A.J.P. Taylor challenged the thesis of sole Nazi guilt
in 1961, coincidently the same year in which Fritz Fischer revived the
notion of German guilt for World War I. Taylor boldly suggested that
Hitler's “ideology” was nothing more than the sort of nationalist ravings
“which echo the conversation of any Austrian cafe or German
beer-house”; that Hitler's ends and means resembled those of any
“traditional German statesman”; and that the war came because Britain

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and France dithered between appeasement and resistance, leading Hitler
to miscalculate and bring on the accident of September 1939. Needless to
say, revisionism on a figure so odious as Hitler sparked vigorous rebuttal
and debate. If Hitler had been a traditional statesman, then
appeasement would have worked, said some. If the British had been
consistent in appeasement—or resisted earlier—the war would not have
happened, said others.
Fischer's theses on World War I were also significant, for, if Germany at
that earlier time was bent on European hegemony and world power, then
one could argue a continuity in German foreign policy from at least 1890
to 1945. Devotees of the “primacy of domestic policy” even made
comparisons between Hitler's use of foreign policy to crush domestic
dissent and similar practices under the Kaiser and Bismarck. But how,
critics retorted, could one argue for continuity between the traditional
imperialism of Wilhelmine Germany and the fanatical racial
extermination of Nazi Germany after 1941? At bottom, Hitler was not
trying to preserve traditional elites but to destroy the domestic and
international order alike.
Soviet writers tried, without success, to draw a convincing causal chain
between capitalist development and Fascism, but the researches of the
British Marxist T.W. Mason exposed the German economic crisis of 1937,
suggesting that the timing of World War II was partly a function of
economic pressures. Finally, Alan Bullock suggested a synthesis: Hitler
knew where he wanted to go—his will was unbending—but as to how to
get there he was flexible, an opportunist. Gerhard Weinberg's exhaustive
study of the German documents then confirmed a neo-traditional
interpretation to the effect that Hitler was bent on war and Lebensraum
and that appeasement only delayed his gratification.

Publication of British and French documents, in turn, enabled historians
to sketch a subtler portrait of appeasement. Chamberlain's reputation
improved during the 1970s as American historians, conscious of U.S.
overextension in the world and sympathetic to détente with the Soviets,
came to appreciate the plight of Britain in the 1930s. Financial, military,
and strategic rationalizations, however, could not erase the gross
misunderstanding of the nature of the enemy that underlay
appeasement. The British historian Anthony Adamthwaite concluded in
1984 that despite the accumulation of sources the fact remains that the
appeasers' determination to reach agreement with Hitler blinded them to
reality. If to understand is not to forgive, neither is it to give the past the
odour of inevitability. Hitler wanted war, and Western and Soviet policies
throughout the 1930s helped him to achieve it.

World War II, 1939–45
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War once again broke out over nationality conflicts in east-central Europe,
provoked in part by a German drive for continental hegemony, and it
expanded, once again, into a global conflict whose battle zones touched
the waters or heartlands of almost every continent. The total nature of
World War II surpassed that of 1914–18 in that civilian populations not only
contributed to the war effort but also became direct targets of aerial
attack. Moreover, in 1941 the Nazi regime unleashed a war of
extermination against Slavs, Jews, and other elements deemed inferior by
Hitler's ideology, while Stalinist Russia extended its campaign of terror
against the Ukrainians to the conquered Poles. The Japanese-American war
in the Pacific also assumed at times the brutal aspect of a war between
races. This ultimate democratization of warfare eliminated the age-old
distinction between combatants and non-combatants and ensured that
total casualties in World War II would greatly exceed those of World War I
and that civilian casualties would exceed the military.
Once again the European war devolved into a contest between a
German-occupied Mitteleuropa and a peripheral Allied coalition. But this
time Italy abandoned neutrality for the German side, and the Soviet Union
held out in the east, while France collapsed in the west. Hence Soviet
dictator Joseph Stalin took France's place in meetings of the “Big Three,”
together with Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The Japanese
chose to remain neutral vis-à-vis the U.S.S.R., while the Grand Alliance of
anti-Fascist states simmered with conflicts over strategy and war aims.
World War II, therefore, comprised several parallel or overlapping wars,
while the war in Europe became a kind of three-way struggle among the
forces of democracy, Nazism, and Communism. As soon as German and
Japanese power were effaced, the conflicts among the victors burst into
the open and gave birth to the Cold War. World War II completed the
destruction of the old Great Power system, prepared the disintegration of
Europe's overseas empires, and submerged Europe itself into a world arena
dominated by the Soviet Union and the United States.

The last European war, 1939–41
Poland and the northern war
At first glance Germany might have seemed the underdog in the war
launched by Hitler. The Wehrmacht numbered 54 active divisions,
compared to 55 French, 30 Polish, and two British divisions available
for the Continent. But the combination of German Blitzkrieg tactics,
French inactivity, and Russian perfidy doomed Poland to swift defeat.
The German army command deployed 40 of its divisions, including all
six panzer (armoured) divisions and two-thirds of its 3,500 aircraft in
the east. The so-called Siegfried Line in the west, manned by 11 active

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divisions and reserve units as they became available, sufficed to block
a French advance. Beginning on September 1, 1939, General Fedor von
Bock's northern army corps pinched off the Polish Corridor from East
Prussia and Pomerania, while General Gerd von Rundstedt's more
powerful southern army corps drove across the border from Silesia and
Slovakia. Polish Marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz tried vainly to defend
Poland's industrial regions along the frontier, increasing his army's
vulnerability to Blitzkrieg. German tanks quickly burst into the rear,
while dive-bombing Stukas disrupted Polish supply and reinforcements.
The Polish air force was destroyed in 48 hours. Within a week two
panzer corps advanced 140 miles to the outskirts of Warsaw and the
Bug River line to the south. Śmigły-Rydz's order for a general retreat
on the 10th came too late; most Polish forces were already outflanked
on the north by General Heinz Guderian's rapid thrust to Brest-Litovsk
and on the south by Paul von Kleist's panzers advancing from Lvov. On
September 17 the pincers closed, the Soviet army invaded from the
east, and the Polish government fled to Romania, whence it made its
way to London as the first of many European governments-in-exile.
The Warsaw garrison surrendered on the 27th.

In a protocol of May 15, 1939, the French had promised to take the
offensive two weeks after mobilization. Instead, General Maurice
Gamelin contented himself with a brief sortie into the Saar, after
which the French withdrew to the Maginot Line. The regime most
upset by the German walkover in Poland was Hitler's new ally, the
Soviets. On September 10, Stalin ordered partial mobilization and
loudly boasted of the Red Army's “three million men.” Since a callup of
reserve troops was scarcely needed merely to occupy Moscow's share
of Poland under the German-Soviet pact, this maneuver must have
reflected Stalin's fear that the Germans might not stop at the
prearranged line. Stalin told the German ambassador on September
25: “In the final settlement of the Polish question anything that in the
future might create friction between Germany and the Soviet Union
must be avoided.” Three days later Molotov signed a new agreement
granting Germany a somewhat larger share of Poland as well as
extensive Soviet trade in return for a free hand in Lithuania. Only
after this second German-Soviet pact did Communist parties in the
West fully embrace their new Nazi ally and oppose Western military
resistance to Hitler. Henceforth, Stalin was a fearful and solicitous
neighbour of the Nazi empire, and he moved quickly to absorb the
regions accorded him. By October 10, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia
had been forced to accept Soviet occupation. When Finland resisted
Soviet demands for border rectifications and bases, Stalin ordered the
Red Army to attack on November 30. He expected a lightning victory
of his own that would impress Hitler and increase Soviet security in the
Baltic. Instead, the Finns resisted fiercely in this “Winter War,”
holding the fortified Mannerheim Line in the south and cutting off the

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road-bound Soviet columns in the north with their mobile ski troops.
The disorganized Red Army, by contrast, showed the effect of the
recent military purges. In some cases only the machine guns of NKVD
(political police) units kept the soldiers at the front. Soviet military
prestige suffered a devastating blow.

No major fighting broke out in the West during this period,
sardonically dubbed the “Sitzkrieg,” or “Phony War.” After the fall of
Poland, while hope still existed that a repetition of World War I might
be avoided, Hitler sought to persuade Britain to renege on its
commitment to Poland's defense. In secret contacts and in his “Peace
Address” to the Reichstag of October 6 he even hinted at the
possibility of restoring a rump Polish state. The Chamberlain Cabinet,
betrayed so often by Hitler, refused to acknowledge the demarches,
however, and Hitler ordered preparations for an attack in the west by
November 12. The army high command protested vigorously against a
winter campaign, and bad weather did force a postponement first to
January 1940 and then to the spring. Since the French and British were
loath to take initiative, the Phony War dragged on. Gamelin's lame
proposal of an advance through the Low Countries was moot given the
Dutch and Belgian commitments to neutrality. Combat occurred only
at sea. In 1939 alone Germany's U-boats sank 110 merchant vessels as
well as the aircraft carrier Courageous (September 17) and the
battleship Royal Oak (October 14). The battle cruisers Scharnhorst and
Gneisenau and pocket battleship Deutschland eluded British pursuit
and returned safely to port. The Graf Spee, however, caught in the
South Atlantic, sank nine merchantmen before sustaining damage from
British cruisers. It then put in at Montevideo, Uruguay, causing a
diplomatic crisis for the South American states. The naval situation,
therefore, came quickly to resemble that of World War I, with the
British fleet maintaining a distant blockade in the North Sea and the
Germans waging a submarine war against British shipping.
The Russo-Finnish War, however, suggested that Scandinavia might
provide a theatre in which to strike a blow at the German-Russian
alliance. Beyond the feckless expulsion of the Soviet Union from the
League of Nations on December 14, Britain and France contemplated
helping the brave Finns—even at the risk of war with Russia—and
perhaps cutting the flow of Swedish iron to Germany. The French
wanted to send several divisions to Narvik in Norway and thence by
land to Finland. The British demurred at such a violation of neutral
rights, but Churchill, now first lord of the Admiralty, insisted that
“humanity, rather than legality, must be our guide.” In the event, the
Allies dithered (as did the United States, which debated granting a
loan to Finland, the only nation to pay interest on its World War I
debt) until a massive Soviet offensive broke the Mannerheim Line in
February. Stalin had given a hint of the future by setting up a Finnish

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Democratic Republic during the war, under the Comintern agent Otto
Kuusinen, but he settled for a treaty with Helsinki on March 12, 1940,
in which Finland ceded the Karelian isthmus and leased a naval base to
the U.S.S.R. on the Hangö peninsula.

The Finnish fiasco toppled Daladier's government in favour of a Cabinet
under Paul Reynaud. He and Neville Chamberlain hoped at least to
deny the Germans possible U-boat bases by mining or occupying
Norwegian ports. But the German navy, too, had persuaded Hitler of
the strategic importance of Norway, and on April 9, the day after
British minelaying began, the Germans suddenly seized the ports from
Oslo to Narvik in a brilliant sea and air operation, and occupied
Denmark by Blitzkrieg. British troops contested Norway and managed
to capture Narvik on May 27, but by then greater events were
unfolding on the Continent. The British evacuated Narvik on June 6,
and Vidkun Quisling's collaborationists assumed control of Norway.

The Western front
The Allies' bungling in Scandinavia lost Chamberlain the confidence of
Parliament, and King George VI selected Winston Churchill to head the
War Cabinet. In the first of many ringing speeches that would sustain
the British spirit, Churchill told his nation: “I have nothing to offer but
blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”

In eight months of warfare all the belligerents had vastly expanded
their frontline strength. In May 1940 the German army concentrated
134 divisions on the Western front, including 12 panzer divisions, 3,500
tanks and 5,200 warplanes. The French army totalled 94 divisions, the
British 10, and the neutral Belgians and Dutch 22 and eight
respectively. The French army possessed some 2,800 tanks, but less
than a third were concentrated in armoured units. The French air
force, disrupted during the Popular Front, was in any case antiquated,
and 90 percent of the artillery dated from World War I. More
important, French morale was low, sapped by the memory of the first
war's carnage, by political decadence, and by over-reliance on the
Maginot Line. Britain's Royal Air Force had become a prodigious force
thanks to 1,700 new planes, but commanders were loath to deflect
them from home defense to the Continent. The German plan of attack
in the west, meanwhile, had evolved since the previous autumn.
Originally favouring a Schlieffen-type attack with the mass
concentrated on the right wing in Belgium, the Führer had been won
to General Erich von Manstein's scheme for a panzer attack through
the rugged Ardennes Forest of southern Belgium and Luxembourg.
Either route bypassed the Maginot Line, but the latter plan took
advantage of the panzer army's ability to pierce French defenses,
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disrupt the enemy rear, and split Allied forces in two. The
concomitant risk was that Allied counterattacks might pinch off and
destroy the armoured spearheads at a blow.

The German offensive struck with devastating effect on May 10. Within
days the Dutch surrendered. Göring's Luftwaffe did not get the
message and proceeded to devastate the central city of Rotterdam,
killing numerous civilians and sending a signal to the city of London.
Meanwhile, General Gerd von Rundstedt's panzer army picked its way
through the Ardennes and emerged in force at Sedan. By May 20,
German tanks reached the coast at Abbeville and cut the Allied armies
in two. On the 28th, King Leopold III instructed the Belgian army to
surrender, while the British government ordered Lord Gort,
commanding the British Expeditionary Force, to make for Dunkirk and
prepare for evacuation by sea.
As the Blitzkrieg in Poland had shocked Stalin, so the German victory
in France shocked Mussolini. For 17 years he had preached the
necessity and beauty of war, believing that a neutral Italy would cease
to be regarded as a Great Power and that he needed war in order to
fulfill his expansionist fantasies and permit the full triumph of Fascism
at home. Yet in August 1939 he demanded from Germany 6,000,000
tons of coal, 2,000,000 tons of steel, and 7,000,000 tons of oil before
he could honour the Pact of Steel. In fact, war preparations under the
corrupt and incompetent Fascists remained feeble, and during these
months of nonbelligerence, Mussolini himself took sick and at times
even considered joining the Allies. On March 18 he met Hitler at the
Brenner Pass and was told that the Germans did not need him to win
the war but that he would be allowed to participate and thus escape
second-rate status in the Mediterranean. Still Mussolini tried to have it
both ways, telling his military chiefs that Italy would not fight Hitler's
war, but a “parallel war” to forge “a new Roman Empire.” In reality,
he would enter the war only when it seemed clear the Allies were
finished and his regime would not be put to the test.

That moment seemed to arrive in June 1940. With French defeat
assured, Mussolini declared war on France and Britain on the 10th.
“The hand that held the dagger,” said President Roosevelt, “has struck
it into the back of its neighbor.” As Mussolini put it to Marshal Pietro
Badoglio, “All we need is a few thousand dead” to win a place at the
peace conference. The Italian offensive on the Alpine front met
contemptuous resistance from the French—Italy's gains were measured
literally in yards—but Mussolini was right about the proximity of
victory. With German forces streaming east and south, the French
government fled on the 11th to Bordeaux and debated three courses of
action: request an armistice; transfer the government to North Africa
and fight on from the colonies; ask Germany for its terms and

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temporize. The choice was complicated by a French promise to Britain
not to exit the war without London's consent. Churchill, concerned
that the French fleet not fall into German hands, went so far as to
offer Anglo-French political union on June 16. Reynaud wanted to
continue the war but was outvoted. He resigned on the 16th,
whereupon the ancient Marshal Pétain asked for an armistice. From
London, General Charles de Gaulle broadcast a plea to the French
people to fight on and set about organizing Free French forces in
France's sub-Saharan colonies. But the armistice was signed at
Compiègne, in the same railway car used for the German armistice of
1918, on June 22. The Germans occupied all of northern France and
the west coast—60 percent of the country—and the rest was
administered by Pétain's quasi-Fascist collaborationist regime at Vichy.
The French navy and air force were neutralized. In another meeting of
dictators on the 18th, Hitler disappointed Mussolini with his talk of a
mild peace lest French forces be driven to defect to Britain. Instead,
Pétain broke relations with London on July 4, following a British attack
on the French fleet moored at Mers el-Kebir in Algeria. Hitler at once
toyed with the notion of winning the Vichy French to an active
alliance, thrusting Mussolini farther into the background.
Britain's refusal to give up frustrated Hitler, especially since his
ultimate goal—Lebensraum—lay in the east. The chief of the army
general staff quoted Hitler on May 21 as saying that “we are seeking
contact with Britain on the basis of partitioning the world.” But when
the carrot failed, Hitler tried the stick, authorizing plans on July 2 for
Operation Sea Lion, the cross-Channel invasion. Such an operation
required complete air superiority, and Göring promised that the
Luftwaffe could smash British air defenses in four days. The Battle of
Britain that followed in August 1940 was a massive air duel between
Germany's 1,200 bombers and a thousand fighter escorts and the RAF's
900 interceptors. But the British Hurricanes and Spitfires were
technically superior to all the German fighters except the Me-109,
which was restricted in its range to the zone south of London. The
British radar screen and ground control network permitted British
fighters to concentrate on each German attack. On September 7
Göring made the fatal error of shifting the attack from airfields to
London itself (in retaliation for a September 4 raid on Berlin). For 10
days the blitz continued night and day over London, the climax coming
on the 15th when nearly 60 German planes were shot down. Two days
later Hitler granted that air superiority was not to be had and
postponed Operation Sea Lion.
For a full year—June 1940 to June 1941—the British Empire fought on
alone (though with growing U.S. aid) against Germany, Italy, and the
threat of Japanese action in Asia. Frustrated on sea and in the air,
Hitler pondered how his overwhelming land power might be used to

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persuade Britain to call it quits. A Mediterranean strategy based on the
capture of Gibraltar, Malta, and the Suez Canal, did not seem likely to
be decisive, nor did it satisfy the Nazis' Blut und Boden (“blood and
earth”) lust for Lebensraum. To be sure, the Germans raised the
prospect of an occupation of Gibraltar numerous times with Franco,
but the latter always found an excuse to remain neutral. In fact,
Franco knew that the Spanish were exhausted after their civil war and
that Spain's Atlantic islands would be lost to the British if it joined the
Axis. A Catholic authoritarian, he was also contemptuous of the
neo-pagan Fascists. After their last meeting, Hitler confessed that he
would rather have his teeth pulled than go through another bout with
Franco. Hitler also negotiated with Pétain in July and October 1940
and May 1941, in hopes of enticing France into alliance. But Pétain,
too, played a double game, pledging “genuine collaboration” with
Germany but reassuring the British that he sought a “cautious balance”
between the belligerents.
Hitler's troublesome ally Italy, however, ensured that Germany would
be involved in complications to the south. On July 7, 1940, Ciano
visited Hitler seeking approval for an expansion of the war to
Yugoslavia and Greece. The Führer instead encouraged the occupation
of Crete and Cyprus, which would further the war against Britain. But
three days later Italy's inability to chase the British out of the
Mediterranean became apparent when a British convoy off Calabria
bumped into an Italian force that included two battleships and 16
cruisers. The Italian commander broke off the action after one hit on
one of his battleships, whereupon the Fascist air force arrived to bomb
indiscriminately friend and foe alike, doing little damage to either.
Frustrated in the Balkans and at sea, Mussolini ordered his Libyan army
to cross the Western desert and conquer Egypt. This adventure soon
turned to disaster.

The Eastern front
The end of hostilities in western Europe also provoked a jockeying for
position in eastern Europe, where Stalin's fear of the all-conquering
Nazis had grown apace. In 1940 Germany signed a pact with Romania
for oil and arms transfers. Stalin then forced the Romanian
government to hand over Bessarabia and northern Bukovina (June 26,
1940), and annexed Estonia, Latvia (July 12), and Lithuania (August 3)
to the U.S.S.R. Hungary and Bulgaria now demanded Romanian
territories for themselves, but Hitler intervened to prevent hostilities,
lest Stalin see the chance to occupy the Romanian oil fields around
Ploieşti. The Treaty of Craiova (August 21) awarded the Southern
Dobruja to Bulgaria, and the so-called Vienna Award by Hitler and

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Mussolini ceded northern Transylvania to Hungary. Romania's King
Carol II abdicated in protest, General Ion Antonescu took power, and a
German military mission arrived in Bucharest on October 12.

The Romanian coup provoked Mussolini's next rash act. “Hitler always
faces me with faits accomplis,” he raged. “This time I will pay him
back in his own coin.” On October 13, Mussolini ordered Marshal
Badoglio to prepare the long-desired attack on Greece for two weeks
hence. He would declare his independence from Hitler and
consummate his “parallel war.” On Oct. 28, 1940, seven Italian
divisions crossed the Albanian border into Greece, provoking Hitler's
adjutant to record: “Führer enraged . . . this is revenge for Norway
and France.” In fact, Mussolini's impetuous attack, combined with the
reversals in Africa, would only ensure his humiliation and utter
dependence on his northern ally. For the Greek campaign was
predictably disastrous, given Italy's bare numerical superiority and lack
of planning and equipment, the rough terrain, and the determination
of the Greeks. On November 8, General Alexandros Papagos
counterattacked, and within a month the Greeks had turned the
tables, occupying one-third of Albania. Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas
refused to let the British into Greece for fear of provoking the
Germans; indeed, he hoped to drive Italy out of the Balkans before
German help might arrive, and to induce Yugoslavia and Turkey to
make common cause with Greece against the Fascists.

The Balkan situation seriously interfered with Hitler's evolving
continental strategy. Ribbentrop still hoped to persuade him that
Britain could be induced to relent through diplomacy, and his last
achievement was the Tripartite (or Axis) Pact between Germany, Italy,
and Japan on Sept. 27, 1940. Presumably, this alliance would deflect
U.S. attention from Europe, threaten the U.S.S.R. with a war on two
fronts, and thus drive the British to despair over the prospect of facing
Germany alone. But London stood firm, and Hitler grew impatient to
get on with his real chore of seizing a Ukrainian empire for the German
master race. Upon his return from unsuccessful conferences with
Franco at Hendaye (October 23) and Pétain at Montoire (24th), Hitler
played host to Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov in Berlin (November
12–14). Though Stalin had meticulously observed his pact with Hitler,
their rivalry in the Balkans strained relations. Hitler and Ribbentrop
tried to persuade the Soviets to pursue their “natural tendency” to
expand in the direction of the Indian Ocean, but Molotov repeatedly
interrupted to ask the Germans why they were sending troops to
Finland and Romania. These conversations confirmed Hitler's intention
to turn his idle military machine to the east. Conquest of the U.S.S.R.
might serve now as both means and end, convincing the British of the
hopelessness of their situation, allowing Hitler to realize Nazi racist
fantasies, and forging a territorial basis for global empire. On

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December 18 he ordered the army to prepare Operation Barbarossa by
May 15, 1941.

This latest timetable, however, fell victim to Mussolini's folly and the
need to secure Germany's flank in the Balkans. German troops entered
Romania on Jan. 7, 1941, and Bulgaria on February 27. But Italy's
disasters brought into question the very survival of the Fascist regime.
Mussolini made Badoglio a scapegoat and in November 1940 issued the
first of his pitiful appeals to Hitler to bail him out. At their Berghof
meeting on Jan. 20, 1941, Hitler informed Mussolini of his plans to
invade Greece. The death of Metaxas in the following days, in turn,
led the Greeks to accept a British expeditionary force. Accordingly,
Hitler pressured Yugoslavia to permit the passage of German troops,
but air force officers in Belgrade staged a coup on March 27 and signed
a treaty with Moscow. Furious over such defiance, Hitler ordered a
Blitzkrieg for April 6 that broke Yugoslav resistance in five days and
overran Greece by the 22nd. Crete then succumbed to a spectacular
German airborne assault (May 20–31). Hitler set up puppet regimes in
Serbia and “Greater Croatia” and partitioned the rest of Yugoslavia
among his client states.

The Balkan campaign postponed “Barbarossa” for six weeks. This did
not overly perturb Hitler, who promised his generals victory within a
month and denied the need to prepare for cold-weather warfare in
Russia. But some generals were skeptical of Blitzkrieg in the vastness
of Russia, while others debated whether to force narrow spearheads
deep into Russia, emulating the campaign in France, or fight classic
battles of envelopment close to the frontier. Hitler's “infallible
intuition” dictated the latter, lest his armies, like Napoleon's, be
sucked too deep into Russia before enemy forces were destroyed. In
the spring of 1941 the Wehrmacht assembled 4,000,000 men—the
greatest invasion force in history—including 50 Finnish and Romanian
and 207 German divisions armed with 3,300 tanks. They faced a Red
Army of some 4,500,000 men and perhaps 15,000 tanks. German
success depended heavily on surprise, but preparations of such
magnitude could scarcely be hidden. Stalin seemed alive to the danger
when he signed a neutrality pact with Japan on April 13 (knowing of
Japan's preference for a southern strategy from the espionage of
Richard Sorge in Tokyo), then pleaded with Foreign Minister Matsuoka
Yosuke: “We must remain friends and you must now do everything to
that end.” Yet Stalin also redoubled his efforts to assure Hitler of his
good intentions and discounted British warnings of a German attack
(they had been making such predictions since June 1940, and even the
British thought a German strike against Turkey or England more likely).
Stalin may also have dismissed the warnings as attempts to poison his
relations with Germany. In any case, the Germans achieved complete
tactical surprise, while the Soviets' forward deployments exposed them

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to the full force of Blitzkrieg.

The Germans struck on June 22, 1941, along a 2,000-mile-front. Three
army groups drove deep into the Soviet Union, occupying vast
territories and capturing huge numbers of Soviet troops. But gradually
the momentum deserted the invaders. Many myths surround the 1941
campaign. It is said that the Germans were wrong in making for
Moscow like Napoleon. But Moscow was of far more military value in
1941 than in 1812; it was the hub of Soviet railroads, communications,
and government, and its capture might have crippled the Soviet effort
to reinforce the front from the Asian hinterland or have undermined
the Communist regime. It is also said that winter defeated the
Germans. But they would have had ample time to reach Moscow before
winter had they not wasted almost two months in diversions and
debate. It is also said that the size of the Soviet Union made swift
German victory impossible. But the endless Russian plain actually
aided the panzer armies by giving them limitless room to maneuver
and form the huge pockets that cost the Red Army 2,500,000 men in
the first six months. What did stop the Germans was their own
dilatoriness, the mud and unpaved roads, their underestimation of
Soviet reserves and resilience, and the Nazis' own brutality, which
alienated a population otherwise hostile to Stalinism.
By December 1941 the German invasion of the U.S.S.R. and the latter's
survival had confirmed precisely that British hope which Hitler had
meant to quash. The entry into the war of the United States that same
month made German defeat virtually certain—and also brought to a
close the last purely European war.

Origins of American belligerence
From neutrality to active aid
The outbreak of war brought a swift change of mood to the United
States. While isolationism was still widespread, the vast majority of
Americans were sympathetic to Britain, and Roosevelt did not follow
Wilson in asking Americans to be neutral in thought as well as deed.
Instead he set out to lead public opinion and gradually expand his
ability to aid the Allies. On Sept. 21, 1939, his brilliant speech to
Congress laid the groundwork for passage of the Pittman Bill, which
became law on November 4 and repealed the arms embargo on
belligerent nations. Henceforth, the United States might trade with
Britain and France, but only on a “cash and carry” basis. Senator
Arthur Vandenberg rightly noted that the United States could not
“become the arsenal for one belligerent without becoming the target

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for another.” Still, the President made clear to Churchill (with whom
he struck up close relations by correspondence) his desire to aid
Britain in every way consonant with the American mood. Only once did
Roosevelt make a feint at mediation: In March 1940 he sent
Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles to Europe on a fact-finding
mission that revealed “scant immediate prospect” of peace. When
Hitler's Western offensive followed, even that dubious prospect
disappeared, and Churchill assured his House of Commons that Britain
would fight on “until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its
power and might, steps forth to the rescue and liberation of the Old.”
In January 1940, Roosevelt asked for a mere $2,000,000,000 in defense
spending, a slight increase over the year before. But the fall of France
pushed the pace of U.S. rearmament up to $10,500,000,000 by
September. Opinion polls showed the American public heavily
favouring a policy of “all aid short of war” to Britain. On May 15,
Churchill sought to capitalize on the shifting sentiment with an
emergency request for 40 or 50 overage destroyers with which to
counter German U-boats. Roosevelt hesitated because of the legal
complications, while continuing his efforts to shape opinion by
encouraging William Allen White's Committee to Defend America to
foster the idea that “Between Us and Hitler Stands the British Fleet!”
On September 2 the United States transferred 50 warships to Britain in
return for long-term leases on British naval bases in the Western
Hemisphere. Despite Roosevelt's public relations, isolationist
sentiment remained strong. On September 4 the America First
Committee arose to challenge Roosevelt's deceptive campaign for
intervention, and Wendell Willkie charged during the presidential
campaign that Roosevelt's reelection would surely mean war. The
president responded that “your boys are not going to be sent into any
foreign wars,” gliding over the fact that if the United States were
attacked, it would no longer be a foreign war.

The next step in U.S. involvement stemmed from Churchill's warning of
Dec. 9, 1940, that Britain was near bankruptcy. Roosevelt responded
with lend-lease, a plan to “eliminate the dollar sign” by lending, not
selling, arms. If your neighbour's house is on fire, he argued, you do
not sell him a hose, you lend it to him until the fire is out. “If Great
Britain goes down,” he warned, “all of us in the Americas would be
living at the point of a gun. . . . We must be the great arsenal of
democracy.” Churchill added his own ringing appeal on Feb. 9, 1941:
“Give us the tools and we will finish the job.” Willkie asked
Republicans to back lend-lease, which became law on March 11.
Unknown to the public, Roosevelt authorized joint U.S.–British staff
talks. The two countries also collaborated on how to meet the U-boat
menace. Admiral Karl Dönitz's wolfpack technique, by which eight to

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10 U-boats would strike a convoy from the surface at night (thereby
avoiding the British Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee
device [ASDIC sonar]), cost the British and Americans 320,048 tons of
shipping in January 1941 and 653,960 tons in April. American Admiral
Harold R. Stark considered the situation “hopeless except as [the
United States] take strong measures to save it.” In Hemispheric
Defense Plan No. 1 (April 2) Roosevelt authorized the navy to attack
German submarines west of 25° longitude and by executive agreement
with the Danish government-in-exile placed Greenland under American
protection (April 9). U.S. marines also occupied Iceland in July.

The German invasion of the Soviet Union posed the problem of
whether to extend lend-lease to the U.S.S.R. Only 35 percent of
Americans polled favoured underwriting the Communist regime, but
Roosevelt, supporting his acting secretary of state, Sumner Welles,
said “Of course we are going to give all aid we possibly can to Russia,”
on the theory that anything that contributed to the defeat of Germany
enhanced the security of the United States. Aid to the Soviet Union
began in July, and a formal agreement followed on August 2. But the
initial supplies were too meagre to affect the battles of 1941.
Roosevelt meanwhile pressed for amendments to the Selective Service
Act to remove the ceiling of 900,000 men on U.S. armed forces and the
ban on use of troops beyond the Western Hemisphere and to permit
the president to retain draftees in service. This provoked the last
great Congressional debate on isolationism versus interventionism; the
House passed the bill by a single vote on August 12.
It was during this debate that Roosevelt and Churchill met secretly off
the coast of Newfoundland and drafted a manifesto of the common
principles that bound their two countries and all free peoples. In this
eight-point Atlantic Charter (announced on August 14), reminiscent of
Wilson's Fourteen Points, the signatories renounced territorial
aggrandizement and endorsed the restoration of self-government to all
captured nations and equal access to trade and raw materials for all.
According to Churchill, Roosevelt also promised to “wage war but not
declare it” and to look for an incident that would justify open
hostilities. When the Congress voted on November 7 to arm merchant
ships and allow them into the war zone, it seemed that submarine
warfare would again be casus belli for the United States. U-boats had
already torpedoed the destroyers Kearney and Reuben James (the
latter was attacking the submarine, but sank with 115 hands on
October 31). But in fact it took dramatic events in another theatre
altogether to make Roosevelt's undeclared war official.

Japan's challenge

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When war broke out in Europe, the Japanese occupation of China was
nearing its greatest extent, and there was no sign of Chinese
capitulation. Japan was understandably incensed when its ally in the
Anti-Comintern Pact, Germany, joined with Moscow at a time when
the Japanese were fighting the Soviets in Manchuria and Mongolia. On
the other hand, the German victories of 1940 made orphans of the
French and Dutch colonies in Southeast Asia, including mineral-rich
Indochina and oil-rich Indonesia. These sources of vital raw materials
were all the more tempting after the United States protested Japan's
invasion of China by allowing its 1911 commercial treaty with Japan to
expire in January 1940. Thereafter trade continued on a day-to-day
basis while U.S. diplomacy sought peaceful ways to contain or roll back
Japanese power. But the territorial and trade hegemony that Japan
would come to term the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” in
1941 increasingly appeared to be a cover for brutal imperialism and
exclusionist trade policies. In June 1940, as France was crumbling,
Japan insisted that the new Vichy regime cut off the flow of supplies
to China over Indochinese railways. The beleaguered British, fearful of
simultaneous war in Asia and Europe, also agreed to close down the
Burma Road to China for three months, isolating Chiang Kai-shek.
Japanese militarists then arranged a new government in Tokyo under
the weak Konoe Fumimaro, expecting that Foreign Minister Matsuoka
and War Minister Tōjō Hideki would dominate. On July 27 the Cabinet
decided to ally with the Axis and strike into Southeast Asia even as it
sought to resume normal trade with the United States.

Japanese assertion posed a dilemma for Washington. Secretary of War
Henry Stimson and Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., believed
an embargo on oil and scrap iron would cripple the Japanese war
machine, but Secretary of State Cordell Hull feared an embargo would
provoke Japan into seizing Southeast Asia. On July 26, 1940, after
lengthy debate, the United States banned export of high-grade scrap
iron and aviation fuel to Japan. On August 1, Japan forced Vichy to
permit a limited occupation of northern Indochina, and the following
month it signed the Tripartite (Axis) Pact in which Germany, Italy, and
Japan pledged aid to each other should any be attacked by a power
not at present involved in the Pacific War (i.e., the United States). But
this act of defiance only stoked American indignation. In November,
Roosevelt approved a loan of $100,000,000 to the Nationalist Chinese
and began to allow American pilots to volunteer for Chinese service in
Claire Chennault's Flying Tigers. In December and January all forms of
iron, copper, and brass were added to the embargo.
Civilian government had eroded in Japan until censorship, propaganda,
and intimidation overwhelmed moderates and placed policy in the
hands of militarists devoted to traditional Japanese exclusivism,
xenophobia, and the Bushidō code of combat. Of the latter mentality

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Americans had barely a clue, just as the Japanese looked upon
Western notions of self-determination and the Open Door as so much
hypocrisy. But although reciprocal misunderstanding and racialist
thinking inhibited the quest for peace in the Pacific, Japan's
determination to carve out an Asian empire was clearly the source of
the crisis, while American policy was essentially reactive.

The latest U.S. trade restrictions sparked the final peace initiative of
the moderate faction composed of Konoe and leading Japanese
industrialists. Two American Catholic missionaries served as
intermediaries for an alleged Japanese offer to evacuate China and
break the Tripartite Pact in return for normal trade with the United
States. This was exactly what Roosevelt wanted, and he urged that the
offer be placed in writing. A new Japanese ambassador, Nomura
Kichisaburo, then arrived in Washington and met privately with Hull 40
times after March 1941. On April 9 the Catholic missionaries delivered
a written offer, but it contained no promise of troop withdrawals and
instead asked the United States to cut off aid to China. Hull clearly
informed Nomura that any accord must be founded on four principles:
respect for territorial integrity, noninterference in the internal affairs
of other countries, commercial equality, and respect for the status
quo in the Pacific. Nomura unfortunately failed to understand and
reported that the United States had accepted the April 9 proposal. The
Tokyo Cabinet then drafted an even tougher note as a basis for
negotiation, prompting Hull to conclude that the Japanese were
incorrigible.
Meanwhile, the Japanese military debated the merits of a northern
advance against the Soviet Union's maritime provinces or a southern
advance against the French, Dutch, and British colonies. The
Russo-Japanese neutrality pact of April 1941 indicated a southern
advance, but the German invasion of the Soviet Union indicated a
northern one. The course of the war—and the survival of the
U.S.S.R.—hung in the balance. Heretofore, Hitler had been at pains to
keep Japan out of his Soviet sphere of influence, but at the height of
German success in the Soviet Union, Hitler suggested to Ambassador
Oshima Hiroshi that the two join forces to liquidate the Soviet empire,
a plan endorsed by Matsuoka. If Hitler meant it, he was too late, for
the Cabinet in Tokyo decided again after the invasion of the Soviet
Union (June 22) to exploit German victories rather than take part in
them. The Japanese army and navy would move south and establish
the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The Emperor endorsed the
plan on July 2, and the Americans, having broken the Japanese code
with the MAGIC process, knew of the decision at once. On July 26,
Japan occupied all of French Indochina, and the United States
impounded Japanese assets. On September 5, Hull sanctioned a
complete embargo on petroleum.

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Japan now faced a choice of abandoning all the conquests made since
1931 or seizing the necessary war matériel to defend its empire. Konoe
tried desperately to reverse the tide and requested a summit meeting
with Roosevelt. But Roosevelt, on Hull's advice, insisted on prior
Japanese acceptance of the four principles. Konoe was obliged on
September 7 to make a deal with his militarists: He could try once
more for an agreement, but if the United States did not relent by early
October, Konoe would then support the military solution. When the
deadlock was confirmed Konoe in fact resigned on October 16, and
Tōjō became prime minister. The veteran diplomat Kurusu Saburo then
flew to Washington with two final options, Plan A and Plan B. The
latter held out some hope, since in it Japan at least promised to make
no military moves to the south. But MAGIC deciphered a cable
revealing the secret deadline of November 29, while the British,
Dutch, and Chinese vetoed any modus vivendi that left Japan a free
hand in China. On November 27, American warnings of war were
dispatched to the Pacific, and on December 1 a Japanese Imperial
conference ratified Tōjō's conclusion that “Japan has no other way
than to wage war . . . to secure its existence and self-defense.”
The final diplomatic exchanges were superfluous, but they included a
10-part American note of November 26 and Roosevelt's personal appeal
to the Emperor on December 6. That same day a 13-part Japanese
reply arrived in Washington, which MAGIC deciphered even before the
Japanese embassy did. That war was imminent was clear; where the
first blow would fall was not. On Sunday, December 7, a 14th part
arrived, which the Japanese embassy was slow in translating and
typing. By the time the diplomats arrived at Hull's office at 2:00 PM,
news of the treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, had already
arrived. Hull delivered his opinion of Japanese diplomacy in vitriolic
terms and told the ambassadors to get out. The following day
Roosevelt named it “a day which will live in infamy” and asked
Congress for a declaration of war.

Revisionist historians have argued that Roosevelt should have known of
the danger of Japanese attack from the secret intercepts and reports
of Japanese fleet movements, or that he did know and purposely
suppressed the information so that the United States might enter the
European war, unified and irate, “through the back door.” To be sure,
American blunders marked the final years of neutrality, and a cover-up
of those blunders may have occurred. But certainly no one forced the
Japanese to make a direct attack on U.S. territory, nor did anyone
expect an attack so bold as that on Hawaii. Nor did the Congress even
take that opportunity to enter the European war. That was
accomplished on December 11, when Hitler and Mussolini, honouring
the Tripartite Pact, declared war on the United States. Hitler
considered the “half-Judaized and half-negrified” Americans to be of

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little military account, especially since, he believed, the Japanese war
would prevent U.S. intervention in Europe. His gratuitous declaration
of war was in fact a folly surpassing Ludendorff's provocations of the
United States in 1917.

Japan's war plan was marked by operational brilliance but strategic
folly. The notion that Japan could take on the British Empire and the
United States at the same time, and win, was the equivalent (in the
Japanese simile for courage) of “jumping with eyes closed off the
veranda of Kiyomizu Temple.” Still, Admiral Yamamoto devised a bold
campaign to destroy Allied striking power for the foreseeable future,
whereupon the Americans would presumably sue for peace. He
assigned all six of his aircraft carriers to a surprise attack on the U.S.
Navy base at Pearl Harbor. The rest of the navy—eight battleships, four
auxiliary carriers, 20 cruisers, and 112 destroyers—was earmarked for
the south, together with 11 infantry divisions and 795 planes. The first
force struck at dawn, its dive-bombers penetrating Pearl Harbor's
defenses through the mountain passes of Oahu. They sank four of eight
U.S. battleships, damaged four others, sank or disabled 10 other ships
and 140 planes, and killed 2,330 troops. By chance, the three U.S.
aircraft carriers were at sea and escaped destruction. A second
Japanese force destroyed 50 percent of the U.S. aircraft in the
Philippines, landed on Luzon on December 10, took Manila on Jan. 2,
1942, and drove the remaining U.S. and Filipino forces into redoubts
on the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island. The Japanese also
bombed Hong Kong on December 8, took the British outpost from the
mainland on the 25th and occupied Bangkok on December 9 and
southern Burma on the 16th. Most damaging to the British were the
Japanese landings in Malaya after December 8 and the advance
through the jungle to Singapore. This mighty fortress, considered
impregnable, was the keystone of British strategy in Asia, and
Churchill had ordered out the battleship Prince of Wales and battle
cruiser Repulse in the expectation of intimidating the Japanese.
Instead, Japanese aircraft sank the two ships on December 10. On Feb.
9, 1942, three Japanese divisions overran Singapore, whose defenses
were directed seaward, and captured the 90,000-man force. The fall
of Singapore crippled British communications and naval power in Asia.
Supporting the assault on the Philippines, the Japanese bombed Wake
Island on December 8 and overcame fierce resistance from the tiny
U.S. garrison on December 23. By February 10, Guam and Tarawa in
the Gilberts and Rabaul and Gasmata on New Britain were occupied.
Japan was now master of a vast empire stretching from Manchuria to
the East Indies and the border of India deep into the western Pacific.

The turning point, 1942
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Within a year after American entry into the war Axis power crested and
began to ebb, for critical battles were fought in 1942 in every major
theatre. The year also saw the forging of a Grand Alliance among the
United States, Britain, and the U.S.S.R. and the first sign of disagreement
on strategy and war aims.
After Pearl Harbor, Churchill requested an immediate conference with
Roosevelt. The two met for three weeks at the Arcadia Conference in
Washington after Dec. 22, 1941. They reaffirmed the “Europe first”
strategy and conceived “Gymnast,” a plan for Anglo-American landings in
North Africa. They also created a Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee
and issued, on Jan. 1, 1942, the United Nations Declaration in the spirit
of the Atlantic Charter. But Sir Anthony Eden had traveled to Moscow in
late December and returned with troubling news: Stalin demanded
retention of all the territory gained under the German–Soviet
Nonaggression Pact and grumbled that the Atlantic Charter was
apparently directed against him, not Hitler. The Soviets also first made
what was to become their incessant demand that the Allies open a
second front in France to take the pressure off the Red Army. Roosevelt
sent Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall to London to argue for a
cross-Channel invasion by April 1943, but the British deemed it
impossible. London reassured Molotov by concluding an Anglo-Soviet
alliance (May 26, 1942) to last for 20 years. In late June, Churchill and
Roosevelt met again in Washington, D.C., and confirmed plans for a joint
operation in Africa despite the misgivings of American generals, who
suspected the British of being more concerned for the defense of their
empire than the rapid defeat of Hitler. In the end the British won, and on
July 25 the Allies approved the renamed operation “Torch”—a combined
invasion of North Africa planned for the autumn. Churchill then traveled
to Moscow in August 1942, where Stalin berated him for postponing the
second front and suspending Arctic convoys because of German naval
action. Despite his suspicions and fears, Stalin could take grim
satisfaction from the events of 1942, for by December of that year the
German advance into the Soviet Union had been stopped, though at
enormous cost.

The Allied landings in North Africa, where British forces had finally turned
back General Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps at el-Alamein, were targeted
for Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers. (Hence, the first American initiative in
the war was to be an unprovoked and undeclared attack against neutral
territory.) Vichy France promptly severed diplomatic relations with
Washington and ordered French forces in North Africa to resist. Brief but
serious fighting resulted at Oran and Casablanca. The allies had been
seeking a French leader with the prestige and willingness to rally French
Africa against the Axis, but the nominal commander was Admiral François
Darlan, an ardent collaborationist in the Vichy Cabinet. The Allies
preferred General Henri Giraud, a heroic escapee from a prison camp,

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but he insisted on being given command of the whole Allied invasion
force. When Darlan surprisingly turned up in Algiers, U.S. Ambassador
Robert Murphy negotiated a deal whereby Eisenhower recognized Darlan
as political chief of North Africa in return for Darlan's ordering French
forces to cease resistance. The Americans soon escaped the
embarrassment of having bargained with a leading Fascist when a French
royalist shot Darlan on December 24. De Gaulle was able to outmaneuver
the vain but inept Giraud to become de facto leader of Free French
forces.

In the Pacific, the naval Battle of Midway in June, the landing of U.S.
forces on Guadalcanal in August, and the creation of an “island-hopping”
strategy against Japan's sudden and far-flung empire similarly blunted the
string of the Axis' early victories. Meanwhile, General Douglas MacArthur
rallied Allied forces in Australia in anticipation of fulfilling his departing
promise to the Filipinos: “I shall return.” A Japanese invasion force
landed near Gona at the southeastern end of New Guinea in July 1942
and drove Australian troops back to within 32 miles of Port Moresby. But
MacArthur executed a series of landings behind the Japanese and secured
the entire Papuan coast by late January 1943. Thenceforth Japan, too,
went on the strategic defensive.

The economic and scientific wars
How could the Axis powers have imagined that they might win the war,
given their narrow base of land area, population, and production, and the
size and strength of the enemies they themselves forced into the war?
The answer was Blitzkrieg, which involved more than simply a set of
tactics for mobile combat but was rather an encompassing theory of total
war. The theory posited a strategically mobilized and organized economy
meant to avoid a repetition of the war of attrition that wore Germany
down in 1914–18. By overrunning their neighbours one by one in swift
assaults, the Germans constantly added to their own manpower and
resource base while shrinking that available to the enemy. In addition,
armament in breadth rather than depth provided the flexibility necessary
to shift production from one set of weapons to another depending on the
needs of the next campaign, and it permitted constant innovation of
weapons systems. Most tellingly, Blitzkrieg shifted the burdens of war
from Germany to the conquered peoples. By June 1940 the British were
unable to budge a Nazi empire that drew on the resources of the entire
continent. But Hitler also realized by late 1940 that all the resources of
America would eventually be made available to Britain; hence his
decision to break the stalemate by unleashing Blitzkrieg against the
Soviet Union. Soviet survival, however, turned the Blitzkrieg into a
gigantic war of attrition after all, one in which Germany could never
prevail.
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The German economy and the Jews
Cut off from foreign sources of capital, Germany paid for World War II
through taxes and ruthless exploitation of occupied regions. Levies on
conquered peoples amounted to 40 percent of the income raised by
internal taxation, and 42 percent of that tribute came from France.
The number of slave labourers deployed by various arms of the regime
peaked at 7,100,000 in 1944; this figure included prisoners of war and
“racial enemies” condemned to slavery until death in SS camps.

Seen only in cold economic terms, Nazi genocide against Jews and
other groups, racially or ideologically or otherwise defined, was the
height of irrationality. As early as January 1939 Hitler gave vent to his
pathological hatred and fear of the Jews before the Reichstag: “If the
international Jewish financiers . . . succeed in plunging the nations
once more into a world war the result will be the obliteration of the
Jewish race in Europe.” The war gave Hitler the opportunity to seek a
“final solution.” In 1939–40 the Nazis considered using Poland or
Madagascar as dumping grounds for Jews. But the invasion of the
U.S.S.R. emboldened Hitler, Göring, and SS leaders Heinrich Himmler
and Reinhard Heydrich to decide instead on mass extermination in
camps at Belzec, Majdanek, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Auschwitz. Large
numbers of SS troops, as well as railroads and rolling stock, were
absorbed in capturing, transporting, and putting to death as many as
12,000 Jews per day. The total by war's end would reach 6,000,000,
almost half from Poland, and some 2,000,000 others including Gypsies,
clergy, Communists, and other resisters. SS troops accompanied the
regular army into the Soviet Union in 1941 and made racial war on the
Slavs as well in order to prepare the farmlands of the Ukraine for
German settlement.

News of the Holocaust reached the West slowly but surely, although
Auschwitz was able to keep its monstrous secret for more than two
years after the first gassings in May 1942. Richard Lichtheim of the
Jewish Agency in Geneva served as a conduit for information about
what was occurring in Nazi Europe, but his and others' efforts to
promote action on the part of the Allies broke against political and
practical barriers. The British, worried by the prospect of Arab revolt,
limited Jewish emigration to Palestine, while quotas elsewhere in the
world meant that even those Jews who managed to escape Europe
sometimes had nowhere to go. Reports appearing in Western
newspapers inspired the Allies to make a declaration on Dec. 17, 1942,
condemning “this bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination,” and
on Jan. 22, 1944, Roosevelt established a War Refugee Board “to
forestall the plan of the Nazis to exterminate all Jews and other

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minorities.” But the Allies were unable to take direct action of any
sort until the capture of Italy brought Allied bombers within range of
the camps. Jewish leaders were then misled by hints that the Germans
might negotiate about the Jews. Finally, after June 1944, when
escapees confirmed the existence and nature of Auschwitz, the World
Jewish Congress requested bombing of the gas chambers. But the
Allied Bomber Command judged that its efforts should be directed only
at military targets and that the best way of helping the Jews was to
hasten the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Strategic bombing
Allied strategic bombing was the most deadly form of economic
warfare ever devised and showed another side of the
indiscriminateness of industrial war. But in mid-1941 the British Chiefs
of Staff soberly concluded that morale, not industry, was Germany's
most vulnerable point and ordered Sir Arthur Harris of the RAF Bomber
Command to concentrate on “area bombing” of cities. Churchill's
scientific adviser Professor L.A. Lindemann of Oxford (later Lord
Cherwell) concurred in April 1942 that one-third of all Germans could
be rendered homeless in 15 months by strategic bombing of cities. The
Royal Air Force accordingly assigned its new Lancaster four-engine
bombers to a total war on German civilians. After attacks on Lübeck
and the Ruhr, Harris sent a thousand planes against Cologne on May
30–31 in an attack that battered one-third of the city. In 1943, after an
interlude of bombing German submarine pens, the Lancasters launched
the Battle of the Ruhr totaling 18,506 sorties and the Battle of
Hamburg numbering 17,021. The fire raids in Hamburg killed 40,000
people and left a million homeless. The Royal Air Force then hit Berlin
(November 1943 to March 1944) with 20,224 sorties, avenging many
times over all the damage done by the Luftwaffe to London.
By early 1943 the U.S. 8th Air Force joined in the air campaign but
eschewed terror bombing. Its B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24
Liberators conducted daylight precision bombing of industrial targets.
As a result, they suffered heavy losses that climaxed in October 1943
over the Schweinfurt ball-bearing plants, when the United States lost
148 bombers in a week. The Army Air Forces suspended daylight sorties
for months until the arrival of a long-range fighter, the P-51 Mustang.
Bombing then resumed and concentrated on the German oil industry,
creating a serious shortage that virtually grounded the Luftwaffe by
the time of the D-Day invasion. The effectiveness of strategic bombing
is a subject of great debate, since German war production actually
increased over the years 1942–44. German engineers became masters
at shielding equipment, restoring it to operation in a matter of days,

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or even moving plants underground. Nor did the German people crack
under British devastation of their towns and homes. But the air
offensive did force the Germans to divert as many as 1,500,000
workers to the constant task of rebuilding and established the Allied
mastery of the air that permitted the success of the Normandy
landings.

Allied economic management
Britain was only in the early stages of rearmament when the war broke
out, but after the fall of France the transition to a World-War-I-type
command economy was precipitous. Churchill replaced some 60
interdepartment committees for war economics with the single Lord
President's Committee under Sir John Anderson. Within 18 months
Anderson organized the most centralized and complete war
mobilization of any nation. It included controls on trade, foreign
exchange, wages and prices, and raw materials. The National Service
Act of December 1941 outdid even the U.S.S.R. by making every man
under 50 and every woman under 30 liable to government assignment.
Of the 2,800,000 new war workers, 79 percent were female. The state
also cut consumer production to a minimum: 67 percent of the work
force was employed in war-related jobs. Once again, the British
exercised financial responsibility by raising taxes, deferring wages, and
compelling savings.
Even before the war, and despite the Depression, the American gross
national product (GNP) of $88,600,000,000 dwarfed that of any other
country. Under the impulse of war it increased by 1944 to
$135,000,000,000, of which 40 percent was directed to military
purposes. About 60 percent of all the munitions used by the Allies in
1944 was made in the United States. In addition to arming its own
immense air and sea forces, the United States provided
$32,500,000,000 in lend-lease support, including $13,500,000,000 to
Britain and $9,000,000,000 to the U.S.S.R. Total U.S. production
included 300,000 aircraft, 51,400,000 tons of shipping, 8,500,000 tons
of warships, and 86,700 tanks. The government financed this
phenomenal buildup largely through war bonds in the early years and
later through taxation.

The American war effort was also achieved without the rigid
centralized control of Britain. In January 1942 the War Production
Board emerged, staffed with “dollar-a-year” volunteers from business,
while the Office of War Mobilization (May 1943) under James F. Byrnes
served less as a dictator than an umpire in matters involving labour,
business, and the military.

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The Soviet Union also made a stupendous economic effort in the war
despite conditions as difficult as the American ones were favourable.
Within a few months in 1941 the U.S.S.R. lost to the enemy over half
its industrial capacity and richest farmland and countless skilled
workers. Yet the Soviets rebounded quickly, relocating over 1,300
factories to the Urals region in an effort that involved perhaps
10,000,000 people. Coal, oil, electricity, and food never regained
prewar levels, but arms production boomed. The Soviets managed to
turn out 136,800 aircraft and 102,500 tanks by 1945, surpassing the
Germans in both. The centrally directed Gosplan and party apparatus,
of course, had initiated a ruthless command economy as early as 1928,
and Soviet appeals to patriotism (as opposed to Marxism), the network
of forced-labour camps, and severe austerity made the effort possible.
Despite punishing taxation and subsistence wages (40 percent of the
1940 level) state income covered only half the budget over 1941–45,
laying the basis for the inflation that would lead to postwar
devaluation. The Soviet war economy, however, like that of the United
States, prepared the country for postwar superpower status.
Japan's strategy was similar to Germany's Blitzkrieg in that the swift
conquest of isolated territories was designed to create a self-sufficient
empire capable of withstanding any blow from without. Once again,
precise operational planning permitted Japan to increase weapons
production steadily from the inception of a full war economy in 1942
to early 1945, when U.S. bombing intensified. By 1944, naval ordnance
production was more than five times that of 1941 and aviation more
than four and a half times. The Japanese, like the Nazis, exploited
their conquered peoples and even more than the Nazis subjected
prisoners of war to slavery or death. But the fact that attacking Pearl
Harbor would “awaken a sleeping giant” was lost on Japanese
planners. By 1944 military expenditures absorbed 50 percent of the
Japanese GNP, a degree of concentration second only to that of the
Soviet Union. Yet the United States, with half its effort diverted to
Europe, still overwhelmed the Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Science and technology in wartime
Of the many wartime innovations, those in macroeconomics and
management techniques were among the most important, for the
rapid increase achieved in labour productivity would make possible the
economic miracles of many nations after the war as well. U.S.
merchant vessels that took 35 weeks to build before the war were
being launched in 50 days by 1943. The Soviet Ilyushin II-4 airplane
absorbed 20,000 man-hours before the war and 12,500 in 1943. By the
end of the war the British government was choosing contractors on the

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basis of management, rather than technical, experience. The
industrial world was reaching a new plateau of efficiency.

World War II was unprecedented in the fillip it delivered to science
and technology and the maturation of planned research and
development (R and D). What Churchill called “the wizard war”
between scientists to devise new weapons and electronic
countermeasures for air and sea combat began before 1939 in the R
and D laboratories of German and British firms and institutes. The
Soviet Union had since 1919 made the “scientific pursuit of science” a
pillar of the regime, and the 1,650,000,000 rubles budgeted for R and
D in 1941 was far and away the largest effort in the world. The Fascist
regimes also made a fetish of technological progress. Mussolini
established a National Council of Research in 1936 under the famed
radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi. Hitler took for granted the
preeminence of German science, and he showed a lively interest in
new weapons technology. The totalitarian regimes' insistence on
“Communist science” or “Fascist science,” their secrecy, persecutions,
and suppression of intellectual freedom, however, meant that their R
and D investment yielded less than that of the liberal states. Stalin's
fear that technical experts might turn to political opposition led him
to consign thousands of scientists and engineers to the Gulag, where
they worked under the eye of the secret police. Nazi persecution
chased dozens of brilliant Jews and others (especially nuclear
physicists) out of Europe, thereby enriching the brain pool of Britain
and the United States. The dictators' personal interventions in matters
of weapons research and deployment, while sometimes breaking
bottlenecks and ending jurisdictional feuding, more often skewed the
work of scientists in less productive or dead-end directions. In short,
World War II made planned R and D a permanent and mighty tool of
state power while demonstrating that too much state control or
ideological content in research inevitably brought diminishing returns.
The liberal states, by contrast, responded quickly and effectively to
the scientific challenge. Nowhere was this more evident than in
cryptanalysis and espionage, in which the Allies repeatedly bested the
otherwise secretive and devious Axis. As early as 1931, Captain
Gustave Bertrand of French intelligence procured documents from a
German traitor concerning the cryptographic rotor device Enigma. The
brilliant Polish mathematician Marian Rejewski cracked Enigma by
1938, only to have the unsuspecting Germans add two rotors to the
machine. Britain's scientists in the Ultra project then worked on
methods to generate keys for Enigma until they devised the
cumbersome Colossus machines, which some consider the first
electronic computers. Ultra not only compromised every German spy
in Britain but also provided the British with decryptions of German
directives and deployments for the whole of occupied Europe for the

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entire war.

Following the Battle of Britain, to which radar made such a vital
contribution, Churchill established a Scientific Advisory Committee
under L.A. Lindemann. He and his rival Sir Henry Tizard helped to
direct the research programs that discovered various means of
jamming the German bombers' radio navigation systems. By autumn
1940 the Germans countered with their X-Gerät, which broadcast its
signal on several frequencies, but this was overcome in turn by British
airborne radar that allowed fighters to home in on bombers
individually. A similar situation occurred in the air battles over
Germany and inspired the development of devices that guided night
bombers to their targets despite jamming, the H2S system that
permitted crews to “see” through cloud cover, and the use of billows
of aluminum strips dropped from bombers to confuse German radar.
Microwave radar helped search planes locate submerged U-boats after
March 1943.

Roosevelt entrusted the American effort to Vannevar Bush's Office of
Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), which channeled
contracts of $1,000,000 or more to over 50 universities during the war.
The OSRD, the Naval Research Laboratory, and army arsenals produced
such innovations as the antitank bazooka rocket, the proximity fuse,
the DUKW amphibious vehicle, the first use of DDT to combat malaria,
and mass production of the antibiotic penicillin for war wounds (1943).
Soviet researchers, despite the handicaps imposed by invasion and
their own regime, developed the devastating Katyusha rocket-cluster
(its launcher was called the Stalin Organ), the sturdy T-34 tank, and,
by war's end, a prototype jet fighter. The Germans eased their
shortages of vital materials through processes for coal gasification
(5,700,000 tons' worth in 1943) and for producing synthetic rubber.
They were also first with an operational combat jet aircraft, the
Me-262, but the Nazi regime instead chose to allocate steel and fuel to
submarines, ending any chance that Germany might regain control of
the skies.

The four technological developments that would come to define the
postwar strategic environment were radio-electronics, the electronic
computer, the ballistic missile, and the atomic bomb. The
medium-range ballistic missile A-4 (called the Vengeance weapon, V-2,
by Goebbels) was the brainchild of German rocket engineers who had
first come together as amateur spaceflight enthusiasts in the 1920s.
The German army began funding their research in 1932 and built a
large test range at Peenemünde after 1937. There, Commander Walter
Dornberger and Chief Engineer Wernher von Braun developed and
tested the A-4 by 1942. The program did not receive top priority until
1943, however, at which time a British air raid on Peenemünde forced

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construction of an underground factory in the Harz mountains to
construct the rockets. The V-2s, of which 4,300 were fired (half of
them at Antwerp) after September 1944, did considerable damage
until the Allies captured the launch sites in the Netherlands.

Nuclear physics had advanced to the point by 1938 that the German
physicists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann were able to demonstrate
nuclear fission. Scientists in Britain, France, Germany, the U.S.S.R.,
and the United States all speculated on the possibility of building an
atomic explosive device, and in 1939 Albert Einstein wrote to
President Roosevelt personally, urging a crash program to perfect such
a bomb before the Nazis. The resulting Manhattan Project absorbed
$2,000,000,000 of the $3,850,000,000 spent by the United States on R
and D in World War II. Churchill, too, approved a nuclear program,
code-named the Directorate of Tube Alloys, in Britain's dark days of
1941. But by 1943 the Americans had built up a sizeable lead and
agreed at the Quebec Conference to share results with the British.
German atomic research depended on heavy water from Norway, but
British commandos and the Norwegian underground sabotaged the
plant in 1943. The scientists also failed to press for top priority, which
went instead to the missile program. Soviet atomic research kept
abreast of the West until the invasion, and in June 1942, Stalin
authorized a crash program that by war's end had begun to produce
fissionable uranium in quantity. In no country was much official
thought apparently given to the moral and long-range consequences of
this potentially devastating invention.
A final, though lesser known, scientific breakthrough of World War II
was the application of methods from the physical and social sciences
to problems of production, logistics, and combat. Known as
“operational research,” this application of science to practical
problems was a major step in the process by which military men in the
20th century lost primacy in their profession to civilian specialists.
Whether in the scientific study of various antisubmarine tactics, the
selection of targets for strategic bombing, or the optimal size and
pattern for naval convoys, operational research completed the
mobilization by governments of the world's intellectual community.

Strategy and diplomacy of the Grand Alliance
Allied strategy to the fall of Italy
In the wake of Operation “Torch,” Roosevelt and Churchill met at
Casablanca (January 1943) to determine strategy for the coming year.
Once again Roosevelt conciliated Churchill, agreeing to put off opening

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a second front in France in favour of more modest operations against
Sicily, Italy, and the “soft underbelly” of Europe after the liberation of
North Africa. General George Marshall and Admiral Ernest King
succeeded in winning approval for offensives in Burma and the
southwest Pacific. The French rivals, de Gaulle and Giraud, were
persuaded at least to feign unity and later to create a French
Committee of National Liberation under their joint chairmanship (May
1943). But the main event was Roosevelt's parting announcement that
“peace can come to the world only by the total elimination of German
and Japanese military power . . . (which) means unconditional
surrender.” This surprise declaration was not spontaneous, as
Roosevelt claimed; it was a considered signal to Stalin of Allied
resolve, especially necessary after General Eisenhower's ignominious
“Darlan deal.” But it also rashly committed the United States to a
power vacuum, rather than a balance of power, in postwar Europe,
and may have discouraged Germans from attempting to oust Hitler in
hopes of escaping utter defeat.

Stalin's reaction to Casablanca was predictably sour. In March he
expressed great anxiety about repeated postponement of the second
front in France. On the other hand, the Battle of Stalingrad had more
or less assured eventual Soviet victory. Would it not have served Soviet
interests more to delay the Allied presence in Europe as long as
possible? It is likely that Stalin's continued pressure for a second front
was a function of his perennial fears for internal Soviet security. Stalin
may have wanted to recapture his lost ground, especially the Ukraine,
as quickly as possible lest anti-Soviet movements take hold there or in
neighbouring countries. At this time Stalin also began to denounce the
London Poles as reactionaries and sponsored a new Union of Polish
Patriots in Moscow as a rival government-in-exile. The final breach
between the London Poles and Stalin followed in April 1943, when the
Germans uncovered a mass grave in the Katyn forest containing the
corpses of over 4,000 Polish officers captured by the Russians in 1939.
(Another 10,000 Polish officers were killed in Soviet secret police
concentration camps.) Churchill advised Władysław Sikorski, prime
minister in the London government-in-exile, not to pursue the issue
out of deference to Stalin, who blamed the massacre on the Germans.
But the Poles invited an International Red Cross investigation that
strongly suggested the Soviets had committed the crime in the spring
of 1940, presumably to exterminate Poland's non-Communist
leadership class. Stalin's seemingly benign dissolution of the Comintern
in May 1943 was likewise inspired by postwar planning. The party
purges and the assassination of Trotsky in Mexico (August 1940) placed
foreign Communists so securely under Moscow's thumb that the formal
apparatus of control was no longer needed, while the appearance of
independence on the part of Communist parties would ease their
participation in coalition governments after the war.

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At the Trident Conference in Washington (May 1943) Churchill and
Roosevelt finally projected a 29-division invasion of France for May
1944. The long delay was the consequence of the need to build up
troop strength, landing craft, and supplies, and to ensure complete
command of air and sea. But Stalin again castigated Allied bad faith
and initiated a series of vitriolic communications with Churchill.

The final defeat of Rommel's Afrika Korps opened the way for the
invasion of Sicily in July 1943. The Allies' rapid success there gradually
undermined Mussolini's eroding Fascist regime. Badoglio, Ciano, and
Grandi had all denounced Mussolini's leadership and had been sacked
by February 1943. Other Fascist leaders insisted on convening the
Grand Council in July and after violent debate voted 19 to 8 in favour
of restoring “the prerogatives of the King and parliament.” Mussolini
resigned the next day, and Badoglio took power in the face of a
complex dilemma. Italy wanted peace, but to break the alliance with
Hitler might provoke a German attack and condemn Italy to prolonged
fighting. Thus, while feigning continued loyalty to Germany, Badoglio
made secret contact with Eisenhower in the hope of synchronizing an
armistice and an Allied occupation. But the Americans insisted on
August 11 that Italy give an unconditional surrender and would not
promise to land as far north as Rome. With tension and German
suspicions mounting—and two British corps crossing the Straits of
Messina—Badoglio agreed secretly to invite Allied occupation on
September 3. The armistice was announced on the 8th, and Allied
landings followed that night in the Bay of Salerno south of Naples. Four
days later Hitler sent a crack team of commandos under Otto Skorzeny
to rescue Mussolini and set him up as a puppet dictator in the north of
Italy.
The new Italian government, far from exiting the war, was obliged to
do a volte-face and declare war on Germany on October 13. The Allies
did not take Naples until October 1 and made no dent in the Germans'
reinforced Gustav Line until 1944.

Early war-aims agreement
The Quebec Conference (Aug. 14–24, 1943) was the first in which
Roosevelt and Churchill spent more time discussing the Pacific War
than the European. They gave green lights to General MacArthur to
fight northward toward the Philippines and to the U.S. Navy to drive
straight across the Pacific to the Ryukyu Islands. The British even
reluctantly accorded the U.S. Navy program top priority. The Allies
also confirmed the invasion of France for May 1944, and thenceforth
the American strategy of concentration would take precedence over
British peripheral strategy. Eden and Hull then journeyed to Moscow
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(October 19–30), where they assured Stalin of the date for a second
front. They also won his approval of the arrangements made for Italy,
according to which the interallied commission requested by Stalin
would merely advise the Anglo-American commanders on the spot
rather than govern on its own. When Soviet armies later entered
eastern European states, Stalin would point to the Italian precedent to
justify unilateral Soviet military control.
At the Cairo Conference (November 22–26), Roosevelt, Churchill, and
Chiang discussed the Burma theatre and made the Cairo Declaration,
which prescribed as terms for ending the Pacific War the Japanese
surrender of Manchuria, Formosa, Korea, the Pescadores, and Pacific
islands acquired since 1914. It also established Chiang as one of the
Great Power allies, a point that did not please Churchill.

The first Big Three summit meeting followed in Tehrān from Nov. 28 to
Dec. 1, 1943. From the Soviet point of view, the results could only
have been satisfactory, for Stalin saw with his own eyes the conflicts
that Communist theory predicted must erupt between the
“imperialist” powers. In fact, Roosevelt and Churchill displayed the
inevitable divergences between a moralizing democracy recently
forced out of isolation and a world empire committed for 250 years to
preserving the balance of power. What was more, Churchill had no
illusions about the Soviet dictator, whereas Roosevelt preferred to
believe that he could reason with “Uncle Joe” if only he could allay
Soviet suspicions. Roosevelt made a point of chiding Churchill in
Stalin's presence and advocating an end to European colonialism after
the war. For his part, Stalin again demanded his 1941 frontiers, and
the Baltic coast of East Prussia as well, and the others acquiesced in
the restoration of the Curzon Line frontier, provided Poland was
compensated with territories taken from Germany in the west. As to
Germany itself, the Western powers had discussed breaking up the
country and turning the Danubian regions of Austria, Hungary, and
Bavaria into a “peaceful, cowlike confederation,” while Churchill
spoke of similar federations for eastern Europe. Stalin viewed such
notions with suspicion, since they were reminiscent of the cordon
sanitaire idea of 1918 and in any case would interfere with the
piecemeal communization of the small states. His plan was to
Balkanize eastern Europe, punish France for her surrender and strip
her of her colonies, and keep Poland and Italy weak. As U.S. diplomat
Charles E. Bohlen recorded at Tehrān: “The result would be that the
Soviet Union would be the only important military power and political
force on the continent of Europe.” Roosevelt did win an agreement in
principle on formation of a postwar international organization to be
led by the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and China.
Whether unity among them would survive victory was a question
Churchill and others brooded on in silence.

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The defeat of Nazi Germany
In 1944 the German forces in Soviet territory shrank from attrition and
transfers to the west, while geography and Hitler's reluctance to
authorize retreats gave his generals no prospect of shortening the front.
Soviet advances were limited only by their own supply capacity. A
three-pronged offensive in March squeezed the Germans out of the
southern Ukraine. Only the Carpathian Mountains kept the Red Army from
the Hungarian Plain, and on March 20 Hitler ordered German occupation
of Hungary to prevent the regent Admiral Miklós Horthy from defecting to
the Allies. The Red Army entered Bessarabia and northern Romania in
April. In the south, Odessa fell on April 10, and Sevastopol on May 9. In
the far north, German forces withdrew from Leningrad to Lake Peipus,
relieving that city after more than two years of siege and combat that
killed 632,000 civilians, mostly from starvation. A two-month pause
followed in the Soviet Union, during which the western Allies finally
opened the second front in France.

The Allied invasion of Europe
While preparations for D-Day reached their final stages the Allies made
a fateful decision to campaign vigorously on the Italian front in hopes
of drawing off German reserves from France. But German resistance
was fierce, and by October autumn rains curtailed Allied attacks,
ending their dream of bursting into Austria from the south.
By spring 1944 the Germans had mustered 59 divisions in France and
the Low Countries, but only 10 were motorized and almost 30 were in
static defense positions. As the Allied buildup in England reached huge
proportions, the Germans tried to divine where the blow would come.
Hitler and Rommel thought Normandy; the theatre commander,
Rundstedt, believed Calais. Their deployments reflected a
compromise. Meanwhile, Roosevelt and Marshall chose Eisenhower to
command Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF),
and he managed the preparation of “Overlord,” the cross-Channel
invasion, with tact and skill. More than 3,000,000 men crowded into
southern English bases and ports, anxiously awaiting a D-Day on which
176,475 soldiers, 20,111 vehicles, 1,500 tanks, and 12,000 planes
would move by air and sea across the Channel. Eisenhower described
them as being “as tense as a coiled spring.” Elaborate deceptions kept
the Germans guessing about the point of attack, and Normandy was
chosen in part because it was not the easiest or nearest French
beachhead. On June 6, American, British, and Canadian forces went
ashore, but seven tense and bloody weeks passed before the Allies

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broke out of the Norman peninsula. The initial campaign, thanks to
Allied courage and matériel and German blunders, removed more
divisions from the Wehrmacht's order of battle than even the great
Soviet offensive of June 1944.

As Allied armies raced westward and northward to liberate France,
Eisenhower faced the problem of what to do with Paris. He had no
desire to interrupt the drive for a difficult urban battle, nor to
undertake the chore of feeding 4,000,000 inhabitants. But the Parisian
police went on strike on August 19, and de Gaulle secretly ordered
French forces to seize the capital. Meanwhile, Hitler had ordered that
the landmarks of Paris be blown up before the Germans retreated. But
garrison commander Dietrich von Choltitz refused to carry out the
order and negotiated a surrender that opened the city to Allied forces
on the 25th. Eisenhower gave the honour of leading the parade to de
Gaulle and General Jacques-Philippe Leclerc.

Soviet advances in the east
In five months from D-Day the Western Allies liberated France and
Belgium and advanced 350 miles. In the midst of the Normandy
campaign, on June 22, the Red Army launched its summer offensive.
Armoured spearheads chased German remnants to the East Prussian
border and the banks of the Vistula by July 31, an advance of 450 miles
in five weeks. By October the Baltic coast was cleared of Germans.
These massive victories carried the Red Army to the borders of nine
states that had been independent before 1939, making possible the
sovietization of eastern Europe. The first episode in that process
stemmed from an uprising by the Polish Home Army in Warsaw,
underground allies of the London Poles. Expecting momentary
liberation from across the Vistula, the Home Army rebelled against the
German occupation and seized control of the city. But Stalin called it a
“reckless venture,” and the Soviets sat idly by while Hitler ordered in
SS divisions to crush the resistance and flatten the ancient city. To be
sure, the Red Army had just finished a huge advance that stretched its
supply lines to the limit. But Stalin shed no tears over the slaughter of
the non-Communist Warsaw Poles, who held out bravely for eight
weeks, and even hindered U.S. and British planes from supplying
Warsaw by denying them landing rights in Soviet territory. On August
22, Stalin simply dismissed the Warsaw Poles as “criminals” and set up
his Moscow Poles in Lublin as the acting government of “liberated
Poland.” In the north, the Finns sued for peace in early September,
accepting their 1940 losses and giving up in addition the Arctic port of
Petsamo (Pechenga), and a $300,000,000 indemnity, terms confirmed
in the treaty of peace concluded in 1947. The U.S.S.R. allowed the

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Finns self-rule so long as Helsinki coordinated its foreign policy with
that of the U.S.S.R. Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, however, were
reannexed.

The Soviets unleashed another major offensive in August through
Bessarabia, even though the Balkan front was irrelevant to the quick
defeat of Germany. King Michael concluded an armistice with Moscow
on September 12. Citing the Italian precedent, Molotov brushed aside
the Western Allies' attempts to win a share of influence over Romanian
affairs. Bulgaria, which was not at war with the U.S.S.R., tried to
establish its neutrality, but the Red Army occupied it anyway and set
up a “Fatherland Front” in which Communists were predominant.
When Soviet and Romanian troops invaded Hungary in October, Horthy
tried to extract his country from the war. But the SS arranged his
overthrow, and fighting continued until the fall of Budapest on Feb.
13, 1945. A foolish waste of troops for the Nazis, the battle of
Budapest was equally irrational for Stalin unless his true goal was
political. Meanwhile, Yugoslav partisans under a local Communist,
Josip Broz Tito, captured Belgrade on Oct. 20, 1944, and evicted the
Germans.
One by one the states of eastern Europe were falling to Communist
forces in circumstances prejudicing their future independence. When
Churchill arrived in Moscow on Oct. 9, 1944, he tried to contain the
march of Communism into central Europe by making a deal with Stalin
on spheres of influence: Romania to be 90 percent Soviet; Greece 90
percent British; Yugoslavia and Hungary 50–50; Bulgaria 75 percent
Soviet, 25 British. While apparently a realistic response to Soviet
ambitions—and presence—in contrast to Roosevelt's reliance on vague
principles, Churchill's proposal was in fact rather silly. Stalin was
unlikely to grant Western influence in countries under Soviet
occupation (like Hungary), while the meaning of such numbers as
“75–25” was unfathomable. Poland was not mentioned at all. On the
other hand, Churchill did forestall Soviet aid to the Communist
partisans in Greece and may have helped to shield the crucial
Mediterranean from Soviet influence for years after the war.

The final Allied agreements
In February 1945 the Big Three held their last summit conference, at
Yalta on the Crimean Peninsula. It was a last chance to forestall the
disintegration of the alliance upon victory or, conversely, for the
British and Americans to take firm measures against Soviet control in
eastern Europe. Roosevelt was now mortally ill and exhausted by the
strenuous journey. Controversy later raged over his decision to attend
the conference at all, his eagerness to conciliate Stalin, and the
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sinister presence in his entourage of Communist agent Alger Hiss.
Postwar critics would charge that Roosevelt had been duped at Yalta
and had “sold out” eastern Europe to the Communists. Doubtless if
Churchill's advice had been followed, the policy of trust might have
given way to one of hard bargaining and clear haggling over boundaries
and governments in Europe and Asia. But in fact there was little the
Western powers could have done to frustrate Stalin other than
threatening a new world war. Nor could Churchill and Roosevelt have
openly relinquished any liberated states to Stalin without abrogating
the principles on which the war had been fought and alienating the
millions of U.S. voters of eastern European descent. As for Asia, the
United States was yet facing a campaign that might cost hundreds of
thousands of American lives. Purchasing Soviet help against Japan
seemed both realistic and humane. Roosevelt could not predict that
the atomic bomb would render Soviet aid superfluous.
Of the three great allies Britain was the weakest and most interested
in restoring a balance of power in Europe. Churchill, a keen critic of
Bolshevism since 1919, had lobbied all throughout the summer of 1944
for an Italian campaign in hopes that the Allies might reach the
Danube before the Red Army, and in October he had made the
“spheres of influence” deal with Stalin. But the war map—and
Roosevelt's unwillingness to strain the alliance—defeated all these
tactics. On the eve of Yalta, Churchill wondered whether “the end of
this war may well prove to be more disappointing than was the last.”
American war aims, by contrast, were nebulous to nonexistent, except
for a reprise of Wilsonian internationalism. There is little evidence of
economic motives in U.S. policy and, incredibly, no contingency plans
for a breakdown in relations with the U.S.S.R. While Roosevelt feared
another American retreat into isolationism, he also believed in the
possibility of a postwar Great Power condominium. He was prepared to
show Stalin that the Anglo-Saxons were not ganging up on him and
wanted Soviet participation in a United Nations Organization. But
Stalin pursued the old-fashioned way of postwar security: military and
political control of eastern Europe to create a buffer for the U.S.S.R.
and to ensure Soviet domination over its own repressed nationalities.

At the Yalta Conference, Big Three unity seemed intact, but only
because the participants resorted to vagueness or postponements on
the most explosive issues. A joint European Advisory Commission, it
was decided, would divide Germany into occupation zones, with the
Soviet zone extending to the Elbe and a French zone carved out of the
Anglo-American spheres. Berlin would likewise be placed under
four-power control. The Western Allies repudiated the extreme plans
broached at Quebec for the pastoralization of Germany and favoured
German industrial recovery under international control. But the
Soviets insisted on the right to strip Germany of $20,000,000,000 worth

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of machinery and raw materials. The issue was assigned to a
reparations commission. As for the political future of Germany, Stalin
revived earlier Big Three talk of breaking Germany into several states,
but the Western Allies now perceived the danger of further
Balkanization in central Europe in light of Soviet power. This matter,
too, was left for study.

Poland was, as always, a most difficult problem. The Western Allies
reiterated their Tehrān approval of the Curzon Line, now modified
slightly in Poland's favour, as the Soviet–Polish border. But the
assignment of 2,700,000 Germans to Poland in the West worried
Churchill: “It would be a pity to stuff the Polish goose so full of
German food that it died of indigestion.” Hence Poland's western
frontier would be left to a peace conference. As for the Polish
government, the most the Western Allies achieved was a vague
promise from Stalin that he would reorganize the Lublin Committee
and permit free elections among “non-Fascist elements” within a
month after peace. But Stalin reserved the right to decide who was
“Fascist” and rejected international supervision of the elections.
Roosevelt proposed a Declaration on Liberated Europe, by which the
Big Three promised to help all liberated peoples “to solve by
democratic means their pressing political and economic problems”
through “free elections of Governments responsive to the will of the
people.” Stalin signed, probably considering this more high-flown
American rhetoric meant for domestic consumption. In the Communist
lexicon words like democratic and free implied conditions virtually the
opposite of what Roosevelt intended. Since Roosevelt also announced
(to Churchill's despair) that the United States would evacuate its
troops from Europe within two years, Stalin may have felt that he
could safely ignore the Declaration on Liberated Europe.

Stalin did prove conciliatory on the United Nations, which had already
been discussed at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference between Aug. 21
and Oct. 7, 1944. The Soviets had demanded that all 16 constituent
republics of the U.S.S.R. be represented (ostensibly to balance the
British Empire nations that would vote with London) and that
permanent members of the Security Council retain a veto on all issues,
not just those involving sanctions or threats to peace. At Yalta, Stalin
settled for three seats in the General Assembly and a limited veto.
Like Wilson at Versailles, Roosevelt put great stock in international
organization and was prompted to remark, “The Russians have given in
so much at the conference that I don't think we should let them
down.” Finally, Stalin promised to declare war on Japan within 90 days
of the German surrender in return for southern Sakhalin and the Kuril
Islands, retention of Outer Mongolia, and a promise of U.S. support for
Soviet rights at Dairen (Lü-ta) and Port Arthur (Lü-shun)—all the old
objects of Russian imperialism in east Asia. Within a month news from

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the various commissions established at Yalta indicated that the Soviets
did not intend to meet Western expectations. When Molotov
announced on March 23 that most of the London Poles were
disqualified from Polish elections, Roosevelt reportedly banged his fist
on his wheelchair: “Averell [Harriman, ambassador in Moscow] is right.
We can't do business with Stalin. He has broken every one of the
promises he made at Yalta.” Roosevelt then retreated, disillusioned,
to Warm Springs, Ga., where he died on April 12.

The Allied advance from the west was stalled for six weeks by the
Battle of the Bulge, Hitler's last offensive, but by February 1945
German resistance was near its end. Some Soviet and Western leaders
were openly describing the last campaigns as a “land-grab” directed as
much against their distrustful allies as against the Germans. But the
commanders in the West still took steps to prove that they were
supporting the Soviet advance. The worst product of this policy was
the Allied bombing of Dresden on Feb. 13–14, 1945, allegedly to
destroy a key communications centre for Germans facing the Red
Army. The two-day incendiary raid created a firestorm, however, that
consumed the medieval city and killed up to 25,000 civilians, to
virtually no military purpose.

Another product of Western efforts to reassure Stalin was the refusal
to order British and American armies to race the Soviets to Berlin. On
March 7, 1945, General George Patton's tanks broke through weak
German lines and the 1st Army infantry captured intact a Rhine bridge
at Remagen. Churchill pleaded for a rapid thrust in order to secure
Berlin and Prague: “Highly important that we shake hands with the
Russians as far to the east as possible.” Stalin, in turn, tried to lull his
allies by saying that “Berlin has lost its former strategic importance,”
while in fact ordering his generals to make for it as soon as possible.
Eisenhower, backed by Marshall, confined himself to military
considerations alone, however. The Allied armies would close the Ruhr
pocket, then advance in breadth in case the rumours were true of a
Nazi “Alpine redoubt” in the south. When the Western armies
exceeded the limits of their occupation zones in April, Eisenhower
even called them back. Soviet forces, meanwhile, captured Vienna and
Königsberg on April 9 and encircled Berlin by the 25th. Five days later
a despairing Hitler declared that Germany had proved unworthy of him
and committed suicide in his Berlin bunker. Hitler's successor, Admiral
Karl Dönitz, opened negotiations with the Western powers, hoping to
save as many troops and refugees as possible from Soviet reprisals. But
the U.S.S.R. refused to recognize the surrender ceremony at
Eisenhower's headquarters on May 7, necessitating a second surrender,
and a separate Soviet V-E Day, in Berlin on May 8. The war in Europe
was over.

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The defeat of Japan
The encirclement of Japan
By January 1944 the American buildup in the Pacific permitted both
the army and navy commands to accelerate the rollback of Japanese
power. Indeed, the United States had by then deployed as many men
and planes and more ships in the Pacific theatre as in the European.
The army under General MacArthur aimed at the liberation of the
Philippines, thereby cutting Japanese communications with the East
Indies and the sea route to Southeast Asia. The navy under Admiral
Chester Nimitz moved up the Marshall and Mariana chains to bring U.S.
bombers within range of the Japanese home islands. In both cases the
Americans employed the tactic of island-hopping and relied on
superior firepower to inflict appalling casualties on fanatical Japanese
defenders who preferred death to the shame of surrender.

In the central Pacific, the navy's material superiority allowed Nimitz to
pierce Japan's “absolute national defense sphere” almost at will. By
1943 the United States was producing 100,000 planes per year,
compared to Japan's total of 63,000 for the entire war. By the summer
of 1944 the United States had nearly 100 carriers of all types in the
Pacific, compared to Japan's total of 20 for the war. The Japanese also
lost more than 80 percent of the 6,000,000 tons of shipping with which
they had begun the war (half to U.S. submarines) and were forced to
expose their proud navy to destruction in a vain effort to supply their
far-flung garrisons. The U.S. advance was limited only by its own
supply lines, which stretched 5,000 miles from Pearl Harbor and 8,000
from the continental bases of California.
The bombing of the Japanese home islands achieved a new plateau of
horror when the U.S. Army Air Forces adopted Britain's European
tactics of low-level nighttime raiding on urban areas. On the night of
March 9–10, 1945, napalm area bombing of largely wooden Tokyo
stoked fire storms that destroyed a quarter of the city, killed 80,000
civilians, and left 1,000,000 homeless. Similar devastating fire raids
were launched against Ōsaka, Kōbe, Yokohama, and other cities.

The atomic decision
By April, Japan lay open to direct assault by land as well as air and
sea. How could the United States bring Tokyo to surrender? Three
means suggested themselves: invasion, inducement, and shock. The
first would involve a lengthy, brutal campaign in which, it was
estimated, hundreds of thousands of American and perhaps 2,000,000

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Japanese lives would be lost. Yet the Joint Chiefs had no choice but to
prepare for this eventuality, and by May 25 they had instructed
MacArthur to plan Operation “Olympic,” an invasion of Kyushu, for
November 1. The second means, inducement, was clearly preferable,
and on May 8, the day after the German surrender, President Harry S.
Truman tried it. Unconditional surrender, he said, would mean “the
termination of the influence of the military leaders who have brought
Japan to the present brink of disaster,” but did not mean “the
extermination or enslavement of the Japanese people,” who would be
free to “return to their families, their farms, their jobs.”
Unfortunately, Truman did not include (as the State Department
advised) a promise that the Japanese might retain their emperor, the
god-king of their Shintō state religion. On the other hand, the
Japanese government foolishly dismissed Truman's appeal as
propaganda and began to mobilize the home front to resist an
invasion.

The third means of achieving a surrender—by shock—had become a
possibility on Dec. 30, 1944, when General Leslie Groves, head of the
Manhattan Project, reported that it was “reasonably certain” that a
gun-type atomic bomb equivalent to 10,000 tons of TNT and an
implosion-type bomb would be ready for testing by the summer of
1945. On April 25, soon after Truman's accession to the presidency,
Secretary of War Stimson impressed on him the significance of this
development: “Within four months we shall in all probability have
completed the most terrible weapon ever known in human history, one
bomb of which could destroy a whole city.” He then formed an Interim
Committee of statesmen and scientists to debate how the bomb should
be employed. On May 31 and June 1 the committee received scientific
briefings and held discussions on whether to share the secret with the
Soviets, how long it would take other nations to develop their own
atomic bomb, how international control might be achieved, whether
the U.S. monopoly might help Washington in its relations with Moscow,
and whether the bomb would be a universal blessing or a
Frankenstein's monster.
In the matter at hand, however, the committee concluded that the
bomb should be used to end the war as soon as possible; that it should
be dropped on a military-urban target so as to demonstrate its full
force; and that a demonstration or warning should not be made
beforehand, lest the bomb lose its shock value. The scientific panel
under J. Robert Oppenheimer concurred on June 16. As he later said,
“We didn't know beans about the military situation in Japan. . . . We
did say that we did not think exploding one of these things as a
firecracker over a desert was likely to be very impressive.”

The first atomic test near Alamogordo, N.M., on July 16, 1945, yielded

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an explosion equivalent to that of 15,000 tons of TNT and stunned
Oppenheimer and his colleagues with its elemental power. At that
moment Truman was attending the final Big Three meeting at
Potsdam, and he casually mentioned to Stalin that the United States
had “a new weapon of unusual destructive force.” Stalin said that he
was glad to hear of it and hoped that the United States would make
good use of it against the Japanese. Though little else was agreed
upon at Potsdam, the Big Three did jointly invite Japan on July 26 to
surrender unconditionally or face “prompt and utter destruction.”
When no surrender was forthcoming, Truman gave the Army Air Forces
on Tinian Island the green light. He wrote later that he never lost a
moment's sleep over his decision.

A specially equipped B-29, the Enola Gay, dropped an atomic bomb on
the military port of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. The heat and blast
effaced everything in the vicinity, burned 4.4 square miles, and killed
some 70,000 people (lingering injuries and radiation sickness brought
the death toll past 100,000 by the end of the year). Two days later the
U.S.S.R. declared war on Japan and invaded Manchuria. On August 9
the second atomic bomb fell on Nagasaki, killing 39,000 people. On
that day the Voice of the Sacred Crane—the emperor's
command—summoned the Cabinet to an audience. Hirohito expressed
his wish that Japan accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration on
the sole condition that the emperor remain sovereign. To continue the
war, he said, would be suicidal. And then, perhaps realizing the irony
of that remark, he turned to the military men and noted that their
performance had fallen rather short of their promises. Even at that
late date some fanatical officers attempted a coup on the palace
grounds rather than submit. On Sept. 2, 1945, however, General
MacArthur received the Japanese surrender on the battleship Missouri
in Tokyo Bay, and the greatest war in history came to a close.

The coming of the Cold War, 1945–57
The symbolic first meeting of American and Soviet soldiers occurred at
Torgau, Ger., on April 25, 1945. Their handshakes and toasts in beer and
vodka celebrated their common victory over Nazi Germany and marked the
collapse of old Europe altogether; but their inarticulate grunts and
exaggerated smiles presaged the lack of communication in their
relationship to come. Grand wartime coalitions invariably break up once
the common fight gives way to bickering over division of the spoils, but
feuding victors after the wars of Louis XIV and Napoleon or World War I at
least negotiated treaties of peace, while the rancour among them was
moderated by time or the danger that the common enemy might rise
again. After 1945, however, no grand peace conference convened, no
common fear of Germany or Japan survived, and the quarrels among the
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victors only grew year by year into what the U.S. presidential adviser
Bernard Baruch and the pundit Walter Lippmann termed a Cold War.

The U.S.–Soviet conflict began in 1945 over treatment of occupied
Germany and the composition of the Polish government. It grew during
1946 as the Soviets communized the lands under their occupation and the
victors failed to agree on a plan for the control of atomic energy. From
1947 to 1950 the reactions of Washington and Moscow to the perceived
threats of the other solidified the division of Europe and much of the world
into two blocs, and the Cold War became universalized, institutionalized,
and militarized.
The settlement after World War II, therefore, was a peace without
treaties, and the Cold War magnified, distorted, or otherwise played upon
the other historical trends given impetus by the world wars of the 20th
century: Asian nationalism, decolonization, the seeming culmination of the
37-year-old Chinese Revolution, the evolution of independent Communist
parties in Yugoslavia and Asia, and western Europe's drive to end four
centuries of conflict through economic integration. The early Cold War was
not a decade of fear and failure alone but also a creative time that gave
birth to the closest thing to a world order that had existed since 1914.
With the sole major exception of the later Sino-Soviet split, the
boundaries, institutions, and relationships fashioned in the late 1940s were
very nearly the same ones that shaped world politics through the 1980s.

The Cold War guilt question
As early as 1948 American left-liberals blamed the Truman administration
for the icy tone of its relations with Moscow, while rightists blamed the
Communists but accused Roosevelt and Truman of appeasement.
Moderates of both parties shared a consensus that Truman's containment
policy was, as the historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., wrote, “the brave and
essential response of free men to communist aggression.” After all,
Stalin's tyranny was undeniable, and his seizure of countries in eastern
Europe one by one was reminiscent of Hitler's “salami tactics.” To be
sure, Roosevelt may have helped to foster mistrust by refusing to discuss
war aims earlier and then relying on vague principles, and Truman may
have blundered or initiated steps that solidified the Cold War. Those
steps, however, were taken only after substantial Soviet violation of
wartime agreements and in fearful confusion over the motivations for
Soviet policy. Was the U.S.S.R. implacably expansionist, or were its aims
limited? Was it executing a plan based on Communist faith in world
revolution, or reflecting the need of the regime for foreign enemies to
justify domestic terror, or merely pursuing the traditional aims of Russian
imperialism? Or was it only Stalin's own paranoia or ambition that was
responsible for Soviet aggression?

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The fact that Western societies tended to parade their disagreements
and failures in public, in contrast to the Soviet fetish for secrecy,
guaranteed that historical attention would fix on American motivations
and mistakes. In the late 1950s and the 1960s, traditional left-liberal
scholars smarting from the excesses of McCarthyism and new leftists of
the Vietnam era began publishing revisionist interpretations of the origins
of the Cold War. The “hard revisionism” of William Appleman Williams in
1959 depicted the Cold War in Marxist fashion as an episode in American
economic expansion in which the U.S. government resorted to military
threats to prevent Communists from closing off eastern European markets
and raw materials to American corporations. Less rigidly ideological “soft
revisionists” blamed the Cold War on the irascible Truman
administration, which, they charged, had jettisoned the cooperative
framework built up by Roosevelt at Tehrān and Yalta and had dropped
the atomic bombs on Japan as a means of frightening the Russians and
forcing an “American peace.” These revisionist interpretations were
based not so much on new evidence as on new assumptions about U.S.
and Soviet motives, influenced in turn by the protest movements against
the Vietnam War, nuclear weapons, and the alleged domination of
American society by the “military-industrial complex.” Looking back to
the years after 1945, the revisionists argued that Stalin was not a
fanatical aggressor but a traditional Soviet statesman. After all, the
Soviet Union had been brutally invaded and had lost 20,000,000 lives in
the war. Stalin could thus be excused for insisting on friendly
governments on his borders. He was betrayed, said revisionists, by
American militancy and Red-baiting after the death of Roosevelt.

Traditional historians countered that little evidence existed for most of
the revisionist positions. To be sure, American hostility to Communism
dated from 1917, but the record proved Roosevelt's commitment to good
relations with Stalin, while no proof at all was forthcoming that American
policy makers were anxious to penetrate eastern European markets,
which were, in any case, of minor importance to the U.S. economy.
Williams rebutted that policy makers so internalized their economic
imperialism that they did not bother to put their thoughts on paper, but
this “argument from no evidence” made a mockery of scholarship. The
preponderance of evidence also indicated that the atomic decision was
made for military considerations, although isolated advisers did hope that
it would ease negotiations with Moscow. These and other examples led
most historians to conclude that, while the revisionists brought to light
new issues and exposed American aimlessness, inconsistency, and
possible overreaction at the end of World War II, they failed to establish
their primary theories of American guilt.
Historians with a longer perspective on the Cold War transcended the
passions of Vietnam-era polarization and observed that deeper forces
must have been at work for the Cold War to have persisted for so long

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after 1945. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how leaders of the two
countries could have sat down agreeably and settled the affairs of the
world. The new superpowers were wrenched out of isolationism and
thrust into roles of world leadership, they nurtured contrary universalist
ideologies, and they mounted asymmetrical military threats (one based
on conventional weapons, sheer numbers, and land power; the other on
nuclear might, technological superiority, and air and sea power). To
these liabilities could be added the fact that both countries had been
forced into World War II by sneak attacks and had resolved never again to
be seduced into appeasement or to be taken by surprise.
Even such a balanced long-range view should not be taken uncritically. It
remains the case that the Cold War grew out of specific diplomatic
disputes, among them Germany, eastern Europe, and atomic weapons.
Could those disputes have been avoided or amicably resolved? Certainly
some prior agreement on war aims might have softened the discord after
1945, but Roosevelt's policy of avoiding divisive issues during the war,
while wise in the short run, enhanced the potential for conflict. It might,
without undue exaggeration, be said that the United States entered the
postwar period with only a vision of a postwar economic world and few
political war aims at all, and thus had little excuse for indignation once
Stalin set out methodically to realize his own aims. But this does not
justify a Soviet policy bent on denying self-rule to neighbouring peoples
and imposing police states as cruel as those of Hitler. Although the
Soviets had lost 20,000,000 in the war, Stalin had killed at least an equal
number of his own citizens through deliberate famine and purge.
American hegemony, if it can be called that, was by contrast liberal,
pluralistic, and generous.
The question has been posed: Is it not an expression of American
exclusivism, self-righteousness, or cultural imperialism to insist that the
rest of the world conform to Anglo-Saxon standards of political
legitimacy? Even if so, critics must take care not to indulge in a double
standard: excusing the U.S.S.R. for being “realistic” and damning the
United States for being insufficiently “idealistic.”

Wasteland: the world after 1945
The ruin of Europe and Japan
Harry Truman had been an artilleryman in World War I and
remembered well the lunar landscape of the Western Front. Yet, while
driving from Potsdam to Berlin in July 1945, he exclaimed, “I never
saw such destruction!” Almost all the great cities of central and
eastern Europe were jagged with ruined buildings, pitted roads,

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wrecked bridges, and choked waterways. Amid it all were the gaunt
survivors, perhaps 45,000,000 of them homeless, including 25,000,000
in those lands—Poland, the Ukraine, and Russia—that had been overrun
and scorched two or three times. European communications and
transportation reverted to 19th-century levels: 90 percent of French
trucks and 82 percent of French locomotives were out of commission,
as were over half the rolling stock in Germany and two-thirds of the
Balkan railroads. European coal production was at 40 percent of
prewar levels, and more than half the continent's merchant marine no
longer existed. Some 23 percent of Europe's farmland was out of
production by war's end. Of course, people could be fed with American
aid while the rubble was cleared away and utilities restored, but World
War II cost Europe more in monetary terms than all its previous wars
put together. The war also set in train the greatest
Völkerwanderung—movement of peoples—since the barbarian
incursions of the late Roman Empire. During the Nazi onslaught some
27,000,000 people fled or were forced out by war and persecution, and
4,500,000 more were seized for slave labour. When the Red Army
advanced westward, millions more fled before it to escape reprisals or
Communism. All told, about 60,000,000 people of 55 ethnic groups
from 27 countries were uprooted. Finally, 7,000,000 Axis prisoners of
war were in Allied hands, along with 8,000,000 Allied prisoners of war
liberated from the Axis and 670,000 survivors of Nazi death camps.
The landscape in much of Japan was just as barren, its cities flattened
by bombing, its industry and shipping destroyed. Large parts of China
had been under foreign occupation for up to 14 years and—like Russia
after World War I—still faced several years of destructive civil war.
Indeed, World War II had laid waste every major industrial region of
the globe except North America. The result was that in 1945–46 the
United States accounted for almost half the gross world product of
goods and services and enjoyed a technological lead symbolized by,
but by no means limited to, its atomic monopoly. On the other hand,
Americans as always wanted to demobilize rapidly and return to the
private lives and careers interrupted by Pearl Harbor. The Soviet
Union, by contrast, was in ruin, but its mighty armies occupied half a
dozen states in the heart of Europe, while local Communist parties
agitated in Italy and France. The United States and the Soviet Union
thus appeared to pose asymmetrical threats to each other.

U.S. vision of reconstruction
American planners envisioned postwar reconstruction in terms of
Wilsonian internationalism but were determined to avoid the mistakes
that resulted after 1918 in inflation, tariffs, debts, and reparations. In

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1943 the United States sponsored the United Nations Relief and
Rehabilitation Administration to distribute food and medicine to the
stricken peoples in the war zones. At the Bretton Woods Conference
(summer of 1944) the United States presided over the creation of the
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The dollar was
returned to gold convertibility at $35 per ounce and would serve as the
world's reserve currency, while the pound, the franc, and other
currencies were pegged to the dollar. Such stability would permit the
recovery of world trade, while a General Agreement on Tariffs and
Trade (ratified in 1948) would ensure low tariffs and prevent a return
to policies of economic nationalism. Treasury Secretary Henry
Morgenthau tried to entice the Soviets to join the Bretton Woods
system, but the U.S.S.R. opted out of the new economic order.
The American universalist program seemingly had more luck in the
political realm. Roosevelt was convinced that the League of Nations
had been doomed by the absence of the United States and the Soviet
Union and thus was anxious to win Soviet participation in the
compromises at Yalta. The Big Four powers accordingly drafted the
Charter of the United Nations at the San Francisco Conference in April
1945. Roosevelt wisely appointed several leading Republicans to the
U.S. delegation, avoiding Wilson's fatal error and securing the Senate
ratification of the UN Charter on July 28, 1945, by a vote of 89–2. Like
Wilson, Roosevelt and Truman hoped that future quarrels could be
settled peacefully in the international body.

The end of East–West cooperation
By the time of the Potsdam Conference, Truman was already aware of
Soviet unwillingness to permit representative governments and free
elections in the countries under its control. The U.S.S.R. compelled
the King of Romania to appoint a Communist-dominated government,
Tito's Communists assumed control of a coalition with royalists in
Yugoslavia, Communists dominated in Hungary and Bulgaria (where a
reported 20,000 people were liquidated), and the Red Army extended
an invitation to “consult” with 16 underground Polish leaders only to
arrest them when they surfaced. As Stalin said to the Yugoslav
Communist Milovan Djilas: “In this war each side imposes its system as
far as its armies can reach. It cannot be otherwise.” On April 23, 1945,
Truman scolded Molotov for these violations of the Yalta Accords and,
when Molotov protested such undiplomatic conduct, replied, “Carry
out your agreements and you won't get talked to like that.” On May 11,
three days after the German surrender, Truman abruptly ordered the
termination of Lend-Lease aid to the U.S.S.R. Two weeks later Stalin
replied in like terms to the envoy Harry Hopkins by way of protesting

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the suspension of Lend-Lease, Churchill's alleged plan to revive a
cordon sanitaire on Russia's borders, and other matters. Hopkins,
however, assured him of American goodwill and acquiesced in the
imprisonment of the Polish leaders and the inclusion of only a few
London Poles in the new government. The United States and Britain
then recognized the Warsaw regime, assuring Soviet domination of
Poland.

The short-lived détente was to be consummated at Potsdam, the last
meeting among the Big Three. In the midst of the conference,
however, the British electorate rejected Churchill at the polls, and the
Labour Party leader Clement Attlee replaced him in the councils of the
great. Aside from the Soviet promise to enter the war against Japan
and Truman's hint that the United States had developed the atomic
bomb, the Potsdam Conference dealt with postwar Europe. The
U.S.S.R. was authorized to seize one-third of the German fleet,
extract reparations-in-kind from its eastern German occupation zone,
and benefit from a complicated formula for delivery of industrial goods
from the western zones, 15 percent to be counted as payment for
foodstuffs and other products sent from the Soviet zone. The
conference provided for peace treaties with the defeated countries
once they had “recognized democratic governments” and left their
drafting to the Council of Foreign Ministers. Finally, the Potsdam
nations agreed to prosecute Germans for war crimes in trials that were
conducted at Nürnberg for a year after November 1945. Potsdam,
however, left the most divisive issues—the administration of Germany
and the configuration of eastern European governments—to future
discussion. At the first such meeting, in September, the new U.S.
secretary of state, James F. Byrnes, asked why Western newsmen were
not allowed into eastern Europe and why governments could not be
formed there that were democratic yet still friendly to Russia. Molotov
asked on his own account why the U.S.S.R. was excluded from the
administration of Japan.
Truman enumerated the principles of American foreign policy in his
Navy Day speech of October 27. Its 12 points echoed the Fourteen
Points of Woodrow Wilson, including national self-determination;
nonrecognition of governments imposed by foreign powers; freedom of
the seas, commerce, expression, and religion; and support for the
United Nations. Confusion reigned in Washington, however, as to how
to implement these principles in league with Moscow. As the political
commentator James Reston observed, two schools of thought seemed
to compete for the ear of the President. According to the first, Stalin
was committed to limitless expansion and would only be encouraged
by concessions. According to the second, Stalin was amenable to a
structure of peace but could not be expected to loosen his hold on
eastern Europe so long as the United States excluded him from, for

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instance, Japan. Truman and the State Department drifted between
these two poles, searching for a key to unlock the secrets of the
Kremlin and hence the appropriate U.S. policy.

Truman's last attempt to win the Soviets to his universalist vision was
the Byrnes mission to Moscow in December 1945. There the Soviets
promptly accepted an Anglo-American plan for a UN Atomic Energy
Agency meant to control the development and use of nuclear power.
Stalin also conceded that it might prove possible to make some
changes in the Romanian and Bulgarian parliaments, though conceding
nothing that might weaken his hold on the satellites. George F. Kennan
of the U.S. embassy in Moscow called the concessions “fig leaves of
democratic procedure to hide the nakedness of Stalinist dictatorship,”
while Truman's own dissatisfaction with the results at Moscow and
growing domestic criticism of his “coddling” of the Russians were
pushing him toward a drastic reformulation of policy.

Why, in fact, did Stalin engage in such a hurried takeover of eastern
Europe when it was bound to provoke the United States (magnifying
Soviet insecurity) and waste the opportunity for access to U.S. loans
and perhaps even atomic secrets? Was not Stalin's policy, in
retrospect, simply unwise? Such questions cannot be answered with
assurance, since less is known about the postwar Stalinist era (1945–53)
than any other in Soviet history, but the most tempting clue is again to
be found in Stalin's domestic calculations. If the Soviet Union were to
recover from the war, not to mention compete with the mighty United
States, the population would have to be spurred to even greater
efforts, which meant intensifying the campaign against alleged foreign
threats. What was more, the Soviets had only recently regained
control of populations that had had contact with foreigners and, in
some cases, collaborated with the invaders. Ukrainians in particular
had tried to establish an autonomous status under the Nazis, and they
persisted in guerrilla activity against the Soviets until 1947. If Soviet
citizens were allowed widespread contact with foreigners through
economic cooperation, international institutions, and cultural
exchanges, loyalty to the Communist regime might be weakened. Firm
control of his eastern European neighbours helped assure Stalin of firm
control at home. Indeed, he now ordered the utter isolation of Soviet
life to the point that returning prisoners of war were interned lest
they “infect” their neighbours with notions of the outside world.
Perhaps Stalin did not really fear an attack from the “imperialists” or
consider a Soviet invasion of western Europe, but neither could he
welcome the Americans and British as genuine comrades in peace
without undermining the ideology and the emergency that justified his
own iron rule.
A swift return to Communist orthodoxy accompanied the clampdown

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on foreign contacts. During the war the U.S.S.R.'s leading economist,
Evgeny Varga of the Institute of World Economy and World Politics,
argued that government controls in the United States had moderated
the influence of monopolies, permitting both dynamic growth and a
mellower foreign policy. The U.S.S.R. might therefore benefit from
East–West cooperation and prevent the division of the world into
economic blocs. Stalin appeared to tolerate this nontraditionalist view
as long as large loans from the United States and the World Bank were
a possibility. But the suspension of Lend-Lease, opposition to a Soviet
loan in the State Department, and Stalin's renewed rejection of
consumerism doomed these moderate views on the world economy.
The new Five-Year Plan, announced at the start of 1946, called for
continued concentration on heavy industry and military technology.
The war and victory, said Stalin, had justified his harsh policies of the
1930s, and he called on Soviet scientists to overtake and surpass
Western science. Soviet economists perforce embraced the traditional
view that Western economies were about to enter a new period of
inflation and unemployment that would increase the imperialist
pressure for war. Andrey Zhdanov, the Communist leader of Leningrad,
was a bellwether. In 1945 he wanted to reward the Soviet people with
consumer goods for their wartime sacrifices; in early 1947 he espoused
the theory of the “two camps,” the peace-loving, progressive camp led
by the Soviet Union and the militaristic, reactionary camp led by the
United States.
American confusion came to an end after Feb. 9, 1946, when Stalin's
great speech inaugurating the Five-Year Plan reiterated clearly his
implacable hostility to the West. Kennan responded with his famous
“Long Telegram” from Moscow (February 22), which for years to come
served as a primer on Soviet behaviour for many in Washington. The
Kremlin's “neurotic view of world affairs,” he wrote, was the product
of centuries of Russian isolation and insecurity vis-à-vis the more
advanced West. The Soviets, like the tsars, viewed the influx of
Western ideas as the greatest threat to their continued power, and
they clung to Marxist ideology as a cover for their disregard for “every
single ethical value in their methods and tactics.” The U.S.S.R. was
not Nazi Germany—it would not seek war and was averse to risk
taking—but it would employ every means of subverting, dividing, and
undermining the West through the actions of Communists and fellow
travelers. Kennan's advice was to expect nothing from negotiations but
to remain confident and healthy, lest the United States become like
those with whom it was contending.

Kennan's analysis implied several important conclusions: that the
Wilsonian vision inherited from Roosevelt was fruitless; that the United
States must take the lead in organizing the Western world; that the
Truman administration must prevent a renewal of isolationism and

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persuade the American people to shoulder their new responsibilities.
Churchill, though out of office, aided this agenda when he warned the
American people (with Truman's confidential endorsement) from
Fulton, Mo., on March 5, 1946, that an “iron curtain” had descended
across the European continent.

The Cold War in Europe
Peace treaties and territorial agreements
The early spring of 1946 was a turning point when the United States
gave up its hopes of cooperation in favour of what would soon be
called “containment.” The first manifestation occurred in March 1946,
when the U.S.S.R. failed to evacuate Iran on schedule and Secretary of
State Byrnes was obliged to go to the UN Security Council and even
hint at hostilities to get Moscow to retreat. This incident, together
with Soviet pressure on Turkey and Yugoslav involvement in the Greek
civil war, seemed to indicate that Communists were prepared to use
force to expand.

The year 1946 saw many meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers,
which ultimately produced treaties of peace with Italy, Hungary,
Romania, Finland, and Bulgaria, signed on Feb. 10, 1947. Border
questions after World War II were comparatively minor—a somewhat
ironic fact, given the interwar attacks on Versailles by all parties.
Romania ceded northern Bukovina and Bessarabia back to the U.S.S.R.,
which also claimed Petsamo and the Karelian Isthmus from Finland and
the Carpatho-Ukraine region from Czechoslovakia. Hungary returned
northern Transylvania to Romania. Italy ceded the Dodecanese islands
to Greece and surrendered its overseas colonies, although a Soviet
demand for a trusteeship over Libya was denied. Trieste was contested
by Italy and Yugoslavia and remained under Western occupation until
1954. The major change affected Poland, which was figuratively
picked up and moved some 150 miles to the west. This meant that
large portions of eastern Germany came under Polish administration,
while the U.S.S.R. absorbed the entire Baltic coast as far as the
venerable German port of Königsberg (Kaliningrad). The U.S.S.R. was
the only power to make significant territorial gains from the war.
Four-power cooperation in Germany continued to deteriorate. The
Americans had agreed at Potsdam to reparations-in-kind but opposed
extreme efforts by the Soviets and the French to pauperize the
Germans lest the burden of feeding them fall entirely on the American
taxpayer. What was more, the Soviets would be unwilling (in Kennan's
view) to countenance centralized German institutions unless they were

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in a position to use them to communize the entire country. In early
May 1946, General Lucius Clay, commanding the U.S. zone, refused to
authorize shipments out of western Germany until agreement was
reached on treating Germany as a unit under four-power control. On
September 6, Byrnes then announced a new policy: if unification of all
Germany proved impossible, the United States would instead promote
“maximum possible unification” (i.e., in the western zones only). This
ensured that Germany would remain divided long afterward.

Atomic energy
The superpowers also failed to join hands on atomic energy. Despite
resistance from powerful circles in the press, Congress, and the
military against any giveaway of atomic secrets, Byrnes appointed a
committee in January 1946 to draft proposals for international control
of atomic energy. The resulting (Dean) Acheson–(David) Lilienthal
Report called for a UN authority to survey and control all uranium
deposits and ensure that atomic research was conducted for peaceful
purposes only. Once controls were in place, the United States would
relinquish its arsenal and scientific information to the world
community. Truman entrusted the diplomatic task to Baruch, who
insisted that nations not be allowed to employ their Security Council
veto in atomic matters. He then appealed to the UN on June 14, 1946:
“We are here to make a choice between the quick and the dead.” The
Soviet plan, presented by Andrey Gromyko, called instead for
immediate prohibition of all manufacture and use of atomic weapons.
Measures to ensure compliance would follow, but there could be no
tampering with the Security Council veto. Western delegates pointed
out that the Soviets were asking the United States to give up its
monopoly and make public all its data in return for a paper promise of
compliance. Gromyko countered that the United States was asking all
other countries to reveal the state of their own research before it gave
up its own arsenal. At the final vote in December, the U.S.S.R. and
Poland vetoed the Baruch Plan, and international control of atomic
energy ceased to be a possibility. While the United States was not as
forthcoming as it might have been, the Soviet refusal to allow on-site
inspection would frustrate disarmament for the next 40 years.

The economic battle with Communism
By the turn of 1947 it appeared that Truman's foreign policy was
foundering. His secretary of agriculture, Henry A. Wallace, had been
outspoken in criticism of the Baruch Plan and of the policy of “getting
tough” with the Soviets. Upon resigning he became a leader of those

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whom Truman privately described as the “Reds, phonies and the
parlour pinks” that he feared were “a sabotage front for Uncle Joe
Stalin.” The 1946 elections then returned a Republican Congress bent
on cutting costs and “bringing the boys home.” Yet the United States
was on the verge of the greatest reversal of its foreign policy
traditions since 1917. On Feb. 21, 1947, the British government
announced that its economic difficulties would force it to suspend
economic and military aid to Greece and Turkey by March 31. Greece
was embroiled in civil war provoked by Communists. Turkey was under
Soviet pressure for bases and naval passage through the Dardanelles. If
those countries succumbed to Communist influence, the
Mediterranean and the entire Middle East might follow. Truman, his
new secretary of state, George C. Marshall, and Marshall's deputy,
Dean Acheson, resolved at once that the United States must step in.
On February 27 Acheson impressed congressional leaders with a vivid
account of the Soviet strategy of expansion and its implications for
American security. After a tense silence, Republican Senator Arthur
Vandenberg vowed to support the new policy if Truman would explain
it with equal clarity to the American people. On March 12, Truman
accordingly told Congress that “at the present moment in world history
nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. The
choice is too often not a free one. . . . It must be the policy of the
United States to support free people who are resisting attempted
subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressure.” He asked for
$400,000,000 in aid specifically for Greece and Turkey, but the
Truman Doctrine thus propounded universalized the American
commitment to contain the spread of Communism.
The mobilization of American might for this task followed swiftly. On
June 5, 1947, at Harvard University, Marshall called for a massive
program of foreign aid to help the European states recover. In July,
Kennan, signing himself “X,” educated the public on “The Sources of
Soviet Conduct” and outlined the strategy of containment in the
journal Foreign Affairs. The National Military Establishment Act of
1947 (in the works since the war) created a permanent Joint Chiefs of
Staff, a single secretary of defense, the U.S. Air Force as a separate
service with its nuclear-armed Strategic Air Command, and the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA). Kennan himself soon criticized the Truman
Doctrine as indiscriminate and excessively military. Drawing on
classical geopolitics, he narrowed U.S. interests to the protection of
those industrial regions not yet in the hands of the Soviet Union (North
America, Britain, Germany, and Japan). In practice, however, defense
of those regions seemed to require defense of contiguous areas as
well. Japanese security, for instance, depended on the fate of Korea,
and European security on not being outflanked in the Middle East.
American responsibilities, therefore, could easily appear to be global.

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The Marshall Plan was born in the State Department in response to the
fact that western Europe was making little progress toward prosperity
and stability. Britain was exhausted and committed to the Labour
government's extensive welfare programs. In France, Charles de
Gaulle's postwar government quickly gave way to a Fourth Republic
paralyzed by quarreling factions that included a large, disciplined
Communist party. In Italy, too, Communists threatened to gain power
by parliamentary means. All suffered from underproduction, a
shortage of capital, and energy shortages exacerbated by the severe
winter of 1946–47. Marshall therefore put forward a plan for cash
grants to a joint European economic council “to assist in the return of
normal economic health, without which there can be no political
stability and no assured peace.”

The British foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, spoke for western Europe
when he told Parliament, “When the Marshall proposals were
announced, I grabbed them with both hands.” At Kennan's insistence,
Marshall aid was offered to all of Europe, including the Soviet bloc, but
Stalin denounced the plan as a capitalist plot. The one eastern
European state not yet communized, Czechoslovakia, attempted to
join the Marshall Plan, but Communist pressure forced it to back out.
In February 1948, less than 10 years after Munich, the Czech
Communist party subverted the republic and Czech democracy again
fell to totalitarian rule, a tragedy punctuated by the suicide—or
murder—of Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk. Stalin reinforced his attack
on the Marshall Plan by reviving the Communist International, now
called the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform), in October
1947 and by escalating ideological warfare against the West.
The new hope kindled in western Europe by the Marshall Plan helped
secure the defeat of the Communists in the 1948 Italian election (the
$1,000,000 of CIA funds for the Christian Democrats was hardly
decisive) and stabilize politics elsewhere in western Europe. Under the
Marshall Plan, the United States then transferred $13,600,000,000 to
the stricken economies of western Europe in addition to
$9,500,000,000 in earlier loans and $500,000,000 in private charity.

The division of Europe
The Marshall Plan's manifold effects included the hardening of the
division of Europe, the movement for integration within western
Europe, and the creation of the two Germanies. “Bizonia,” the
product of an economic merger between the U.S. and British
occupation zones, was announced on May 29, 1947, and a new U.S.
policy followed on July 11 that ended Germany's punitive period and
aimed at making its economy self-sufficient. When in March 1948 some
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of the western European states responded to the coup in
Czechoslovakia by signing the Brussels Treaty and pressing ahead with
the establishment of a West German currency and government, the
Russians walked out of the Allied Control Council. On June 24, Soviet
occupation forces in the eastern zone blocked Allied road and rail
access to the western zones of Berlin. This first Berlin crisis, made
possible by the anomaly of a U.S.-British-French interest 100 miles
inside the Soviet zone, forced Truman to define the limits of his “get
tough” policy. Clay and Acheson advocated sending an armed convoy
along the access routes to assert Allied rights, but neither the Joint
Chiefs nor the British and French were prepared to risk war. Instead,
the United States responded with an enormous airlift, totalling 277,264
sorties, to keep western Berlin supplied with food, fuel, and medicine.
Perhaps Stalin hoped to drive the Allies from Berlin, or to prevent the
setting up and possible rearmament of a West German state, or to
induce the American electorate in 1948 to return to isolationism. In
the event, the blockade only frightened the Western powers into
stronger new measures. On April 4, 1949, the foreign ministers of the
United States, Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg,
Italy, Portugal, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Canada founded the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Washington, D.C.,
providing for mutual aid in case of attack against any member. On May
8, the West German parliamentary council adopted a constitution, and
on May 23 the Federal Republic of Germany came into being. Stalin
acknowledged defeat in Berlin and lifted the blockade on May 12, but
the Soviets countered by creating mirror institutions—the German
Democratic Republic (Oct. 7, 1949) and the Council for Mutual
Economic Assistance (Comecon) in the Soviet bloc.
The parallel and hostile German states and regional alliances
institutionalized and militarized the Cold War even as the Communist
ideological offensive and the Truman Doctrine had universalized it.
Before this first phase of the Cold War closed, however, two events
called into question root assumptions of the two sides. The first was
the West's assumption that Communism was a monolithic movement
controlled from the Kremlin. In June 1948 the world became aware of
a rift between Stalin and Tito that threatened to shake the Soviet
empire of “people's democracies.” This rift could be traced to the
war, in which Tito's Communist partisans had expelled the Nazis from
Yugoslavia without large-scale aid from the Soviet Union. As a national
hero, Tito had strong domestic support and thus was not personally
dependent on Stalin. He even persevered in support for the Greek
Communists while Stalin was adhering to his 1944 agreement with
Churchill to keep hands off Greece. When Stalin and Molotov vetoed
his plans for a Balkan confederation, Tito purged Yugoslav Communists
known to be in the pay of Moscow. Stalin countered with brutal threats
and a purge of Communists in the satellites accused of Titoist

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tendencies. But Tito held firm: Yugoslavia would “choose its own path
to Socialism,” seek economic ties with the West, and indirectly place
itself under Western protection. Tito also ceased to support the Greek
Communists, and the civil war there soon ended in a victory for the
royal government (October 1949).
The second assumption of the early Cold War was shattered in August
1949 when the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb. Its
development might have been hastened by espionage, but Soviets had
been among the leaders in nuclear physics before the war, and
knowledgeable observers had known that a Soviet atomic bomb was
only a matter of time.

The Cold War in the Middle East and Asia
The creation of Israel
Islāmic and South Asian nationalism, first awakened in the era of the
first World War, triumphed in the wake of the second, bringing on in
the years 1946–50 the first great wave of decolonization. The British
and French fulfilled their wartime promises by evacuating and
recognizing the sovereignty of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria in
1946 and Iraq in 1947. (Oman and Yemen remained under British
administration until the 1960s, Kuwait and the Trucial States [United
Arab Emirates] until 1971.) The strategic importance of the Middle
East derived from its vast oil reserves, the Suez Canal, and its position
on the southern rim of the U.S.S.R. While the Islāmic kingdoms and
republics were not drawn to Communist ideology, the Soviets hoped to
expand their influence by pressuring Turkey and Iran and involving
themselves in the intramural quarrels of the region. Chief among these
was the Arab-Israeli dispute.
The Zionist movement of the late 19th century had led by 1917 to the
Balfour Declaration, by which Britain promised an eventual homeland
for Jews in Palestine. When that former Ottoman province became a
British mandate under the League of Nations in 1922, it contained
about 700,000 people, of whom only 58,000 were Jews. By the end of
the 1920s, however, the Jewish community had tripled, and, with the
encouragement of Amīn al-Ḥusaynī, grand mufti of Jerusalem and
admirer of the Nazis, Arab resentment exploded in bloody riots in 1929
and again in 1936–39. For self-protection the Jews formed Haganah
(Defense), an underground militia that by 1939 had grown into a
semiprofessional army. The Zionist cause then began to benefit from
the worldwide sympathy caused by the Nazi Holocaust and by Haganah
cobelligerency in the British war against Germany. The Irgun Zvai

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Leumi (National Military Organization), a Zionist terror organization
under Menachem Begin, and the Abraham Stern Group, which found
even the Irgun too mild, turned against the British occupation in 1944
despite vehement opposition from Chaim Weizmann and others
promoting the Jewish cause overseas. The newly formed Arab League,
in turn, pledged in March 1945 to prevent the formation of any Jewish
state in Palestine.

Meanwhile, Zionists concentrated on the United States, whose large
Jewish voting bloc was believed likely to influence policy. In the 1944
campaign Roosevelt endorsed the founding of a “free and democratic
Jewish Commonwealth,” and U.S. policy subsequently clashed with
Britain's, which aimed at maintaining paramountcy in the region
through good relations with the Arabs. Foreign Secretary Bevin
opposed and Truman endorsed a proposal in April 1946 by an
Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry to allow another 100,000 Jews
into Palestine, an idea dwarfed by David Ben-Gurion's demand for
1,200,000. Jewish terrorism exacerbated British hostility through such
incidents as the flogging and murder of British soldiers, culminating in
the bombing of the King David Hotel on July 22, 1946, in which 41
Arabs, 28 British, and 22 others died. All told, Jewish terrorists killed
127 British soldiers and wounded 331 from 1944 to 1948, as well as
thousands of Arabs. On the other hand, heartrending tales of Jewish
survivors of Nazi Europe being turned back from their “promised land”
also tugged at Western consciences.

On April 2, 1947, Bevin washed his hands of Palestine and placed it on
the docket of the UN, which recommended partition into Jewish and
Arab states. The United States and Britain feared that the Arabs would
turn to the Soviets for aid, but the U.S.S.R. mystified all parties in
October by agreeing with the American plan for partition. The Soviets
apparently hoped to hasten British withdrawal, insinuate themselves
into Middle Eastern diplomacy, and profit from the discord following
partition. The General Assembly approved partition on November 29,
granting to Jews some 5,500 square miles, mostly in the arid Negev.
When the Arab League proclaimed a jihad (holy war) against the Jews,
Truman's advisers began to reconsider partition, for the loss of Arab oil
might cripple the Marshall Plan and the U.S. military in case of war.
When, however, the British pulled out and Ben-Gurion declared the
state of Israel on May 14, 1948, Stalin and Truman (whether out of
sympathy or domestic politics) immediately advanced recognition.
At the moment of partition the number of Jews had risen to some 35
percent of the total population of Palestine, and they were faced with
Arab League forces totaling 40,000 men. The Haganah fielded about
30,000 volunteers armed with Czechoslovakian weapons sent at the
behest of the U.S.S.R. On the day after partition the Arab League

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launched its attack, but the desperate Jewish defense prevailed on all
five fronts. The UN called for a cease-fire on May 20 and appointed
Folke, Count Bernadotte, as mediator, but his new partition plan was
unacceptable to both sides. A 10-day Israeli offensive in July destroyed
the Arab armies as an offensive force, at the cost of 838 Israeli lives.
Members of the Stern Group assassinated Bernadotte on September 17.
A final offensive in October carried the Israelis to the Lebanese border
and the edge of the Golan Heights in the north and to the Gulf of
Aqaba and into the Sinai in the south. Armistice talks resumed on
Rhodes on Jan. 13, 1949, with the American Ralph Bunche mediating,
and a truce followed in March. No Arab state recognized Israel's
legitimacy, however. More than a half-million Palestinian refugees
were scattered around the Arab world. Between 1948 and 1957 some
567,000 Jews were expelled from Arab states, nearly all of whom
resettled in Israel. The 1948 war thus marked only the beginning of
trouble in the region.

South Asia
The British faced a similar problem on a much larger scale in India,
whose population included 250,000,000 Hindus, 90,000,000 Muslims,
and 60,000,000 distributed among various ethnic and religious
minorities. Between the wars Mohandas Gandhi's passive-resistance
campaigns had crystallized Indian nationalism, which was nurtured in
part by the relative leniency of British rule. Parliament set in motion
the process leading to home rule in 1935, and the Attlee Cabinet
rewarded India for its wartime loyalty by instructing Lord Mountbatten
on Feb. 20, 1947, to prepare India for independence by June 1948. He
did so, too hastily, in only six months, and the partition of the
subcontinent into a mainly Hindu India and a mainly Muslim but
divided Pakistan (including part of Bengal in the east) at midnight on
Aug. 14–15, 1947, was accompanied by panicky flight and riots
between Hindus and Muslims that claimed between 200,000 and
600,000 lives. Perhaps a bloodbath was inevitable whatever
Mountbatten did or however long he took to do it. Nothing, however,
tarnished Britain's colonial record in India so much as its termination.
The Congress Party of Jawaharlal Nehru then took firm control and
governed the Dominion (after 1950 the Republic) of India in
parliamentary style and made India one of the first decolonized states
to adopt a posture of nonalignment among the great powers. Disputes
with Pakistan, especially over the contested province of Jammu and
Kashmir, however, ensured continued strife on the subcontinent.
Elsewhere in South Asia the colonial powers expelled the Japanese
only to confront indigenous nationalist forces. The British fought a

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successful counterinsurgency against Communist guerrillas in Malaya,
but the French waged a protracted and ultimately unsuccessful war
with the Communist Viet Minh in Indochina, while the Dutch failed to
subdue nationalists in Indonesia and granted independence in 1949.
The United States transferred power peacefully in the Philippines in
1946.

In Japan, the American occupation under General Douglas MacArthur
effected a peaceful revolution, restoring civil rights, universal
suffrage, and parliamentary government, reforming education,
encouraging labour unions, and emancipating women. In the 1947
constitution drafted by MacArthur's staff Japan renounced war and
limited its military to a token force. During the Korean War a majority
of the Allies signed a separate peace treaty and the United States
entered into a mutual security pact with Japan (Sept. 8, 1951). These
policies laid the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous Japan, but
the United States took upon itself the burden of defending the western
Pacific for the foreseeable future.

The Chinese civil war
The Asian future would be determined above all by the outcome of the
civil war in China, a war that had never totally ceased even during the
Japanese invasion and occupation. In 1945, Truman reaffirmed
America's commitment to a “strong, united, and democratic China”
and dispatched Marshall to seek a truce and a coalition government
between Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists at Chungking and Mao Zedong's
Communists in Yen-an. Neither side, however, had any intention of
compromising with the other, and fighting resumed in October 1946.
At first the United States imposed an arms embargo, but after May
1947 it extended aid to Chiang—a policy aptly described as “neutrality
against the Communists.”
Stalin, having blundered badly in China in the 1920s, kept up correct
relations with the Nationalists on the assumption that Chiang was too
strong to defeat but not strong enough to defy Soviet interests in
Manchuria, Mongolia, and Sinkiang. The U.S.S.R. concluded a treaty of
friendship with the Nationalist government on Aug. 14, 1945. Soviet
policy at that time was to depict Mao as a mere agrarian reformer and
to call for a coalition government. Having won Chiang's blessing, the
Soviets systematically looted Manchuria of industrial equipment and
reassumed their old rights on the Chinese Eastern railway. At the same
time, Molotov insisted that the United States withdraw its advisers.

Chiang's forces advanced on all fronts until they captured Yen-an itself
in March 1947, but the rapid occupation of North China and Manchuria,

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with American aid but against American advice, overextended the
Nationalist army and tied it to cities and railroad lines. Corrupt
officers also sold vast numbers of U.S. weapons to the enemy and
siphoned off much of the $2,000,000,000 in U.S. aid into personal
fortunes. When the Communists counterattacked at the end of 1947,
Nationalist units were left isolated in the cities or simply melted away.
The Communists took Tientsin and Peking in January 1949 and opened
a southward offensive in April. By June their army had grown to
1,500,000 men and Chiang's had shrunk to 2,100,000. On August 5 a
State Department White Paper announced the cessation of all aid to
the Nationalists and concluded that “the ominous result of the civil
war in China is beyond the control of the government of the United
States.” The remaining Nationalists fled to the island of Formosa
(Taiwan), and the Communists officially proclaimed the People's
Republic of China at Peking on Oct. 1, 1949. Only then did Stalin
recognize the Maoist regime and negotiate to return Port Arthur and
the Manchurian railway to Chinese control.
The fall of China to Communism, following hard on the Berlin blockade
and the first Soviet A-bomb test, was a terrific blow to the United
States. The disaster gave Republicans a stick with which to beat the
Truman administration, while the perjury of Alger Hiss (a high-ranking
State Department officer, president of the Carnegie Endowment for
World Peace, and erstwhile Communist agent) lent credence to
charges that Communist sympathizers were at work in Washington. On
Feb. 9, 1950, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy claimed to know the
identities of 205 State Department officials tainted by Communism.
Over the course of four years of congressional hearings McCarthy used
innuendo and intimidation to propound charges that, in virtually every
case, proved groundless. Nonetheless, the tide of suspicion he
incited—or exploited—ironically made him, as Truman said, “the
greatest asset that the Kremlin has.” Not only did his behaviour
besmirch the image of the United States but it also bequeathed the
charge of “McCarthyism” as an impregnable defense to be used by all
manner of leftists.

The original question—Who lost China?—had been answered by the
White Paper: America was not omnipotent and China was not America's
to lose. Misperception of Asian realities and the “Europe-first” bias of
the East Coast establishment, most Democrats, and the army certainly
contributed to the debacle, however. “Asia-firsters,” including the
much less influential West Coast establishment, most Republicans, and
the navy, rued the equanimity with which the administration
witnessed the collapse of the Nationalists. For his part, Stalin must
have found it equally mysterious that the United States would go to
the brink of war over Berlin and spend billions to aid western Europe,
then stand aside while the world's most populous nation went

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Communist and shrug that it would “wait for the dust to settle”
(Acheson's phrase).

The Korean War
Events in neighbouring Korea determined that the dust would not
settle for another 20 years. In 1945 Soviet and American troops
occupied the peninsula, ruled by Japan since 1910, on either side of
the 38th parallel. In North Korea indigenous Marxists under Kim Il-sung
took control with Soviet assistance and began to organize a totalitarian
state. In South Korea General John R. Hodge, lacking firm instructions
from Washington, began as early as the autumn of 1945 to establish
defense forces and police and to move toward a separate
administration. He also permitted the return of the nationalist leader
Syngman Rhee. By the time Washington and Moscow noticed Korea, the
Cold War had already set in and the de facto partition, as in Germany,
became permanent. South and North Korean governments formally
arose in 1948, each claiming legitimacy for the whole country and
threatening to unify Korea by force. Between October 1949 and June
1950 several thousand soldiers were killed in border incidents along
the parallel. The war that followed, therefore, was not so much a new
departure as a denouement.
On Jan. 12, 1950, Acheson outlined his Asian policy in a speech before
the Press Club in Washington, D.C. He included Japan, Okinawa, and
the Philippines within the American line of defense but excluded
Taiwan and Korea. Five months later, on June 25, 1950, the North
Koreans invaded across the 38th parallel. Conventional wisdom had it
that Kim was acting on Stalin's orders and that Acheson's omission had
“invited” the attack. The declassification of documents of the period,
however, has led to a reconsideration of the question of the origins of
the Korean War. The United States had not ignored Korea; rather, the
State Department considered South Korea vital to the defense of
Japan. It is more likely that Acheson's failure to mention Korea meant
that the United States did not intend to station its own forces in
Korea, unlike the countries mentioned, and that the United States was
purposely withholding unequivocal support from Rhee lest he take it as
encouragement to invade the north. Thus, Acheson was trying to
prevent a war but probably trying also to ensure that if hostilities did
occur the Communists would be to blame. Perhaps that is why he later
referred to North Korea's attack not as an act of perfidy or aggression
but as one of stupidity.
Stalin always behaved toward his client states with similar caution and
strove to keep them under control. Why then should he “unleash” Kim
and expose North Korea to a U.S. counterattack that might become a

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precedent for pushing Communism back elsewhere? The possibility
exists that Kim (like Ho Chi Minh) acted on his own in pursuit of a
united national Communist state. On the other hand, Stalin may
indeed have encouraged North Korea to attack in order to keep
Kim—and Mao—dependent on the U.S.S.R. or to create a costly
diversion for the Americans. According to Khrushchev's memoirs, Kim
initiated the idea of invading and Stalin, almost casually and certainly
foolishly, approved it.

The Truman administration responded with alacrity, viewing Korea as
a test case for the policy of containment. The United States appealed
to the Security Council (which the Soviets were boycotting for its
continued seating of Nationalist China) and obtained a condemnation
of North Korea and an affirmation of collective security. Once the
South Korean rout was evident, Truman ordered MacArthur to transfer
forces from Japan to Korea, where they barely established a perimeter
around the port of Pusan. Against Senator Robert A. Taft's protest of
Truman's actions as a usurpation of Congress' right to declare war,
most Americans accepted Truman's analogy with the 1930s and his
determination not to appease the aggressor. Ultimately, 16 UN
member states provided troops for this “police action,” but U.S. and
South Korean troops bore the brunt of the fighting.

In September 1950, following MacArthur's brilliant amphibious landing
at Inch'ŏn, Truman approved operations north of the 38th parallel, and
soon UN forces were driving through North Korea toward the Yalu River
border with China. When the UN General Assembly adopted a U.S.
resolution (October 7) to establish a unified, democratic Korea, it
appeared that the Western alliance was going beyond containment to
a “rollback” strategy: Communists who attacked others ran the risk of
being attacked themselves. In November, however, contrary to
MacArthur's confident predictions, Chinese forces attacked across the
Yalu. By the new year, UN armies had retreated south of the 38th
parallel and MacArthur demanded the right to expand the war. If
American boys were dying, he asked, how could the government in
good conscience fail to attack the enemy's home base or use every
weapon at its disposal? Prime Minister Attlee, speaking for the allies,
strongly opposed a wider war or the use of nuclear weapons. By April
1951 the UN forces had recaptured Seoul and regained the 38th
parallel.

The effects of the Korean War reverberated around the world.
Europeans feared that Korea was a diversion and that Stalin's real aim
was to attack in Europe. Accordingly, Acheson agreed in September
1950 to contribute U.S. divisions to a NATO army under the command
of General Eisenhower. “Asia-firsters” objected strenuously and kicked
off what was known as “the great debate.” Herbert Hoover even called

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for the United States to write off western Europe and to make the
Western Hemisphere the “Gibraltar of Western Civilization.” The
Truman administration, backed by eastern Republicans and Eisenhower
himself, persuaded Congress to commit four additional divisions to
Europe. The Korean War also hastened implementation of NSC-68, a
document drafted by Paul Nitze that called for a vigorous program of
atomic and conventional rearmament to meet America's global
commitments.
As American and allied publics grew increasingly impatient with the
bloody deadlock in Korea, Truman determined to seek a negotiated
peace. MacArthur tried to undermine this policy, issuing his own
ultimatum to Peking and writing Congress that “there is no substitute
for victory,” whereupon in April 1951 Truman fired him for
insubordination. The popular warrior and proconsul went home to a
hero's welcome, and the Senate held hearings on the propriety of the
“limited war” strategy. Marshall defended the President, arguing that
a wider war in Asia would expose Europe to attack, while General
Omar Bradley insisted that MacArthur's plans would “involve us in the
wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time and with the wrong
enemy.” MacArthur retorted that limited war was a form of
appeasement.

Truce negotiations opened at Kaesŏng on July 10 after the Chinese had
dropped their demands for withdrawal of all foreign troops from Korea
and admission of the People's Republic to the UN in place of
Nationalist China. The talks broke off in August, then resumed at
P'anmunjŏm in October. Bitter fighting continued for two more years
as each side sought to improve its tactical position. The talks centred
on two issues: the demarcation line between North and South Korea
and the repatriation of more than 150,000 Chinese and North Korean
prisoners of war, many of whom did not want to return home. After
hinting that the United States might resort to use of the atomic bomb,
the newly elected president Dwight Eisenhower achieved an armistice
signed at P'anmunjŏm on July 27, 1953, that separated the armies with
a demilitarized zone and otherwise restored the status quo ante
bellum. Chinese torture of U.S. prisoners and anti-American
propaganda, combined with U.S. refusal to recognize the Peking
regime and the conclusion of a defense treaty with Nationalist China
(Taiwan), ensured continued hostility between Washington and Peking.
Indeed, documents declassified in the late 1980s showed that both
Truman and Eisenhower saw early on the potential for a Sino-Soviet
split and that maximum pressure on Peking, not conciliation, was the
way to bring it on.

Asian wars and the deterrence strategy
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While war raged in Korea, the French were battling the nationalist and
Communist Viet Minh in Indochina. When a French army became
surrounded at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, Paris appealed to the United
States for air support. American leaders viewed the insurgency as part
of the worldwide Communist campaign and at first propounded the
theory that if Indochina went Communist other Southeast Asian
countries would also fall “like dominoes.” Eisenhower, however, was
reluctant to send U.S. troops to Asian jungles, to arrogate war-making
powers to the executive, or to sully the anti-imperialist reputation of
the United States, which he considered an asset in the Cold War. In
any case both he and the American people wanted “no more Koreas.”
Hence the United States supported partition of Indochina as the best
means of containing the Viet Minh, and after French Premier Pierre
Mendès-France came to power promising peace, partition was effected
at the Geneva Conference of 1954. Laos and Cambodia won
independence, while two Vietnams emerged on either side of the 17th
parallel: a tough Communist regime under Ho Chi Minh in the north, an
unstable republic in the south. National elections intended to reunite
Vietnam under a single government were scheduled for 1956 but never
took place, and, when the United States assumed France's former role
as South Vietnam's sponsor, another potential “Korea” was created.
The Korean War and the new administration brought significant
changes in U.S. strategy. Eisenhower believed that the Cold War would
be a protracted struggle and that the greatest danger for the United
States would be the temptation to spend itself to death. If the United
States were obliged to respond to endless Communist-instigated
“brushfire wars,” it would soon lose the capacity and will to defend
the free world. Hence Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster
Dulles determined to solve “the great equation,” balancing a healthy
economy with only what was essential by way of military force. Their
answer was a defense policy whereby the United States would deter
future aggression with its airborne nuclear threat. As Dulles put it, the
United States reserved the right to reply to aggression with “massive
retaliatory power” at places of its own choosing. In implementing this
policy, Eisenhower cut overall defense spending by 30 percent over
four years but beefed up the Strategic Air Command. The diplomatic
side of this new policy was a series of regional pacts that linked the
United States to countries ringing the entire Soviet bloc. Truman had
already founded the NATO alliance, the ANZUS pact with Australia and
New Zealand (1951), the Pact of Rio with Latin-American nations
(1947), and the defense treaty with Japan (1951). Now Dulles
completed an alliance system linking the 1954 Southeast Asia Treaty
Organization (SEATO), stretching from Australia to Pakistan, to the
1955 Baghdad Pact Organization (later the Central Treaty Organization
[CENTO]), stretching from Pakistan to Turkey, to NATO, stretching
from Turkey (after 1952) to Iceland.

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Dulles viewed the postwar world in the same bipolar terms as had
Truman and, for that matter, Stalin. Asian independence, however,
not only expanded the arena of the Cold War but also spawned the
third path of nonalignment. In April 1955 delegates from 29 nations
attended the Bandung (Indonesia) Afro-Asian Conference, which was
dominated by Nehru of India, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and
Sukarno of Indonesia. In theory the delegates met to celebrate
neutrality and an end to “the old age of the white man”; in fact they
castigated the imperialist West and praised, or tolerated, the U.S.S.R.
Although most of the Bandung leaders were sloganeering despots in
their own countries, the movement captivated the imagination of
many guilt-ridden Western intellectuals.

The pace of European integration
The nature and role of Germany
The shared horror of World War II and the decline of Europe from the
seat of world power into an arena of U.S.–Soviet competition revived
the ancient dream of European unity. In modern times, Roman
Catholics, liberals, and Socialists had all conceived of one means or
another to transcend nationalism, and after 1945 a combination of
factors made the dream plausible. First, the Soviet threat gave
western Europeans an incentive to unite for defense and economic
recovery. Second, the very scale of the superpowers suggested that
Europeans must pool their resources if they hoped to play a major role
in world affairs. Third, two world wars and the Fascist interlude had
discredited nationalism and propelled moderate Christian Democrats
and Social Democrats to prominence in postwar Europe. Fourth,
integration was a means by which German economic and military
power might be safely revived. Fifth, centralized planning, which had
evolved naturally with the war economies, made economic integration
seem possible and attractive. Finally, the United States used its
leverage through the Marshall Plan to encourage multinational
institutions, cooperation, and free trade.

In early disputes over the occupation of Germany, France often sided
with the U.S.S.R. in order to keep Germany weak and obtain
reparations. The Berlin crisis of 1948, however, convinced the French
that a way must be found to reconcile German recovery with their own
security. The architects of an integrationist solution were the French
technocrat Jean Monnet and Foreign Minister Robert Schuman. The
Schuman Plan of May 1950 called for a merger of the western European
coal and steel industries to hasten recovery, forestall competition, and
make future wars between France and Germany impossible. The

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patriarchal chancellor of the new West German republic, Konrad
Adenauer, embraced the offer at once, for the primary foreign policy
goal of his new state was economic and political rehabilitation. The
founding of the West German state was his first success; the drafting
of a sturdy democratic constitution was the second; his adoption, with
Ludwig Erhard, of a dynamic free-market economic policy was the
third. Once Marshall Plan aid arrived, West Germany was well on its
way to Wirtschaftswunder, the economic miracle of the 1950s, but it
remained for Adenauer to achieve security and full sovereign rights for
West Germany. The Cold War permitted him to do both at once. By
moving West Germany into the democratic free-market camp he
earned protection and trust from the West. Of course, Adenauer could
not ignore the emotional issue of German reunification, and thus he
refused to recognize the East German regime or Polish control of the
lands east of the Oder-Neisse rivers. The Hallstein Doctrine extended
this nonrecognition to all countries that recognized East Germany.
Adenauer knew, however, that to base policy on the prospect of
reunification was unrealistic. The Soviets' Prague Proposals of October
1950 had envisioned a united, demilitarized German state—Kennan
now endorsed such a neutral zone in central Europe to separate the
Cold War rivals—but the Soviets insisted on a Constituent Council with
equal representation for East and West Germany, even though the
West had twice the population. At best, the East German delegation
could block progress indefinitely while preventing West Germany from
joining the Western bloc. At worst, the Soviets might subvert or coerce
a disarmed Germany into alignment with Moscow. In the atmosphere
of the Korean War, the Prague Proposals could not be taken up with
confidence.
Instead, Adenauer endorsed the Schuman Plan and helped to found the
European Coal and Steel Community among “the Six”: France, West
Germany, Italy, and the Benelux countries. The Korean War sparked
the next initiative toward integration when the United States, bogged
down in Asia, requested a sizable increase in the European
contribution to NATO. In 1951 the French and British cabinets both fell
over the costly issue of rearmament before a committee managed to
work out an acceptable distribution of burdens in October. The
obvious solution was German rearmament, something the nervous
French refused to countenance unless the German army were merged
into an international force, a European Defense Community (EDC). The
implications were profound, for a common western European army
would require a common defense ministry, coordinated foreign policy,
a joint defense budget, even a common parliament to approve
spending and policy. In sum, the EDC would go far toward creating a
United States of Europe. The West German parliament was first to
ratify the EDC, in March 1953, but Britain, still clinging to the vestiges
of empire and its “special relationship” with the United States, opted

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out. As Anthony Eden put it, joining a European federation “is
something which we know, in our bones, we cannot do.” The French,
in turn, debated the issue until Stalin's death and the Korean armistice
eroded the sense of emergency. French Communists, of course,
opposed the EDC, while Gaullists blanched at merging France's proud
services into a European potpourri. Despite Dulles' threat of an
“agonizing reappraisal” of U.S. policy should the EDC fail, the French
parliament voted it down on Aug. 30, 1954. An alternate solution
quickly followed: West Germany was simply admitted to NATO and its
Bundeswehr (armed forces) placed under Allied command. The Soviets
responded in 1955 by creating the Warsaw Pact, a military alliance of
the U.S.S.R. and its eastern European satellites.

Postwar European recovery
The first postwar decade was one of anxiety and crisis for Europe but
one also of astounding economic recovery. Thanks to rational planning,
labour–management cooperation, emphasis on production, the
Marshall Plan, and the very destructiveness of the war, which made
new plant construction necessary and thorough, the members of the
Organisation for European Economic Co-operation all exceeded their
prewar production levels by 1950 and achieved an annual average
growth rate of 5 to 6 percent through 1955. The political stability
wrought by the Cold War and the Western alliance and by the
American military umbrella, which permitted western Europeans to
devote more resources to building the welfare state, made for
unprecedented prosperity. Eastern Europe also recovered from the
war, but more slowly and not always to its own benefit. In the late
1940s the U.S.S.R. forced one-sided trade treaties on its satellites so
that Polish and Romanian foodstuffs and Czechoslovakian and East
German technology flowed to the U.S.S.R. rather than to world
markets. Stalin's death on March 5, 1953, sparked hopes for a thaw in
the eastern bloc and in the Cold War. The ephemeral collective
leadership that succeeded him executed the hated secret-police chief,
Lavrenty Beria, and released thousands from prison camps. Riots in
East Germany and Poland also induced Moscow to scale back its
exploitation of the satellites and to reduce reparations from East
Germany. A Soviet delegation even visited Belgrade in 1955 to attempt
a reconciliation with Tito. That same year the Austrian State Treaty
provided for the first Soviet military withdrawal since the war and
brought into being a neutral Austrian state.
In 1956 Nikita Khrushchev emerged as the new Soviet premier and
shocked the 20th Party Congress with his midnight speech denouncing
Stalin's “cult of personality” and manifold crimes against the party.

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De-Stalinization, however, even though carefully undertaken, created
a crisis of legitimacy for the Soviet empire. In the summer of 1956
Władisław Gomułka rose to leadership of the Polish Communist Party
on a wave of strikes and riots. When Moscow received his reassurances
and allowed him to stay in power, other eastern Europeans were
tempted to test the limits of de-Stalinization. The Hungarians reached
them in October 1956 after the reformist premier Imre Nagy was
deposed and protests spread that Soviet troops already on the scene
were unable to quell. Nagy returned to power to announce the end of
the one-party state and to release the Roman Catholic primate József
Cardinal Mindszenty from his long imprisonment. Nagy also promised
freedom of speech and the withdrawal of Hungary from the Warsaw
Pact. While Hungary's fate hung in the balance, the Western powers
had their attention diverted by a second Middle Eastern war.

The Suez Crisis
The Arab states, after their defeat in 1948, passed through a period of
political unrest. The most critical change occurred in Egypt, where in
1952 a cabal of young army officers backed by the Muslim Brotherhood
forced the dissolute King Farouk into exile. In 1954 Nasser emerged to
assume control. Nasser envisioned a pan-Arab movement led by Egypt
that would expel the British from the Middle East, efface Israel, and
restore Islāmic grandeur. Egypt began sponsoring acts of violence
against Israel from the Gaza Strip and cut off shipping through the
Strait of Tīrān. The British were understandably hostile to Nasser, as
were the French, who were battling Islāmic nationalists in Morocco,
Algeria, and Tunisia.

Israel had used the years since 1948 to good effect, developing the
arid country and training a reserve force of 200,000 men and women
armed primarily with French weapons. Ben-Gurion believed that the
Arabs would never accept the existence of Israel except by force. U.S.
policy was to play down the Arab–Israeli dispute and alert all parties to
the danger of Communist penetration. To this end, Eisenhower
dispatched a futile mission in January 1956 in hopes of reconciling
Cairo and Tel Aviv. In addition, the United States agreed to contribute
$56,000,000, and $200,000,000 through the World Bank, to Egypt's
project for a new dam on the Nile at Aswān. Nasser's flirtations with
Moscow, however, alienated Dulles. Then, on July 26, 1956, Nasser
nationalized the Suez Canal.
The conservative Cabinet in London, the French, and the Israelis
resolved to thwart Nasser. They could cite as precedent a CIA-backed
coup d'état in Iran (August 1953) that overthrew the ascetic nationalist
Mohammad Mosaddeq, who had expropriated foreign oil interests and

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also looked for support to the U.S.S.R. In any case, British, French, and
Israeli planners met to work out a joint strike at the Sinai and Suez
that might permit a far-reaching realignment in the Middle East.
Eisenhower got wind of Israeli military preparations but believed that
the blow would fall on Syria. He especially opposed hostilities before
the U.S. election lest he lose Jewish votes by having to scold Israel.
Moshe Dayan, however, quietly mobilized all of Israel's mobile
brigades, which struck on October 29 and took the Egyptians—and the
Americans—by surprise. Israeli war aims included the elimination of
the Egyptian army as an offensive threat, neutralization of Palestinian
bases in Gaza, and capture of the Strait of Tīrān. The Anglo-French
goals were to secure the Suez Canal and possibly to topple Nasser and
thus strike a blow at Arab radicalism.
An Israeli airborne assault secured the Mitla Pass in the Sinai while
armoured columns penetrated the peninsula. The Anglo-French then
issued an ultimatum to Cairo and proceeded to bomb Egyptian bases.
The Egyptian army evacuated the Sinai. Eisenhower, preoccupied with
Hungary and the election, was furious at this act of insubordination on
the part of his allies and sponsored a UN resolution for a cease-fire on
November 1. Egypt frustrated the Anglo-French plan by the simple
expedient of scuttling ships in the canal, but the Anglo-French went
ahead with a landing at Port Said. The superpowers then forced an
evacuation and the insertion of UN peacekeeping forces in the Sinai
and Gaza Strip. There matters stood for 10 years.

The only one who gained in the Suez muddle was the U.S.S.R. With the
West in disarray and involved in a campaign that looked very much like
old-fashioned imperialism, Soviet tanks returned to Budapest on
November 4, crushed the Hungarians fighting with their homemade
weapons, and liquidated their leaders. In 1957 the Soviets declared a
new policy of “centralism” for the satellites and denounced both
“dogmatism” (a code word for Stalinism) and “revisionism” (a code
word for liberty).

The events of October 1956 nevertheless helped to renew momentum
for European integration. Hungary reminded western Europeans of the
nature and proximity of the Soviet regime; Suez made them resentful
of American tutelage. Inspired by Monnet and the Belgian economist
Paul-Henri Spaak, “the Six” drafted the Euratom Treaty for a joint
nuclear energy agency and the Treaty of Rome to expand the coal and
steel community into a full-fledged Common Market. The treaties were
signed on March 25, 1957, and went into effect on Jan. 1, 1958. The
European Economic Community provided for internal and external
tariff coordination, free movement of labour and capital, and a
common agricultural pricing policy. Integration theorists hoped that
international economic institutions would sustain a momentum leading

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to political unity as well.

Nuclear weapons and the balance of terror
The race for nuclear arms
The postwar arms race began as early as 1943, when the Soviet Union
began its atomic program and placed agents in the West to steal U.S.
atomic secrets. When the U.S.S.R. rejected the Baruch Plan in 1946
and U.S.–Soviet relations deteriorated, a technological race became
inevitable. The years of the U.S. monopoly, however, were a time of
disillusionment for American leaders, who discovered that the atomic
bomb was not the absolute weapon they had first envisioned. First, the
atomic monopoly was something of a bluff. As late as 1948 the U.S.
arsenal consisted of a mere handful of warheads and only 32
long-range bombers converted for their delivery. Second, the military
was at a loss as to how to use the bomb. Not until war plan “Half
Moon” (May 1948) did the Joint Chiefs envision an air offensive
“designed to exploit the destructive and psychological power of atomic
weapons.” Truman searched for an alternative, but balancing Soviet
might in conventional forces with a buildup in kind would have meant
turning the United States into a garrison state, an option far more
expensive and damaging to civic values than nuclear weapons. A few
critics, notably in the navy, asked how a democratic society could
morally justify a strategy based on annihilation of civilian populations.
The answer, which had been evolving since 1944, was that U.S.
strategy aimed at deterring enemy attacks in the first place. “The only
war you really win,” said General Hoyt Vandenberg, “is the war that
never starts.”
Nuclear deterrence, however, was subject to at least three major
problems. First, even a nuclear attack could not prevent the Soviet
army from overrunning western Europe. Second, the nuclear threat
was of no use in cases of civil war, insurgency, and other small-scale
conflicts, a fact Stalin evidently relied on in several instances. Third,
the U.S. monopoly was inevitably short-lived. By 1949 the Soviets had
the atomic bomb, and the British joined the club in October 1952. The
United States would be obliged to race indefinitely to maintain its
technological superiority.

The first contest in that race was for the “superbomb,” a hydrogen, or
fusion, bomb a thousand times more destructive than the atomic
fission variety. Many scientists opposed this escalation. The dispute
polarized the political and scientific communities. On the one hand it
seemed as if the Cold War had created a climate of fear that no longer

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permitted principled dissent even on an issue involving human survival;
on the other hand, it seemed as if the dissenters, inadvertently or not,
were promoting the interests of the U.S.S.R. In January 1950, Truman
gave his approval to the H-bomb project, and the first fusion bomb
was tested successfully at Enewetak atoll in November 1952. No
debate occurred in the Soviet Union, where scientists moved directly
to fusion research and exploded their first bomb in August 1953.
In the meantime, Soviet agitprop agencies laboured abroad to weaken
Western resolve. A prime target was NATO, which the Kremlin
evidently viewed as a political threat (since its inferior order of battle
was scarcely an offensive military threat). After 1950 the Soviets
alternately wooed the western Europeans with assurances of goodwill
and frightened them with assurances of their destruction if they
continued to host American bases. Cominform parties and front
organizations (such as the World Peace Council) denounced the
Pentagon and U.S. “arms monopolies” and exploited fear and
frustration to win over intellectuals and idealists. The Stockholm
Appeal of 1950, initiated by the French Communist physicist Frédéric
Joliot-Curie, gathered petitions allegedly signed by 273,470,566
persons (including the entire adult population of the U.S.S.R.). Similar
movements organized marches and protests in Western countries
against nuclear arms (no such manifestations occurred in the Soviet
bloc).

Eisenhower's defense policy brought a sharp increase in research and
development of warheads and long-range bombers and the
construction of air bases on the territory of allies circling the U.S.S.R.
The H-bomb breakthrough, however, also triggered a race to develop
intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The United States entered
the postwar era with an advantage in long-range rocketry, thanks to
the suspension of the Soviet program during the war and the decision
by the Germans' V-2 rocket team, led by Wernher von Braun, to
surrender to the U.S. Army. In the budget-cutting of the late 1940s,
however, the Truman administration surmised that the United States,
possessed of superior air power and foreign bases, did not need
long-range guided missiles. The first atomic weapons, bulky and of
limited yield, also suggested that no rocket large and accurate enough
to destroy a target 6,000 miles distant was then possible, but the
vastly greater yield of fusion bombs and the expectation of smaller
warheads changed that calculation. The U.S. ICBM project received
top priority in June 1954. The Soviets, by contrast, needed to find a
means of threatening the United States from Soviet soil. As early as
1947, therefore, Stalin gave priority to ICBM development.

Arms control and defense
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How could the arms race be headed off before the world became
locked into what Churchill called “the balance of terror”? The UN
Disarmament Commission became a tedious platform for the posturings
of the superpowers, the Americans insisting on on-site inspection, the
Soviets demanding “general and complete disarmament” and the
elimination of foreign bases. Eisenhower hoped that Stalin's death
might help to break this deadlock. Churchill had been urging a summit
conference ever since 1945, and once de-Stalinization and the Austrian
State Treaty gave hints of Soviet flexibility, even Dulles acquiesced in
a summit, which convened at Geneva in July 1955. The Soviets again
called for a unified, neutral Germany, while the West insisted that it
could come about only through free elections. On arms control,
Eisenhower stunned the Soviets with his “open skies” proposal. The
United States and the Soviet Union, he said, should exchange
blueprints of all military installations and each allow the other side to
conduct unhindered aerial reconnaissance. After some hesitation,
Khrushchev denounced the plan as a capitalist espionage device. The
Geneva summit marginally reduced tensions but led to no substantive
agreements.
“Open skies” reflected the American fear of surprise attack. In 1954 a
high-level “Surprise Attack Study” chaired by the scientist James
Killian assured the President of a growing American superiority in
nuclear weapons that would hold until the 1958–60 period but warned
that the U.S.S.R. was ahead in long-range rocketry and would soon
achieve its own secure nuclear deterrent. The panel recommended
rapid development of ICBMs, construction of a distant early warning
(DEW) radar line in the Canadian Arctic, strengthened air defenses,
and measures to increase intelligence-gathering capabilities, both to
verify arms control treaties and to avoid overreaction to Soviet
advances. The Killian report gave birth to the U-2 spy plane, which
began crisscrossing the U.S.S.R. above the range of Soviet air defense
in 1956, and to a research program to develop reconnaissance
satellites to observe the U.S.S.R. from outer space.

In 1955 both the United States and the Soviet Union announced
programs to launch artificial Earth satellites during the upcoming
International Geophysical Year (IGY). The Eisenhower administration,
concerned that the satellite program not interfere with military
missile programs or prejudice the legality of spy satellites to come,
entrusted its IGY proposal to the small, nonmilitary Vanguard rocket.
While Vanguard development crept ahead, the Soviet program won the
first space race with Sputnik 1 on Oct. 4, 1957. The Soviet
achievement shocked the Western world, challenged the strategic
assumptions of every power, and thus inaugurated a new phase in the
continuing Cold War.

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Total Cold War and the diffusion of power,
1957–72
The concomitant arrival of the missile age and of an independent and
restive Third World multiplied the senses in which politics had become
global. Intercontinental rockets not only meant that the most destructive
weapons known could now be propelled halfway around the world in
minutes but also, because of the imminent nuclear standoff they heralded,
that a Cold War competition would now extend into other realms—science
and technology, economic growth, social welfare, race relations, image
making—in which the Soviets or Americans could try to prove that their
system was the best. At the same time, the decolonization of dozens of
underdeveloped states in Asia and Africa induced the superpowers to look
beyond the original front lines of the Cold War in Europe and East Asia.

These technological and political revolutions would seem to have raised
the United States and the Soviet Union to unequaled heights of power. The
Soviets and Americans advanced rapidly in the high technology required for
spaceflight and ballistic missiles, while techniques for the mobilization and
management of intellectual and material resources reached a new level of
sophistication, especially in the United States, through the application of
systems analysis, computers, bureaucratic partnership with corporations
and universities, and Keynesian “fine-tuning” of the economy.
By the mid-1960s the vigorous response of the Kennedy and Johnson
administrations to the Cold War challenge seemed to ensure American
technological, economic, and military primacy for the forseeable future. A
mere five to seven years later, however, it became clear that the 1960s,
far from establishing an American hegemony, had in fact wrought a
diffusion of world power and an erosion of the formerly rigid Cold War
blocs. Western Europe and Japan, now recovered from the war, also
achieved dynamic economic growth in the 1960s, reducing their relative
inferiority to the United States and prompting their governments to
exercise a greater independence. The Sino-Soviet split, perhaps the most
important event in postwar diplomacy, shattered the unity of the
Communist bloc, and Third World countries often showed themselves
resistant to superpower coercion or cajoling. By 1972 the U.S.S.R., despite
its achievement of relative parity in nuclear weapons, was obsessed with
the prospect of a hostile China, while the United States, having
squandered its wealth, prestige, and domestic tranquillity in the Vietnam
War, was trying to scale back its global commitments. The Nixon Doctrine,
détente with Moscow, the opening to China, and uncoupling of the dollar
from gold were the symptoms of this American retreat.

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The world after Sputnik
Soviet progress and American reaction
Premier Khrushchev anticipated the new correlation of forces in his
foreign policy address to the 20th Party Congress in 1956. Soviet
H-bombs and missiles, he said, had rendered the imperialists' nuclear
threat ineffective, the U.S.S.R. an equal, the Socialist camp
invincible, war no longer inevitable, and thus “peaceful coexistence”
inescapable. In Leninist doctrine this last phrase implied a state of
continued competition and Socialist advance without war. The
immediate opportunities for Socialism, according to Khrushchev,
derived from the struggle of the colonial peoples, which the U.S.S.R.
would assist through foreign aid, propaganda, subversion, and support
for “wars of national liberation.”

The Soviet successes in outer space just 40 years after the Bolshevik
Revolution were powerful evidence for Khrushchev's claims that the
U.S.S.R. had achieved strategic equality and that Communism was the
best system for overcoming backwardness. Sputnik restored Soviet
prestige after the 1956 embarrassment in Hungary, shook European
confidence in the U.S. nuclear deterrent, magnified the militancy of
Maoist China, and provoked an orgy of self-doubt in the United States
itself. The two Sputnik satellites of 1957 were themselves of little
military significance, and the test missile that launched them was too
primitive for military deployment, but Khrushchev claimed that
long-range missiles were rolling off the assembly line “like sausages,” a
bluff that allowed President Eisenhower's opponents—and nervous
Europeans—to perceive a “missile gap.” Khrushchev in turn tried to
capitalize on the apparent gap in a series of crises, but his
adventurous policy only provoked perverse reactions in China, the
United States, and Europe that undermined his own political support
at home.
Eisenhower was apprised in advance of Soviet missile progress thanks
in part to overflights of the U-2 spy plane. By the time of Sputnik the
Pentagon already had several parallel programs for ballistic missiles of
various types, including the advanced, solid-fueled Polaris and
Minuteman. The great fleet of B-47 and B-52 intercontinental bombers
already deployed also assured continued American strategic superiority
through the early 1960s. The frugal Eisenhower thus tried to play down
the importance of Sputnik and to discourage a race for arms or
prestige, but he was frustrated by a coalition of Democrats,
journalists, academics, and hawks of both parties who insisted that the
United States not only leapfrog the Soviets in space and missiles but
also increase federal support to education, extend more military and

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economic aid to the Third World, and expand social programs at home
intended in part to polish the American image abroad—in short, pursue
the Cold War more vigorously. Eisenhower conceded to this mood in
1958 by sponsoring creation of the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration and passage of the National Defense Education Act,
accelerating weapons programs, and deploying intermediate-range
missiles in England, Italy, and Turkey. He also acknowledged the
expanded Soviet threat in his State of the Union address in 1958:
“Trade, economic development, military power, arts, science,
education, the whole world of ideas—all are harnessed to this same
chariot of expansion. The Soviets are, in short, waging total cold war.”
A similarly total American response to this challenge, requiring
virtually wartime levels of national mobilization to outdo a totalitarian
system in whatever field of endeavour it chose to emphasize, would,
in Eisenhower's mind, however, have undermined the free market and
fiscal soundness that were the foundation of American strength in the
first place. Liberal economists argued in response that a sharply
expanded role for the federal government was a matter of survival in
the “space age” and would even stimulate economic growth, military
prowess, and social progress.

The Sino-Soviet split
A still more energetic U.S. riposte would await the end of Eisenhower's
term, but “Mr. Khrushchev's boomerang” (as Dulles termed Sputnik)
had an immediate and disastrous impact on Soviet relations with the
other Communist giant, China. Under their 1950 treaty of friendship,
solidarity, and mutual assistance, Soviet technical aid flowed to Peking
during the Korean War and helped support China's successful Five-Year
Plan after 1953. Western observers looked in vain for ways to split the
Communist bloc. As early as 1956, however, Chinese leaders showed
displeasure over Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin, the Kremlin's
tendency to treat the Chinese party as it did those of the lesser
satellites, and the new Soviet leaders themselves, whom Mao evidently
considered mediocrities. Mao also denounced “peaceful coexistence”
as decadent and revisionist, a position shared by the tiny Stalinist
dictatorship of Albania. Russian leadership in the world Communist
movement was thus challenged for the first time.
Mao was a romantic revolutionary with an unquestionable bent for
cruel or irrational theatrics on a gigantic scale. In the mid-1950s he
paraded the slogan “Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom,” ostensibly to
encourage the voicing of new ideas on national development but
perhaps rather to entice potential dissenters into revealing
themselves. In 1958 this campaign was suddenly replaced by the

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“Great Leap Forward,” by which all 700,000,000 Chinese were to form
self-sufficient communes devoted to local industrialization.
Large-scale industries and infrastructure collapsed, much to the
disgust of Soviet guest engineers. By 1960–61 the economic chaos had
become so severe that famine claimed 6,000,000–7,000,000 lives.
Nevertheless, the Chinese leadership seized upon Sputnik as proof that
the “East wind” was prevailing over the “West wind” and insisted that
the Soviets use their new superiority to press the revolution worldwide
and, to the same end, provide China with atomic bombs and rockets. If
the imperialists insisted on unleashing nuclear war, lectured Mao, and
“half of mankind died, the other half would remain, while imperialism
would be razed to the ground and the whole world become Socialist.”
The Soviets were appalled, especially since their superiority was, for
the time being, a sham. At a November 1958 summit Mao learned that
the Soviets would insist on retaining control over any warheads sent to
China and would not share missile technology. When the Soviets also
failed to back the Chinese in their 1958–59 conflicts with Taiwan and
India, Sino-Soviet tensions increased. In the end Khrushchev refused to
deliver a prototype nuclear warhead, whereupon the Chinese angrily
repudiated “slavish dependence” on others and pledged to create
their own nuclear arsenal. On July 16, 1960, the U.S.S.R. recalled all
its specialists from China.

The Sino-Soviet split shattered the strict bipolarity of the Cold War
world (though the United States would not take advantage of that fact
for more than a decade) and turned the U.S.S.R. and China into bitter
rivals for leadership in the Communist and Third worlds. The
fundamental causes of the split must be traced to contradictions in the
Soviet role as both the leader of the Communist movement and a great
power with its own national interests. Before 1949 the U.S.S.R. had
been able to subordinate the interests of foreign Communists to its
own, but the Communist triumph in China, paradoxically, was a
potential disaster for the U.S.S.R., for Mao and the Chinese would
inevitably refuse to play the role of pupil. Once the Korean War was
over and Stalin dead, the Chinese asserted themselves, learned the
limits of “Socialist internationalism,” and angrily began to plot their
own course. While the ideological rift served, in the short run, to
invigorate both Communist rivals as they competed for prestige and
influence among the world's revolutionaries, it destroyed the myth
that Communism transcended nationalism and power politics. This
meant that the U.S.S.R. was delicately situated between the
nuclear-armed NATO powers and the fanatical (and numerous)
Chinese, and to appease either meant to alienate the other.
Accordingly, Khrushchev played a risky double game from 1958 to
1962, alternately holding out hope for arms control to the NATO
powers and leveling demands backed by rocket-rattling. The historian
Adam Ulam has seen in this a “grand design” by which Khrushchev

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hoped to ingratiate himself with the West (for instance, through a
nuclear test-ban treaty) in return for the evacuation of West Berlin,
recognition of the East German government, and permanent denial of
nuclear weapons to West Germany—all of which might demonstrate
Soviet commitment to the Communist cause while providing a pretext
for denial of nuclear weapons to China. Whether a grand design or an
improvisation, Soviet diplomacy had to reckon at every turn with
Peking's reactions and their likely effect on the rest of the Communist
bloc.

Soviet diplomatic offensive
The Polish foreign minister, Adam Rapacki, was chosen to open
Moscow's post-Sputnik campaign with a proposal to the UN General
Assembly in October 1957 for a ban on nuclear weapons in Poland,
Czechoslovakia, and the two Germanies. This initiative, like others
before and after, was a no-lose stratagem for the U.S.S.R. Given the
Warsaw Pact's superiority in conventional weapons, any reduction of
the West's nuclear deterrent in Europe stood to weaken NATO, even as
the burden of seeming to oppose arms control would fall on the West if
it refused. At the same time, the U.S.S.R. combined open and covert
support for Western antinuclear movements with loud reminders of its
ability to destroy any nation that foolishly hosted American bases.
NATO leaders resisted the Rapacki Plan but had immediately to deal
with a March 1958 Soviet offer to suspend all nuclear testing provided
the West did the same. Throughout the 1950s growing data on the
harmful effects of nuclear fallout had been increasing pressure on the
nuclear powers to take such a step. The United States and Britain were
caught in the midst of testing warheads for the many new missiles
under development, but a one-year test ban did go into effect in
November 1958. With the Chinese making noises about a Soviet sellout
to the West, however, Khrushchev immediately provoked a new crisis
in Berlin, demanding that the Allies withdraw from West Berlin within
six months. Khrushchev also indicated that the best way to solve the
Berlin question would be to neutralize and disarm the two German
states. In January 1959 the Soviets expanded their proposed
nuclear-free zone to include East Asia and the whole Pacific Ocean
area—a clear hint of their desire to prevent China from going nuclear.
The Berlin deadline passed without incident as Khrushchev accepted
an invitation to become the first Soviet premier to visit the United
States. The increased recognition by the United States and the
U.S.S.R. that each had interests in coexistence which outweighed their
ideological loyalties was made manifest in August 1958, when Chinese
artillery began an intense bombardment of the Nationalist-held

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offshore islets of Quemoy and Matsu. Peking may have hoped to force
Moscow to support its claim to sovereignty over Taiwan, while Chiang
may have hoped to drag the United States into supporting an invasion
of the mainland. Neither superpower, however, was willing to risk war.
The U.S. 7th Fleet resupplied Chiang's forces, while the Soviets
pledged to defend mainland China, but both discouraged offensive
action.
By September 1959, when Khrushchev arrived in the United States,
Dulles had died, and Eisenhower was intent to use personal diplomacy
in an attempt to put a cap on the arms race. The tour itself—from New
York City to Iowa to Hollywood—was a sensation, though Khrushchev
professed distaste for American consumerism and predicted “your
grandchildren will live under Communism.” His talks with Eisenhower
produced an ephemeral “spirit of Camp David” and the scheduling of a
follow-up summit conference for May 1960 in Paris. Meanwhile,
Khrushchev's last-ditch efforts to mend relations with Peking exploded
in the spring of 1960. Mao himself reportedly authored an article
cryptically condemning Khrushchev's détente policy as vile revisionism
and reiterating Chinese willingness to confront nuclear war. The
Chinese observer at a Warsaw Pact meeting in February 1960 declared
in advance that any arms agreements reached at the U.S.–Soviet
summit would not be binding on Peking. On the eve of the Paris
summit an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over the U.S.S.R.
When Eisenhower refused to apologize for the incident and assumed
personal responsibility, Khrushchev had little choice but to walk out.

Decolonization and development
Events in the other new arena of the post-Sputnik era—the Third
World—likewise antagonized relations among the U.S.S.R., the United
States, and China. All three assumed that the new nations would
naturally opt for the democratic institutions of their mother countries
or, on the other hand, would gravitate toward the “anti-imperialist”
Soviet or Maoist camps. The United States had urged Britain and
France to dismantle their empires in the aftermath of World War II,
but, once those countries became Washington's most potent allies in
the Cold War, the United States offered grudging support for
Anglo-French resistance to nationalist and Communist forces in their
colonies. President Truman's Point Four Program mandated U.S.
foreign aid and loans to new nations lest they “drift toward poverty,
despair, fear, and the other miseries of mankind which breed unending
wars.” When the Eisenhower administration cut back on foreign aid, a
great debate about its efficacy ensued among American experts.
Critics insisted that the Marshall Plan was not a valid analogy for Third

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World aid because the former had been a case of helping industrial
populations rebuild their societies, while the latter was a case of
sparking industrial or even merely agricultural development in
primitive economies. Foreign aid did not necessarily serve U.S.
interests, since many Third World rulers chose neutralism or Socialism,
nor did it promote economic growth, since most new nations lacked
the necessary social and physical infrastructure for a modern economy.
Proponents of aid replied that U.S. capital and technology were
needed precisely to build infrastructure, to assist “nation building,”
and to fortify recipients against Communists and others who might
subvert the development process in its early stages. In the late 1950s,
U.S. economic aid averaged about $1,600,000,000 per year, compared
with about $2,100,000,000 in military aid to friendly regimes. The
Soviet line, by contrast, held that new nations would not be truly
independent until they freed themselves from economic dependence
on their former masters, but the Soviets invariably expected a political
return for their own assistance. The claim of the People's Republic of
China to be the natural leader of Third World revolt also obliged
Khrushchev to make bolder endorsements of wars of national
liberation. By 1960 it was already clear, however, that local politics
and culture made every Third World situation unique.
The Middle East had reached an unstable deadlock based precariously
on the UN-administered cease-fire of 1956. The eclipse of British and
French influence after the Suez debacle made the United States
fearful of growing Soviet influence in the region, symbolized by the
Soviet offer to take over construction of the Aswān High Dam in Egypt.
In January 1957 the U.S. Congress authorized the President to deploy
U.S. troops in the region if necessary and to dispense $500,000,000 in
aid to friendly states. This Eisenhower Doctrine appeared to polarize
the region, with Middle East Treaty Organization members in support
and Egypt, Syria, and Yemen in opposition. When, in July 1958,
nationalist generals backed by a variety of factions, prominent among
which were Communists, overthrew the pro-Western Hāshimite
monarchy in Iraq, and unrest spread to Jordan and Lebanon,
Eisenhower responded at once. The 14,000 U.S. troops that landed in
Beirut allowed the Lebanese president to restore order on the basis of
a delicate compromise among radical, Muslim, and Christian factions.
Khrushchev denounced the intervention, demanded that the U.S.S.R.
be consulted, and tried without success to convene an international
conference on the Middle East. His extension of an invitation to India,
but not China, needlessly alienated Peking and signaled a new Soviet
interest in relations with New Delhi.

The climactic year of African decolonization was 1960, and the first
Cold War crisis on that continent occurred when, in that year, Belgium
hastily pulled out of the vast Belgian Congo (now Congo [Kinshasa]).

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Tribal antagonisms and rival personalities made even the
independence ceremonies a catastrophe, as the Congolese nationalist
leader and first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, supported an
insurrection by Congolese army units that involved the murder of
whites and blacks alike. No sooner had Belgian troops returned to
restore order than Moise Tshombe declared the secession of the
iron-rich Katanga province. UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld
intervened against the Belgians and Katangese (thereby setting an
ominous precedent of UN toleration for black violence against blacks
or other races), while the Soviets accused Tshombe of being a dupe for
imperialist mining interests and threatened to send arms and Soviet
“volunteers” to the leftist Lumumba. Hammarskjöld then organized a
UN armed force to subdue Katanga and save the Congo—and
Africa—from Cold War involvement. The clumsy UN efforts did not
prevent, and may have incited, the spread of civil war. Lumumba tried
to establish his own secessionist state, but he then fell into the hands
of the Congolese army headed by Joseph Mobutu (later Mobutu Sese
Seko), a former sergeant, and was murdered by the Katangese in
January 1961. Hammarskjöld himself died in a plane crash in the Congo
in September 1961. UN troops remained until 1964, but as soon as they
were withdrawn rebellion returned, and Mobutu seized control in a
military coup d'état in 1965. The Katangan revolt was not quelled until
1967.
In Southeast Asia the Geneva Accords disintegrated rapidly after 1954.
The planned elections to reunify Vietnam were never held, since South
Vietnam's leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, both feared the results and denied
the possibility of free elections in the Communist north. Ho Chi Minh's
regime in Hanoi then trained 100,000 native southerners for guerrilla
war and launched a campaign of assassination and kidnapping of South
Vietnamese officials. In December 1960 the Viet Cong (as Diem dubbed
them) proclaimed the formation of a National Liberation Front (NLF),
with the avowed aim of reuniting the two Vietnams under a Hanoi
regime. American advisers tried vainly to arrest the disintegration of
South Vietnam with advice on counterinsurgency and state-building
techniques.

In neighbouring Laos the Communist Pathet Lao took control of the
two northernmost provinces of the country in defiance of the neutral
government under Prince Souvanna Phouma agreed upon after Geneva.
Those provinces sheltered the Ho Chi Minh Trail supply route bypassing
the demilitarized zone between the two Vietnams. When a new,
assertive Laotian government sent troops to enforce its authority over
the provinces in 1958–59, civil war appeared inevitable. A military
coup d'état led by Kong Le briefly returned Souvanna to power, but
when Kong Le was in turn driven out in December 1960, he joined
forces with the Pathet Lao in their strategic stronghold in the Plain of

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Jarres. Having secured the Laotian territory needed for infiltration and
assault on South Vietnam, North Vietnam persuaded China and the
U.S.S.R. in December 1960 to approve Ho's plan for a “nonpeaceful
transition to socialism” in Vietnam.

Latin-American problems
Finally, Cold War rivalry and Third World problems intersected
devastatingly in America's own backyard. Before the era of Roosevelt's
Good Neighbor Policy, the United States had frequently been accused
of meddling too much in the affairs of other states in the hemisphere.
By the 1950s the contradictory charge was leveled that the United
States was not involving itself enough, as evidenced by the fact that
the United States spent $12,600,000,000 on aid to Asia and the Middle
East in the period 1953–57 compared with $1,900,000,000 on Latin
America. Resentment over the CIA's role in toppling an allegedly
Communist-backed government in Guatemala in 1954 and violent
protests against Vice President Richard M. Nixon during his trip to
Caracas and Lima in 1958 alerted Washington to the dangers inherent
in neglecting the genuine needs of the region. The United States
agreed to fund an Inter-American Development Bank, while the State
Department sought to avoid too close an association with unpopular,
authoritarian regimes. Whatever the overall merits of such a policy, it
had immediate and disastrous effects in Cuba.

In 1952 Fulgencio Batista established a corrupt dictatorship in Cuba,
and four years later a young revolutionary named Fidel Castro took to
the Sierra Maestra with 150 comrades and made pretensions of fighting
a guerrilla war. In fact, Castro's campaign was largely propaganda (the
insurgents lost only 40 men in the largest engagement), and the real
struggle for Cuba was fought out in the arenas of Cuban and American
public opinion. After Nixon's tour, liberal opinion and the State
Department deserted Batista, and the new ambassador to Havana was
ordered to preside over his fall. In March 1958 the United States
suspended arms sales to Cuba, and on Jan. 1, 1959, a triumphant
Castro entered Havana without the necessity of fighting a battle.
Contrary to his image as a populist and democrat, Castro made himself
the new dictator, nationalized hundreds of millions of dollars worth of
American property, and declared that he was and always had been a
Marxist. His actions gradually alienated whatever sympathy he had in
the United States. Castro invited Soviet aid and came to rely on it
heavily after the United States curtailed Cuba's sugar import quota in
July 1960. Eisenhower instructed the CIA to explore means of removing
Castro, who made Cuba into an immensely valuable Soviet satellite 90
miles from the United States.

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By 1960, therefore, the post-Sputnik world posed new challenges for
the Western alliance stretching from outer space to Third World
jungles. Polls showed that a majority of western Europeans believed
Khrushchev's propaganda about Soviet superiority and that a majority
of Americans no longer believed in Eisenhower's low-key approach to
Cold War issues.

Superpower relations in the 1960s
Policies of the Kennedy administration
The inauguration of John F. Kennedy as president of the United States
infused American foreign policy with new style and vigour. He had
promised to “get America moving again,” and he appointed a Cabinet
and staff who shared his belief that the United States could be doing
far more to prove its technological and moral superiority over the
U.S.S.R., win the “hearts and minds” of Third World peoples, and
accelerate social progress at home. His administration also overturned
Eisenhower's policy on economy and defense and held that Keynesian
fiscal policy and large programs for research, education, and human
resources would foster the rapid growth needed to pay for the new
federal activism. Kennedy's inaugural address was thus an exhortation
and warning: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill,
that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship,
support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the
success of liberty.” He and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara
accordingly increased the U.S. defense budget by 30 percent in their
first year in office and approved deployment of a strategic triad of
weapons—the land-based Minuteman ICBMs, submarine-launched
Polaris missiles, and B-52 bombers. The Kennedy advisers had also
been highly critical of the policy of reliance on massive retaliation and
determined to make the United States capable of flexible response by
expanding conventional armed forces as well. Kennedy paid special
attention to the training of counterinsurgency “special forces.”
On May 25, 1961, Kennedy told a joint session of Congress that “the
great battlefield for the defense and expansion of freedom today is
the whole southern half of the globe—Asia, Latin America, Africa, and
the Middle East.” The enemies of freedom were seeking to capture
these rising peoples “in a battle of minds and souls as well as lives and
territories.” Expanded aid programs, the Peace Corps, active
promotion of democracy through the U.S. Information Agency, and
military support against guerrilla warfare would, he declared, all help
in cases “where the local population is too caught up in its own misery
to be concerned about the advance of Communism.” Kennedy also

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underscored the impact of the Soviet space program on world opinion
(Yuri Gagarin had become the first man to orbit the Earth on April 12)
and asked that Congress commit the United States to a program to
land a man on the Moon by 1970. Kennedy's call for the creation of an
International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium bespoke his
desire to associate the United States with the peaceful uses of outer
space.

The new attitude toward the Third World was perhaps the clearest
break in American diplomacy. Basing its policy on W.W. Rostow's
“non-Communist manifesto” describing stages of economic
development, the Kennedy administration increased foreign aid for
Third World nations whether or not they were politically aligned with
the United States. The Alliance for Progress, created in March 1961,
especially targeted Latin America. By 1965 U.S. foreign aid reached
$4,100,000,000 as compared with $2,300,000,000 contributed by all
other developed countries. The validity of Rostow's investment model
for economic “takeoff” was debated for two decades, but perhaps the
greatest weakness in U.S. aid programs was the assumption that local
rulers could be persuaded to put their own people's welfare first.
Instead, aid money often fed corruption, bolstered power-hungry
leaders or Socialist bureaucracies, or helped to finance local conflicts.
What was more, the Soviets had some natural advantages in dealing
with such leaders, since they offered no moralistic advice about
democracy and human rights, while their own police-state methods
served the needs of local despots. On the other hand, sustained world
economic growth and measures to stabilize commodity prices helped
the developing countries to achieve an average annual growth rate of
5 percent during the 1960s (compared with 5.1 percent for industrial
countries). But the crushing rate of Third World population growth (2.6
percent annually) meant that even in the best of times foreign aid only
just offset the effects of Third World fertility.
Kennedy's first crisis stemmed from his endorsement of the CIA plan to
unseat Castro. The CIA had trained Cuban exiles in Guatemala and
flown them to Florida, whence they were to stage an invasion of Cuba
in expectation of a popular revolt there. Instead, the landing at the
Bay of Pigs on April 17, 1961, was a fiasco. No coordination had been
achieved with dissidents inside Cuba, while the failure to provide U.S.
air cover (perhaps for fear of retaliation in Berlin) doomed the
invasion. Castro's army killed or captured most of the 1,500-man force
in two days. The U.S.S.R. reaped a propaganda harvest and pledged to
defend Cuba in the future. Kennedy had to content himself with a
promise to resist any efforts by Castro and the guerrilla leader Che
Guevara to export revolution elsewhere in Latin America.
Kennedy and Khrushchev held a summit meeting in Vienna in June

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1961. With Berlin and the Third World uppermost in his mind, Kennedy
proposed that neither superpower attempt to upset the existing
balance of power in any region where the other was already involved.
Khrushchev evidently considered the young president to be weak and
on the defensive and tried to intimidate him with a new ultimatum,
threatening to turn over control of Western access to West Berlin to
the East German government. (Khrushchev was being pressured by the
East German leader Walter Ulbricht to stem the tide of thousands of
skilled workers who were fleeing across the zonal boundary into West
Berlin.) Kennedy responded by pledging to defend West Berlin and
calling up 250,000 reservists. On Aug. 13, 1961, Soviet and East
German troops closed down interallied checkpoints and proceeded to
build the Berlin Wall, sealing off the western city. Just as in 1948, the
U.S. leadership debated whether to respond with force to this
violation of the Potsdam Accords, but the hesitancy of the NATO allies
and the timidity—or prudence—of Kennedy limited the West to a
reassertion of access rights to West Berlin.

The Cuban missile crisis
In the midst of this crisis the Soviets unilaterally broke the moratorium
on nuclear testing, staging a series of explosions yielding up to 50
megatons. Soviet technology had also perfected a smaller warhead for
the new Soviet missiles now ready to be deployed, like the Minuteman,
in hardened silos. Khrushchev, his nation still behind in strategic
nuclear firepower, tried to redress the balance by insinuating 42
medium-range missiles into Cuba, whence they could reach most of
the continental United States. He apparently hoped that these
missiles, once in place, could then serve as a bargaining chip in
negotiations leading to a neutralized Germany, which in turn might
help Moscow persuade the Chinese to cease their own nuclear
program. Instead, the ploy brought the world to the brink of war. On
Oct. 14, 1962, U-2 spy planes photographed the missile sites under
construction in Cuba. Two days later Kennedy convened a secret
crisis-management committee that leaned at first toward a surgical air
strike to destroy the sites. The President, however, opted for a less
risky response: a naval quarantine to prevent Soviet freighters from
reaching Cuba and an ultimatum demanding that the bases be
dismantled and the missiles removed. On October 18, Soviet
Ambassador Andrey Gromyko met with Kennedy and denied that the
U.S.S.R. had any offensive intentions with respect to Cuba. On October
22 the President informed the nation of the crisis and called on
Khrushchev to pull back from “this clandestine, reckless, and
provocative threat to world peace.” For two days the world waited
anxiously, and on the 24th Soviet ships in transit abruptly changed

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course away from Cuba. On the 26th Khrushchev sent Kennedy a
message offering to withdraw the missiles in exchange for a U.S.
pledge never to invade Cuba. The next day a harsher message arrived
with a new demand that the United States withdraw its own missiles
from Turkey. Those antiquated Jupiters, deployed in the early
post-Sputnik scare, were already due for removal, but Kennedy would
not do so under Soviet threat. Hence Attorney General Robert Kennedy
suggested a ploy: simply reply to Khrushchev's first note as if the
second had never been sent. On the 28th the Soviets agreed to
dismantle the Cuban bases in return for a no-invasion pledge. Several
months later the United States quietly removed its missiles from
Turkey.
The Cuban missile crisis seemed at the time a clear victory for
Kennedy and the United States and was widely attributed to American
superiority in nuclear weapons. In fact, neither side showed the
slightest willingness even to bluff a nuclear strike, and it was probably
the overwhelming U.S. superiority in conventional naval and air power
in its home waters that left the U.S.S.R. no option but retreat. Nor
was the crisis an unmitigated American victory. Kennedy's pledge
never to overthrow Castro by force meant that the United States
would have to tolerate whatever mischief he, backed by $300,000,000
a year in Soviet aid, might contrive in the future. To be sure, Kennedy
warned that the United States would never tolerate any expansion of
Communism in the hemisphere. (This pledge was underwritten by
Lyndon Johnson in 1965 when he sent U.S. troops into the Dominican
Republic to prevent a leftist takeover, but such interventionism only
reminded Latin Americans of past “Yankee imperialism” and gave
credence to Castro's anti-American propaganda.) The existence of a
Communist base in the Caribbean, therefore, was to be a source of
unending vexation for future American presidents. What is more, the
Cuban missile crisis hardened Soviet determination never again to be
humiliated by military inferiority. Khrushchev and his successors
accordingly began the largest peacetime military buildup in history,
which, by the 1970s, accorded the Soviet Union parity with the United
States in nuclear forces and the ability to project naval power into
every ocean of the world.

On the other hand, the Cuban missile crisis marked the final
frustration of Khrushchev's efforts to force a German peace treaty and
prevent the deployment of nuclear weapons on German or Chinese
soil. Peking, of course, had supported the Soviets' bid to place missiles
in Cuba and had taken the opportunity to attack India (see below
China, India, and Pakistan), and the precipitous Soviet retreat
prompted Chinese charges of “capitulationism.” The Chinese nuclear
program proceeded apace, with the People's Republic exploding its
first atomic device in 1964. Never again would the Soviet leadership

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hope to control the foreign policy of the other Communist giant.

Renewed U.S.–Soviet cooperation
U.S.–Soviet relations, by contrast, markedly improved after the
sobering visit to the brink of war. Hopes for a comprehensive nuclear
test-ban treaty ran afoul of the U.S.S.R.'s customary refusal to permit
on-site inspection to monitor underground tests, but a partial Test-Ban
Treaty was signed by the United States, Britain, and the U.S.S.R. on
Aug. 5, 1963, prohibiting nuclear explosions in the air, under the sea,
and in outer space. The superpowers also established a direct
communications link between Washington and Moscow for use in crisis
situations. Other powers anxious to join the nuclear club, notably
China and France, refused to adhere to the Test-Ban Treaty. Instead,
the Chinese denounced Soviet collaboration with “the leader of world
imperialism.” Mao resurrected all of China's territorial claims against
the Soviet Union dating from tsarist Russian imperialism and advocated
partition of the Soviet empire. The Soviets, in turn, branded Mao with
their most hateful current epithet: he was “another Stalin.”

President Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, and Khrushchev
was removed from power by the Politburo in October 1964, a victim of
his own failures in foreign policy and agriculture and of the Communist
Party's resistance to his attempted reforms. The bilateral effort to
pursue arms control survived under President Johnson and under
Leonid Brezhnev and Aleksey Kosygin. The Outer Space Treaty ratified
in 1967 banned nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass
destruction in the Earth's orbit and on the Moon. A U.S.–Soviet draft
Non-proliferation Treaty was also adopted by the UN in June 1968.
(Once again, France, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel refused to
sign.) None of the arms-control instruments of the 1960s, however, put
a cap on the arms race or restrained the signatories from doing
anything in the strategic area they had a desire to do anyway. The
superpowers were able to modernize their arsenals through
underground nuclear testing; outer space was an awkward and
vulnerable place to deploy warheads in any case; and neither
superpower had an interest in seeing nuclear weapons spread to more
countries. Rather, American nuclear policy aimed, at least in the short
run, at ensuring the continued stability of U.S.–Soviet deterrence,
lately dubbed “mutual assured destruction.” Adopting the views of the
strategist Bernard Brodie, McNamara concluded early on that the
Soviets must eventually catch up and that a state of parity was the
best that could be achieved in the nuclear age. Soon each side would
be capable of obliterating the other in a retaliatory strike, even after
a sneak attack. At that point, any attempt by either side to achieve an

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illusory superiority would only destabilize the balance and tempt one
or the other into launching a first strike. Whether the Soviets ever
shared this doctrine of deterrence is dubious. Marshal Sokolovsky's
volumes on military strategy in the 1960s, while granting that nuclear
war would be an unprecedented disaster for all, still committed the
U.S.S.R. to a war-winning capability.

China, meanwhile, succumbed to another series of Maoist actions that
completed that country's drift into chaos and isolation. In February
1966, Mao gave the nod to the young and fanatical Red Guards to
make, by force, a Cultural Revolution. Violence swallowed up schools,
factories, bureaucracies, cultural institutions, and everything that
smacked of foreign or traditional Chinese influence. Countless victims
suffered internal exile, public humiliation, forced “self-criticism,” or
death, while attacks on foreign embassies and denunciations of the
superpower “condominium” persuaded Americans and Soviets alike
that the Chinese were, for the moment at least, the major threat to
world peace.
By the late 1960s, therefore, relations between the United States and
the Soviet Union underwent a marked thawing. At the same time,
however, the Soviets and Americans alike had to acknowledge a
growing lack of control over their once coherent Cold War camps.

The Europe of the fatherlands
Great Britain and decolonization
The Suez crisis of 1956, followed by Soviet space successes and
rocket-rattling after 1957, dealt serious blows to the morale of
western Europe. Given the potential of the war scares over Berlin to
fracture NATO, the United States had to reassure its allies and try to
satisfy their demands for greater influence in alliance policy. American
efforts largely succeeded in the case of Britain, an ally much depleted
in power and will. American policy largely failed in the case of France,
an ally stronger and more stable than at any time since 1940.

Since World War II, Britain had tried to maintain the appearance of a
global power, developing its own nuclear weapons, deploying
conventional forces around the world, and keeping hold of its African
colonies. Churchill, returned to office in the early 1950s, had vowed
never to “preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.” Likewise,
the British held aloof from the continental experiments with
integration and saw their role rather as the vertex of three great world
systems: the English-speaking peoples, the British Commonwealth, and

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the old European Great Powers. All this came to a sudden end when a
combination of factors—sluggish economic performance by the world's
oldest industrial power, growing pressure to decolonize, demands for
greater social expenditures at home, and the superpowers' leap into
the missile age—convinced London that it could no longer afford to
keep up appearances in foreign policy. A defense White Paper of 1957
signalled a shift away from conventional armed forces toward reliance
on a cheap, national nuclear deterrent. Sputnik then convinced the
British government to cancel its own ballistic-missile program and rely
on its special relationship with the United States to procure modern
weapons. Eisenhower agreed to sell the Skybolt air-launched missile to
Britain by way of healing the wounds inflicted by Suez and shoring up
NATO after Sputnik. When McNamara subsequently cut the Skybolt
program in his campaign to streamline the Pentagon, the British
government was acutely embarrassed. Kennedy met with Prime
Minister Harold Macmillan at Nassau in December 1962 and offered
Polaris submarines instead. It was hoped at the time that the British
deterrent would be subsumed in a multilateral NATO force. The
Conservative government also made the hard decision in 1963 to seek
admission to the Common Market, only to be vetoed by the French.
Not until 1973 was Britain's application, together with those of Ireland
and Denmark, approved and the European Communities broadened.

The period 1957–62 was also the climax of decolonization. As early as
1946–47, when Britain was granting independence to India and states
of the Middle East, the Attlee government sponsored the Cohen–Caine
plan for a new approach to West Africa as well. It aimed at preparing
tropical Africa for self-rule by gradually transferring local authority
from tribal chiefs to members of the Western-educated elite.
Accordingly, the Colonial Office drafted elaborate constitutions, most
of which had little relevance to real conditions in primitive countries
that had no natural boundaries, no ethnic unity or sense of
nationalism, and no civic tradition. When the Gold Coast (Ghana)
elected the radical leader Kwame Nkrumah, who then demanded
immediate independence and got it in 1957, the British felt unable to
deny similar grants to neighbouring colonies. Britain had, in fact, when
the matter was faced squarely, little desire to hang on, given the
exorbitant financial and political costs of late imperialism. In 1959 the
Cabinet quietly decided to withdraw from Africa as soon as it won
reelection. Macmillan then announced the new policy in Cape Town on
Feb. 3, 1960, when he spoke of “the winds of change” sweeping across
the continent. Nigeria, Togo, and Dahomey (Benin) became sovereign
states in 1960, Tanganyika (Tanzania), Uganda, and Kenya in East
Africa between 1961 and 1963, and Malaŵi and Northern Rhodesia
(Zambia) in the south in 1964. White residents of Southern Rhodesia,
however, declared their own independence in defiance of London and
the UN. The Republic of South Africa and the surviving Portuguese

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colonies of Angola and Mozambique made those portions of southern
Africa the last refuges of white rule on the continent.

Most new African states had little more to support their pretensions to
nationhood than a paper constitution, a flag, and a London-backed
currency. The leaderships blamed African underdevelopment on past
exploitation rather than on objective conditions, thus rejecting the
American and European development theories that saw political
stability as possible only within the context of economic growth.
Nkrumah lectured to his Pan-African Congress in 1963 that “the social
and economic development of Africa will come only within the
political kingdom, not the other way around.” Indeed, Africa's
politicians invariably styled themselves as charismatic leaders whose
political and even spiritual guidance was the prerequisite for progress.
Nkrumah himself seized all power in Ghana and made himself a
quasi-divine figure until the army overthrew him in 1966. Togo's
government fell to a military coup in 1963, and mutinies broke out in
Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika. In the latter country, Julius Nyerere,
much admired in Europe and the United States, declared a one-party
dictatorship based on his ideology of ujamaa (familyhood) and courted
aid from Communist China. Other leaders contrived similar ideologies
to justify personal rule. By 1967 black Africa had suffered 64
attempted coups d'état, many born of tribal hatreds, and most
Africans had fewer political rights than under colonial rule.

With the exception of Congo (Brazzaville), Cold War rivalries were
absent from Africa in the 1960s, while the African regimes themselves
wisely declared the inviolability of their boundaries lest the artificial
lines drawn by the colonial powers provoke endless warfare. When Igbo
tribes-people seceded from Nigeria in 1967 and formed the rebel state
of Biafra, only four African nations supported their cause. Nigeria
suppressed the secession in a bloody civil war. Decolonization
nonetheless had a profound effect on international relations through
the medium of the UN. The three dozen or so new African states
combined with those of Asia and the Soviet bloc to form a permanent
majority made up mostly of one-party dictatorships nevertheless
claiming moral superiority over the Western “imperialists.” Thus, the
founders' dreams that the UN might become a “parliament of the
world” and bulwark of democracy and human rights were undermined
by the very process of what, with one or another degree of irony, was
called “liberation.” Instead, the UN degenerated into a forum for
polemics and a playground for intrigue.

France's independent course
Where Britain was enervated by the advent of the missile age and the
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Third World, France was invigorated. The weak Fourth Republic had
suffered defeat in Indochina and was embroiled in a civil war between
French settlers and native Muslims in Algeria. When de Gaulle was
called back to power eight months after Sputnik 1, he set about to
forestall a threatened coup d'état by the French army, stabilize French
politics, end the Algerian debacle (independence was granted in 1962
in the Treaty of Évian), and restore French power and prestige in the
world. His constitution for a Fifth Republic established presidential
leadership and restored France's political stability, itself an
achievement of great value to the West. De Gaulle's vision of France,
however, involved neither la plus grande France of the colonial empire
nor the Atlanticist France of NATO nor the European France of the
Common Market (EEC). Rather, de Gaulle proclaimed that a France
without grandeur was not France at all and set out to reestablish
French military, technological, and diplomatic independence.
France's decolonization proceeded as rapidly as Britain's, culminating
in 1960 with the partition and independence of French West Africa. De
Gaulle, however, refused to exhibit any guilt or doubt about France's
mission civilisatrice and offered the populations a choice between
going it alone or joining a linguistic, monetary, and development
community with the former metropole. Only Guinea elected to follow
a Marxist leader who sought ties with the U.S.S.R.

In defense matters, de Gaulle bristled at NATO's reliance on the United
States and publicly doubted whether the U.S. nuclear umbrella over
Europe was still reliable after Sputnik. Would the Americans really risk
a nuclear attack on New York City or Washington, D.C., to defend
Berlin or Paris? Therefore, de Gaulle accelerated the quiet
development of a nuclear capacity begun under the Fourth Republic,
and France exploded its first atomic bomb in 1960. He also quintupled
French spending on research and development, built independent
bomber, missile, and submarine forces—the nuclear force de
frappe—and made France the third space power with the launch of an
Earth satellite in 1965. Gaullist France's rebellion against the tutelage
of a superpower unwilling to accord it diplomatic equality or help it
develop nuclear weapons bore genuine comparison to Maoist China.
Like the U.S.S.R., the United States tried various means to rein in its
obstreperous ally, first trying to dissuade France from developing
nuclear weapons, then inviting it to join a multilateral nuclear force
(MLF) under NATO command. First suggested in December 1960, the
MLF was pushed by Kennedy and Johnson, but de Gaulle responded
with contempt, while Adenauer feared to join lest he damage West
German relations with France. The idea of an MLF died in 1965, and in
July 1966 de Gaulle took the final step of withdrawing French armed
forces from NATO (though France remained a political member of the
alliance). NATO headquarters were then moved from Paris to Brussels.

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De Gaulle similarly distrusted the movement for European integration,
preferring what he termed “the Europe of the fatherlands” stretching
“from the Atlantic to the Urals”—the latter phrase provocatively
including the European portion of the Soviet Union. He tolerated
European institutions such as the EEC, but only on terms of strict
French leadership in partnership with West Germany; hence his veto of
Britain's application in 1963. Moreover, de Gaulle viewed European
cooperative programs in atomic and space research as ways to tap
foreign contributions for the improvement of French national
competitiveness, not as ways for France to contribute to European
unity. Adenauer eagerly accepted de Gaulle's leadership in order to
complete Germany's postwar rehabilitation and retain the EEC market
for Germany's booming industry. De Gaulle, however, crushed any
lingering hopes for European political integration by boycotting the
EEC in 1965–66 rather than allow the federalist commissioner Walter
Hallstein to enhance the decision-making power of the EEC
Parliament. Finally, de Gaulle delighted in open criticism of American
foreign policy and courted closer relations with Moscow (which in
return seized upon what appeared to be an opportunity to split the
alliance), culminating in the pomp of a state visit in 1966. In all these
ways Gaullist policy was a constant vexation to Washington, but in the
long run it was probably a boon to the Western alliance for the
technological dynamism, political stability, and military might it
restored to France.

Asia beneath the superpowers
The first rebellions against the European imperial system had occurred on
the rimlands of Asia at the start of the 20th century: the Russo-Japanese
War, the Indian home-rule movement, and the Chinese and Young Turk
revolutions. By the 1960s the southern tier of Asian states had given birth
to local systems of power and rivalry beyond the control of the Great
Powers. Several factors set these nations and their conflicts apart. First,
the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, and Indochina all seethed with
ethnic conflicts that had little to do with the Cold War. Second, eastern
and southern Asia continued to undergo a demographic explosion that
made China and India by far the most populous states in the world and
non-Soviet Asia the home of 55 percent of the human race. Third, the
politics of these societies, involved as they were in the awakening of vast
peasant masses, the breakdown of traditional village agriculture,
religious and dynastic structures, and programs for rapid modernization,
did not easily fall into categories familiar to Soviet and American
planners of the 1950s. Fourth, most of the Asian rim was remote from the
European Soviet Union and North America, making direct intervention
there expensive and risky. Nevertheless, continued Soviet efforts to win

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influence in the Middle East, Chinese claims to natural leadership of the
poor southern half of the globe, and American attempts to preserve a
structure of containment of the Communist world necessarily involved
the Great Powers in Asian diplomacy. The fate of half of mankind could
not, it seemed, be a matter of indifference to countries that claimed
universal missions.

The Six-Day War
In the Middle East, Nasser's star began to decline in the 1960s from its
post-Suez peak. The Syrian Baʿth Party, though socialist, resented
Nasser's assumption of Arab leadership and in 1961 took the country
out of the United Arab Republic, which it had formed with Egypt in
1958. Likewise, the presence of 50,000 Egyptian troops in Yemen
failed to overcome the forces supporting the Yemeni imam, who was
backed in turn by Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, the Cairo
Conference of 1964 succeeded in rallying pan-Arab unity around
resistance to Israel's plans to divert the waters of the Jordan. Also with
both eyes on Israel, the conference restored an Arab High Command
and elevated the Palestinian refugees (scattered among several Arab
states since 1948) to a status approaching sovereignty, with their own
army and headquarters in the Gaza Strip. Syria likewise sponsored a
terrorist organization, al-Fatah, whose raids against Jewish
settlements provoked Israeli military reprisals inside Jordan and
Lebanon. Syria was divided principally between the socialist Baʾth, led
by the minority ʿAlawite community that dominated the army, and
pro-Nasser pan-Arabists. In 1966 a military coup established a radical
Baʿthist regime, but the army itself then split into rival factions.
Nasser took the initiative to prevent a rightist reversal in Syria and
reassert his leadership of the Arab cause.
Armed with Soviet tanks and planes, Nasser claimed his option under
the 1956 accord to demand withdrawal of UN peacekeeping forces
from the Sinai. Secretary-General U Thant complied on May 19, 1967.
Four days later Nasser closed the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping. The
Soviets apparently urged Nasser to show moderation, while President
Johnson told Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban to remain calm: “Israel
will not be alone unless it decides to go alone.” Neither superpower,
however, was able to restrain its client. When Egyptian and Iraqi
troops arrived in Jordan, giving every sign of an imminent pan-Arab
attack, the Israeli Cabinet decided on a preemptive strike. The Israeli
air force destroyed Nasser's planes on the ground, and in six days of
fighting (June 5–10) the Israeli army overran the Sinai, the West Bank
of the Jordan, including the Old City of Jerusalem, and the strategic
Golan Heights in Syria. The UN Security Council arranged a cease-fire

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and passed Resolution 242, calling for a withdrawal from all occupied
regions. The Israelis were willing to view their conquests (except
Jerusalem) as bargaining chips but insisted on Arab recognition of the
right of Israel to exist and firm guarantees against future attack. The
so-called frontline Arab states were neither able (for domestic
reasons) nor willing to give such guarantees and instead courted Soviet
and Third World support against “U.S.–Israeli imperialism.” Hence
Israel remained both greatly enlarged and possessed of shorter, more
defensible borders, although it did acquire the problem of
administering more than a million Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank.

China, India, and Pakistan
The Indian subcontinent comprised another system of conflict focused
on border disputes among India, Pakistan, and China. Nehru's Congress
Party had stabilized the political life of the teeming and disparate
peoples of India. The United States looked to India as a laboratory of
democracy and development in the Third World and a critical foil to
Communist China and in consequence had contributed substantial
amounts of aid. The U.S.S.R. also began an effective aid program in
1955, and Nehru looked to the U.S.S.R. for support against China once
the Sino-Soviet split became evident. The Peking regime had brutally
suppressed the buffer state of Tibet in 1950 and disputed the border
with India at several points between the tiny Himalayan states of
Nepal, Bhutan, and Sikkim. American military aid to Pakistan (a
member of CENTO) also gave the Indians and Soviets reason to
cooperate. In 1961, when President Ayub Khan of Pakistan earnestly
sought Kennedy's mediation in the dispute over Kashmir, U.S. pressure
proved inadequate to bring Nehru to the bargaining table.

Nehru was humbled, however, when the Chinese suddenly attacked in
force across the disputed boundaries, choosing as their moment the
height of the Cuban missile crisis. Indian forces were soundly
defeated, 7,000 men having been killed or captured, and the lowlands
of Assam lay open to the invaders. The Chinese leadership apparently
had expected a Soviet triumph in Cuba, or at least a drawn-out crisis
that would prevent superpower intervention in India, but the swift
resolution in Cuba in favour of the United States permitted Washington
to respond to Nehru's request for help. The Chinese then halted the
offensive and soon afterward withdrew.
The Kennedy administration used its newly won leverage to urge Nehru
to settle his quarrel with Pakistan, but the negotiations failed to
overcome Hindu–Muslim antipathy and the fact that the conflict was a
unifying element in the domestic politics of both countries. Pakistani
troops crossed the cease-fire line in Kashmir in August 1965, and India

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responded by invading Pakistan proper. Both superpowers backed U
Thant's personal quest for a cease-fire, and the Indians withdrew. The
U.S.S.R. was able to regain influence with New Delhi, especially after
the accession to power of Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi. In 1971
India and the U.S.S.R. concluded a 20-year Treaty of Peace and
Friendship and Cooperation, an indication of how much the United
States (not to mention Britain) had lost touch with the once model
Third World democracy. Pakistan, meanwhile, was in ferment.
President Ayub Khan was forced to step down in 1969 in favour of
Yahya Khan, while elections in 1970 polarized the geographically
divided country. West Pakistan chose Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as prime
minister, but densely populated East Pakistan (Bengal) voted almost
unanimously for a separatist party under Mujibur Rahman. When talks
between the two leaders broke down, Bhutto gambled on sending in
troops and jailing the secessionists. Vicious fighting broke out in
Bengal, flooding India with some 10,000,000 refugees and provoking
Indian intervention. The Soviets cautioned restraint but clearly
favoured India, while U.S. President Nixon sent a carrier task force
into the Bay of Bengal and openly favoured Pakistan, influenced by the
country's role as intermediary between Washington and Peking. In two
weeks of fighting (Dec. 3–16, 1971) the Indians defeated the Pakistanis
on all fronts, and East Pakistan became the new state of Bangladesh,
comprising the delta of the Indus River. Pakistan thus lost well over
half its population. Once Nixon's opening to China bore fruit, the
subcontinent seemed to be polarized around a U.S.S.R.–India axis and
a U.S.–Pakistan–China axis, though the United States resumed aid and
food shipments during the Indian famine of 1972.
To the south and east of the Asian mainland lay the vast, populous
archipelago of Indonesia, where another romantic revolutionary,
Sukarno, had played host to the Bandung Conference of 1955. Like
Nasser, Nehru, and Mao, he ruled his 100,000,000 people by vague,
hortatory slogans that added up to a personal ideology with nationalist
and Communist overtones. The Kennedy administration had tried to
appease Sukarno with development aid and even obliged the Dutch to
cede Irian Barat (Irian Jaya) in the face of Sukarno's threats in 1963.
Sukarno still turned to Moscow for support and gave himself over to
profligate personal behaviour and foreign adventures, most notably an
attempted attack on Malaysia in 1963. By 1965 Indonesia was
$2,400,000,000 in debt and suffering widespread famine. In January of
that year Sukarno withdrew his country from the UN over a dispute
with Malaysia. The Soviets were clearly disgusted with Sukarno's
regime, while the rival Chinese persuaded (perhaps blackmailed) him
into approving a savage pro-Communist putsch in October 1965.
Suharto, however, put down the uprising and exacted a violent
revenge in which as many as 300,000 Communists and their supporters
were killed. Indonesia subsequently concerned itself with its internal

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problems, frustrating Soviet, Chinese, and American hopes for a strong
ally.

The destruction of Indonesian Communism, achieved without the
slightest American effort, was a source of great comfort for the United
States. A diametrically opposite course of events had, by 1965, begun
to unfold in the last theatre of Asian conflict, Vietnam.

The war in Southeast Asia
Cold War assumptions and the quagmire
As the Vietnam War began to recede into the past, the entire episode,
from a neutral perspective, increasingly came to seem incredible. That
the most powerful and wealthy nation on earth should undertake 15
years of wasting conflict against a tiny state 10,000 miles from its
shores—and lose—almost justifies the historian Paul Johnson's phrase
“America's suicide attempt.” Yet the destructive and futile U.S.
engagement in Southeast Asia was a product of a series of trends that
had been maturing since World War II. The early Cold War gave rise to
U.S. leadership in the containment of Communism. Decolonization
then thrust the United States into a role described by advocate and
critic alike as “the world's policeman”—protector and benefactor of
the weak new governments of the Third World. The potential of
guerrilla insurgency, demonstrated in Tito's resistance to the Nazis and
especially in the postwar victories of Mao, the Viet Minh, and Castro,
made it the preferred mode for revolutionary action around the world.
The emerging nuclear stalemate alerted Washington to the need to
prepare for fighting limited (sometimes called “brushfire”) wars
sponsored by the Soviet Union or China through proxies in the Third
World. In this era of Khrushchevian and Maoist assertiveness the United
States could not allow any of its client states to fall to a Communist
“war of national liberation” lest it lose prestige and credibility to
Moscow and Peking. Finally, the “domino theory,” to the effect that
the fall of one country would inexorably lead to the communization of
its neighbours, magnified the importance of even the smallest state
and guaranteed that sooner or later the United States would become
entangled under the worst possible conditions. One or even all of the
assumptions under which the United States became involved in
Vietnam may have been faulty, but very few in the government and
the public questioned them until long after the country was
committed.
By 1961, Diem's fledgling government in South Vietnam was receiving
more U.S. aid per capita than any other country except Laos and South

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Korea. Authoritative reports detailed both the Viet Cong's campaign of
terror against government officials in the south and widespread
discontent over Diem's corrupt and imperious rule. In the face of both
Khrushchev's renewed vow to support wars of national liberation and
de Gaulle's warning (“I predict you will sink step by step into a
bottomless military and political quagmire”), Kennedy chose Vietnam
as a test case for American theories of state building and
counterinsurgency. He approved a proposal by Rostow and General
Maxwell Taylor to assign advisers to every level of Saigon's government
and military, and the number of Americans in Vietnam grew from 800
to 11,000 by the end of 1962.

Ho Chi Minh's North Vietnamese considered the struggle against Diem
and his American sponsors merely the next phase of a war that had
begun against the Japanese and had continued against the French.
Their determination to unify Vietnam and conquer all of Indochina was
the principal dynamic behind the conflict. The total number of
Communist troops in the South grew by recruitment and infiltration
from some 7,000 in 1960 to more than 100,000 by 1964. Most were
guerrilla militiamen who served also as local party cadres. Above them
were the Viet Cong (formally the National Liberation Front, or NLF),
deployed in regional military units, and units of the People's Army of
North Vietnam (PAVN) entering the South along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
U.S. Special Forces tried to counter Communist control of the
countryside with a “strategic hamlet” program, a tactic used with
success by the British in Malaya. Diem instituted a policy of relocating
the rural population of South Vietnam in order to isolate the
Communists. The program caused widespread resentment, while
Diem's persecution of local Buddhist sects provided a rallying point for
protests. When Buddhist monks resorted to dramatic self-immolation
in front of Western news cameras, Kennedy secretly instructed
Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge to approve a military coup. On Nov. 1,
1963, Diem was overthrown and murdered.
South Vietnam then underwent a succession of coups d'état that
undermined all pretense that the United States was defending
democracy. The struggle was thenceforth viewed in Washington as a
military effort to buy time for state building and the training of the
South Vietnamese army (Army of the Republic of Vietnam; ARVN).
When two American destroyers exchanged fire with a North
Vietnamese torpedo boat eight miles off the North's coast in August
1964 (an event whose occurrence was later disputed), Congress passed
the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorizing the President to take
whatever measures he deemed necessary to protect American lives in
Southeast Asia. Johnson held off escalating the war during the 1964
electoral campaign but in February 1965 ordered sustained bombing of
North Vietnam and sent the first U.S. combat units to the South. By

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June, U.S. troops in Vietnam numbered 74,000.

The Soviet Union reacted to American escalation by trying to
reconvene the Geneva Conference and bring pressure to bear on the
United States to submit to the peaceful reunification of Vietnam.
China bluntly refused to encourage a negotiated settlement and
insisted that the U.S.S.R. help North Vietnam by pressuring the United
States elsewhere. The Soviets, in turn, resented Peking's assertion of
leadership in the Communist world and had no desire to provoke new
crises with Washington. The North Vietnamese were caught in the
middle; Ho's ties were to Moscow, but geography obliged him to favour
Peking. Hence North Vietnam joined in boycotting the March 1965
Communist conference in Moscow. The Soviets, however, dared not
ignore the Vietnam War lest they confirm Chinese accusations of
Soviet “revisionism.”

The conduct and cost of the war
Meanwhile, the United States slid ineluctably into the quagmire
predicted by de Gaulle. U.S. forces reached a peak of 543,000 men in
1969. (Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and the Philippines also sent
small contingents, and South Korea contributed 50,000 men.) The U.S.
strategy was to employ mobility, based on helicopters, and firepower
to wear down the enemy by attrition at minimal cost in U.S. lives.

The war of attrition on the ground, like the bombing in the North, was
designed less to destroy the enemy's ability to wage war than to
demonstrate to the enemy that he could not win and to bring him to
the bargaining table. But stalemate suited Hanoi, which could afford
to wait, while it was anathema to the Americans. Johnson's popularity
fell steadily. Most Americans favoured more vigorous prosecution to
end the war, but a growing number advocated withdrawal. Antiwar
dissent grew and spread and overlapped with sweeping and violent
demands for social change. The American foreign policy consensus that
had sustained containment since the 1940s was shattered by Vietnam.
In retrospect, Johnson's attempt to prevent the war from disturbing his
own domestic program was vain, and his strategic conception was
grounded in folly and hubris. He and his advisers had no clear notion of
what the application of American force was supposed to achieve. It
was merely assumed to be invincible.
Hanoi understood that the classic Maoist strategy of isolating cities by
revolutionizing the countryside was inapplicable to Vietnam because
the cities could still hold out with foreign support. Accordingly, in
mid-1967 the North Vietnamese Politburo approved a plan for urban
attacks throughout South Vietnam. General Vo Nguyen Giap insisted,

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however, that NLF guerrillas, not PAVN units, be risked. The
expectation was that direct attacks on cities would undercut American
claims of pacification and magnify domestic American dissent. On Jan.
30, 1968 (the Tet holiday, during which many ARVN troops were home
on leave), an estimated 84,000 Communist troops infiltrated South
Vietnamese cities, attacked government installations, and even
penetrated the American embassy in Saigon. The Tet Offensive was
carried out at a terrible cost to Communist strength, but American
press reports turned the offensive into a psychological defeat for the
United States. Instead of ordering a counterattack, Johnson removed
himself from the 1968 presidential campaign, ordered a bombing halt,
and pledged to devote the rest of his administration to the quest for
peace. Negotiations began in Paris, but the rest of the year was spent
bickering over procedural issues.

For more than 25 years after 1941 the United States had maintained an
unprecedented depth of involvement in world affairs. In 1968 Vietnam
finally forced Americans to face the limits of their resources and will.
Whoever succeeded Johnson would have little choice but to find a way
to escape from Vietnam and reduce American global responsibilities.

Nixon, Kissinger, and the détente experiment
Détente as realism
After eight years in the shadow of Eisenhower and eight more years
out of office, Richard Nixon brought to the presidency in 1969 rich
experience as an observer of foreign affairs and shrewd notions about
how to prevent the American retreat from global commitments from
turning into a rout. In broad outlines, the Nixon strategy included a
phased withdrawal of ground forces from Vietnam, a negotiated
settlement saving the Saigon regime, détente with the U.S.S.R.,
resumption of relations with mainland China, and military support for
selected regional powers that permitted them to take over as local
“policemen” in lieu of direct American involvement. In a period of just
four years, 1969–72, the United States abandoned once-unshakable
Cold War attitudes toward the Communist nations, while scaling back
its own exposure in response to the Sino-Soviet split, imminent Soviet
strategic parity, and the economic and psychological constraints on
U.S. action stemming from the new American imperative of “no more
Vietnams.” Nixon believed that his own record as an anti-Communist
and tough negotiator would quiet conservative opposition to détente,
while liberals would find themselves outflanked on their own peace
issue. In both ends and means American foreign policy evinced a new
realism in stark contrast to the “pay any price, bear any burden”

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mentality of the Kennedy–Johnson years. In his inaugural address Nixon
spoke instead of an “era of negotiation.”
Détente, however, was not meant to replace the abiding postwar
American strategy of containment. Rather, it was meant to be a less
confrontational method of containing Communist power through
diplomatic accords and a flexible system of rewards and punishments
by which Washington might moderate Soviet behaviour. Journalists
dubbed this tactic “linkage” insofar as the United States would link
positive inducements (e.g., arms control, technology transfers, grain
sales) to expected Soviet reciprocity in other areas (e.g., restraint in
promoting revolutionary movements). Nixon had no illusions that
U.S.–Soviet competition would disappear, but he expected that this
carrot-and-stick approach would establish rules of the game and
recognized spheres of influence. Pulling the Soviets into a network of
agreements, and thus giving them a stake in the status quo, would
create a stable structure of peace. Finally, expanding economic and
cultural ties might even serve to open up Soviet society.

By 1971, Leonid Brezhnev, now established as the new Soviet leader,
was ready to welcome American overtures for a variety of reasons. In
1968 relations with the eastern European satellites had flared up again
when leaders of the Czechoslovakian Communist party under
Alexander Dubček initiated reforms promoting democratization and
free speech. A wave of popular demonstrations added momentum to
liberalization during this “Prague Spring” until, on August 20, the
U.S.S.R. led neighbouring Warsaw Pact armies in a military invasion of
Czechoslovakia. Dubček was ousted and the reforms undone. The
ostensible justification for this latest Soviet repression of freedom in
its empire came to be known as the Brezhnev Doctrine: “Each of our
parties is responsible not only to its working class and its people, but
also to the international working class, the world Communist
movement.” The U.S.S.R. asserted its right to intervene in any
Communist state to prevent the success of “counterrevolutionary”
elements. Needless to say, the Chinese were fearful that the Brezhnev
Doctrine might be applied to them. In 1969 they accused the U.S.S.R.
of “social imperialism” and provoked hundreds of armed clashes on the
borders of Sinkiang and Manchuria. Soviet forces arrayed against
China, already raised from 12 weak divisions in 1961 to 25 full ones,
now grew to 55 divisions backed by 120 SS-11 nuclear missiles. In
August 1969 a Soviet diplomat had carefully inquired about the likely
American reaction to a Soviet nuclear strike against China. In sum, the
need to repair the Soviet image in the wake of the Prague Spring and
the fear of dangerous relations with Peking and Washington at the
same time, as well as the chronic Soviet need for agricultural imports
and access to superior Western technology, were all powerful
incentives for seeking détente.

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From a longer perspective, however, détente had been the strategy of
the U.S.S.R. ever since 1956 under the rubric “peaceful coexistence.”
Brezhnev repeated Khrushchev's assertion that Soviet nuclear parity
took the military leverage from the hands of the bourgeois world,
forcing it to accept the legitimate interests of other states, to treat
the U.S.S.R. as an equal, and to acquiesce in the success of
“progressive” and revolutionary struggle. Détente was thus for the
Soviets a natural expression of the new correlation of forces, a means
of guiding the weakened Americans through the transition to a new
phase of history—and was certainly not meant to preserve the status
quo or liberalize the U.S.S.R. One Western proponent of détente
described the Soviet conception of it as a way “to make the world safe
for historical change” and pointed out the implicit double
standard—i.e., that it was admissible for the U.S.S.R. to continue the
struggle against the capitalist world during détente but a contradiction
for the Western powers to struggle against Communism. From the
Marxist point of view, however, this was merely another reflection of
objective reality: Now that nuclear balance was a fact, greater weight
accrued to conventional military strength and popular political action,
each of which strongly favoured the Socialist bloc.
The contrasting U.S. and Soviet conceptions of détente would
eventually scotch the hopes placed in it on both sides. From 1969 to
1972, however, those differences were not yet apparent, while the
immediate incentives for a relaxation of tensions were irresistible.

Scaling back U.S. commitments
The first indications of a new American sense of limits in foreign policy
were in the economic sphere. Since World War II the global market
economy had rested on the Bretton Woods monetary system, based on
a strong American dollar tied to gold. Beginning in 1958 the United
States began to run annual foreign-exchange deficits, resulting partly
from the costs of maintaining U.S. forces overseas. For this reason,
and because their own exports benefitted from an artificially strong
dollar, the Europeans and Japanese tolerated the U.S. gold drain and
used their growing fund of “Eurodollars” to back loans and commerce.
By the mid-1960s de Gaulle began to criticize the United States for
exploiting its leadership role to “export its inflation” to foreign holders
of dollars. The Johnson administration's Vietnam deficits then added
the prospect of internal American inflation. By 1971 the American
economic situation warranted emergency measures. Nixon imposed
wage and price controls to stem inflation, and Secretary of the
Treasury John Connally abruptly suspended the convertibility of dollars
to gold. The dollar was allowed to float against undervalued currencies

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like the deutsche mark and yen, in consequence of which foreign
holders of dollars took sharp losses and foreign exporters faced stiffer
competition from American goods. New agreements in December 1971
stabilized the dollar at a rate 12 percent below Bretton Woods, but
the United States had sorely tried allied loyalty.

The American retreat from an overextended financial position and
insistence that its allies share the burden of stabilizing the U.S.
balance of payments was the economic analog to the Nixon Doctrine in
military affairs. The new president enunciated this doctrine in an
impromptu news conference on Guam during his July 1969 trip to
welcome home the Apollo 11 astronauts from the Moon. Nixon
announced that the United States would no longer send Americans to
fight for Asian nations but would confine itself to logistical and
economic support: “Asian hands must shape the Asian future.” In
accord with this effort to shift more of the burden of containment to
threatened peoples themselves, Nixon planned to assist regional
pro-Western powers like Iran in becoming bulwarks of stability by
providing them with sophisticated American weapons.

Before the Nixon Doctrine could be credible, however, the President
had to extricate the United States from Vietnam. In March 1969 he
outlined a policy of Vietnamization, comprising a phased withdrawal of
American ground troops and additional material and advisory support
to make the ARVN self-sufficient. Nixon also hoped to enlist the
Soviets in the cause of peace, but Moscow had less influence over
Hanoi than he imagined and could not afford to be seen as appeasing
the United States. Nixon then shifted to a subtler approach—long-term
pressure on Hanoi combined with better relations with both
Communist giants. Late in 1969 secret talks began in Paris between
Henry Kissinger, Nixon's adviser for national security, and the North
Vietnamese Politburo member Le Duc Tho. At the same time,
however, Nixon stepped up pressure on the North. When the
anti-Communist general Lon Nol overthrew Prince Sihanouk in
Cambodia in March 1970, Nixon acceded to the U.S. army's
long-standing desire to destroy Communist sanctuaries inside that
country. The U.S.-ARVN operation fell short of its promise and
provoked protests at home and abroad. Despite public disfavour and
congressional attempts to limit such actions, Nixon ordered continued
secret American bombing inside Cambodia and also supported an ARVN
operation into Laos to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

The opening to China and Ostpolitik
The linchpin of Nixon's strategy for a settlement in Vietnam was
détente with Moscow and Peking. He was known as a firm supporter of
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the Nationalist regime on Taiwan, but he had softened his stance
against mainland China before taking office. In 1969 he moved to
signal Peking through the good offices of de Gaulle and Yahya Khan of
Pakistan. Direct contacts, conducted through the Chinese embassy in
Warsaw, were broken off after the 1970 U.S.-ARVN attacks on
Cambodia, but Nixon and Kissinger remained hopeful. The Cultural
Revolution ended in a serious power struggle in the Chinese
leadership. Army commander Lin Biao opposed relations with the
United States but died when his plane crashed in unclear
circumstances. Zhou Enlai and Mao (presumably) contemplated the
value of an American counterweight to the Soviets, concessions on the
status of Taiwan, and technology transfers. The Nixon Doctrine also
promised to remove the obnoxious U.S. military presence in Asia.
The Pakistani channel bore fruit in December 1970, when Yahya Khan
returned from Peking with an invitation for an American envoy to
discuss Taiwan. The following April the Chinese made the surprising
public gesture of inviting an American table tennis team to the
championship tournament in Peking. This episode of “Ping-Pong
diplomacy” was followed by a secret trip to Peking by Kissinger.
Kissinger's talks with Zhou and Mao yielded an American promise to
remove U.S. forces from Taiwan in return for Chinese support of a
negotiated settlement in Vietnam. The Chinese also agreed to a
presidential visit in February 1972. The American people's long-latent
fascination with China immediately revived, and Nixon's trip was a
sensation.

The Soviets watched with palpable discomfort as Nixon and Mao
embraced and saluted each other's flags, and they quickly raised the
premium on improving relations with Washington. Efforts to this end
had been frustrated by a series of crises: a buildup of Soviet jets in
Egypt and Jordan, the discovery of a Soviet submarine base under
construction in Cuba in 1970, and Nixon's escalations of the war in
Southeast Asia. Substantial moves toward East–West détente had
already been made in Europe, however. Following de Gaulle's lead, the
West German foreign minister, Willy Brandt, a Socialist and former
mayor of West Berlin, had made overtures toward Moscow. After
becoming chancellor in 1969 he pursued a thorough Ostpolitik
(“eastern policy”) that culminated in treaties with the U.S.S.R.
(August 1970), renouncing the use of force in their relations, and with
Poland (December 1970), recognizing Germany's 1945 losses east of the
Oder–Neisse Line. Brandt also recognized the East German government
(December 1972) and expanded commercial relations with other
eastern European regimes. Both German states were admitted to the
UN in 1973. Support for Ostpolitik among West Germans reflected the
growing belief that German reunification would more likely be
achieved through détente, rather than confrontation, with the Soviet

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bloc.

The United States, Britain, and France seconded Brandt's efforts by
concluding a new Four Power accord with the U.S.S.R. on Berlin in
September 1971. The Soviets made what they considered a major
concession by agreeing to retain their responsibility under the Potsdam
Accords for access to West Berlin and achieved in return Western
recognition of the status quo in eastern Europe and access to West
German technology and credits.

Arms-limitation negotiations
The centrepiece of a bilateral U.S.–Soviet détente, however, had to be
the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), which began in 1969. After
a decade of determined research and deployment the Soviet Union had
pulled ahead of the United States in long-range missiles and was
catching up in submarine-launched missiles and in long-range bombers.
Indeed, it had been American policy since the mid-1960s to permit the
Soviets to achieve parity in order to stabilize the regime of mutual
deterrence. Stability was threatened, however, from the technological
quarter with the development of multiple independently targeted
reentry vehicles (MIRVs), by which several warheads, each aimed at a
different target, could be carried on one missile, and antiballistic
missiles (ABMs), which might allow one side to strike first while
shielding itself from retaliation. In the arcane province of strategic
theory, therefore, offense (long-range missiles) became defense, and
defense (ABM) offense. Johnson had favoured a thin ABM system to
protect the United States from a Chinese attack, and in 1969 Nixon
won Senate approval of ABM deployment by a single vote. He
intended, however, to use the program as a bargaining chip. The
Soviets had actually deployed a rudimentary ABM system but were
anxious to halt the U.S. program before superior American technology
left theirs behind. The public SALT talks stalled, but back-channel
negotiations between Kissinger and Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin
produced agreement in principle in May 1971 to limit long-range
missiles and ABM deployment. The American opening to China made
the Soviets increasingly eager for a prompt agreement and summit
meeting, while the Americans hoped that Moscow would encourage
North Vietnam to be forthcoming in the peace talks.
Since 1968 North Vietnamese negotiators had demanded satisfaction of
Premier Pham Van Dong's “four points” of 1965, including cessation of
all U.S. military activity in Indochina, termination of foreign military
alliances with Saigon, a coalition government in the South that
included the NLF, and reunification of Vietnam. The United States
demanded withdrawal of all foreign troops from the South, including

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the PAVN. This deadlock, plus Hanoi's anxiety over the possible effects
of détente, prompted another North Vietnamese bid for victory on the
battlefield. In March 1972 they committed 10 of their 13 divisions to a
massive offensive. Nixon responded by ordering the resumption of
bombing of the North for the first time since 1969 and the mining of
the harbour at Haiphong, North Vietnam's major port. The offensive
stalled.

Nixon's retaliation against North Vietnam prompted speculation that
the U.S.S.R. would cancel the planned summit meeting, but Soviet
desire for détente prevailed. Kissinger visited Moscow in April 1972 to
work out details on SALT and draft a charter for détente. Nixon
instructed him “to emphasize the need for a single standard; we could
not accept the proposition that the Soviet Union had the right to
support liberation movements throughout the world while insisting on
the Brezhnev Doctrine inside the satellite orbit.” The Soviets,
however, refused to make explicit concessions and defined détente as
a means of preventing the inevitable struggle between “progressive”
and “reactionary” forces from escalating into war. The result was a
vague statement of 12 “basic principles of mutual relations”
committing the two parties to peaceful coexistence and normal
relations based on “sovereignty, equality, non-interference in internal
affairs, and mutual advantage.” Nixon then proceeded to Moscow in
May 1972 and signed 10 documents providing for cooperation in
economics, science and technology, outer space, medicine, health,
and the environment. Most important were the SALT accords: an
Interim Agreement limiting ballistic-missile deployment for five years
and the ABM Treaty limiting each side to two ABM sites, one protecting
the national capital, the other a long-range missile site. The treaty
also enjoined the signatories not to interfere with each other's
“national technical means of verification,” a de facto recognition of
each side's space-based reconnaissance satellites.

The preliminary SALT agreement appeared to be a significant
achievement, but there was in some ways less to it than met the eye.
The treaty mandated controlled increases, not decreases, in the Soviet
arsenal, while failing to ban development of cruise missiles,
space-based weapons, or the MIRVing of existing launchers by the
United States or the U.S.S.R. Thus the superpowers sacrificed the right
to defend their attack missiles with ABMs while failing to ensure the
stability of mutual deterrence. In sum, the limitation of one sort of
nuclear launcher (long-range missiles) did not preclude a continuing
arms race in other sorts of launchers or in technological upgrades. To
be sure, the mere fact of a U.S.–Soviet agreement seemed of
psychological value, but only if both sides were genuinely seeking to
reduce arsenals and not simply to maneuver diplomatically for a future
advantage. Hence the practical value, or danger, of SALT would be

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revealed only by superpower behaviour in years to come.

End of the Vietnam War
The American achievement of détente with both Moscow and Peking
and the failure of North Vietnam's spring 1972 offensive moved both
protagonists in that conflict to bargain as well. In October the secret
talks in Paris between Kissinger and Le Duc Tho finally produced an
agreement on a cease-fire, the release of prisoners of war, evacuation
of remaining U.S. forces within 60 days, and political negotiations
among all Vietnamese parties. South Vietnam's president, Nguyen Van
Thieu, then balked: The plan might indeed allow the Americans to
claim “peace with honour” and go home, but it would leave Thieu to
deal with the Communists while 100,000 PAVN troops remained in his
country. When North Vietnam sought to prevent any last-minute
changes by releasing in public the Paris terms, Kissinger was obliged to
announce on October 26 that “peace is at hand.” After his landslide
reelection a week later—a victory aided by the prospect of
peace—Nixon determined to force compliance with the terms on both
Vietnamese states. Nixon ordered 11 days of intensive bombing over
Hanoi itself (December 18–28) while sending Thieu an ultimatum
threatening a separate peace and cessation of U.S. aid if Saigon did
not accept the peace terms. The United States was castigated
worldwide for the “Christmas bombing,” but, when talks resumed in
January, Hanoi and Saigon quickly came to terms. A Vietnam
cease-fire went into effect on Jan. 27, 1973, and the last American
soldiers departed on March 29.
Vietnam had been America's longest and most divisive war, and public
and congressional opinion flatly opposed any resumption of the agony.
The 1973 accords, therefore, were a fig leaf hiding the fact that the
United States had just lost its first war despite an estimated
expenditure of $155,000,000,000, 7,800,000 tons of bombs (more than
all countries dropped in all of World War II), and some 58,000
American lives. Estimates of Vietnamese dead (North and South)
totaled more than 2,000,000 soldiers and civilians. In its proportional
impact on Vietnamese society, the Vietnam War, 1955–75, was the
fourth most severe in the world since 1816.

The end of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia also brought to a close
15 years of astounding change in world politics that featured the
arrival of the space and missile age, the climax of decolonization, the
assertions of Maoist China and Gaullist France, the shattering of the
myth (fostered by Washington and Moscow alike) of a monolithic
Communist world, and the relative decline of American power. In
1969, the very moment when astronauts were setting foot on the Moon
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to fulfill Kennedy's pledge to prove American superiority, Nixon and
Kissinger were struggling to adjust to the new realities and manage a
limited American retreat. They succeeded brilliantly in establishing a
triangular relationship with Moscow and Peking and appeared to have
replaced Cold War with détente. Likewise, they appeared to have
escaped from Vietnam and implemented the Nixon Doctrine. New
crises and reversals were in the offing, however, that would prove that
the American decline had not yet been arrested. Given these
reversals, détente might be judged as much an exercise in American
presumption as the Vietnam War. The U.S.S.R. could not be expected
to cease its quest for real values in world competition just because the
United States was prepared to acknowledge it as a military equal.
Rather, with the United States less able to cope, that very equality
opened up new opportunities for Soviet expansion. Khrushchev's boast
about the new correlation of forces in the world may have brought the
Soviets a series of embarrassments from 1957 to 1962, but a decade
later it seemed perversely justified.

Dependence and disintegration in the global
village, 1973–87
Events after the 1960s seemed to suggest that the world was entering an
era both of complex interdependence among states and of disintegration
of the normative values and institutions by which international behaviour
had, to a reliable extent, been made predictable. Perhaps this was not an
anomaly, for if modern weapons, communications satellites, and global
finance and commerce really had created a “global village,” in which the
security and well-being of all peoples were interdependent, then by the
same token the opportunities had never been greater for ethnic, religious,
ideological, or economic differences to spark resentment and conflict
among the villagers.

In a world so seemingly out of control, it was perhaps a wonder that
politics were not even more violent and anarchic, for the liberal dreams of
progress nurtured in the 19th century had surely proved false. The spread
of modern technology and economic growth around the world had not
necessarily increased the number of societies based on human rights and
the rule of law, nor had multilateral institutions like the United Nations or
financial and economic interdependence created a higher unity and
common purpose among nations, except within the durable and
democratic North Atlantic alliance.
Instead, the world after the 1960s saw a proliferation of violence at every
level except war among developed nations, a world financial structure
under tremendous strain, the worst economic downturn since the 1930s

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and reduced growth rates thereafter, recurrent fears of an energy crisis,
the depletion of resources and concurrent global pollution, famine and
genocidal dictators in parts of Africa and Asia, the rise of an aggressive
religious fundamentalism in the Muslim world, and widespread political
terrorism in the Middle East and Europe. The superpowers never ceased to
compete in the realms of strategic weapons and influence in the Third
World and thus failed to sustain their brief experiment with détente. As
President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski,
concluded: “The factors that make for international instability are gaining
the historical upper hand over the forces that work for more organized
cooperation. The unavoidable conclusion of any detached analysis of global
trends is that social turmoil, political unrest, economic crisis, and
international friction are likely to become more widespread during the
remainder of this century.”

The decline of détente
General Secretary Brezhnev and President Nixon were understandably
optimistic in the wake of the endorsement by the 24th Party Congress of
the Soviet peace program in 1971 and Nixon's landslide reelection in
1972. Both expected their new relationship to mature over the course of
Nixon's second term. Détente, however, had fragile foundations in foreign
as well as domestic policy. The Soviets viewed it as a form of mere
peaceful coexistence in which revolutionary forces could be expected to
take advantage of the new American restraint, while the U.S.
administration implicitly sold détente as a means of restraining
Communist activity around the world. American conservatives were
bound to lose faith in détente with each new incident of Soviet
assertiveness, while liberals remained hostile to Nixon himself, his
realpolitik, and his predilection for the use of force. Between 1973 and
1976 Soviet advances in the Third World, the destruction of Nixon's
presidency in the Watergate scandal, and congressional actions to limit
the foreign policy prerogatives of the White House undermined the
domestic foundations of détente. After 1977 the U.S.S.R. seemed to take
advantage of the Carter administration's vacillations in Third World
conflicts and in arms-control talks, until the Democrats themselves
reluctantly announced the demise of détente following the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

The distraction of Watergate
Analysts with a sufficiently historical point of view tended to see in
the Watergate affair and Nixon's 1974 resignation the culmination of a
30-year trend by which war and the Cold War had greatly expanded,

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and ultimately corrupted, executive power. Liberals who, in
Eisenhower's time, had called for strong presidential leadership now
bemoaned “the imperial presidency.” With what were widely
understood to be the lessons of Vietnam fresh in the nation's mind, and
a majority in Congress and the press hostile to the sitting president,
the moment arrived for a legislative counterattack on the executive.
This interpretation is borne out by the subsequent congressional acts
designed to limit executive freedom in foreign policy. The War Powers
Act of 1973 restrained the president's ability to commit U.S. forces
overseas. The Stevenson and Jackson–Vanik amendments imposed
conditions (regarding Soviet policy on Jewish emigration) on
administration plans to expand trade with the U.S.S.R. In 1974–75
Congress prevented the President from involving the United States in a
crisis in Cyprus or aiding anti-Communist forces in Angola and passed
the Arms Export Control Act, removing presidential discretion in
supplying arms overseas. New financial controls limited the president's
ability to conclude executive agreements with foreign powers, of
which some 6,300 had been signed between 1946 and 1974 as
compared with only 411 treaties requiring the Senate's advice and
consent. Finally, revelations of past CIA covert operations, including
schemes to assassinate Fidel Castro, inspired complicated
congressional oversight procedures for U.S. intelligence agencies.
These assaults on executive prerogative were meant to prevent future
Vietnams, prevent unelected presidential aides from engaging in
secret diplomacy, and restore to Congress an “appropriate” role in
foreign policy. Critics of the limitations held that no great power could
conduct a coherent or effective foreign policy under such a
combination of openness and restrictions, especially in a world
populated increasingly by totalitarian regimes, guerrilla movements,
and terrorists.
The Nixon–Brezhnev summits of 1973–74 produced only minor
follow-ons in the area of arms control—the uncontroversial Agreement
on the Prevention of Nuclear War and an agreement to reduce the
number of ABM sites from the two permitted in 1972 to one. Gerald
Ford, president from August 1974, and Henry Kissinger, who remained
as secretary of state, attempted to restore the momentum of détente
through a new SALT agreement regulating the dangerous race in
MIRVed missiles, which SALT I had not prevented. The United States
proposed strict equality in nuclear delivery systems and total throw
weight, which meant that the United States would be allowed to MIRV
more of its missiles to offset the greater size of Soviet missiles. Since
the United States had no plans for a unilateral buildup in any case,
however, the Soviets had no incentive to make such a concession.
Instead, Ford and Brezhnev signed an Interim Agreement at
Vladivostok in November 1974 that limited each side to 2,400 delivery
vehicles, of which 1,320 could be MIRVed. While the Soviets claimed

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that this was a concession, since they declined to count the 90 British
and French missiles aimed at them, the Soviets' giant SS-18s, able to
deliver up to 10 MIRVs, ensured the U.S.S.R. an advantage in ICBM
warheads. The repeated failure to restrain the growth of Soviet
offensive systems soon sparked fears that the United States might
become vulnerable to preemptive attack.

Meanwhile, the mid-1970s brought to a logical conclusion the process
of détente in Europe. Nixon and Kissinger, aware that the United
States had seemed to ignore its European allies during the 10 years of
Vietnam, declared 1973 “the year of Europe” and hoped to forestall
NATO governments from bargaining with Moscow on their own.
Watergate and the Arab–Israeli war of that year (the Yom Kippur War)
turned this initiative into a public-relations failure, however. Instead,
the United States was obliged to follow the European lead in the
ongoing Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and
negotiations toward a “mutual and balanced force reduction” treaty
covering NATO and Warsaw Pact forces in central Europe. The climax
of the security talks was the Helsinki summit of 35 nations in the
summer of 1975 and an agglomeration of proposals divided into three
“baskets.” (A fourth basket dealt with the question of a follow-up
conference.) In Basket I the signatories accepted the inviolability of
Europe's existing borders and the principle of noninterference in the
internal affairs of other states—thereby recognizing formally the Soviet
gains in World War II and the Soviet-bloc states. Basket II promoted
exchanges in science, technology, and commerce, expanding Soviet
access to Western technology and opening the Soviet market to
western European industry. Basket III, the apparent Soviet concession,
aimed at expanding cultural and humanitarian cooperation among all
states on the basis of respect for human rights. Not surprisingly,
Western opinion of the Helsinki Accords, and of détente in general,
came to rest heavily on whether the U.S.S.R. would voluntarily comply
with Basket III. American leaders of both parties considered Helsinki
misguided and empty, especially after Moscow stepped up the
persecution of dissidents and jailed those of their citizens engaged in a
“Helsinki watch” on Soviet compliance. In sum, Helsinki (and U.S.
demands on behalf of Soviet Jews) pointed up another contradiction in
détente, this time between American insistence on Soviet
liberalization and Soviet insistence on noninterference in the domestic
politics of other states.

Events in Southeast Asia and Africa
During final negotiations at Helsinki, events in Southeast Asia
compounded the American sense of humiliation and growing discontent

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with détente. The North Vietnamese had never viewed the 1973 peace
accords as anything other than an interlude permitting the final
withdrawal of American forces. In the year following they built up
their strength in South Vietnam to more than 150,000 regulars armed
with Soviet tanks, artillery, and antiaircraft weapons. The ARVN was
poorly trained, suffered from low morale after the Americans were
gone, and faced an enemy able to attack at times and places of its
own choosing. The American withdrawal also removed at a blow some
300,000 jobs from the local economy, and President Thieu made
matters worse by trying to establish one-party bureaucratic rule
without the charisma or prestige to sustain it. By October 1974 the
Politburo in Hanoi concluded that the Saigon regime was ripe for
collapse. Large-scale probes of ARVN defenses in January 1975
confirmed their optimism. By the end of the month 12 provinces and
8,000,000 people had fallen to the Communists. On April 10, unable to
obtain congressional approval of $422,000,000 in further military aid,
President Ford declared that the Vietnam War was over “as far as
America is concerned.” The final North Vietnamese offensive reached
Saigon on April 30, 1975, as the last remaining Americans fled to
helicopters atop the U.S. embassy. Hanoi triumphantly reunified
Vietnam politically in July 1976 and confined thousands of South
Vietnamese to “reeducation camps,” while thousands of “boat people”
risked death in the South China Sea to escape reprisals and
Communism.
The end in Cambodia had already occurred. The Communist Khmer
Rouge cut off the capital, Phnom Penh, in January 1975. When the
U.S. Congress denied further aid to Cambodia, Lon Nol fled, and in
mid-April the Khmer Rouge took control. Its leader, Pol Pot, was a
French-educated disciple of Maoist “total revolution” to whom
everything traditional was anathema. The Khmer Rouge reign of terror
became one of the worst holocausts of the 20th century. All urban
dwellers, including hospital patients, were forced into the countryside
in order to build a new society of rural communes. Sexual intercourse
was forbidden and the family abolished. More than 100,000
Cambodians, including all “bourgeois,” or educated people, were
killed outright, and 400,000 succumbed in the death marches; in all,
1,200,000 people (a fifth of the Cambodian nation) perished. The
Khmer Rouge, however, were not allied with Hanoi, and in 1979 PAVN
forces invaded Cambodia to oust the Khmer Rouge and install a puppet
regime. This action completed the conquest of Indochina by North
Vietnam, for Laos, too, became Communist after the fall of Saigon.
Thus the domino theory was at last put to the test and to a large
extent borne out.

Events in Africa as well seemed to bear out the Soviet expectation that
“progressive forces” would gain ground rapidly during the new era of

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superpower parity. Angola and Mozambique, coastal states facing the
oil-tanker routes around the Cape of Good Hope, were finally slated to
achieve independence from Portugal following a leftist military coup in
Lisbon in April 1974. Three indigenous groups, each linked to tribal
factions, vied for predominance in Angola. The MPLA (Popular
Movement for the Liberation of Angola) of Agostinho Neto was Marxist
and received aid from the U.S.S.R. and Cuba. The FNLA (National Front
for the Liberation of Angola) in the north was backed by Mobutu Sese
Seko of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and initially
by a token contribution from the CIA. In the south the UNITA (National
Union for the Total Independence of Angola) of Jonas Savimbi had ties
to China but came to rely increasingly on white South Africa. In the
Alvor agreement of January 1975 all three agreed to form a coalition,
but civil war resumed in July. By the end of the year the MPLA had
been reinforced by 10,000 Cuban soldiers airlifted to Luanda by the
U.S.S.R. In the United States the imperative of “no more Vietnams”
and congressional ire over CIA covert operations frustrated Ford's
desire to help non-Communist Angolans. Neto accordingly proclaimed a
People's Republic of Angola in November 1975 and signed a Treaty of
Friendship with the U.S.S.R. the following October. The rebel factions,
however, remained in control of much of the country, and Cuban troop
levels eventually reached 19,000. A Marxist government also assumed
power in Mozambique.

American uncertainty
In winning the presidential election of 1976, Jimmy Carter capitalized
on the American people's disgust with Vietnam and Watergate by
promising little more than an open and honest administration. Though
intelligent and earnest, he lacked the experience and acumen
necessary to provide strong leadership in foreign policy. This
deficiency was especially unfortunate since his major advisers had
sharply divergent views on the proper American posture toward the
Soviet Union.

Carter's inaugural address showed how much he diverged from the
realpolitik of Nixon and Kissinger. Such a sentiment as “Because we
are free we can never be indifferent to the fate of freedom
elsewhere” recalled Kennedy's 1961 call to arms. But Carter made
clear that his emphasis on human rights applied at least as much to
authoritarian governments friendly to the United States as to
Communist states, and that such idealism was in fact, as he put it on
another occasion, the most “practical and realistic approach” to
foreign policy. He hoped to divert American energies away from
preoccupation with relations with the U.S.S.R. toward global problems

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such as energy, population control, hunger, curbing of arms sales, and
nuclear proliferation. Carter's first initiative in the perilous field of
arms control was an embarrassing failure. Rejecting his own secretary
of state's advice to take a gradual approach, he startled the Soviets
with a deep-cut proposal for immediate elimination of as much as 25
percent of the U.S. and Soviet strategic missiles and a freeze on new
long-range missile deployment. Brezhnev rejected it out of hand, and
Foreign Minister Andrey Gromyko called this attempt to scrap the
Vladivostok formula a “cheap and shady maneuver.”

Carter was to gain one stunning success during his term, a peace
treaty between Egypt and Israel (see also Palestinian terrorism and
diplomacy), but he was unable to stem the growth of Soviet influence
in Africa. Somalia, on the strategic Horn of Africa astride the Red Sea
and Indian Ocean shipping lanes, had been friendly to Moscow since
1969. In September 1974 a pro-Marxist military junta overthrew the
government of neighbouring Ethiopia, had Emperor Haile Selassie
confined in his palace (where he was later suffocated in his bed), and
invited Soviet and Cuban advisers into the country. The Somalis then
took advantage of the turmoil—perversely, from Moscow's point of
view—to reassert old claims to the Ogaden region of Ethiopia and to
invade, while Eritrean rebels also took up arms against Addis Ababa.
The Soviets and Cubans stepped up support for Ethiopia, while Castro
vainly urged all parties to form a “Marxist federation.” Carter at first
cut off aid to Ethiopia on the ground of human-rights abuses and
promised weapons for the Somalis. By August he realized that the arms
would only be used in the Ogaden campaign and reversed himself,
making the United States appear ignorant and indecisive. Somalia
broke with the U.S.S.R. anyway, but 17,000 Cuban troops and
$1,000,000,000 in Soviet aid allowed Ethiopia to clear the Ogaden of
invaders and in 1978 to suppress the Eritrean revolt. Ethiopia signed its
own treaty of friendship and cooperation with the U.S.S.R. in
November. The failure of the Carter administration either to consult
with the Soviets or to resist Soviet–Cuban military intervention set a
bad precedent and weakened both détente and U.S. prestige in the
Third World.
The events in the Horn of Africa, which Brzezinski interpreted as part
of a Soviet strategy to outflank the oil-rich Persian Gulf so vital to
Western economies, encouraged the United States to seek help in
balancing Soviet power in the world. The obvious means of doing so
was to complete the rapprochement with China begun under Nixon.
Some advisers opposed “playing the China card” for fear that the
Soviets would retaliate by calling off the continuing SALT negotiations,
but Brzezinski persuaded the President that closer ties between the
United States and China would oblige the U.S.S.R. to court the United
States, as had occurred in 1972. Brzezinski went to Peking in May 1978

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to initiate discussions leading toward full diplomatic recognition. His
cause was aided by important changes in the Chinese leadership. Zhou
Enlai and Mao Zedong had died in 1976. Hua Guofeng won the initial
power struggle and ordered the arrest and trial of the radical Gang of
Four led by Mao's wife, Jiang Qing. Both superpowers hoped that the
suppression of radicals in favour of pragmatists in the Chinese
government might portend better relations with Peking. The
rehabilitation of the formerly condemned “capitalist roader” Deng
Xiaoping led to a resumption of Soviet–Chinese border clashes,
however, and the clear shift of Vietnam into the Soviet camp
strengthened Washington's hand in Peking. Hua and Carter announced
in December 1978 that full diplomatic relations would be established
on January 1, 1979. The United States downgraded its representation
in Taiwan and renounced its 1954 mutual defense treaty with the
Nationalist Chinese.

The spectre of a possible Sino-American alliance may have alarmed the
Soviets (Brezhnev warned Carter not to sell arms to China) but was
never a real possibility. The Chinese remained Communist and
distrustful of the United States. They made clear that China was no
card to be played at will by one or the other of the superpowers. Nor
could China's underdeveloped economy sustain a large conventional
war or the projection of force overseas (which the United States would
not want in any case), while in nuclear systems China was as weak
vis-à-vis the Soviet Union as the Soviet Union had been vis-à-vis the
United States in the 1950s. Ties to the United States might provide
China with high technology, but the United States was no more willing
to place nuclear or missile systems in Chinese hands than Khrushchev
had been. To be sure, the United States had an interest in preventing
a Sino-Soviet rapprochement (an estimated 11 percent of the Soviet
military effort was devoted to the Chinese front), but any pause given
the U.S.S.R. by Sino-American cooperation was probably more useful
to China than to the United States. Indeed, Peking was quite capable
of playing its U.S. card to carry out adventures of its own.

After their 1975 victory the North Vietnamese showed a natural
strategic preference for the distant U.S.S.R. and fell out with their
historic enemy, neighbouring China. In quick succession Vietnam
expelled Chinese merchants, opened Cam Ranh Bay to the Soviet navy,
and signed a treaty of friendship with Moscow. Vietnamese troops had
also invaded Cambodia to oust the pro-Peking Khmer Rouge. Soon after
Deng Xiaoping's celebrated visit to the United States, Peking
announced its intention to punish the Vietnamese, and, in February
1979, its forces invaded Vietnam in strength. The Carter
administration felt obliged to favour China (especially given residual
American hostility to North Vietnam) and supported Peking's offer to
evacuate Vietnam only when Vietnam evacuated Cambodia. The

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Soviets reacted with threats against China, but Chinese forces
performed abysmally even against Vietnam's frontier militia, and after
three weeks of hard fighting, in which Vietnam claimed to have
inflicted 45,000 casualties, the Chinese withdrew. The results for U.S.
policy were all negative: Chinese military prestige was shattered,
Cambodia remained in the Soviet-Vietnamese camp, and the tactic of
playing the China card was rendered ridiculous.

To the chagrin of Peking, the Sino-Vietnamese War failed to forestall a
planned U.S.–Soviet summit meeting and the signing of a second arms
agreement, SALT II. After Carter's first deep-cut proposal, negotiations
had resumed on the basis of the Vladivostok agreement and had finally
produced a draft treaty. The summit was held in Vienna in June 1979,
and Carter returned to seek congressional approval for SALT II as well
as most-favoured-nation trade status for both the U.S.S.R. and China.
The treaty inspired widespread suspicion in the U.S. Senate on its own
merits. The modest limits on nuclear forces and allowances for
upgrading existing missiles did not seem sufficient to prevent the
Soviets' superior long-range missile forces from threatening the
survival of U.S. land-based missiles. The American will to upgrade its
own deterrent, meanwhile, seemed to be sapped by the SALT process
itself. Confusion reigned over how the MX missile might be deployed so
as to survive a Soviet first strike, and Carter cancelled programs to
deploy the B-1 strategic bomber and an antitank neutron bomb
designed for Europe. There also was widespread doubt over whether
Soviet compliance with SALT II could be adequately monitored. The
treaty foundered as well on growing American impatience with
Communist expansion in the Third World.

Any chance of Senate ratification of SALT II disappeared on December
25, 1979, when the U.S.S.R. launched an invasion of Afghanistan to
prop up a friendly regime. Even after a decade of détente the
American public still thought viscerally in terms of containment, and
this latest and most brazen Soviet advance pushed the President over
the fence. “This action of the Soviets,” said Carter, “has made a more
dramatic change in my own opinion of what the Soviets' ultimate goals
are than anything they've done.” Calling the Afghan invasion “a clear
threat to peace,” Carter ordered an embargo on sales of grain and
high-technology equipment to the U.S.S.R., canceled U.S.
participation in the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, reinstated
registration for the draft, withdrew the SALT II treaty from the Senate,
and proclaimed the Carter Doctrine, pledging the United States to the
defense of the Persian Gulf. It was clear to all that détente was dead.

Postmortem

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Was détente a failure because the Soviets refused to play by the rules,
because the United States was unwilling to accord the U.S.S.R.
genuine equality, or because détente was never really tried at all? Or
did the differing U.S. and Soviet conceptions of détente ensure that,
sooner or later, American patience would wear thin? The last
explanation is, in foreshortened perspective, at least, the most
convincing. From the Soviet point of view the United States had been a
hegemonic power from 1945 to 1972, secure in its nuclear dominance
and free to undertake military and political intervention around the
world. The correlation of forces had gradually shifted, however, to the
point where the U.S.S.R. could rightly claim global equality and
respect for “peaceful coexistence.” Under détente, therefore, the
United States was obliged to recognize Soviet interests in all regions of
the world and to understand that the U.S.S.R. was now as free as the
United States to defend those interests with diplomacy and arms.
Those interests included, above all, fraternal aid for “progressive”
movements in the Third World. Détente certainly could never mean
the freezing of the status quo or the trends of history as understood in
Marxist theory. Instead, in the Soviet view, the United States
continued to resent Soviet equality in armaments, to shut the U.S.S.R.
out of regional diplomacy (as in the Middle East), to interfere in Soviet
domestic policy, to support counterrevolutionary movements, and, in
violation of the spirit of détente, to attempt to organize the
encirclement of the U.S.S.R. in league with NATO and China.
From the American perspective, Soviet policy from 1945 to 1972 was
characterized by a Marxist-Leninist drive to export revolution and
achieve world dominion by dividing and bullying the West and
exploiting the struggles of Third World nations. At the same time the
growing maturity of the U.S.S.R. itself, the split in world Communism,
and the realization that the Western world was not about to collapse
(from either “the contradictions of capitalism” or Soviet subversion)
had made Cold War obsolete. Under détente, therefore, the U.S.S.R.
was obliged to accept the responsibilities as well as the benefits of
membership in the comity of civilized states, to reduce its exorbitant
military spending and subversive activity, and to cease trying to turn
the domestic problems of other countries to unilateral benefit.
Instead, in the American view, the U.S.S.R. continued to exploit
Western restraint, to build up its nuclear and conventional forces far
beyond the needs of deterrence, and to exploit Communist proxy
forces to take over developing nations.

Each view had a basis in reality, and, given the differing assumptions
of the two governments, each was persuasive. The burden of
compromise or dissolution of the relationship fell inevitably on the
democratic, status quo power, however, and in time American opinion
would cease to tolerate Soviet advances made under the guise of

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détente. The notion of détente was flawed from the start in two
crucial points. First, with the exception of preventing nuclear war, the
United States and the U.S.S.R. still shared no major interests in the
world; and second, the specific agreements on respect for spheres of
influence included Europe and isolated regions elsewhere but not the
bulk of the Third World. Americans inevitably viewed any Soviet
assertiveness in such undefined regions as evidence of the same old
Soviet drive for world domination, while the Soviets inevitably viewed
any American protestations as evidence of the same old American
strategy of containment. Within a decade, the hopes raised by Nixon
and Brezhnev stood exposed as illusory.

The “arc of crisis”
Among the manifestations of the diffusion of political power in the world
after 1957 was the rise of regional powers and conflicts with only distant
or secondary connections to the rivalries of the Cold War blocs, of
multilateral political and economic pressure groups, and of revolutionary,
terrorist, or religious movements operating across national boundaries
(“nonstate actors”). The politics of the Middle East after 1972 comprised
all three and so frustrated attempts by the industrial states to control
events in the region that by 1978 Brzezinski was describing the old
southern tier of states reaching beneath the U.S.S.R. from Egypt to
Pakistan as the “arc of crisis.”

Palestinian terrorism and diplomacy
The sweeping Israeli victory in the Six-Day War of 1967 had forced
every Arab state to rethink its own foreign policy and the extent of its
commitment to the cause of Arab unity. Egypt, having lost the Sinai,
faced Israelis entrenched in the Bar-Lev line directly across the Suez
Canal. Jordan, having lost the West Bank, faced Israeli troops directly
across the Jordan River. Syria, having lost the Golan Heights, faced
Israeli forces within easy striking distance of Damascus itself. The
notion of united Arab armies sweeping the Jews into the sea had
clearly proved to be romantic, while political unity among the Arabs
suffered from the abiding division between nationalist and socialist
states like Egypt, Syria, and Iraq and traditional Arab monarchies like
Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), organized in 1964 to
represent some 2,000,000 refugees from the Palestine mandate who
were scattered around the Arab world and from 1968 led by Yāsir
ʿArafāt, was also divided between old families of notables, whose

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authority dated back to Ottoman times, and young middle-class or
fedayeen factions anxious to exert pressure on Israel and the West
through terrorism. The latter included the Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), formed three months after the 1967
war. Over the next year the PFLP hijacked 14 foreign airliners,
culminating in its spectacular destruction of four planes at once in
Jordan. In 1970–71 the moderate King Hussein of Jordan lost patience
with the autonomous PLO formations in his territory and expelled
them, provoking a sharp military exchange with Syria. The PLO moved
its central offices to Lebanon, whence terrorists could cross the
frontier to commit atrocities against civilians inside Israel. The PFLP
and other Palestinian groups also linked up with extreme leftist and
rightist (because anti-Semitic) conspiracies in Italy, Austria, and
Germany to form a terrorist network that left no European or
Mediterranean state free from the fear of random violence. In
September 1972 terrorists from an organization calling itself Black
September took nine Israeli athletes hostage at the Munich Olympic
Games; all the hostages and five terrorists died in the ensuing gun
battle with police.

The terrorist network benefited mightily from the financial support,
training, or refuge provided by established pro-Soviet states like Cuba,
East Germany, Bulgaria, Algeria, Syria, Yemen (Aden), and especially
Libya. In 1969 the Libyan monarchy was overthrown in a military coup
led by Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, a fanatical adherent of Nasser's
pan-Arabism. Following Nasser's death in 1970 and the development of
rich oil deposits in Libya, Qaddafi styled himself as the new leader and
financier of the radical Arab cause. In imitation of Mao, he issued a
little Green Book describing his “new gospel…. One of its words can
destroy the world.” The ideology was a mixture of Third World-ism,
Socialism, and Muslim fundamentalism, and it called forth a “heroic
politics.” In the eyes of the West, the rhetoric masked a crazed
cruelty, and even in Arab eyes it seemed at best antiquated in the
wake of the 1967 war.

Another new feature of Middle Eastern politics was the assertiveness of
the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), composed
of oil-producing countries in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula as
well as Libya, Nigeria, and Venezuela. The members of this producers'
cartel accounted for a large percentage of the world's oil reserves and
wielded tremendous potential power over the Europeans and
Japanese, who relied on imports for more than 80 percent of their
energy needs. In the past, oil prices had been kept artificially low by
the Western oil companies through bilateral agreements with producer
states. By 1970, however, most host governments had taken over
ownership of the production facilities, and they saw in a drastic rise of
oil prices a means of accumulating capital for development and

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purchases of arms, as well as a way to pressure the Western states into
respecting their grievances against Israel.
The most populous frontline (i.e., bordering Israel) Arab state, but one
without oil revenues, was Egypt. Since 1955 Egypt had undergone a
demographic explosion. Population was growing at a rate of 1,000,000
per year, and 35,000,000 people were crowded into the Nile valley and
delta. The numbers and youth of the Egyptians (over half were under
25 in 1980) and the country's economic weakness meant that
frustrated and unemployed youth posed the constant threat of
political instability. Certainly Egypt could no longer afford an endless
crusade against Israel. These considerations dominated the thinking of
Nasser's successor as president, Anwar el-Sādāt. He could not,
however, abandon Nasser's legacy, especially with the Sinai under
Israeli occupation, without losing his legitimacy at home. Accordingly,
Sādāt laid a risky and courageous plan to extricate his country from its
foreign and domestic stalemates. Husbanding the arms provided by the
U.S.S.R. after 1967, he abruptly expelled 20,000 Soviet advisers in July
1972 and opened a secret channel to Washington, hinting that Egypt
and the United States together could eliminate Soviet involvement in
the Middle East. Only the Americans, he reasoned, might influence the
Israelis to return the occupied regions. Then, on October 6, 1973,
during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, he launched the fourth
Arab–Israeli war.

The Egyptian army moved across the Suez Canal in force and engaged
the Bar-Lev line. For the first time it made substantial progress and
inflicted a level of casualties especially damaging for the outnumbered
Israelis. Syrian forces also stormed the Golan Heights. The United
States and the Soviet Union reacted with subtle attempts to fine-tune
the outcome by alternately withholding or providing arms to the
belligerents and by urging or discouraging a UN cease-fire. Nixon
denied Israel an airlift of arms until October 13, preventing Israel from
launching a prompt counterattack and thereby signaling Sādāt of
American sympathy. Once assured of U.S. aid, however, the Israelis
struck on both fronts, regained the Golan Heights, and crossed the
Suez Canal. Kissinger, alarmed that the Israeli victory might be so
complete as to hinder a lasting settlement, quickly agreed to call, with
the Soviet Union, for a UN cease-fire. The cease-fire broke down at
once, and Israeli forces encircled a 20,000-man Egyptian army corps.
Brezhnev curtly warned Nixon of possible Soviet military intervention,
which the United States moved to deter, perhaps recklessly, with a
worldwide alert of its military forces. Finally, Kissinger threatened a
cutoff of arms deliveries unless Israel halted its offensive, and peace
was restored.
The 1973 war saved Egyptian honour and solidified Sādāt's prestige to

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the point where he could afford to be conciliatory. The United States
emerged as the “honest broker” between Egypt and Israel. As Kissinger
put it, “The Arabs can get guns from the Russians, but they can get
their territory back only from us.” Kissinger's “shuttle diplomacy”
between Tel Aviv and Cairo secured an Israeli withdrawal beyond the
Suez in January 1974, the reopening of the canal, the insertion of a UN
force between the antagonists, and, in September 1975, an Israeli
retreat from the crucial Mitla and Gidi passes in the Sinai. The United
States flooded both countries with economic and military aid, and
Sādāt repudiated Nasser's Socialism in favour of policies stimulating
domestic private enterprise.

The limited rapprochement that emerged from the 1973 war was
purchased at great economic cost, for the Arab OPEC nations, led by
Saudi Arabia, seized the opportunity to enact a five-month embargo of
oil exports to all nations aiding Israel. More telling still was the price
revolution that preceded and followed. OPEC had already engineered a
doubling of the posted price of oil to $3.07 per barrel by the eve of the
war. In January 1974 it nearly quadrupled the price again, to $11.56
per barrel. The importance of this sudden rise cannot be exaggerated.
The resulting shortages and exorbitant costs accelerated the growing
inflation in the Western world, exposed the energy-dependency of the
industrial nations, created a vast balance-of-payments deficit in many
industrial states, wiped out the hard-won economic progress of many
developing nations, and placed massive sums of petrodollars in the
hands of a few underpopulated Middle Eastern states. The political
upshot was that the United States and Europe would have to pay close
attention to the desires of those Arab states in foreign policy as long as
OPEC unity survived.
In November 1977, Sādāt shocked the Arab world by announcing his
willingness to go to Jerusalem personally to seek peace. When his talks
with the new Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin, broke down,
President Carter invited them both to Camp David in September 1978.
During 11 days of intensive discussion, Carter succeeded in bringing
the rivals together. The Camp David Accords provided for complete
Israeli evacuation of the Sinai, gradual progress toward self-rule for
West Bank Palestinians over a five-year period, and a peace treaty
signed by Begin and Sādāt at the White House in March 1979. This
historic settlement dismayed other Arab states and split the PLO
asunder, the so-called rejectionists refusing to recognize the
settlement. Qaddafi purchased huge amounts of Soviet arms and
expanded Libya's training and supply of terrorists. In December 1979,
300 Muslim fundamentalists seized the holiest of all Islāmic shrines in
Mecca. Sādāt himself was assassinated by Arab extremists in 1981.

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The Iranian revolution
Carter's success in Middle Eastern diplomacy was likewise undercut by
the collapse of the strongest and staunchest American ally in the
Muslim world, the Shah of Iran. Since the monarchy had been restored
by a CIA-aided coup in 1953, Reza Shah Pahlavi had used Iran's oil
revenues to finance rapid modernization of his country and the
purchase of American arms. Nixon had chosen Iran to be a U.S.
surrogate in the vital Persian Gulf, and as late as 1977 Carter praised
the Shah for making Iran “an island of stability.” Clearly, American
intelligence services failed to detect the widespread Iranian
resentment of modernization (meaning, in this context, materialism,
emancipation of women, and secularization), middle-class opposition
to the autocracy, and the rising tide of Shīʾite fundamentalism that
were undermining the Shah's legitimacy. Fundamentalist movements
and conflicts between Sunnite and Shīʾite Muslims have arisen
periodically in the course of Islāmic history, but the outbreaks of the
late 20th century were especially notable in light of the Western
assumption that less developed countries would naturally secularize
their politics and culture as they modernized their society and
economy. Instead, rapidly developing Iran succumbed to a religious
revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. By November 1978 the
beleaguered Shah saw his options reduced to democratization, military
repression, or abdication. Despite the importance of Iran for U.S.
interests, including the presence there of critical electronic listening
posts used to monitor missile tests inside the U.S.S.R., Carter was
unable to choose between personal loyalty toward an old ally and the
moral argument on behalf of reform or abdication. In January 1979 the
Shah left Iran; the next month, when he requested asylum in the
United States, Carter refused lest he give offense to the new Iranian
regime. The gesture did not help the United States, however. An
interim government in Tehrān quickly gave way to a theocracy under
Khomeini, who denounced the United States as a “great Satan” and
approved the seizure in November 1979 of the American embassy in
Tehrān and the holding of 52 hostages there. The hostage drama
dragged on for nearly 15 months, and most Americans were infuriated
by the unfathomable Khomeini and frustrated by Carter's apparent
ineffectiveness.
Carter reacted to the crisis by adopting Brzezinski's formula that the
Middle East and South Asia constituted an arc of crisis susceptible to
Soviet adventurism. In his State of the Union address of January 1980
he enunciated the Carter Doctrine, declaring that any attempt by an
outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf would be viewed as an
attack on the vital interests of the United States, and he pledged to
form a Rapid Deployment Force to defend the region. Whether the

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U.S. military was truly capable of sustained combat in that remote
region was doubtful. When diplomacy failed to free the hostages in
Tehrān, Carter resorted in April 1980 to a military rescue mission,
hoping to repeat the success of a brilliant Israeli commando raid that
had freed 103 airline passengers at Entebbe, Uganda, in 1976, but the
operation was a humiliating failure. Only in January 1981, after the
overwhelming defeat of his reelection bid, did Carter achieve the
release of the hostages.

The Soviets in Afghanistan
Brzezinski's fears that the U.S.S.R. would take advantage of the arc of
crisis seemed justified when the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan in
1979. It is likely, however, that the Soviets were responding to a crisis
of their own rather than trying to exploit another's. Remote and
rugged Afghanistan had been an object of imperialist intrigue
throughout the 19th and 20th centuries because of its vulnerable
location between the Russian and British Indian empires. After 1955,
with India and Pakistan independent, the Afghan government of
Mohammad Daud Khan forged economic and military ties to the
U.S.S.R. The monarchy was overthrown by Daud Khan in 1973 and was
succeeded by a one-party state. The small Afghan Communist party,
meanwhile, broke into factions, while a fundamentalist Muslim group
began an armed insurrection in 1975. Daud Khan worked to lessen
Afghanistan's dependence on Soviet and U.S. aid, and he reportedly
had a heated disagreement with Brezhnev himself during a visit to
Moscow in April 1977. Leftists in the Afghan officer corps, perhaps
fearing a blow against themselves, murdered Daud Khan in April 1978
and pledged to pursue friendly relations with the U.S.S.R. Thus
Afghanistan, under the rule of Nur Mohammad Taraki, was virtually in
the Soviet camp. When Taraki objected to a purge of the Afghan
Cabinet, however, the leader of a rival faction, Hafizullah Amin, had
him arrested and killed. These intramural Communist quarrels both
embarrassed the Soviets and threatened to destabilize the Afghan
regime in the face of growing Muslim resistance. In the fall of 1979 the
Soviets built up their military strength across the border and hinted to
American diplomats that they might feel obliged to intervene. On
December 25, 1979, the Soviet army began its occupation, and two
days later a coup d'état led to the murder of Amin and the installation
of Babrak Karmal, a creature of the KGB who had been brought into
the country by Soviet paratroops.
The Soviets would probably have preferred to work through a pliant
native regime rather than invade Afghanistan, but Amin's behaviour
and Moscow's unwillingness to risk a domestic overthrow of a

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Communist regime forced their hand. The invasion, therefore,
appeared to be an application of the Brezhnev Doctrine and was all
the more pressing given that the Central Asian provinces of the Soviet
Union were also vulnerable to the rise of Islāmic fundamentalism. The
United States was tardy in responding to the 1978 coup despite Carter's
concern over the arc of crisis and the murder of the U.S. ambassador
in Kabul in February 1979. At the same time, the Soviet invasion
aroused American suspicions of a grand strategy aimed at seizing a
warm-water port on the Indian Ocean and the oil of the Persian Gulf.
Over the course of the next decade, however, the puppet Afghan
regime lost all authority with the people, Afghan soldiers defected in
large numbers, and the Muslim and largely tribal resistance, armed
with U.S. and Chinese weapons, held out in the mountains against
more than 100,000 Soviet troops and terror bombing of their villages.
More than 2,000,000 Afghans became refugees in Pakistan and Iran.
Western observers soon began to speak of Afghanistan as the Soviets'
Vietnam.
The Shīʿite revolution in Iran, meanwhile, provoked and tempted
neighbouring Iraq into starting yet another war in the arc of crisis. The
secular Iraqi regime was nervous about the impact Iranian events
might have on its own large Shīʿite population. The Kurdish minority,
which had resorted to terrorism in pursuit of its goal of a Kurdish state
to be carved out of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran, also presented an
intractable problem. Finally, the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein
hoped to use the opportunity of Iran's apparent near-anarchy to seize
the long-disputed Shaṭṭ al-ʿArab waterway at the mouth of the
Tigris-Euphrates river system. Bolstered by arms purchased with oil
revenues, Hussein unilaterally abrogated a 1975 accord on the
waterway and launched a full-scale invasion of Iran in September 1980.
After initial victories the Iraqis were surprisingly thrown back and a
war of attrition commenced. The Iraqis employed poison gas and were
building a nuclear reactor capable of producing weapons-grade
plutonium until the Israeli air force destroyed the facility in a surprise
raid in June 1981. The Iranians relied on human-wave assaults by
revolutionary youths assured of a place in paradise for dying in battle.
Both sides employed imported planes and missiles to attack each
other's oil facilities, tanker ships, and, occasionally, cities. Attacks
then spread to neutral shipping as well, and oil production in the
entire gulf region was placed in jeopardy. Neither superpower had
direct interest in the war, except for a common opposition to any
overthrow of the local balance of power, but the Soviets tended to
benefit from a prolongation of the conflict. In 1987 the United States
sharply increased its presence in the gulf by permitting Kuwaiti oil
tankers to fly the U.S. flag and by deploying a naval task force to
protect them in passage through the gulf. Compared to the situation of

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the 1950s, when John Foster Dulles' CENTO arrangement seemed to
ensure a ring of stable, pro-Western governments in the South Asian
region, that of the 1980s was almost totally unpredictable.

Rhetorical cold war revived
The Reagan administration
As the 1980s opened, few predicted that it would be a decade of
unprecedented progress in superpower relations. All pretense of
détente had disappeared in 1979, and the election of 1980 brought to
the White House a conservative Republican, Ronald Reagan, who was
more determined to compete vigorously with the U.S.S.R. than any
president had been since the 1960s. He bemoaned an “arms control
process” that, he said, always favoured the Soviets and sapped the will
of the Western allies and a détente that duped gullible Americans into
acquiescing in unilateral Soviet gains. Reagan sounded like Dulles when
he denounced the Soviet Union as “an evil empire,” and he echoed
John F. Kennedy in calling for America to “stand tall” in the world
again. Like Kennedy, he cut taxes in hopes of stimulating the stagnant
U.S. economy, expanded the military budget (a process begun in
Carter's last year), and stressed the development of sophisticated
military technology beyond the means of the U.S.S.R. Reagan insisted
that history was on the side of freedom, not Communism, and together
with his close friend British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher he
sought to dispel the “malaise” that had afflicted the United States
during the late 1970s. To be sure, Reagan had to work within the
constraints caused by growing federal deficits, Soviet parity in nuclear
arms, and congressional limits on executive action. Hence his actual
policies resembled more the cautious containment of the Eisenhower
era than the aggressive interventionism of the Kennedy–Johnson years.
The one novel means adopted by the administration for combatting
Soviet power and influence was to extend aid to irregular forces
engaged in resisting pro-Soviet governments in the Third World. Such
“freedom fighters,” as Reagan termed them, in Afghanistan, Angola,
and Nicaragua seemed to offer hope that the United States could
contain or even overthrow totalitarian regimes without getting itself
involved in new Vietnams. This Reagan Doctrine was thus a natural
corollary of the Nixon Doctrine.
As American diplomacy recovered its self-confidence and initiative,
Soviet foreign policy drifted, if only because of the advanced age of
Brezhnev and the frequent changes in leadership after his death in
November 1982. Early in the decade a recurrence of serious unrest in
eastern Europe, this time in Poland, also kept the attention of the

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Kremlin close to home. During the period of détente the Polish
government had expanded an ambitious development plan financed
largely by western European credits. Economic performance
foundered, however, foreign debt mounted to $28,000,000,000, and
the state imposed successive price hikes on staples. By 1979–80 a
popular protest movement had grown up around the officially
unsanctioned Solidarity trade union and its charismatic leader, Lech
Wałęsa. The strong Roman Catholic roots of Polish popular nationalism
were evident in the movement, especially in light of the accession in
1978 of Karol Cardinal Wojtyła as Pope John Paul II, the first
non-Italian pope in 456 years, who in 1981 survived an assassination
plot probably hatched in Bulgaria, a Soviet satellite. As unrest
mounted in Poland, NATO countries warned against a Soviet military
intervention, holding in reserve the threat of declaring Warsaw in
default on its debts. In December 1981, General Wojciech Jaruzelski
declared martial law, sparing Poland a Soviet invasion at the price of
military rule and the suppression of Solidarity. The United States
responded by suspending Poland's most-favoured-nation trade status
and blocking further loans from the International Monetary Fund.
Reagan held the Soviet Union responsible for martial law; his attempts
to extend the sanctions to an embargo on high-technology exports to
the U.S.S.R., however, angered western Europeans, who feared losing
access to eastern European markets and who were in the process of
completing a huge pipeline from Siberia that would make western
Europe dependent on the U.S.S.R. for 25 percent of its natural gas. In
both the debt and pipeline issues, it seemed that the web of
interdependence woven during détente served to constrain Western
countries more than it did the U.S.S.R.

Brezhnev's successor as general secretary of the Communist Party, the
former KGB chief Yury Andropov, declared that there was no
alternative to détente as the Soviets understood it. He denounced
Reagan's “militaristic course” as a new bid for U.S. hegemony. It was
Reagan's image of the U.S.S.R., however, that seemed confirmed when
a Soviet jet fighter plane shot down a civilian South Korean airliner in
Soviet air space in September 1983, killing 269 people. Some in the
West supported the Soviet claim that the plane was on a spy mission,
but they produced no persuasive evidence to that effect. Andropov's
demise after a year and a half elevated Konstantin Chernenko, another
member of the older generation of the Politburo who would himself
survive only until March 1985. Given these frequent changes in
leadership and the drain on Soviet resources caused by the ongoing
war in Afghanistan, the Kremlin was even less able than the White
House to mount new initiatives in foreign policy until late in the 1980s.

Renewal of arms control
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The most serious consequence of the collapse of détente and the
failure of the SALT II Treaty (judged by Reagan as “seriously flawed”)
appeared to be an acceleration of the arms race between the
superpowers. Liberal critics feared that Reagan would unleash a new
arms race; his supporters asserted that the Soviets had never stopped
racing even during the era of SALT. Reagan waffled on arms policy,
however, because of stiff domestic and European opposition to the
abandonment of arms control. Programs to upgrade the three
elements of strategic deterrence were approved only after being cut
back, yet they drew complaints from the Soviet Union that the highly
accurate MX missile, the new Poseidon nuclear submarines, and
air-launched cruise missiles for the B-52 force were first-strike
weapons. A serious NATO worry stemmed from Soviet deployment of
the new SS-20 theatre ballistic missile in Europe. In 1979 the Carter
administration had acceded to the request by NATO governments that
the United States introduce 572 Pershing II and cruise missiles into
Europe to balance the 900 SS-20s. The European antinuclear
movement, however, now officially patronized by the British Labour
Party, the Greens in West Germany, and Dutch and Belgian social
democrats, forced Reagan to link Pershing deployment with
intermediate nuclear forces (INF) talks with the U.S.S.R. Reagan tried
to seize the moral high ground with his “zero-option” proposal for
complete elimination of all such missiles from Europe and a call for
new Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) to negotiate real
reductions in the superpower arsenals. The Soviets, however, refused
to scrap any of their long-range missiles or to trade existing SS-20s for
Pershings yet to be deployed.

In March 1983, Reagan announced a major new research program to
develop antiballistic missile defenses based in outer space. This
Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, dubbed “Star Wars” by opponents)
was inspired by the emergence of new laser and particle-beam
technology that seemed to have the potential to devise an accurate,
instantaneous, and nonnuclear means of shooting down long-range
missiles in their boost phase, before their multiple reentry vehicles
had a chance to separate. The President thus challenged his country to
exploit its technological edge to counter the threat of Soviet offensive
missiles and perhaps liberate the world from fear of a nuclear
holocaust. Scientific and political critics ridiculed SDI as naive
(because it would not work or could be easily countered), expensive
beyond reckoning, counterproductive (because it implied repudiation
of the 1972 ABM Treaty), and dangerous (because the Soviets might
stage a preemptive attack to prevent its deployment). The alarmed
Soviets, however, weakened the case of American critics by launching
their own propaganda campaign against SDI, implying that they took
seriously its prospects for success. Evidence also mounted that the
U.S.S.R. had been engaged in similar research since the mid-1970s. A

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$26,000,000,000, five-year American program was approved, although
Congress limited future funding and arms-control advocates pressured
the President to use SDI as a bargaining chip in the START talks. The
Soviets broke off the INF and START talks at the end of 1983 but
resumed talks two years later, apparently with hopes of stalling SDI
research.

Regional crises
U.S.–Soviet competition in the Third World also continued through the
1980s as the Soviets sought to benefit from indigenous sources of
unrest. The campaign of the Communist-led African National Congress
(ANC) against apartheid in South Africa, for instance, might serve
Soviet strategic aims, but the black rebellion against white rule was
surely indigenous. White-supremacist governments in southern Africa
might argue, correctly, that the standard of living and everyday
security of blacks were better in their countries than in most
black-ruled African states, but the fact remained that African blacks,
like all human beings, preferred to be ruled by their own tyrant rather
than one of some other nationality or race. What was more, the
respect shown by African governments for international boundaries
began to break down after 1970. Spain's departure from the Spanish
(Western) Sahara was the signal for a guerrilla struggle among
Moroccan and Mauritanian claimants and the Polisario movement
backed by Algeria. The Somali invasion of the Ogaden, Libyan
intrusions into Chad and Sudan, and Uganda's 1978 invasion of Tanzania
exemplified a new volatility. Uganda had fallen under a brutal regime
headed by Idi Amin, whom most African leaders tolerated (even
electing him president of the Organization of African Unity) until Julius
Nyerere spoke out, following Uganda's invasion of his country, about
the African tendency to reserve condemnation for white regimes only.
The black revolt against white rule in southern Africa was a timely
consequence of the decolonization of Angola and Mozambique and of
the Lancaster House accord under which white Southern Rhodesians
accepted majority rule, resulting in 1980 in the full independence of
Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe, who in 1984 declared his intention to
create a one-party Marxist state. South Africa tried to deflect global
disgust with its apartheid system by setting up autonomous tribal
“homelands” for blacks, but no other government recognized them.
United States diplomacy sought quietly to promote a comprehensive
settlement of South Africa's problems by pressuring Pretoria to release
South West Africa (Namibia) and gradually dismantle apartheid in
return for a Cuban evacuation of Angola and Mozambique. This policy
of “constructive engagement,” by which the U.S. State Department

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hoped to retain leverage over Pretoria, came under criticism every
time a new black riot or act of white repression occurred. Critics
demanded economic divestment from, and stringent sanctions against,
South Africa, but supporters of the policy argued that sanctions would
inflict disproportionate economic harm on South African blacks, drive
the whites to desperation, and encourage violence that would
strengthen the hand of Communist factions. Congressional pressure
finally forced the administration to compromise on a package of
sanctions in 1986, and U.S. firms began to pull out of South Africa.

The Middle East remained crisis-prone despite the Egyptian–Israeli
peace. In 1978 an Arab summit in Baghdad pledged $400,000,000 to
the PLO over the next 10 years. A comprehensive Middle East peace
was stymied by the unwillingness of rejectionist Arab states to
negotiate without the PLO and by the U.S.-Israeli refusal to negotiate
with the PLO. In June 1982 the Begin government determined to put
an end to terrorist raids by forcibly clearing out PLO strongholds inside
Lebanon. In fact the Israeli army advanced all the way to Beirut in a
bitter campaign that entrenched Syrian occupation of the strategic
al-Biqāʿ valley and intensified what already amounted to a Lebanese
civil war among Palestinians, Muslims of various sects and allegiances,
and Christian militiamen. The United States sent Marines to Beirut to
facilitate the evacuation of the PLO, while it tried without success to
piece together a coalition Lebanese government and induce the
Israelis and Syrians to withdraw. In October 1983 terrorists blew up the
U.S. Marine barracks, killing more than 200 Americans. The Middle East
peace process begun by Kissinger and continued by Carter seemed to
have unraveled by the late 1980s. Western governments tried to
coordinate policies on terrorism, including a firm refusal to bargain
with kidnappers, but concern for the lives of hostages and fear of
future retaliation insidiously weakened their resolve. In October 1985,
however, the Israeli air force dispatched planes to bomb the PLO
headquarters in Tunis. When Libyan-supported terrorists planted
bombs in airports in Rome and Vienna in December 1985 and in a
discotheque in Berlin in April 1986, Reagan ordered U.S. jets to attack
terrorist training camps and air-defense sites in Libya. The raid was
applauded by the American public, and terrorist incidents did seem to
decline in number over the following year. Qaddafi suffered another
reverse in the spring of 1987 when French-supported Chadian troops
drove the Libyan invaders from their country.
In the Persian Gulf the Reagan administration held publicly aloof from
the war between Iraq and Iran. Intelligence that Shīʿite terrorists were
behind the kidnapping of Americans in Beirut, however, prompted the
administration secretly to supply arms to Iran in return for help, never
forthcoming, in securing the release of hostages. There was also a
notion that such a deal might forge links to moderate Iranians in hopes

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of better relations in the event of the aged Khomeini's death. While
the motives were humanitarian and strategic, this action directly
contradicted the policy of shunning negotiations with terrorists that
the United States had been urging on its allies. When the operation
was exposed, the Reagan administration lost credibility with Congress
and foreign governments alike.

Latin-American upheavals
Marxism and the Cuban role
After a tour of Latin America in 1950, the American diplomat George
Kennan wrote a memo despairing that the region would ever achieve a
modest degree of economic dynamism, social mobility, or liberal
politics. The culture itself was, in his view, inhospitable to
middle-class values. As late as 1945 almost all the Latin-American
republics were governed by landowning oligarchies allied with the
church and army, while illiterate, apolitical masses produced the
mineral and agricultural goods to be exported in exchange for
manufactures from Europe and North America. To Castro and other
radical intellectuals, a stagnant Latin America without strong middle
classes was precisely suited for a Marxist, not a democratic,
revolution. Before 1958 the United States—the “colossus to the
north”—had used its influence to quell revolutionary disturbances,
whether out of fear of Communism, to preserve economic interests, or
to shelter strategic assets such as the Panama Canal. After Castro's
triumph of 1959, however, the United States undertook to improve its
own image through the Alliance for Progress and to distance itself from
especially obnoxious authoritarian regimes. Nonetheless,
Latin-American development programs largely failed to keep pace with
population growth and inflation, and frequently they were brought to
naught by overly ambitious schemes or official corruption. By the
1980s the wealthiest and largest states like Brazil and Mexico faced a
crushing burden of foreign debt. Neo-Marxist economists of the 1960s
and '70s argued that even the more enlightened policies of the
Kennedy and Johnson administrations kept Latin America in a
condition of stifling dependence on American capital and markets and
on world commodity prices. Some endorsed the demands of the Third
World bloc in the UN for a “new world economic order,” involving a
massive shift of resources from the rich countries to the poor or the
“empowerment” of the developing countries to control the terms of
trade along the lines of OPEC. Others advocated social revolution to
transform Latin states from within. At the same time the example of
Cuba's slide into the status of a Communist satellite fully dependent on
the U.S.S.R. revived the fear and suspicion with which Americans

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habitually regarded Third World revolutions.

Even after the Bay of Pigs invasion and the 1962 missile crisis, Cuba
retained a certain autonomy in foreign policy, while the Soviets
exhibited caution about employing their Cuban clients. Castro
preferred to place himself among the ranks of Third World
revolutionaries like Nasser, Nyerere, or Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah
rather than follow slavishly the Moscow party line. He also elevated
himself to leadership of the nonaligned nations. When relations
between Havana and Moscow cooled temporarily in 1967–68, Brezhnev
applied pressure, holding back on oil shipments and delaying a new
trade agreement. Castro tried to resist the pressure by exhorting and
mobilizing his countrymen to produce a record 10,000,000-ton sugar
harvest in 1970. When the effort failed, Castro moved Cuba fully into
the Soviet camp. The U.S.S.R. agreed to purchase 3,000,000 to
4,000,000 tons of sugar per year at four times the world price, provide
cheap oil, and otherwise subsidize the island's economy at a rate of
some $3,000,000,000 per year; thenceforward, 60 percent of Cuba's
trade was with countries in the Soviet bloc. Brezhnev himself visited
Cuba in 1974 and declared the country “a strong constituent part of
the world system of Socialism.” Castro, in turn, voiced the Soviet line
on world issues, played host to Latin-American Communist party
conventions, used the forum of the nonaligned nations movement to
promote his distinctly aligned program, and made tens of thousands of
Cuban troops available to support pro-Soviet regimes in Africa.

Soviet domination of Cuba, however, may have harmed their chances
elsewhere in Latin America, since it alerted other leftists to the
dangers of seeking Soviet support. Moreover, the Soviets simply could
not afford such massive aid to other clients. This limitation appeared
to be crucial even when Communists had a chance of prevailing in one
of the largest, most developed South American states, Chile. The
Communist party there was a charter member of the 1921 Comintern
and had strong ties to the Chilean labour movement. The party was
outlawed until 1956, whereupon it formed an electoral popular front
with the Socialists, and it narrowly missed electing Socialist Salvador
Allende Gossens to the presidency in 1964. The Christian Democratic
opponent, Eduardo Frei Montalva, had warned that an Allende victory
would make Chile “another Cuba.” From 1964 to 1970, when Cuba was
plying an autonomous course, the Chilean Castroites staged violent
strikes, bombings, and bank robberies in defiance of the regular
Communist party directed from Moscow. The latter's strategy was
subtler. Hinting that it might support the Christian Democratic
candidate rather than rival leftists, the Communist party provoked the
extreme right to run its own candidate in protest, thus splitting the
conservative vote. The Nixon administration tried clumsily to influence
the nominating process or foment a military coup, but Allende won an

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electoral victory in 1970. Once in office, he seized U.S. property and
forged close ties to Cuba at the very time Castro was being reined in
by Brezhnev. The U.S.S.R., however, held back from extending
large-scale aid, even after a fall in copper prices, radical union
activity, and Allende's policies had plunged Chile into economic chaos.
In September 1973, General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte and the army
overthrew Allende and established an authoritarian state. The Soviets
and Allende sympathizers in North and South America depicted the
denouement in Chile as the work of Fascists in league with U.S.
imperialists.

The poor image of the United States in Latin America was of special
concern to Jimmy Carter because of his dedication to the promotion of
human rights. During his first year in office Carter sought to counter
the traditional notion of “Yankee imperialism” by meeting the
demands of the Panamanian leader, General Omar Torrijos Herrera,
for a transfer of sovereignty over the Panama Canal. The U.S. Senate
ratified the treaty (which called for a staged transfer, to be completed
in 1999) by a bare majority, but most Americans opposed transfer of
the canal. Conservatives also held Carter's human rights concerns to be
naive, because the linking of U.S. government loans, for instance, to a
regime's performance on human rights damaged American relations
with otherwise friendly states while exercising no influence on human
rights practices in Communist states. Supporters of Carter retorted
that the pattern of U.S. support for cruel oligarchies on the excuse of
anti-Communism was what drove oppressed Latins toward Communism
in the first place.
The first hemispheric explosion in the 1980s, however, occurred in the
southern cone of South America when the Argentine military ruler,
Lieutenant General Leopoldo Galtieri—apparently to distract attention
from the abuses of his dictatorship and an ailing economy at
home—broke off talks concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands
(Islas Malvinas) and invaded the remote archipelago in April 1982. The
British government of Margaret Thatcher was taken by surprise but
began at once to mobilize supplies, ships, and men to reconquer the
islands some 8,000 miles from home. The United States was torn
between loyalty to its NATO ally (and political friend of President
Reagan) and the fear of antagonizing South Americans by siding with
the “imperialists.” When U.S. diplomacy failed to resolve the dispute,
however, the United States supplied Britain with intelligence data
from American reconnaissance satellites. The Royal Navy and ground
forces began operations in May, and the last Argentine defenders
surrendered on June 14. In the wake of the defeat, the military junta
in Buenos Aires gave way to democratization.

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Nicaragua and El Salvador
Problems in Central America, however, commanded the attention of
the United States throughout the 1980s. In Nicaragua the broadly
based Sandinista revolutionary movement challenged the oppressive
regime of Anastasio Somoza Debayle, whose family had ruled the
country since the 1930s. In accordance with its human rights policies,
the Carter administration cut off aid to Somoza, permitting the
Sandinistas to take power in 1979. They appeared to Americans as
democratic patriots and received large sums of U.S. aid. A radical
faction soon took control of the revolution, however, and moderates
either departed or were forced out of the government in Managua. The
Sandinistas then socialized the economy, suppressed freedom of the
press and religion, and established close ties to Cuba and other
Soviet-bloc countries. By the time Reagan took office, neighbouring El
Salvador had also succumbed to violence among leftist insurgents,
authoritarian landowners supporting right-wing death squads, and a
struggling reformist government. Reagan vigorously affirmed a
last-minute decision by Carter to grant military aid to the Salvadoran
government. Although Nicaragua and Cuba were identified as the
sources of the insurgency, Americans became increasingly confused by
evidence of atrocities on all sides and were again torn between their
desire to promote human rights and their determination to halt the
spread of Communism. Opponents of U.S. involvement warned of
another Vietnam in Central America, while supporters warned of
another Cuba.
Nicaragua, meanwhile, built up one of the largest armies in the world
in proportion to population, expanded its port facilities, and received
heavy shipments of arms from the U.S.S.R. The CIA used this military
buildup to justify the secret mining of Nicaraguan harbours in February
1984, which was, when revealed, universally condemned. The CIA also
secretly organized and supplied a force of up to 15,000 anti-Sandinista
“freedom fighters,” known as Contras, across the border in Honduras
and Costa Rica, while U.S. armed forces conducted joint maneuvers
with those states along the Nicaraguan border. The ostensible purpose
of such exercises was to interdict the suspected flow of arms from
Nicaragua to the Salvadoran rebels. In fact, American policy aimed at
provoking a popular revolt in hopes of overthrowing the Sandinistas
altogether.
Cuban and Soviet influence with leftist governments on the Caribbean
islands of Jamaica, Trinidad, and Grenada also appeared to be on the
increase, a trend that the Reagan administration tried to counter with
its 1982 Caribbean Basin Initiative, an Alliance for Progress confined to
the islands. Grenada, a tiny island that had won independence from
Britain in 1974, initially came under the control of Sir Eric Gairy,

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whose policies and conduct verged on the bizarre. In March 1979,
Gairy was overthrown by the leftist New Jewel Movement led by the
charismatic Maurice Bishop. Over the next several years the Bishop
regime socialized the country, signed mutual-assistance agreements
with Soviet-bloc states, and hastened construction of a large airstrip
that the United States feared would ultimately be used by Soviet
aircraft. The evident incompetence of the New Jewel leadership,
however, prompted a split in 1982 between Bishop's supporters and
hard-line Leninists. In October 1983 the revolution came apart when
Bishop was arrested and, when protest demonstrations broke out,
shot. The Organization of East Caribbean States thereupon invited
American intervention, and U.S. forces, together with small
contingents from neighbouring islands, landed on Grenada to restore
order and protect a group of American medical students. Free
elections returned a moderate government to Grenada in 1984, but
the self-destruction and overthrow of the New Jewel Movement, while
a setback for Castroism in the region, also lent credence to Nicaragua's
often and loudly voiced fear of an American invasion.
The U.S. public emphatically supported the Grenadan intervention but
was split almost evenly on the question of support for the Nicaraguan
Contras. While the Reagan Doctrine of supporting indigenous rebels,
such as Savimbi's UNITA in Angola or the mujahideen in Afghanistan,
appeared to be a low-risk means of countering Soviet influence,
Americans remained nervous about the possibility of deeper U.S.
involvement. Congress reflected this public ambivalence by first
approving funds for the Contras, then restricting the ability of federal
agencies to raise or spend funds for the Contras, then reversing itself
again. In 1986 investigations of the secret U.S. arms sales to Iran
revealed that National Security Council officials had kept supplies
flowing to the Contras while the congressional restrictions were in
effect by soliciting funds from private contributors and friendly Arab
states and by diverting the profits from the Iranian arms sales.

In 1987 Congress launched lengthy investigations into the Iran-Contra
Affair that virtually paralyzed U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East
and Central America for more than a year. Reagan himself denied any
knowledge of the secret arms sales and diversions of funds, although
he granted that “mistakes had been made.” Evidence emerged that
William Casey, the director of the CIA, had known of the plan, but he
died in May 1987. National Security Adviser John Poindexter and his
aide, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, were eventually indicted for
obstructing justice, although North's eloquent appeal to patriotism and
anti-Communism in the televised hearings garnered much public
support for the administration's ends, if not means.
In retrospect, the Iran-Contra Affair was another skirmish in the

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struggle between the executive and legislative branches over the
conduct of foreign policy. Reagan and his advisers evidently believed,
in light of the changed mood of the country after 1980 and his own
electoral landslides, that they could revive the sort of vigorous
intelligence and covert activities that the executive branch had
engaged in before Vietnam and Watergate. The Democrats, who
controlled both houses of Congress again after 1986, argued that
covert operations subverted the separation of powers and the
Constitution. The Iran-Contra Affair was especially obnoxious, in their
view, because it contradicted the express policy not to deal with
terrorists or governments that harboured them. The administration's
defenders retorted that the United States would be impotent to
combat terrorism and espionage without strong and secret
counterintelligence capabilities and that, since the Congress had
effectively hamstrung the CIA and too often leaked news of its
activities, personnel of the National Security Council had taken
matters into their own hands. The proper roles of the branches of the
U.S. government in the formulation and execution of foreign policy
thus remained a major source of bitterness and confusion after almost
half a century of American leadership in global politics.

The world political economy
In 1980 the Soviet Union appeared to be stealing a march on a
demoralized Western alliance through its arms buildup, occupation of
Afghanistan, and influence with African and Central American
revolutionaries, while the United States had been expelled from Iran and
was suffering from inflation and recession at home. Eight years later the
Reagan administration had rebuilt American defenses, presided over the
longest peacetime economic expansion in 60 years, and regained the
initiative in superpower relations. Because the “Reagan Revolution” in
foreign and domestic policy was purchased through limits on new taxes
even as military and domestic spending increased, the result was annual
federal deficits measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars and
financed only by the influx of foreign capital. Once the world's creditor,
the United States became the world's biggest debtor. Moreover, American
economic competitiveness declined to the point that U.S. trade deficits
surpassed $100,000,000,000 per year, owing mostly to American imports
of oil and of Japanese and German manufactured goods.
The sudden collapse of prices on the New York Stock Exchange in October
1987 compelled the White House and Congress alike to address the issue
of American “decline.” In 1988 Paul Kennedy, a Yale professor of British
origin, published the best-seller The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.
He developed the thesis that a great state tends to overextend itself in
foreign and defense policy during its heyday and thereby acquires vital

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interests abroad that soon become a drain on its domestic economy. Over
time, new economic competitors unburdened by imperial responsibilities
rise to challenge and eventually replace the old hegemonic power. It
certainly seemed that the United States was such a power in decline: Its
share of gross world production had fallen from almost 50 percent in the
late 1940s to less than 25 percent, while Japan and West Germany had
completed their postwar economic miracles and were still growing at a
faster rate than the United States, even during the Reagan prosperity.
New light industries, such as microelectronics, and even old heavy
industries like steel and automobiles had spread to countries with skilled
but relatively low-paid labour, such as South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong,
and Singapore. Financial power had fled to new global banking centres in
Europe and East Asia. In the 1960s, 9 of the 10 biggest banks in the world
were American; by 1987 none were American, and most were Japanese.
These trends were in part natural, as other industrial regions recovered
from their devastation in World War II and new ones arose. Whether
natural or not, however, they seemed to indicate that the United States
could no longer afford to uphold either the liberal trade environment it
had founded after World War II or the worldwide responsibilities that
devolved upon the “leader of the free world.”

European growth, led as always by the dynamic West German economy,
also signalled a change in the global distribution of power. Yet, even as
the European Community expanded in terms of both production and size
(Greece became its 10th member in 1981), it failed to demonstrate unity
and political leverage commensurate with its economic might. For years
EC officials, the so-called Eurocrats, had quarreled with member
governments and among themselves over whether and how Europe should
seek deeper as well as broader integration. Finally, in 1985, Jacques
Delors, president of the European Commission, steered through the
European Parliament in Strasbourg the Single European Act, which set
1992 as the target date for a complete economic merger of the EC
countries, for a single European currency, and for common EC foreign and
domestic policies: in short, a United States of Europe.
The immediate result was a seemingly endless round of haggling among
European cabinets about this or that point of the 1992 plan. Was the
abolition of the venerable pound sterling, the French franc, and the
deutsche mark in favour of the ecu (European currency unit) really
necessary? Could all member states coordinate their labour and welfare
policies, or be willing to countenance the free movement of peoples
across national borders? Would national governments in fact prove willing
to relinquish part of their sovereignty in matters of justice, defense, and
foreign policy? The moderate governments of the Christian Democrat
Helmut Kohl in West Germany and Socialist President François Mitterrand
in France, as well as those of Italy and the smaller countries, remained
committed to “1992.” Only Thatcher of the United Kingdom voiced

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doubts about merging Britain into a continental superstate. The
alternative, however, would seem to leave Britain out in the cold, and
so, despite Thatcher's opposition, plans for European unity went ahead.
(In 1990, members of Thatcher's own party forced her resignation over
the issue.)

Why did Europe resume the long-stalled drive for a more perfect union
only in the mid-1980s? Some of the reasons are surely internal, having to
do with the activities of the Eurocrats and the proclivities of the member
governments. External factors also must have been important, including
the debate over whether to base American missiles in Europe; the whole
question of arms control, which affected Europe most directly but over
which it had limited influence; widespread disaffection in Europe with
Carter and (for different reasons) Reagan and hence a desire for a
stronger European voice in world politics; and, last but not least, the
Europeans' concern over the influx of Japanese manufactures. The world
appeared by the late 1980s to be moving away from the ideals of national
sovereignty and universal free trade and toward a contradictory reality in
which international dependence increased at the same time that regional
and increasingly competitive economic blocs coalesced.
To many analysts it seemed that the Cold War was simply becoming
obsolete, that military power was giving way to economic power in world
politics, and that the bipolar system was fast becoming a multipolar one
including Japan, a united Europe, and China. Indeed, China, though
starting from a low base, demonstrated the most rapid economic growth
of all in the 1980s under the market-oriented reforms of the chairman
Deng Xiaoping and Premier Li Peng. Paul Kennedy and many other
analysts concluded that the United States could simply no longer afford
the Cold War and would have to end it just to maintain itself against the
commercial and technological competition of its own allies. For the
U.S.S.R., the Cold War had to end if it was to maintain itself as a Great
Power at all.

The end of the Cold War
In retrospect, the course of the Cold War appears to have been cyclical,
with both the United States and the U.S.S.R. alternating between periods
of assertion and relaxation. In the first years after 1945 the United States
hastily demobilized its wartime military forces while pursuing universal,
liberal internationalist solutions to problems of security and recovery.
Stalin, however, rejected American blueprints for peace, exploited the
temporarily favourable correlation of forces to impose Communist regimes
on east-central Europe, and maintained the military-industrial emphasis in
Soviet central planning despite the ruination done his own country by the
German invasion. Soviet policy prompted the first American outpouring of

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energy, between 1947 and 1953, when the strategy of containment and
policies to implement it emerged: the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan,
NATO, the Korean War, and the buildup in conventional and nuclear arms.
Then the Americans tired; Eisenhower accepted a stalemate in Korea, cut
defense spending, and opened a dialogue with Moscow in hopes of putting
a lid on the arms race. Khrushchev then launched a new Soviet offensive in
1957, hoping to transform Soviet triumphs in space and missile technology
into gains in Berlin and the Third World. The United States again
responded, from 1961 to 1968 under Kennedy and Johnson, with another
energetic campaign that ranged from the Apollo Moon program and nuclear
buildup to the Peace Corps and counterinsurgency operations culminating
in the Vietnam War. The war bogged down, however, and brought on
economic distress and social disorder at home. After 1969 Presidents Nixon
and Ford scaled back American commitments, withdrew from Vietnam,
pursued arms control treaties, and fostered détente with the U.S.S.R.,
while President Carter, in the wake of Watergate, went even further in
renouncing Cold War attitudes and expenditures. It was thus that the
correlation of forces again shifted in favour of the Soviet bloc, tempting
Brezhnev in the 1970s to extend Soviet influence and power to its greatest
extent and allowing the U.S.S.R. to equal or surpass the preoccupied
United States in nuclear weapons. After 1980, under Reagan, the United
States completed the cycle with a final, self-confident assertion of
will—and this time, the Soviets appeared to break. In May 1981, at Notre
Dame University, the recently inaugurated Reagan predicted that the years
ahead would be great ones for the cause of freedom and that Communism
was “a sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even
now being written.” At the time few took his words for more than a
morale-boosting exhortation, but in fact the Soviet economy and polity
were under terrific stress in the last Brezhnev years, though the Soviets did
their best to hide the fact. They were running hidden budget deficits of 7
or 8 percent of GNP, suffering from extreme inflation that took the form
(because of price controls) of chronic shortages of consumer goods, and
falling farther behind the West in computers and other technologies vital
to civilian and military performance. The Reagan administration
recognized and sought to exploit this Soviet economic vulnerability.
Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and his aide Richard Perle
tightened controls on the export of strategic technologies to the Soviet
bloc. CIA Director William Casey persuaded Saudi Arabia to drive down the
price of oil, thereby denying the U.S.S.R. billions of dollars it expected to
glean from its own petroleum exports. The United States also pressured its
European allies to cancel or delay the massive pipeline project for the
importation of natural gas from Siberia, thereby denying the Soviets
another large source of hard currency.
Such economic warfare, waged at a time when the Soviet budget was
already strained by the Afghan war and a renewed strategic arms race,
pushed the Soviet economy to the brink of collapse. Demoralization took

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the form of a growing black market, widespread alcoholism, the highest
abortion rate in the world, and a declining life span. In an open society
such symptoms might have provoked protests and reforms, leadership
changes, possibly even revolution. The totalitarian state, however,
thoroughly suppressed civil society, while even the Communist party,
stifled by its jealous and fearful nomenklatura (official hierarchy), was
incapable of adjusting. In sum, the Stalinist methods of terror,
propaganda, and mass exploitation of labour and resources had served well
enough to force an industrial revolution in Russia, but they were
inadequate to the needs of the postindustrial world.

Gorbachev and the Soviet “new thinking”
Young, educated, and urban members of the Communist elite came
gradually to recognize the need for radical change if the Soviet Union was
to survive, much less hold its own with the capitalist world. They waited
in frustration as Brezhnev was followed by Andropov, then by Chernenko.
The reformers finally rose to the pinnacle of party leadership, however,
when Mikhail Gorbachev was named general secretary in 1985. A lawyer
by training and a loyal Communist, Gorbachev did not begin his tenure by
urging a relaxation of the Cold War. He stressed economics instead: a
crackdown on vodka consumption, laziness, and “hooliganism” said to be
responsible for “stagnation”; and, when that failed, a far-reaching
perestroika, or restructuring, of the economy. It was in connection with
this economic campaign that surprising developments in foreign policy
began to occur. Not only were the costs of empire—the military, KGB and
other security agencies, subsidies to foreign client states—out of all
proportion to the Soviet GNP, but the U.S.S.R., no less than in earlier
times, desperately needed Western technology and credits in order to
make up for its own backwardness. Both to trim the costs of empire and
to gain Western help, Gorbachev had to resolve outstanding disputes
abroad and tolerate more human rights at home.

As early as 1985 the “new thinking” of the younger Communist
apparatchiks began to surface. Gorbachev declared that no nation's
security could be achieved at the expense of another's—an apparent
repudiation of the goal of nuclear and conventional superiority for which
the Soviets had worked for so long. Soviet historians began to criticize
Brezhnev's policies toward Afghanistan, China, and the West and to blame
him, rather than “capitalist imperialism,” for the U.S.S.R.'s encirclement.
In 1986 Gorbachev said that economic power had supplanted military
power as the most important aspect of security in the present age—an
amazing admission for a state whose superpower status rested exclusively
on its military might. He called on the Soviets to settle for “reasonable
sufficiency” in strategic arms and urged NATO to join him in deep cuts in
nuclear and conventional weapons. He reiterated Khrushchev's remark
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that nuclear war could have no winners and de Gaulle's vision of a
“common European house” from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural
Mountains. Finally, Gorbachev hinted at a repudiation of the Brezhnev
Doctrine—i.e., the assertion of the Soviets' right to intervene to protect
Socialist governments wherever they might be threatened.

Western observers were divided at first as to how to respond to this “new
thinking.” Some analysts considered Gorbachev a revolutionary and his
advent a historic chance to end the Cold War. Others, including the
Reagan administration, were more cautious. Soviet leaders had launched
“peace offensives” many times before, always with the motive of
seducing the West into opening up trade and technology. Gorbachev was
a phenomenon, charming Western reporters, crowds, and leaders
(Thatcher was especially impressed) with his breezy style, sophistication,
and peace advocacy. He published two best-sellers in the West to
enhance his reputation, which for a time caused Europeans to rate
Reagan and the United States the greatest threats to peace in the world.
What convinced most Western observers that genuine change had
occurred, however, was not what Gorbachev said but what he allowed
others to say under his policy of glasnost, or openness.
As Western experts had predicted, perestroika, an attempt to streamline
a fatally flawed Communist system, was doomed to failure. What the
Soviets needed, they said, was a profit motive, private property, hard
currency, real prices, and access to world markets. But Gorbachev, still
thinking in Communist categories, blamed bureaucratic resistance for the
failure of his reforms and thus declared glasnost to encourage internal
criticism. What he got was the birth of a genuine Soviet public opinion, a
reemergence of autonomous organizations in society, and more than 300
independent journals (by the end of 1989) publicizing and denouncing
Communist military and economic failures, murder and oppression,
foreign policy “crimes” such as the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact
and the invasion of Afghanistan, and even Communist rule itself.
By 1987 most Western observers still called for deeds to match the words
pouring forth in the Soviet Union, but they were persuaded that an end
to the Cold War was a real possibility. The Reagan administration made
its first show of trust in Gorbachev by engaging in negotiations to
eliminate nuclear weapons from Europe. In 1987 Gorbachev surprised the
United States by accepting the earlier American “zero-option” proposal
for intermediate-range missiles. After careful negotiation a treaty was
concluded in Geneva and signed at a Washington summit in December.
This controversial Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty
eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons and allowed, for the first
time, extensive on-site inspection inside the Soviet bloc. Critics still
feared that stripping Europe of nuclear missiles might only enhance the
value of the Soviets' conventional superiority and called for parallel

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agreements through the mutual and balanced force reduction talks on
NATO and Warsaw Pact armies. In Moscow in mid-1988, Reagan and
Gorbachev discussed an even bolder proposal: reduction of both strategic
nuclear arsenals by 50 percent. A mellower Reagan, interpreting the
Soviets' new flexibility as a vindication of his earlier tough stance and
having thereupon repudiated his “evil empire” rhetoric, now seemed
eager to bargain as much as possible with Gorbachev.
Finally, Gorbachev and his foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze,
reached out in all directions—China, Japan, India, Iran, even South Korea
and Israel—in hopes of reducing military tensions, gaining access to trade
and technology, or just creating new possibilities for Soviet statecraft.
Gorbachev's most celebrated moment came in December 1988 at the
United Nations, when he announced a unilateral reduction in Soviet army
forces of half a million men and the withdrawal from eastern Europe of
10,000 tanks. Henceforth, he said, the U.S.S.R. would adopt a “defensive
posture,” and he invited the NATO countries to do the same.

Throughout his first four years in power Gorbachev inspired and presided
over an extraordinary outpouring of new ideas and new options. Western
skeptics wondered whether he meant to dismantle Communism and the
Soviet empire and, if he did, whether he could possibly avoid being
overthrown by party hard-liners, the KGB, or the army. He had
maneuvered brilliantly in internal politics, always claiming the middle
ground and positioning himself as the last best hope for peaceful reform.
His prestige and popularity in the West were also assets of no small value.
In June 1988 he persuaded the Communist party conference to
restructure the entire Soviet government along the lines of a partially
representative legislature with a powerful president—himself. Was the
Gorbachev phenomenon merely an updated version of earlier, limited
Russian and Soviet reforms designed to bolster the old order? Or would
Gorbachev use his expanding power to liquidate the empire and
Communism?

In truth, Gorbachev faced a severe dilemma born of three simultaneous
crises: diplomatic encirclement abroad, economic and technological
stagnation at home, and growing pressure for liberal reform in Poland and
Hungary and for autonomy in the non-Russian republics of the U.S.S.R.
Thoroughgoing détente, perhaps even an end to the Cold War, could
solve the first crisis and go far toward ameliorating the second. His policy
of glasnost, deemed vital to economic progress, had the fatal side effect,
however, of encouraging repressed ethnic groups, at home and in eastern
Europe, to organize and express their opposition to Russian or Communist
rule. Of course, the Soviet government might simply crush the
nationalities, as it had in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, but
that in turn would undo the progress made in East–West relations and put
Gorbachev back where he had started. If, on the other hand, the Soviet

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government relinquished its satellites abroad, how could it stop the
process of liberation from spreading to the subject nationalities inside
the U.S.S.R.? If it repudiated its Marxist-Leninist global mission in the
name of economic reform, how could the regime legitimize itself at all,
even in Russia?

1989: annus mirabilis
Liberalization and struggle in Communist countries
George Bush was elected to succeed Ronald Reagan
as president of the United States in November 1988.
The new administration's foreign policy team, led by
Secretary of State James Baker, was divided at first
between the “squeezers,” who saw no logic in
U.S. President
attempts to bail out a troubled Soviet Union, and the
George Bush
with Mikhail
“dealers,” who wanted to make far-reaching
Gorbachev of
agreements with Gorbachev before he was toppled
the Soviet
from power. For five months Bush played his cards
Union.
close to his vest, citing the need to await the results
of a comprehensive study of Soviet–American relations.
Signs of unmistakable and irreversible liberalization in the Soviet bloc
began to appear in the form of popular manifestations in eastern
Europe, which the Kremlin seemed willing to tolerate and even, to
some extent, encourage. Czechoslovaks demonstrated against their
Communist regime on the anniversary of the 1968 Soviet invasion. In
Poland, the Solidarity union demanded democratic reforms. The Sejm
(parliament) legalized and vowed to return the property of the Roman
Catholic church, and the government of General Jaruzelski approved
partially free elections to be held on June 4, 1989, the first such in
over 40 years. Solidarity initially won 160 of the 161 available seats
and then took the remaining seat in a runoff election. On May 2,
Hungary dismantled barriers on its border with Austria—the first real
breach in the Iron Curtain.

Gorbachev was less tolerant of protests and separatist tendencies in
the U.S.S.R. itself; for instance, he ordered soldiers to disperse 15,000
Georgians demanding independence. He moved ahead, however, with
reforms that loosened the Communist party's grip on power in the
Soviet Union, even as his own authority was increased through various
laws granting him emergency powers. In March, protesters in Moscow
supported the parliamentary candidacy of the dissident Communist
Boris Yeltsin, who charged Gorbachev with not moving fast enough
toward democracy and a market economy. On the 26th of that month,

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in the first relatively free elections ever held in the Soviet Union, for
1,500 of the 2,250 seats in the new Congress of People's Deputies,
various non-Communists and ethnic representatives emerged
triumphant over Communist party candidates. Three days later
Gorbachev told the Hungarian premier that he opposed foreign
intervention in the internal affairs of Warsaw Pact states—a loud hint
that he did not intend to enforce the Brezhnev Doctrine.

In late spring Bush spoke out on his hopes for East–West relations in a
series of speeches and quietly approved the subsidized sale of
1,500,000 tons of wheat to the Soviets. In a Moscow meeting with
Secretary Baker, Gorbachev not only endorsed the resumption of
START, with the goal of deep cuts in strategic arsenals, but also stated
that he would unilaterally withdraw 500 warheads from eastern Europe
and accept NATO's request for asymmetrical reductions in conventional
armaments. In response, Bush announced that the time had come “to
move beyond containment” and to “seek the integration of the Soviet
Union into the community of nations.” Western European leaders were
even more eager: Chancellor Kohl and Gorbachev agreed in June to
support self-determination and arms reductions and to build a
“common European home.”
For Gorbachev the policies of glasnost, free elections, and warm
relations with Western leaders were a calculated risk born of the
Soviet Union's severe economic crisis and need for Western help. For
other Communist regimes, however, Moscow's “new thinking” was an
unalloyed disaster. The governments of eastern Europe owed their
existence to the myth of the “world proletarian revolution” and their
survival to police-state controls backed by the threat of Soviet military
power. Now, however, the Soviet leader himself had renounced the
right of intervention, and he urged eastern European Communist
parties to imitate perestroika and glasnost. Eastern European bosses
like Erich Honecker of East Germany and Miloš Jakeš of Czechoslovakia
quietly made common cause with hard-liners in Moscow.

Chinese leaders were in a different position. Ever since the late 1950s
the Chinese Communist party had regularly and officially denounced
the Soviets as revisionists—Marxist heretics—and Gorbachev's deeds and
words only proved their rectitude. Even so, since the death of Mao
Zedong the Chinese leadership had itself adopted limited reforms
under the banner of the Four Modernizations and had permitted a
modicum of highly successful free enterprise while retaining a
monopoly of political power. When Hu Yaobang, a former leader, died
on April 15, 1989, however, tens of thousands of students and other
protesters began to gather in Chinese cities to demand democratic
reforms. Within a week 100,000 people filled Tiananmen Square in
Peking and refused to disperse despite strong warnings. The 70th

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anniversary of the May Fourth Movement, the first student movement
in modern Chinese history, propelled the protests, as did Gorbachev's
own arrival for the first Sino-Soviet summit in 30 years. By May 20 the
situation was completely out of control: more than 1,000,000
demonstrators occupied large sections of Peking, and on the 29th
students erected a statue called the “Goddess of Democracy” in
Tiananmen Square.

Behind the scenes a furious power struggle ensued between party
chiefs advocating accommodation and those calling for the use of
force; it remained uncertain whether the People's Liberation Army
could be trusted to act against the demonstration. Finally, on June 3,
military units from distant provinces were called in to move against
the crowds; they did so efficiently, killing hundreds of protesters.
Thousands more were arrested in the days that followed.

The suppression of the democratic movement in China conditioned the
thinking of eastern European officials and protesters alike for months.
Taking heart from Gorbachev's reformism, citizens hoped that the time
had finally come when they might expand their narrow political
options. They moved cautiously, however, not wholly trusting that the
Soviet Union would stand aside and fearing that at any moment their
local state security police would opt for a “Tiananmen solution.”
Nonetheless, in July, at the annual Warsaw Pact meeting, Gorbachev
called on each member state to pursue “independent solutions [to]
national problems” and said that there were “no universal models of
Socialism.” At the same time Bush toured Poland and Hungary, praising
their steps toward democracy and offering aid, but saying and doing
nothing that would embarrass the Soviets or take strategic advantage
of their difficulties. So it was that for the first time both superpower
leaders indicated with increasing clarity that they intended to stand
aside and allow events in eastern Europe to take their course
independent of Cold War considerations. Gorbachev had indeed
repealed the Brezhnev Doctrine, and Bush had done nothing to impel
him to reimpose it.
The results were almost immediate. In August a trickle, then a flood of
would-be émigrés from East Germany tried the escape route open
through Hungary to Austria and West Germany. In the same month the
chairman of the Soviet Central Committee admitted the existence of
the secret protocols in the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact under
which Stalin had annexed Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. On the 50th
anniversary of the pact, August 23, an estimated 1,000,000 Balts
formed a human chain linking their capitals to denounce the
annexation as illegal and to demand self-determination. In September
the Hungarian government suspended its effort to stave off the flight
of East Germans, and by the end of the month more than 30,000 had

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escaped to the West. Demonstrations for democracy began in East
Germany itself in late September, spreading from Leipzig to Dresden
and other cities. On October 6–7 Gorbachev, visiting in honour of the
German Democratic Republic's 40th anniversary, urged East Germany
to adopt Soviet-style reforms and said that its policy would be made in
Berlin, not Moscow.
Against this background of massive and spreading popular defiance of
Communist regimes, Western governments maintained a prudent
silence about the internal affairs of Soviet-bloc states, while sending
clear signals to Moscow of the potential benefits of continued
liberalization. When Gorbachev's nemesis Yeltsin visited the United
States in September, the administration kept a discreet distance.
Later that month Shevardnadze held extensive and private talks with
Baker; he dropped once and for all the Soviet demand that the
American SDI program be included in the START negotiations. In the
first week of October the European Community, West Germany, and
then (at the insistence of Congress) the United States offered
emergency aid totalling $2,000,000,000 to the democratizing Polish
government. The chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board went to
Moscow to advise the Soviets on how they, too, might make the
transition to a market economy, and Secretary Baker proclaimed, “We
want perestroika to succeed.” A month later Gorbachev gave the first
indication of the limits to reform, warning that Western efforts to
“export capitalism” or “interfere with east European politics would be
a great mistake.” By that time, however, the collapse of Communism
in the satellite states, at least, was irreversible.

Hungary became the second (after Poland) to seize its independence
when the National Assembly, on October 18, amended its constitution
to abolish the Socialist party's “leading role” in society, legalize
non-Communist political parties, and change the name of the country
from the “People's Republic” to simply the “Republic of Hungary.” East
Germany, one of the most repressive of all Soviet-bloc states, was
next. By late October crowds numbering more than 300,000 rose up in
Leipzig and Dresden to demand the ouster of the Communist regime.
On November 1 the East German cabinet bowed before the
unrelenting, nonviolent pressure of its people by reopening its border
with Czechoslovakia. On November 3 the ministers in charge of
security and the police resigned. The next day a reported 1,000,000
demonstrators jammed the streets of East Berlin to demand
democracy, prompting the resignations of the rest of the cabinet.
After 50,000 more people had fled the country in the ensuing week,
the East German government threw in the towel. On November 9 it
announced that exit visas would be granted immediately to all citizens
wishing to “visit the West” and that all border points were now open.

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At first, citizens did not dare believe—hundreds of East Germans had
lost their lives trying to escape after the Berlin Wall went up in August
1961—but when some did, the news flowed like electricity that the
Berlin Wall had fallen. A week later the dreaded Stasis, or state
security police, were disbanded. By December 1 the East German
Volkskammer (parliament) renounced the Communist Socialist Unity
Party's “leading role” in society and began to expose the corruption
and brutality that had characterized the Honecker regime. A new
coalition government took control and planned free national elections
for May 1990.

Czechoslovaks were the fourth people to carry out a nonviolent
revolution, though at first frustrated by the hard-line regime's
continued will to repress. A demonstration on November 17 in
Wenceslas Square in Prague was broken up by force. The
Czechoslovaks, emboldened by events in East Germany and the
absence of a Soviet reaction, turned out in ever larger numbers,
however, demanding free elections and then cheering the
rehabilitated hero of the 1968 Prague Spring, Alexander Dubček. The
entire cabinet resigned, and the Communist Central Committee
promised a special congress to discuss the party's future. The dissident
liberal playwright Václav Havel denounced the shake-up as a trick,
crowds of 800,000 turned out to demand democratic elections, and
Czechoslovak workers declared a two-hour general strike as proof of
their solidarity. The government caved in, abandoning the Communist
party's “leading role” on November 29, opening the border with Austria
on the 30th, and announcing a new coalition cabinet on December 8.
President Gustav Husák resigned on the 10th and free elections were
scheduled for the 28th. By the end of the year Havel was president of
Czechoslovakia and Dubček was parliamentary chairman.
The fifth and sixth satellite peoples to break out of the 45-year
Communist lockstep were the Bulgarians and Romanians. The former
had an easy time of it after the Communist party secretary and
president, Todor Zhivkov, resigned on November 10. Within a month
crowds in Sofia called for democratization, and the Central Committee
leader voluntarily surrendered the party's “leading role.” Romania,
however, suffered a bloodbath. There the Communist dictator Nicolae
Ceauşescu had built a ferocious personal tyranny defended by
ubiquitous and brutal security forces. He intended to ride out the
anti-Communist wave in eastern Europe and preserve his rule. Thus,
when crowds of Romanian citizens demonstrated for democracy in
imitation of events elsewhere, the government denounced them as
“Fascist reactionaries” and ordered its security forces to shoot to kill.
Courageous crowds continued to rally and regular army units joined
the rebellion, and, when the Soviets indicated their opposition to
Ceauşescu, civil war broke out. On December 22 popular forces

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captured Ceauşescu while he attempted to flee, tried him on several
charges, including genocide, and executed him on the 25th. An interim
National Salvation Front Council took over and announced elections for
May 1990. By the end of the year the Czechoslovaks and Hungarians
had already concluded agreements with Moscow providing for the rapid
withdrawal of Soviet military forces from their countries.

Aftermath of the breakup
In the span of just three months the unthinkable had happened: all of
eastern Europe had broken free of Communist domination and won the
right to resume the independent national existences that Nazi
aggression had extinguished beginning in 1938. The force of popular
revulsion against the Stalinist regimes imposed after World War II was
the cause of the explosion, and advanced communications technology
permitted the news to spread quickly, triggering revolts in one capital
after another. What enabled the popular forces to express themselves,
and succeed, however, was singular and simple: the abrogation of the
Brezhnev Doctrine by Mikhail Gorbachev. Once it became known that
the Red Army would not intervene to crush dissent, as it had in all
previous crises, the whole Stalinist empire was revealed as a sham and
flimsy structure. For decades, Western apologists for the Soviet bloc
had argued that eastern European Socialism was somehow indigenous,
even that the East Germans had developed a “separate nationality,”
and that the Soviets had a legitimate security interest in eastern
Europe. Gorbachev himself proved them wrong when he let eastern
Europe go free in 1989.
What were his motives for doing so? Certainly the Soviet army and the
KGB must have watched in horror as their empire, purchased at
terrific cost in World War II, simply disintegrated. Perhaps Gorbachev
calculated, in line with the “new thinking,” that the U.S.S.R. did not
need eastern Europe to ensure its own security and that maintaining
the empire was no longer worth the financial and political cost. At a
time when the Soviet Union was in severe economic crisis and needed
Western help more than ever, jettisoning eastern Europe would
unburden his budget and do more than anything to attract Western
goodwill. Nevertheless, it is hard to believe that Gorbachev ever
intended things to work out as they did. It is far more likely that he
intended merely to throw his support to progressive Communists eager
to implement perestroika in their own countries and thereby
strengthen his own position vis-à-vis the hard-liners in the Soviet
party. His ploy, however, had three attendant risks: first, that popular
revolt might go so far as to dismantle Communism and the Warsaw
Pact altogether; second, that the eastern European revolution might

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spread to nationalities within the U.S.S.R. itself; and third, that the
NATO powers might try to exploit eastern European unrest to its own
strategic advantage. The first fear quickly came true, and as 1989
came to an end, Gorbachev's foreign and domestic policies were
increasingly directed toward forestalling the second and third dangers.
Concerning possible Western exploitation of the retreat of
Communism, Shevardnadze expressed as early as October the Soviet
Union's desire to pursue the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and NATO
military alliances. (Of course, the Warsaw Pact was in the course of
dissolving from within.) Then, in November, Gorbachev warned against
Western attempts to export capitalism. Western European leaders
were anxious to reassure him, as was President Bush at the December
2–3 Malta summit. Only a few days before, however, Chancellor Kohl
had alerted the Soviets and the world that he intended to press
forward at once on the most difficult problem of all arising from the
liberation of eastern Europe: the reunification of Germany. That
prospect, and the conditions under which it might occur, would
dominate Great Power diplomacy in 1990.

Gorbachev had every reason to fear that his second nightmare would
come true: the spillover of popular revolt into the Soviet Union itself.
The first of the subject nationalities of the U.S.S.R. to demand
self-determination were the Lithuanians, whose Communist Party
Congress voted by a huge majority to declare its independence from
the party's leadership in Moscow and to move toward an independent,
democratic state. Gorbachev denounced the move at once and warned
of bloodshed if the Lithuanians persisted. In January 1990 his personal
visit to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, to calm the waters provoked a
rally of 250,000 people demanding the abrogation of the Soviets'
“illegal” 1940 annexation. When in that same month Soviet troops
entered the Azerbaijan capital, Baku, and killed more than 50
Azerbaijani nationalists, fears arose that the Baltic states might suffer
the same fate. Gorbachev let it be known that, the liberation of
eastern Europe notwithstanding, he would not preside over the
dissolution of the U.S.S.R.

The reunification of Germany
From skepticism to reality
Even before they had succeeded in chasing the Communists out of
their government, East Germans had already begun to “unify” the
country with their feet: 133,000 people picked up and moved
westward in the month after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Such an influx

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of people placed tremendous strains on West Germany and all but
forced Chancellor Kohl to begin immediate measures toward
reunification in order to stem the tide. On November 28, 1989, he
shocked the world with his announcement of a 10-point plan under
which the East and West German governments would gradually expand
their cooperation on specific issues until full economic, then political
unity was achieved. He proposed no timetable and sought to appease
the Soviets and western European powers alike by emphasizing that
the process must occur within the contexts of the Conference on
Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE; now the Organization for
Security and Co-operation in Europe), the European Community, and
East–West disarmament regimes.

The Kohl plan was more than an emergency response, however; it was
also the culmination of a West German policy dating back to the
founding of the two Germanies in 1949. Reunification was provided for
in the West German Basic Law (constitution) and had remained the
primary goal, no matter how distant, of its foreign policy. Even Willy
Brandt's Ostpolitik in 1969 had differed only in regard to means,
looking to increased contacts and aid to educate East Germans about
the freedom and prosperity prevailing in the West, and so gradually
and peacefully to undermine the legitimacy of the East German
regime.

Almost no one was entirely comfortable with the prospect of a
reunited Germany. West Germany alone had become the economic
colossus of Europe; augmented by the East, it might come to dominate
the European Community. Moreover, how was a united Germany to be
prevented from aspiring to military power or hegemony in the power
vacuum of eastern Europe? The Soviets seemed unlikely to
countenance a united Germany fully allied with the United States and
the EC, while a neutral Germany might become a loose cannon
vacillating between Moscow and the West. So it was that on the day
after the Malta summit, President Bush declared his support for a
gradually reunited Germany to remain in NATO and the EC, within a
“Europe whole and free.” French President Mitterrand warned the
Germans against pushing it too hard, while British Prime Minister
Thatcher was openly skeptical. Gorbachev was expected to demand
large concessions in return for his approval. Bush presumably had
reassured him at Malta that events would not be allowed to get out of
control. To underscore their intention to assert their rights in Germany
dating back to the 1945 Potsdam conference, the Soviets requested a
meeting of the old Allied Control Council in Berlin. To underscore their
intention to respect Soviet feelings, the other World War II Allied
powers (the United States, Great Britain, and France) agreed to meet
on December 11.

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The reunification of Germany, for so long thought impossible and, by
many, perhaps most people in the U.S.S.R., France, Britain, and the
United States, even undesirable, now suddenly appeared inevitable.
Whatever their misgivings, the Allies could hardly deny Germany the
right to the self-determination they claimed for themselves and all
other peoples. When members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact convened
at Ottawa, on February 11, 1990, Bush skillfully won universal
agreement to a prudent format for talks on the unification of
Germany. The French, British, and Soviets had considered involving
the four powers from the start in group negotiations with the
Germans, thereby calling into question German sovereignty. Bush's
plan, however, would permit the German states themselves to work
out their future and then submit their wishes to the four powers for
final approval. These “two plus four” talks were expected to be a
slow, deliberative process.

In fact, the overwhelming will of the German people and the press of
events brought negotiations quickly to a head. First, the East German
elections on March 18 revealed a strong majority in favour of
immediate unification. Second, the East German economy underwent
sudden collapse after the disappearance of Communist discipline and
the flight of hundreds of thousands of people. Third, the East German
infrastructure was now revealed as decrepit and backward, the
environment grossly polluted, and the currency worthless. Talks began
at once on an emergency unification of the two Germanies' economies,
and in April, after much hand-wringing, Kohl and the Deutsche
Bundesbank accepted a plan to replace the East German currency with
deutsche marks on a one-to-one basis. The “two plus four” talks
moved to the foreign ministerial level in May, and within two weeks
East and West Germany published their terms for their imminent
merger. Moreover, it would not be achieved by the laborious crafting
of a new constitution but by the quicker provisions of Article 23 of the
West German Basic Law, whereby new provinces could adhere to the
existing constitution by a simple majority vote. The Bundestag
approved these terms on June 21, and West and East Germany were
unified economically on July 1.
Assurances were required to the effect that a united Germany, far
from making NATO more threatening, would in fact be constrained by
its membership in the U.S.-led alliance; that German military power
would be limited by treaty and that Soviet troops might remain in East
Germany for a time as a guarantee; that Soviet–German relations
would improve after unification and yield vital economic assistance for
the Soviet Union; and that the new Germany would recognize and
respect existing international boundaries. Bush moved to satisfy the
first and second of these desiderata at the NATO summit in July; its
declaration defined NATO and the Warsaw Pact as no longer enemies,

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renounced NATO's long-standing policy on first use of nuclear weapons,
agreed to limits (proposed by Shevardnadze) on the size of the German
army, and invited the Warsaw Pact countries to establish “regular
diplomatic liaison with NATO.”
The third desideratum—improved Soviet–German relations—was, of
course, up to Chancellor Kohl to satisfy. He offered to cut the German
army to 370,000 men, renounce chemical, biological, and nuclear
weapons, and aid in financing Soviet troops during an eventual
withdrawal over a 3–4-year transition period. He also extended
$5,000,000,000 in credits, with an expectation of more to follow. In
return he secured Gorbachev's acceptance of a united, sovereign,
democratic German state to remain a full member of the Western
alliance and the EC. Kohl also took pains to reassure the French that
the new united Germany would pose no threat. In the ongoing EC
deliberations about the greater unification to take effect in 1992, Kohl
sided constantly and strongly with the French position. He made it as
clear as possible that the Germans were “good Europeans” and that
their unity would occur harmlessly within the context of greater
European and Atlantic communities.
Meanwhile, the bilateral talks between East and West Germans
proceeded at an emergency pace. The two governments signed the
terms for their political union on August 31. The four Allied powers
then ratified them in their own Final Settlement with Respect to
Germany. Those signatures, affixed in Moscow on September 12,
formally brought World War II to an end. The next day Germany and
the U.S.S.R. signed a treaty of 20 years' duration pledging to each
other friendly relations and recognition of borders and renouncing the
use of force. The four Allied powers renounced their rights in Germany
on October 1, the final settlement took effect on October 3, 1990, and
Germans tearfully celebrated their reunification.
One final issue remained—that of Germany's permanent boundaries.
Western powers and especially the Polish government had pressured
Kohl from the beginning to recognize for all time the inviolability of
the Oder–Neisse border and thus the permanent loss to Germany of
Silesia, eastern Pomerania, Danzig (Gdańsk), and East Prussia. At first
Kohl hung back, earning for himself much abuse from Western
statesmen and scaremongers. His tactic seems to have been to make a
show of standing up for Germany's lost territories in the east in order
to send a message to the Polish government about the need to respect
the rights of ethnic Germans in Poland, as well as to minimize the
appeal of the right-wing Republikaner party to the German electorate.
As soon as German unity was assured, Kohl accepted Germany's
boundaries as permanent, and he signed a treaty to that effect with
Poland on November 14.

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Five days later the second CSCE summit convened in Paris to proclaim
the end of the Cold War. In the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty,
the NATO and Soviet sides each pledged to limit themselves to 20,000
battle tanks and 20,000 artillery tubes, 6,800 combat aircraft, 30,000
other armoured combat vehicles, and 2,000 attack helicopters. The
CSCE member states signed the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, in
which the Soviets, Americans, and Europeans both east and west
announced to the world that Europe was henceforth united, that all
blocs—military and economic—had ceased to exist, and that all
member states stood for democracy, freedom, and human rights.

Why the Soviet retreat?
On October 15, 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev travelled to Stockholm to
receive the Nobel Prize for Peace in honour of his having done much to
bring the Cold War to a close. While few people in Europe and North
America denied that Gorbachev's restraint in 1989 was largely
responsible for the liberation of eastern Europe or criticized the
directions of his reforms in the Soviet Union, the Nobel Prize seemed
to imply standards of historical and moral judgment that struck many
critics as, at best, strange. Was the Soviet president to be credited
with the world's most prestigious prize for not sending in tank columns
to crush innocent and unarmed people in foreign countries? What
about the eastern European peoples themselves, who bravely seized
their freedom in spite of the risks? Or the Western leaders whose
denunciations of the Soviet empire encouraged the Polish Solidarity
movement and other eastern European resisters?
Indeed, as soon as people in the West caught their breath after the
cascade of events in 1989–90, they began to argue over why the Cold
War had ended, why it ended when it did, and to whom the credit
should go. Academic and liberal opinion favoured theories crediting
Gorbachev and the generation of “new thinkers” in the Soviet Union
for the transformations. Conservatives preferred to give the credit to
the statesmen of containment who had stood up to Soviet pressure for
40 years. (When President Bush visited Poland upon the invitation of
Lech Wałęsa in 1989, thousands of Poles lined the streets to cheer and
wave banners reading “Thank you!”)
Historians have argued over the end of the Cold War as intensely as
they argued over its beginning, but some general observations can be
made. First, the Cold War ended because the special sources of
conflict and distrust between the Soviet Union and the West
disappeared in 1989. That is not to say that geopolitical rivalry
disappeared, or that conflicts of interest would not recur in many
parts of the world. Great Power politics would go on. At the same

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time, the liberation of eastern Europe, unification of Germany,
reduction of armaments, and suspension of Leninist ideological war
against the outer world were symptomatic of the changed nature of
superpower relations. Second, those relations changed their nature
over the years 1985–90 because the Soviet leadership lost the ability or
the will, or both, to prosecute the Cold War and seemingly came to
realize that even the gains they had made in the Cold War were not in
the best interests of the Soviet Union. Rather, the U.S.S.R. and its
satellites and client states constituted a network of obligations that
seriously strained the resources of the central economy and that had
called into being a hostile alliance consisting of all the other major
industrial powers of the world: the United States, Britain, France,
West Germany, Japan, and China. What was more, the Communist (or
Stalinist) command structure had proved woefully inadequate to the
demands of a technological age. In sum, the Soviet Union had
embarked under Stalin on a Sisyphean struggle against the entire outer
world, only to discover over time that its huge conventional army was
of doubtful utility, its nuclear arsenal unusable, its diplomatic
attempts to divide the enemy alliance unsuccessful, its Third World
clients expensive and of dubious value, and its pervasive apparatus for
espionage, disinformation, terror, and demoralization of temporary
effect only. Always the Western peoples recovered their will and
dynamism; always the Soviet Union fell further behind, until finally,
after 40 years, the empire fell, exhausted, to the ground.
That was when the younger generation came to the fore, promoting
the “new thinking” that had sprung up from disgust with the rigid and
brutal structures dating from Stalin and the rigid and
counterproductive policies dating from Brezhnev. Perhaps Gorbachev
himself remained a committed Marxist-Leninist—he said so at every
opportunity—but the practical effect of his repudiation of old
structures and policies was to dismantle much that had provoked the
fear and hostility of the West in the first place. Nor would releasing
eastern Europe suffice to reverse the inevitable decline of the
Communist empire. The age of microelectronics, computers, space
technology, and global communications was also an age in which
human creativity, not brute labour, was the most valuable asset in a
nation's economic and military strength. Far from unleashing creativity
and spontaneous production, as Marxist theory predicted, Soviet
Communism had stifled it—through terror, bureaucratization, the lack
of a profit motive and market mechanism, and hierarchical,
centralized decision making. Eventually, if the Soviet Union were to
remain even a great power, much less a superpower, it would have to
jettison not only its subject empire but also Communism itself.
George Kennan predicted in his famous “Long Telegram” of 1946 and
“X” article of 1947 that the Soviets would ultimately fail to digest the

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empire they had swallowed and would have to disgorge it. In the
meantime, the West had to contain Soviet influence, neither
retreating into isolationism nor overreacting militarily, and above all
remaining confident about its basic human values. He was right. The
most fundamental, long-range reason for the end of the Cold War was
that Communism was based on profound contradictions and a
misreading of human nature. So long as other nations refused to
surrender to their fear, the Soviet system could never prevail. Perhaps
the exhortations and policies of Reagan and Thatcher did determine
the timing of the Soviet collapse, but the collapse was bound to come
sooner or later.

Students of Soviet history with a more sociological bent offered yet
another explanation for the Gorbachev phenomenon, based on
irrepressible trends within Soviet society itself. For whatever horrors
he committed against his own people, Stalin had made the U.S.S.R.
into a modern, industrial, and primarily urban country. Khrushchev
introduced television and spaceflight, and Brezhnev, through détente,
multiplied the foreign contacts and experience of Soviet citizens. By
the late 1970s a great percentage of Soviet people had ceased to be
illiterate peasants easily suppressed, propagandized, and drafted into
massive military, agricultural, or construction projects. Instead, a
second- or third-generation urban population had grown up that
inevitably came to demand more access to the information, political
influence, and material rewards available to people of their station in
the West. Once glasnost gave them a voice, these new “middle
classes” loudly expressed their dissatisfaction with a regime that had
become not only inhumane but irrational, even on its own materialistic
terms. According to this view, therefore, Sovietism was doomed even
by its relative success: the more modern the U.S.S.R. became, the less
legitimate its party dictatorship became in the eyes of its educated
classes.
A final, long-range interpretation laid stress on the nationality crisis in
eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The U.S.S.R. was the world's last
great multinational empire. The Communist party maintained its tight
control over the Balts, Ukrainians, Moldavians, Georgians, Uzbeks,
Armenians, and a dozen other major peoples by a combination of
economic controls, censorship and propaganda, police methods,
suppression of national cultures and churches, Russification, dispersal
of populations, and in the last resort, force—all justified by the myth
that Marxism transcended “bourgeois” nationalism and ensured
equality and prosperity to all. Glasnost, however, released the real
and abiding national sentiments of all the peoples under the Soviet
yoke, allowing them to organize and agitate, while the economic
breakdown gave the lie to Soviet promises. Finally, the discrediting of
Communism itself removed the last justification for the very existence

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of the empire. Gorbachev did not foresee how far his policy of limited
free expression would get out of hand, and by the time he did it was
too late. He then gave up trying to hold eastern Europe and
concentrated instead on trying to hold the U.S.S.R. together. It
remained to be seen whether he, or his successor, could achieve even
that.

Disengagement in the Third World
The three main arenas of Cold War competition had always been divided
Europe, strategic nuclear arms competition, and regional conflicts in the
Third World. By the end of 1990 the superpowers had seemingly pacified
the first arena, made substantial progress in the second, and at least
stated their intention of disengaging in the third. Ever since the 1950s,
when the U.S.S.R. first bid for allies and client states in Africa, Asia, and
Latin America, the superpowers had wrestled for influence through
programs of military and economic assistance, propaganda, and proxy
wars in which they backed opposing states or factions. When Gorbachev
came to power, the Soviets still possessed patron–client relationships
with North Korea, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Angola, Cuba, Nicaragua, and
Afghanistan and exercised considerable influence with Iraq, Syria, Yemen
(Aden), and the frontline states confronting white-ruled South Africa.
Moreover, the United States faced opposition to friendly regimes in the
Philippines, El Salvador, and, of course, Israel. The Soviet Union's
financial crisis increasingly limited its ability to underwrite client states,
however, while its troubles in eastern Europe and at home afforded the
United States the opportunity to resolve regional conflicts to its liking.
Thus, events in disparate theatres of the world in the last half of the
1980s added up to a certain disengagement and reduction of Cold
War-related tensions in the Third World.

The Philippines and Central America
In 1986 the corrupt autocrat of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, a
long-standing ally of the United States, lost his grip on power. Crowds
backed by leading elements in the Roman Catholic church, the press,
labour unions, and a portion of the army rose up to demand his
resignation. The Reagan administration, like previous U.S.
administrations, had tolerated Marcos in light of his determined
opposition to the Communist guerrilla movement in the Philippines and
his support for two major U.S. military bases on the island of Luzon. It
now had to decide, however, whether Marcos' continued rule might in
fact strengthen the appeal of anti-American leftists. In hopes of
avoiding “another Iran” (referring to President Carter's abandonment

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of the Shah, only to see him replaced by the Ayatollah), Reagan sent a
personal envoy to Manila to engineer Marcos' departure in favour of
free elections and the accession to power of Corazon Aquino, the
widow of a popular opposition leader who had been murdered. The
United States had evidently managed to remove an embarrassing
dictator without doing serious harm to its strategic position in East
Asia.

Closer to home, the United States continued to face not only the
aggressively hostile Sandinista regime in Nicaragua and the leftist
rebellion in El Salvador (backed, the White House said, by Nicaragua,
Cuba, and the Soviet Union) but also a growing rift with the
Panamanian dictator General Manuel Noriega. For decades Noriega had
collaborated with U.S. intelligence agencies, serving as an informant
on events in Cuba and a supporter of the Contras in Central America. It
came to light, however, that in addition to grabbing all power in
Panama he had amassed a personal fortune by smuggling illegal drugs
into the United States, and in 1988 a U.S. grand jury indicted Noriega
on drug-trafficking charges. The Reagan administration offered to drop
the charges if Noriega would agree to step down and leave Panama,
but he refused.
In May 1989, Panama staged elections monitored by an international
team that included former U.S. President Carter. Although the
opposition civilian candidate, Guillermo Endara, appeared to win by a
3-to-1 margin, Noriega annulled the vote, declared his own puppet
candidate the victor, and had Endara and other opponents beaten in
the streets. President Bush dispatched 2,000 additional soldiers to U.S.
bases in the Panama Canal Zone, and the Organization of American
States (OAS) called for a “peaceful transfer of power” to an elected
government in Panama. In December 1989, Noriega bade the
Panamanian National Assembly to name him “maximum leader” and
declare a virtual “state of war” with the United States. Within days a
U.S. soldier was ambushed and killed in Panama, an incident followed
by the shooting of a Panamanian soldier by U.S. military guards.
President Bush now considered that he had a pretext to act. A
Panamanian judge taking refuge in the Canal Zone swore in Endara as
president, and 24,000 U.S. troops (including 11,000 airlifted from the
United States) seized control of Panama City. Noriega eluded the
invaders for four days, then took refuge with the papal nuncio. On
January 3, 1990, he surrendered himself to U.S. custody and was
transported to Miami to stand trial. The OAS voted 20 to 1 to condemn
what seemed to many Latin Americans an unwarranted “Yanqui”
intervention.
The U.S. conflict with the Nicaraguan revolutionary regime of Daniel

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Ortega also reached a climax in 1989. On February 14 five Central
American presidents, inspired by the earlier initiatives of the Costa
Rican president and Nobel Peace laureate Óscar Arias Sánchez, agreed
to plans for a cease-fire in the entire region, the closing of Contra
bases in Honduras, and monitored elections in Nicaragua to be held no
later than February 1990. In April Nicaragua's National Assembly
approved the plan and passed laws relaxing the Sandinistas'
prohibitions of free speech and opposition political parties. Because
the Sandinistas' prospects for continued, large-scale aid from Cuba and
the U.S.S.R. were slim in light of the Soviet “new thinking,” Ortega
concluded that he must, after all, risk the fully free elections he had
avoided ever since his takeover 10 years before. The five Central
American presidents announced in August their schedule for the
demobilization of the Contras, and in October the U.S. Congress
acceded to Bush's request for nonmilitary aid to the Nicaraguan
opposition.

The elections were held on February 25, 1990, and, to the surprise of
almost everyone on both sides of the struggle, the Nicaraguan people
favoured National Opposition Union leader Violeta Barrios de Chamorro
by 55 to 40 percent. Ortega acknowledged his defeat and pledged to
“respect and obey the popular mandate.” The United States
immediately suspended the aid to the Contras, lifted the economic
sanctions against Nicaragua, and proposed to advance economic
assistance to the new regime.

Afghanistan
The resolution of regional conflicts at the end of the 1980s extended
to Asia as well. In Afghanistan the Soviet Union had committed some
115,000 troops in support of the KGB-installed regime of President
Mohammad Najibullah but had failed to eliminate the resistance of the
mujahideen. The war became a costly drain on the Soviet budget and
a blow to Soviet military prestige. In the atmosphere of glasnost even
an antiwar movement of sorts arose in the Soviet Union. A turning
point came in mid-1986, when the United States began to supply the
Afghan rebels with surface-to-air Stinger missiles, which forced Soviet
aircraft and helicopters to suspend their low-level raids on rebel
villages and strongholds. In January 1987 Najibullah announced a
cease-fire, but the rebels refused his terms and the war continued.
In February 1988 Gorbachev conceded the need to extract Soviet
forces from the stalemated conflict. In April, Afghan, Pakistani, and
Soviet representatives in Geneva agreed to a disengagement plan
based on Soviet withdrawal by February 1989 and noninvolvement in
each other's internal affairs. The Soviets completed the evacuation on

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schedule but continued to supply the Kabul regime with large
quantities of arms and supplies. The regime abandoned its strategy of
seeking out the mujahideen and instead pulled back into strong
defensive bastions in the fertile valleys, maintaining control of roads
and cities. The rebels lacked the tanks and artillery to launch major
offensive operations, and internal feuds among the rebel leaders also
inhibited their operations. Thus, the predictions of Western journalists
that Kabul would soon fall were proved wrong; the Soviets' client state
in Afghanistan survived into the 1990s.

The Middle East
The war between Iraq and Iran, which began in 1980, also reached a
conclusion. The war had been conducted with the utmost ferocity on
both sides. The Iraqi leader, Hussein, employed every weapon in his
arsenal, including Soviet Scud missiles and poison gas purchased from
West Germany, and the Iranian regime of Ayatollah Khomeini ordered
its Revolutionary Guards to make human-wave assaults against
fortified Iraqi positions. Total casualties in the conflict numbered in
the hundreds of thousands. The Soviets and Americans remained aloof
from the conflict but tilted toward Iraq. The primary Western (and
Japanese) interests were to preserve a balance of power in the Persian
Gulf and to maintain the free flow of oil from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia,
and the emirates. In May 1987, after two Iraqi missiles struck a U.S.
naval vessel in the gulf, the United States announced an agreement
with Kuwait to reflag 11 Kuwaiti tankers and assign the U.S. Navy to
escort them through the dangerous waters. Western European states
and the U.S.S.R. deployed minesweepers.

The Iran–Iraq War entered its final phases in February 1988, when
Hussein ordered the bombing of an oil refinery near Tehrān. The
Iranians retaliated by launching missiles into Baghdad, and this “war of
the cities” continued for months. In March, with the front stalemated
along the Shaṭṭ al-ʿArab waterway, dissident Kurdish populations in the
north of Iraq took advantage of the war to agitate for autonomy.
Hussein struck back at the Kurds in genocidal fashion, bombing their
villages with chemical weapons and poison gas. In May 1988 Iraq
launched a massive surprise attack that drove the Iranians out of the
small wedge of Iraqi territory they had occupied 16 months earlier,
and after eight years of warfare the two sides were back where they
started. Although Khomeini called the decision “more deadly than
taking poison,” he instructed his government to accept UN Resolution
598 calling for an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal to prewar
boundaries. Iraq refused, and Hussein ordered a final air and ground
offensive with extensive use of poison gas. The Iraqis advanced 40

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miles into Iran. UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar
persevered in talks with the foreign ministers of the belligerents and
announced finally that the two sides had agreed to a cease-fire
beginning August 20, 1988.

To outsiders, Khomeini's militant Shīʿite regime in Tehrān appeared to
be the most extreme, irrational, and dangerous government in the
region. In fact, it was the secular revolutionary tyranny of Hussein that
had begun the war and harboured the aggressive aims of seizing the
mouth of the Tigris-Euphrates river system and establishing Iraq as the
hegemonic power in the Persian Gulf. Iraq had assumed the strategic
offensive, escalated the war, and initiated the use of weapons of
indiscriminate mass destruction imported from Western and
Soviet-bloc states alike.
In all these regions of the world long-standing conflicts either
dissipated or lost their Cold War significance in the years 1986–90. One
conflict, however, always remained volatile—and perhaps even more
so for the retreat of the superpowers and their stabilizing influence:
the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Throughout his years
as U.S. secretary of state, George Schultz had tried to promote the
peace process in the Middle East by brokering direct negotiations
between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Such talks
would require the PLO to renounce terrorism and recognize Israel's
right to exist, but the PLO (which the Israeli ambassador Abba Eban
said “never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity”) refused to
make the requisite concessions.
In December 1987, Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip killed an Arab
youth engaged in a protest. Widespread unrest broke out in the
Israeli-occupied territories, leading to 21 deaths in two weeks. This
was the start of the intifada (“shaking”), a wave of Palestinian
protests and Israeli reprisals that lent new urgency to Middle East
diplomacy. Israeli military rule of the West Bank then hardened, and
the Fatah faction of the PLO stepped up its terrorism from bases in
Lebanon.

A first apparent breakthrough for U.S. policy occurred in November
1988, when the Palestine National Council, meeting in Algiers, voted
overwhelmingly to accept UN Resolutions 242 and 338, calling for Israel
to evacuate the occupied territories and for all countries in the region
“to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.” Did this
imply PLO recognition of Israel's right to exist? At first the PLO
chairman, Yāsir ʿArafāt, refused to say, whereupon the United States
denied him a visa to make a trip to the UN. He did in fact speak to a
reconvened UN in Geneva but again failed to be explicit about PLO
policy. The next day, in a news conference, ʿArafāt finally recognized

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Israel's right to exist, and he renounced terrorism as well. Schultz
immediately announced that the United States would conduct “open
dialogue” with the PLO. The Israelis, then in the midst of a cabinet
crisis, were unable to respond decisively.

In March the new Israeli foreign minister, Moshe Arens, visited
Washington, by which time the new Bush administration was also ready
to make its first foray into the Arab–Israeli thicket with a plan for
liberalized Israeli rule on the West Bank in return for PLO action to
moderate the intifada and suspend raids on Israel from Lebanon. The
Israelis had a plan of their own based on elections in the occupied
territories, but without PLO participation or international observation.
The Arab League endorsed the idea for a peace conference and held
that Palestinian elections on the West Bank could occur only after an
Israeli withdrawal. The Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, retorted
that elections could occur only after the intifada had ended, insisted
on continuing Israeli settlement on the West Bank, and denied the
possibility of ever creating a Palestinian state. The deadlock in the
Middle East was thus as intractable as ever.

In fact, the situation had hardened in the late 1980s for a variety of
reasons. First, the Arabs themselves were seriously divided. Egypt, the
most populous Arab state, had no desire to disturb its peace with Israel
dating from the Camp David Accords. Saudi Arabia and the other
wealthy oil states were preoccupied with the Persian Gulf crisis and
nervous about the presence in their countries of thousands of
Palestinian guest workers. Syria's president, Ḥafiz al-Assad, a bitter
rival of Saddam Hussein, was busy absorbing a large chunk of Lebanon.
King Hussein of Jordan was caught between Syria and Iraq, a prisoner
of his large Palestinian refugee population, and yet in no condition to
challenge Israel militarily. Meanwhile, the liberalization of emigration
policy in the U.S.S.R. and the pervasive anti-Semitism there led to the
influx of tens of thousands of Soviet Jews, whom the Israelis began to
settle on the West Bank. Finally, the fading of the Cold War did little
to enhance the ability of the superpowers to impose or broker a
settlement in the region. Gorbachev hoped to improve relations with
Israel while maintaining the Soviets' traditional ties to the radical Arab
states and at the same time doing nothing to damage his détente with
the United States. The Americans wanted to maintain their alliance
with Israel but could not afford to alienate—or compromise—the
moderate Arab governments so important to the stability of the
oil-rich gulf.

The first post-Cold War crisis: war in the Persian Gulf
For nearly two years after the UN-brokered cease-fire in the Persian Gulf,

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the governments of Iraq and Iran failed to initiate conversations toward a
permanent peace treaty. Suddenly, in July 1990, the foreign ministers of
the two states met in Geneva full of optimism about the prospects for
peace. Why Saddam Hussein now seemed willing to liquidate his
decade-long conflict with Iran and even give back the remaining land
occupied at such cost by his armies began to become clear two weeks
later, when he stunned the Arab world with a vitriolic speech in which he
accused his small neighbour Kuwait of siphoning off crude oil from the
Ar-Rumaylah oil fields straddling their border. He also accused the
Persian Gulf states of conspiring to hold down oil prices, thereby
damaging the interests of war-torn Iraq and catering to the wishes of the
Western powers. The Iraqi foreign minister insisted that Kuwait, Saudi
Arabia, and the gulf emirates make partial compensation for these
alleged “crimes” by cancelling $30,000,000,000 of Iraq's foreign debt;
meanwhile, 100,000 of Iraq's best troops concentrated on the Kuwaiti
border. In sum, a frustrated Hussein had turned his sights from giant Iran
to the wealthy but vulnerable Arab kingdoms to the south.
Iraq's brash and provocative demands alarmed the Arab states. President
Hosnī Mubārak of Egypt initiated negotiations between Iraq and Kuwait in
Saudi Arabia, hoping to pacify the situation without the intervention of
the United States and other outside powers. Hussein, too, expected no
interference from outside the region, but he made only the poorest show
of accepting mediation. He broke off negotiations after just two hours
and the next day, August 2, ordered his army to occupy Kuwait.

Hussein had risen to the position of leader of the Baʾth socialist party and
military dictator of Iraq in a postcolonial environment of intrigue,
paranoia, and genuine political threats. Iraq, situated in the Fertile
Crescent of the ancient Babylonian emperors, was a populous and
wealthy country torn by ethnic and religious divisions. Iraq's boundaries,
like those of all other states in the region, had been drawn up by British
and French colonialists and either were arbitrary or conformed to their
own interests rather than to the ethnic and economic needs of the
region. In fact, the trackless deserts of the Middle East had never known
stable national states, and Kuwait in particular struck Iraqis as an
artificial state carved out of Iraq's “natural” coastline—perhaps for the
very purpose of preventing the Persian Gulf's oil fields from falling under
a single strong Arab state. In addition to coveting Kuwait's wealth,
Hussein hated its monarchical regime even as he accepted its billions in
aid to support his own military establishment and war with Iran. Hussein
rationalized his hatred for the gulf monarchies, the Iranian Shīʾites, and
the Israelis in Arab nationalist terms. A disciple of Egypt's Nasser, he saw
himself as the revolutionary and military genius who would someday unify
the Arabs and enable them to defy the West.
Hussein made the first in a series of fatal miscalculations, however, when

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he judged that his fellow Arabs would tolerate his seizure and
despoliation of Kuwait rather than call upon outsiders for help. Instead,
the government of Kuwait, now in exile, and the fearful King Fahd of
Saudi Arabia looked at once to Washington and the United Nations for
support. President Bush condemned Hussein's act, as did the British and
Soviet governments, and the UN Security Council immediately demanded
that Iraq withdraw. Bush echoed the Carter Doctrine by declaring that
the integrity of Saudi Arabia, now exposed to Iraqi invasion, was a vital
American interest, and two-thirds of the 21 member states of the Arab
League likewise condemned Iraq's aggression. Within days the United
States, the European Community, the Soviet Union, and Japan all
imposed an embargo on Iraq, and the Security Council voted strict
economic sanctions on Iraq (with Cuba and Yemen abstaining).

The same day King Fahd requested American military protection for his
country. President Bush at once declared Operation Desert Shield and
deployed the first of 200,000 American troops to the northern deserts of
Saudi Arabia, augmented by British, French, and Saudi units and backed
by naval and air forces. It was the largest American overseas operation
since the Vietnam War, but its stated purpose was not to liberate Kuwait
but to deter Iraq from attacking Saudi Arabia and seizing control of
one-third of the world's oil reserves. In President Bush's words, the Allies
had drawn a line in the sand.

Hussein was not impressed. On August 8 he formally annexed Kuwait,
referring to it as Iraq's “19th province,” an act the UN Security Council
immediately condemned. Egypt offered to contribute troops to the Allied
coalition, followed by 12 of the Arab League's member states. Hussein
responded by condemning those states as traitorous and proclaiming a
jihad, or holy war, against the coalition—despite the fact that he and his
government had never upheld the Muslim cause in the past. He tried to
break the Arab alliance with the Western powers by offering to evacuate
Kuwait in return for Israeli withdrawal from its occupied
territories—despite the fact that he had never upheld the Palestinian
cause either. When his efforts failed to weaken the coalition's resolve,
Hussein detained as hostages all foreigners caught in Kuwait and Iraq and
moved to conclude permanent peace with Iran, thereby freeing his
half-million-man army for battle.

Thus began the first post-Cold War world crisis. It can be described as
such not only because it occurred after the collapse of the Iron Curtain in
Europe and the dramatic moves toward East–West détente but also
because of the characteristics of the crisis itself. The stakes in the Iraqi
invasion of Kuwait did not place Soviet and Western interests in direct
conflict. Rather than falling into competition over how to handle the
crisis, the United States and Soviet Union appeared in full agreement as
the votes at the UN indicated. To be sure, a cutoff of oil exports from the

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Middle East would harm the Western states and perhaps even help the
U.S.S.R. as the world's largest oil producer, but Gorbachev was counting
on large-scale economic aid from the West. If he opposed President
Bush's efforts to deal with the crisis, both the economic damage done to
the West and the political hostility his opposition would arouse might end
Gorbachev's hopes for economic assistance. Bush, in turn, openly
described the Persian Gulf crisis as a test case for the “new world order”
he hoped to inaugurate in the wake of the Cold War: a test of the United
Nations as a genuine force for peace and justice, and thus of
Soviet–Western cooperation.

UN coalition and ultimatum
Bush demonstrated extraordinary energy and deftness in building and
maintaining the UN coalition against Iraq. His preferred medium of
diplomacy was the telephone, and he kept in constant touch with the
leaders of Britain, France, Germany, the Soviet Union, Japan, Egypt,
Saudi Arabia, and all other states represented either in the UN
Security Council or in Operation Desert Shield. In some cases he
doubtless had to make concessions on other diplomatic issues to win
full support or, in the case of the Chinese, abstention, but he
succeeded in presenting Hussein with a united front. Only the
vulnerable neighbouring kingdom of Jordan, along with Algeria, Sudan,
Tunisia, Yemen, and the PLO, openly sided with Iraq. Finally, this was
clearly a post-Cold War crisis inasmuch as a large portion of the
American contingent in Saudi Arabia was transferred there from bases
in Germany, a clear indication that the United States no longer
considered the Red Army a clear and present danger in Europe.

As the crisis deepened, American observers applauded Bush for his skill
in building the coalition, but critics also began to question his
strategy. Would economic sanctions suffice to pry the Iraqis out of
Kuwait? If so, would the coalition hold together long enough for that to
occur, or would military threats be necessary to convince Hussein that
he must retreat? Would Bush's insistence on working through the UN
backfire? It seemed unlikely that all the world could be brought to
endorse so bold and controversial an action. Not since the Korean War
had the UN authorized offensive military action, and then only
because the Soviets were boycotting the Security Council. However, by
working gradually and calmly and in constant consultation with the
Allies, Bush succeeded in convincing the Security Council to give him
the authorizations he requested. On August 25 it voted to permit Allied
ships in the Persian Gulf to use force to enforce the embargo against
Iraq. On September 9, Bush and Gorbachev met in Helsinki and issued
a joint declaration calling for Iraq to withdraw unconditionally from

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Kuwait.

Despite these demonstrations of unanimity, Hussein was not convinced
that Bush could back up his promise that “the annexation of Kuwait
will not stand.” In early September he began releasing foreign
nationals being detained in Kuwait, thereby eliminating the fears in
many countries of a prolonged hostage crisis. Whatever his motive,
this first act of leniency on Hussein's part raised hopes that a
diplomatic solution might still be found. The months from October
1990 to January 1991, therefore, brought numerous and hectic efforts
by the French and Soviet governments to initiate negotiations and to
head off an outbreak of hostilities.
In October, after an emissary had flown to Baghdad to urge Hussein to
withdraw, the Soviets announced that Iraq would be willing to
negotiate if it could be assured that it could keep the Ar-Rumaylah oil
fields and two strategic islands offshore. The United States, however,
stood by the UN resolution calling for immediate and unconditional
withdrawal lest Hussein seem to be rewarded in any way for his
aggression. Instead, Bush succeeded in getting the Security Council to
stiffen its requirements with a resolution holding Iraq liable for
reparations for all damage caused in Kuwait by its invasion and
occupation. Then, on November 8, Bush announced that he was
doubling the size of the Desert Shield forces from 200,000 to more
than 400,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, so that Allied
forces would, if necessary, have “an adequate offensive military
option.” Hussein countered by reinforcing his own army of occupation
to the level of 680,000 men.

What was U.S. policy at this time? Most observers believed that Bush
would not or could not go to war on behalf of Kuwait and would sooner
or later employ the multiple UN resolutions as bargaining
chips—sacrificing some in return for an Iraqi withdrawal. Even the new
military buildup did not imply an imminent war, since it could be
justified by the argument that Hussein would not negotiate seriously
unless faced with a threat of force. No sign of compromise emanated
from the White House, however. Instead, Bush and his advisers
repeated their insistence that Iraq comply with the UN resolutions
unconditionally. Moreover, Middle East analysts and intelligence
agencies began to question whether a mere Iraqi withdrawal from
Kuwait would suffice to pacify the region. After all, Hussein had
proved twice that he considered aggressive war an acceptable tool of
policy. He had built up a huge army and spent 10 years' worth of oil
revenues on the most sophisticated weapons he could obtain, including
chemical and biological agents and nuclear weapons facilities that
were within a year or two of producing warheads. In other words, to
oblige the Iraqis simply to withdraw from Kuwait would not prevent

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them from attacking there, or elsewhere, at some future time of their
choosing. Genuine security in the gulf region would seem to require
the destruction of the offensive capability of the Iraqi army and
preferably the removal of Hussein himself. Such goals, however, could
be achieved only through war, not by any sort of diplomatic
compromise. On November 29, contrary to all expectations, Bush and
the United States received authorization from the Security Council to
use all means necessary in the gulf if Iraq failed to comply with all UN
resolutions by January 15, 1991.

To bow to this ultimatum would be humiliating for Hussein, an
admission of the bankruptcy of his policy and of his impotence to resist
the coalition. To some observers it seemed that Bush was unwilling to
leave Iraq the sort of opening that might avert a war. Bush argued that
it was not his responsibility to provide Hussein with a way out and that
he would not permit Hussein to appear, in the eyes of the Arab
masses, as a hero who had stood up to the American imperialists.
Saddam Hussein refused to respond constructively to French and Soviet
overtures, remained defiant, and escalated his rhetoric. Meanwhile,
his occupation force looted Kuwait city and dug an elaborate defensive
line along the Kuwaiti–Saudi border.
President Bush's refusal to compromise seemed to contradict his stated
readiness to talk. While he had shown great determination and skill in
building the coalition, Bush had failed to communicate clearly the
purpose of this vast military exercise. At one point, while the
President was emphasizing that the conflict was about resisting
aggression and defending the sovereign rights of nations and while
protesters were chanting “no blood for oil,” Secretary Baker said that
the conflict was in fact about jobs. He meant that a cutoff in oil
exports might so damage the world economy as to spark a great
depression, but it came out sounding as if the administration did not
know what it was proposing to fight for.
In the final months of 1990 a strange alliance sprang up in opposition
to Bush's policy, consisting of liberals and peace activists on the one
hand and neo-isolationist conservatives on the other. After a sober
January debate, the Senate finally voted 52–47, and the House
250–183, to authorize the President to use force. Given this mood in
the Congress, Iraq probably could have tied Bush's hands just by
making a conciliatory gesture of some kind. Instead, Hussein played
into Bush's hands.

Hussein had called what he thought was an American bluff by allowing
the January 15 UN deadline to come and go. Instead, just a day later,
Bush announced that Operation Desert Shield had become Operation
Desert Storm and that the liberation of Kuwait had begun. He was not

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starting a war—the war, he reminded the world, had been started by
Iraq the previous August—but he was launching the counterattack to
drive back the aggressor. Hundreds of U.S. bombers, augmented by
French, British, Saudi, and Kuwaiti planes and U.S. Navy cruise
missiles, dropped precision-guided bombs on military targets in Iraq
and Kuwait. It was the start of the most intense campaign of strategic
bombing in history, aimed in the first weeks at Iraqi command and
control centres, nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons plants,
conventional weapons facilities, electrical utilities, bridges and dams,
and all manner of military and government installations. From the first
it was evident that Iraq was unable to mount meaningful resistance. Its
radar and air defense network was destroyed, and most of its
warplanes fled to airfields in neutral Iran to escape destruction.
Hussein's reaction to the outbreak of war was to strike back with
words, threats, terror weapons, and ploys to break the unity and
resolve of the UN coalition. He decreed a holy war against the United
States, called on all Muslims to unite against the Satanic enemy, and
warned that in this “mother of all battles” the Americans would drown
in “pools of their own blood.” He made good on his prewar pledge to
attack neutral Israel, firing 39 Soviet-made Scud surface-to-surface
missiles at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Most fell harmlessly, none
contained the poison gas warheads Hussein had threatened to use, and
after the first days many were destroyed in flight by American Patriot
antimissile missiles. Furthermore, Hussein's purpose in launching the
Scuds at neutral Israel was not achieved. He had hoped to provoke an
Israeli counterstrike and thereby detach the Syrians and Egyptians
from the enemy coalition. The Israelis were understandably furious at
the unprovoked attacks against defenseless civilian targets but
understood Bush's appeals to them not to respond. The Arab-Western
coalition hung together.

Hussein tried every technique at his disposal to discredit the Allied
operation. He opened Kuwaiti oil pipelines into the sea and created a
huge oil slick in hopes of clogging Saudi freshwater plants and shocking
American opinion with the extent of the environmental consequences
of the war. He mistreated Allied airmen taken prisoner and televised
trumped-up propaganda reports alleging that the Allies were purposely
bombing civilian targets. All this only proved to Western populations,
however, that he was indeed a madman, and it steeled their will to
see him defeated. The only way left for Hussein to win the war was to
entrap the Americans in a close-fought ground war and to inflict so
many casualties that American public opinion would turn against the
President.

Soviet unrest at home and diplomacy abroad
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While the world's attention remained tuned to the war in the Persian
Gulf, important changes occurred in the U.S.S.R. Gorbachev faced
increasing, and increasingly bold, internal opposition from all sides.
His economic reforms had failed utterly, and the Soviet GNP continued
to fall through the years 1989–90. Shortages grew worse, and even the
old Soviet command structure broke down as the constituent
republics, one by one, set up their own economic systems and voted to
subordinate the laws of the Soviet Union to local laws. Boris Yeltsin,
the Russian leader, resigned from the Communist party and became
the acknowledged leader of democratic forces throughout the U.S.S.R.
Separatism spread among the republics, with the Baltic states taking
the lead in hopes of winning complete independence. At the same
time, hard-liners in the KGB, the army, and the Communist party
gradually regrouped after the buffetings of previous years and
criticized Gorbachev for being too soft on dissent. The middle ground
of moderate reformism was disappearing from beneath Gorbachev's
feet. Late in 1990 he began to issue sterner warnings to Yeltsin to
cease and desist, and he insisted that the Baltics and other republics
submit to his newly drafted union treaty regulating the relationship
between them and the Soviet central government. He also won still
greater emergency powers for himself as president from the Congress
of People's Deputies.
Westerners were awakened to the likelihood of a crackdown in the
U.S.S.R. in December 1990, when Shevardnadze, Gorbachev's reformist
friend and a main architect of détente with the West, suddenly
resigned as foreign minister and warned of imminent dictatorship in
the U.S.S.R. Indeed, no sooner had the Western powers opened the
war against Iraq in January 1991 than Soviet security forces entered
Vilnius and forcibly evicted Lithuanian patriots from public buildings,
at the cost of several lives. Just as in Hungary in 1956, when the
Western powers were distracted by the Suez crisis, and in
Czechoslovakia in 1968, when the United States was bogged down in
Vietnam, the Kremlin took advantage of the Persian Gulf War to order
a crackdown on challenges to its empire.

Gorbachev suddenly distanced himself from the UN coalition and began
playing a separate game. He would extend his good offices, he said, to
persuade Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait and thereby render a
ground war unnecessary. His motives might have included any of a
number of concerns: to end a war that had become a showcase for
high-tech American weapons and thus was magnifying American
prestige at the expense of the Soviets; to appease the U.S.S.R.'s own
Muslim populations in Central Asia (though they were Turkic peoples
and not necessarily in sympathy with Iraq); to reclaim the Soviets'
traditional role as friend of the radical Arab states and advocate for
the Palestinians; to save for the U.S.S.R. a seat at the peace

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conference even though it had contributed no forces and no money to
the Allied effort.

Gorbachev's gambit began on February 15, when Iraq announced its
“readiness to deal with” the demand that it evacuate Kuwait. Bush
denounced the announcement as a cruel hoax inasmuch as Hussein had
known for months the UN conditions and could at any time have
chosen to observe them. Gorbachev hailed the announcement,
however, and invited the Iraqi foreign minister to Moscow. The Soviet
plan called for a withdrawal from Kuwait, in return for which the
U.S.S.R. would see that Hussein was spared the terms of the other UN
resolutions, including punishment for war crimes and reparations to
Kuwait. Gorbachev also promised to work for a Middle East peace
conference after the war, thereby linking the Kuwaiti situation to the
Palestinian. The Soviets (and Iraqis) were betting that Western publics
would lose their stomach for a possibly bloody ground war once Iraq
had promised to fulfill their main goal—the liberation of Kuwait. If
they won their bet, Hussein would not only survive in power, but his
army would be largely intact and he could claim a victory of sorts for
having advanced the “Arab cause.” Bush consulted with the Allies and
then set a final deadline for unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from
Kuwait.
The Soviets and Iraqis then produced yet another plan under which
Iraq would withdraw. The linkage to the Palestinians was dropped this
time, but a number of other conditions remained that flew in the face
of Bush's demand for “unconditional withdrawal” from Kuwait. Bush's
deliberate policy of channelling all decisions through the UN now paid
off. The Soviets called an emergency session of the Security Council
and presented their plan as the best chance for peace, but the
member states refused to throw out their own resolutions. The
alliance held, the Soviet gambit failed, and Gorbachev himself then
backed off and expressed support for the UN effort.

The ground war
When the final deadline was passed on February 23, the carefully
planned UN ground offensive began at once. Saudi and Kuwaiti forces
moved up the coast of the Persian Gulf toward Kuwait city, and U.S.
Marines punched through the main Iraqi defenses on the southern
Kuwaiti border, while more Marines on board ship feinted at making an
amphibious landing to tie down Iraqi reserves. The main thrust came
far inland on the desert flank, where American and Anglo-French
armoured columns swept around the flank of the Iraqi army and turned
eastward through southern Iraq on a line toward Basra. The Iraqi units
in Kuwait were trapped in a pocket. The Republican Guards near the
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Iraqi–Kuwaiti border were engaged and destroyed by Allied tanks and
aircraft. Within three days Hussein's massive army ceased to exist;
100,000 Iraqis had surrendered and tens of thousands more were trying
to flee homeward. On February 27 the Allied forces had achieved all
their major objectives, and Bush announced a cease-fire to take effect
just 100 hours after the ground war had begun. Though Hussein still
refused to make the personal confession of failure that Bush desired,
the Iraqi government conceded defeat by announcing its willingness to
abide by all 12 UN resolutions.

In retrospect, the war was a product of grave miscalculations on both
sides. Throughout the 1980s U.S. policy had favoured Iraq in its war
against Iran and permitted the continued export of strategic materials
to Hussein despite repeated indications of his fanaticism and ambition.
Hussein's errors were even more egregious and deadly. In light of the
Vietnam War and the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979–80, he judged the
United States to be unwilling and unable to take up a serious challenge
in Asia, even one mounted by a Third World country. Having decided
to invade, he threw away his advantage of surprise by stopping in
Kuwait instead of sweeping down the gulf coast and conquering Saudi
Arabia and the emirates as well. He then waited five months, affording
the United States time to mobilize international support and send
military forces halfway around the world. Finally, he failed to extend
his heavily fortified defense lines westward along the Saudi–Iraqi
border.
The war in the Persian Gulf thus proved to be an American and UN
victory beyond the most sanguine hopes even of its military designers.
The Iraqi military suffered more than 100,000 casualties at a cost to
the Allies of some 340 killed; it was the most one-sided major
engagement in the history of modern warfare. Kuwait was freed,
albeit at the cost of terrible damage, since the Iraqis practiced a
scorched-earth policy that included setting ablaze hundreds of oil
wells. Above all, the UN had shown itself to be truly united and
possessed of the will to back up its resolutions with force. What the
Bush administration did not accomplish, however, was the overthrow
of Hussein himself. On the advice of General Colin Powell, chairman of
the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Bush decided not to press on to Baghdad
or to destroy all Iraq's Republican Guard units. Hussein proceeded to
crush challenges to his authority from the Kurds in northern Iraq and
Shīʿite dissidents in the south. In the first instance, Bush was
restrained by the interests of Turkey, which also contained a large
Kurdish minority. In the latter case, he was restrained by fear that
Iran's Shīʿite regime might try to expand its own reach at Iraq's
expense. U.S. forces did provide humanitarian relief to 1,000,000
Kurdish refugees and enforce no-fly zones to stop Iraqi attacks on
civilians, but American policy clearly meant to uphold Iraqi unity so as

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to preserve the regional balance of power. Bush probably expected
Hussein to be overthrown by the Iraqis themselves, but the dictator
suppressed a military coup on July 2, 1992, and was still in power long
after Bush himself was out of office.

The collapse of the Soviet Union
Meanwhile, Gorbachev's efforts to crack down on dissident Soviet ethnic
groups failed miserably. Within weeks of the January 1991 bloodshed in
Lithuania, hundreds of thousands of Muscovites defied the ban on public
demonstrations, six Soviet republics boycotted a referendum on
Gorbachev's new union plan, and Ukrainian coal miners went on strike.
When Yeltsin was elected president of the Russian republic with 60
percent of the vote on June 12, he clearly emerged as a more legitimate
apostle of reform. Western governments observed these challenges to
Soviet authority with a mixture of delight and dismay. American
conservatives urged the White House to support the republics' struggle for
freedom, but Bush insisted on caution. He had worked closely with
Gorbachev to end the Cold War peaceably and feared that his fall from
power would mean either the return of Communist hard-liners or the
crack-up of the U.S.S.R. into quarreling regions. Moreover, given his lack
of experience and reputation as a hard-drinking, impulsive populist,
Yeltsin seemed suspect. In what proved to be a final bid to help
Gorbachev, Bush flew to Moscow on July 29 to sign the START treaty for
reduction of nuclear arsenals, then delivered a speech, later mocked as
his “Chicken Kiev” speech, in which he warned the Ukrainian parliament
against “suicidal nationalism.”
Gorbachev's fate was sealed, however, on August 19 when a so-called
Emergency Committee of Soviet hard-liners removed him from office
while he was vacationing in Crimea and imposed martial law. The task of
resistance fell to Yeltsin, who branded the coup leaders as traitors,
barricaded himself inside the Russian parliament surrounded by his
supporters, and dared the military to attack their fellow citizens. After
one brief clash, the soldiers indeed wavered and the coup collapsed
within 48 hours. Gorbachev was returned to the office of Soviet president
but never regained real power, which had clearly passed to the
courageous Yeltsin. Moreover, the failed coup destroyed the last
remnants of fear or loyalty that had held the Soviet empire together.
Estonia and Latvia joined Lithuania by declaring independence, and this
time the United States immediately extended recognition. On August 24
Ukraine declared independence, Belorussia (Belarus) the next day, and
Moldavia (Moldova) on the 27th. The Russian parliament, in turn, granted
Yeltsin sweeping emergency powers to liberalize the economy and
suppress the Communist party. Even then Gorbachev tried to salvage
some sort of economic and security union, but he gave up on December 1

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when Ukrainian voters approved independence in a referendum. On the
8th Yeltsin and the newly elected presidents of Ukraine and Belarus
declared that the U.S.S.R. had ceased to exist and replaced it with the
loose Commonwealth of Independent States. The U.S. ambassador,
Robert Strauss, finally acknowledged that Gorbachev was “in decline”
and that henceforth Yeltsin's government “are the people with whom
we'll deal.” Gorbachev resigned on December 25, the hammer-and-sickle
flag was lowered from the Kremlin, and in its place rose the white, blue,
and red flag of Russia.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union completed the liquidation of the Cold
War by extinguishing Leninism in its homeland. Happily, the chaos feared
by the Bush administration did not erupt, but the emergence of 15
independent states from the wreckage posed a plethora of new problems.
All the states were in economic distress as they began to make the
transition from centrally planned to market economies. All contained
significant national minorities; none had secure, legitimate boundaries;
and Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan possessed sizable stocks of nuclear
weapons. Thus, the world might be less scary in the short run, but it did
not promise to be more stable.

The quest for a new world order, 1991–95
In the run-up to the Persian Gulf War, Bush had summoned the United
Nations to the task of building a new world order. He was seeking to place
the resistance to Iraqi aggression on a high moral plane but was also
responding to critics who accused him of lacking “vision.” In fact,
American opinion was sharply divided on how to take advantage of the
sudden, surprising victory in the Cold War. Neo-isolationists urged the
United States to pare back foreign commitments, neo-nationalists wanted
the country to look more to its own interests abroad, liberals hoped for a
“peace dividend” that could be applied to a domestic agenda ranging from
education to health care and crime, and all hoped to address the yawning
deficits in the U.S. budget and trade balance. Internationalists of both
parties, however, insisted that Americans would miss a historic opportunity
if they turned inward after the Cold War. Twice before in the 20th century
the United States had led the world to victories over tyranny only to see its
plans for a democratic world order frustrated. As the only nation with the
unique combination of military, economic, and ideological strengths
needed to lead, the United States now had a duty to “win the peace.”
Was bold leadership in fact all that was needed to fashion a secure and
free world order? Or must the post-Cold War international system, like all
previous ones, evolve according to the play of power and interest among
states? Would the end of the bipolar world eventuate in a unipolar one led
by the UN? Or would it fragment into a multipolar system, with new sorts

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and sources of threats, such as ethnic and regional violence, terrorism,
and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to second-level
states, some of them hostile to Western values?

Prospects for peace
The Middle East
At least two abiding conflicts did seem ripe for resolution in the wake
of the Cold War and the Persian Gulf War. In the Middle East mutually
reinforcing changes on the international, regional, and domestic fronts
breathed new life into the peace process. First, the American
commitment to gulf security raised U.S. prestige and influence
throughout the entire region. Second, Saudi Arabia and other wealthy
Arab governments cut financial support for the PLO. Third, the
foremost “rejectionist” Arab states like Syria and Iraq were
marginalized—the former because of the loss of its Soviet patron, the
latter by military defeat. Fourth, weary Palestinians and Israelis began
to look for an alternative to the ongoing strife of the intifada in the
disputed territories. Sensing the opportunity born of these changes,
Bush sent Secretary of State Baker to the Middle East twice in the
spring of 1991 in order to revive the peace process, then joined
Gorbachev on July 31 in calling for a Middle East peace conference.
Other hopeful signs included Jordan's tentative moves away from Iraq
and toward a more representative government at home and the
renewal of diplomatic relations with Israel by the U.S.S.R., China, and
India. In June 1992, the Labour Party, led by Yitzhak Rabin, defeated
the Likud in elections, bringing to power a more flexible Israeli
cabinet. Bush then extended $10,000,000,000 in American loan
guarantees to Israel, and Jerusalem in turn announced a moratorium
on new Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

Thanks to Bush's leadership, the conference that opened in Madrid on
October 30, 1991, spawned three diplomatic tracks: Israeli–Palestinian
discussions on an interim settlement; bilateral talks between Israel, on
the one hand, and Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, on the other; and
multilateral conferences designed to support the first two tracks.
Syria's President Assad signalled a new flexibility when he first used
the word “peace” in September 1992, and he later indicated that the
total return of the Golan Heights was no longer a precondition for
negotiations. A crucial breakthrough was made in May 1993 as Israel
began secret negotiations with the PLO that bore fruit in August
when—just as the delegates were gathering for the 11th multilateral
round of talks—the Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, made the
surprise announcement that an accord had been reached with the PLO.

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Secret talks held in Norway had resulted in a plan to establish
Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and in Jericho. As part of the
agreement ʿArafāt repudiated before the Israelis the long-standing
Palestinian denunciation of Israel's “right to exist.” The signing of a
Declaration of Principles based on UN Resolutions 242 and 338,
presided over by U.S. President Bill Clinton, followed on September
13. Speculation ensued as to whether ʿArafāt would survive to enforce
the accord against the will of terrorist groups like Ḥamās. Despite
continued violence, however, an implementation accord was reached
on May 4, 1994, that in turn allowed the consummation of peace
between Jordan and Israel on October 26. As the year ended, hopes
were high that Syria would also agree to terms. Several sticky points
remained between Jerusalem and Damascus, however, while the
Israelis and Americans discussed whether or not U.S. peacekeeping
forces should be deployed on the Golan Heights to monitor an
agreement.

South Africa
The end of the Cold War also promoted progress in the long-standing
South African conflict. To be sure, Western and Soviet-bloc states had
ritually condemned apartheid and imposed economic sanctions against
the white government. So long as South Africa could point to the
Communist backing received by the African National Congress (ANC)
and neighbouring states like Angola and Mozambique, however, it had
a certain leverage with which to resist black demands for majority
rule. It was the disappearance of the Communist threat and the
example of brave eastern Europeans throwing off their chains that
finally allowed President F.W. de Klerk to persuade even the ardent
Afrikaaners of his National Party to accept reform. So, too, did the
ANC, which affirmed its readiness, in January 1990, to engage the
South African government in peaceful negotiations. The following
month de Klerk released the ANC leader Nelson Mandela from prison.
Talks began on May 2, complicated by intramural violence among
competing black factions, especially the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom
Party (IFP) of the Zulu chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. De Klerk pressed
on, however, and in June 1991 Parliament repealed its requirement
that citizens be categorized by race. The following month Bush, citing
the progress made, lifted American sanctions against South Africa.
The final act began in December 1991 when de Klerk and Mandela sat
down to design an interim constitutional arrangement for the transfer
of power. Mandela insisted on “one man, one vote” at once, while
whites, fearing retribution from an all-black government, insisted on a
guaranteed voice in the new regime. The stalemate was broken in

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September at the expense of the IFP, which broke relations with
Pretoria. De Klerk and Mandela proceeded bilaterally, and on February
12, 1993, they arrived at a formula for a transitional “government of
national unity.” They eventually fixed the date for the first all-South
African free elections for April 1994. Ongoing factional violence in the
black townships threatened to derail the plan, but in the final weeks
the IFP agreed to permit its KwaZulu territory to participate. In the
voting on April 26 Mandela won a landslide victory, and he was
inaugurated as president on May 10. He called on all citizens “to heal
the wounds of the past,” respect “the fundamental rights of the
individual,” and construct “a new order based on justice for all.” As
the historic year closed, it appeared that inter- or intraracial
bloodbaths and confiscations would not occur and that South Africa
might truly be born anew.

Assertive multilateralism in theory and practice
George Bush's apparent triumphs in foreign policy failed to ensure his
reelection in 1992, however. Instead, Americans turned their attention to
domestic issues and seemed to hunger for change. Bush lost in a
three-way race to Bill Clinton, a self-styled “New Democrat” with little
experience or interest in world affairs. His campaign staff's reminder to
themselves—“It's the economy, stupid!”—epitomized their candidate's
desire to take advantage of the U.S. public's discontent over economic
issues. Like Woodrow Wilson, however, who had the same desire, Clinton
was harassed by overseas crises from the start.
Clinton's foreign policy team, led by Secretary of State Warren
Christopher and National Security Adviser Anthony Lake, included
veterans of the Carter administration, which had emphasized human
rights. They, in turn, were influenced by academic theories holding that
military power was now less important than economic power and that the
end of the Cold War would finally permit the United Nations to provide a
workable system of global collective security. Clinton symbolized this
neo-Wilsonian bent when he elevated UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright
to cabinet rank. She defined American policy as “assertive
multilateralism” and supported Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's
call for a more ambitious UN agenda.

Three tests
The crises awaiting Clinton quickly revealed the pitfalls on the road to
a new world order. The most abiding was the civil war in Bosnia and
Herzegovina, but the most immediate impact came in Somalia. That

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East African state had suffered a total breakdown of civil authority,
and hundreds of thousands of people were dying of famine as warlords
fought for control. During his last days in office Bush had approved
Operation Restore Hope for the dispatch to Somalia of some 28,000
American troops. He styled it a humanitarian exercise, and in
December 1992 Marines landed safely in Mogadishu, with the aim of
turning control of the operation over to the UN as soon as possible.
The Clinton administration, however, supported a UN resolution of
March 26, 1993, that expanded the mission to include “the
rehabilitation of the political institutions and economy of Somalia.”
Albright lauded this effort at state-building as “an unprecedented
enterprise aimed at nothing less than the restoration of an entire
country.”

Clinton officials articulated the principles of their new foreign policy
in a series of speeches. Lake explained on September 21, 1993, that
democracy and market economics were in the ascendant, so that, just
as the United States had previously laboured to contain communism, it
should now work for “enlargement” of the community of free nations.
Albright outlined the moral, financial, and political benefits of
multilateral action in regional disputes, and Clinton defined his goal as
nothing less than “to expand the reach of democracy and economic
progress across the whole of Europe and to the far reaches of the
world.” Within three weeks of Lake's speech this bold agenda began to
unravel. On October 3–4, more than 75 U.S. Army Rangers were
wounded in an effort to capture the renegade Somali warlord General
Maxamed Farax Caydiid (Muḥammad Farah Aydid), and two American
corpses were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu before
television cameras. American opinion immediately turned against the
intervention, especially when it was revealed that the troops were
fighting under UN commanders and had been denied heavy weapons by
Secretary of Defense Les Aspin. Clinton was obliged to announce a
deadline of March 31, 1994, for evacuation of the troops, which in turn
meant abandoning the state-building mission.

Just a week later, the enlargement agenda received another public
relations blow when a mob of armed Haitians at Port-au-Prince forced
the withdrawal of American and Canadian troops sent to prepare the
return of the ousted president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. That dispute
dated from September 30, 1991, when a military coup led by Brigadier
General Raoul Cédras had exiled Aristide and imposed martial law. The
United States imposed economic sanctions but was preoccupied for the
rest of Bush's term with the question of what to do with the thousands
of Haitian boat people fleeing the country for American shores. Clinton
embraced Aristide despite his communist sympathies and record of
political violence and brokered the Governors Island accord of July
1993, in which Cédras agreed to reinstate Aristide in return for

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amnesty and the lifting of sanctions. Aristide refused to return,
however, until the generals had left Haiti, while Cédras stepped up
violence against Aristide's supporters. It was then that a U.S. ship
attempted to intervene, only to be turned back at the dock.

The embarrassments in Somalia and Haiti and the indecision on Bosnia
and Herzegovina, combined with military budget cuts exceeding those
planned by Bush, provoked charges that the Clinton administration had
no foreign policy at all, or an exceedingly ambitious one run from the
UN and beyond the capabilities of the U.S. armed forces. To stem the
criticism, Clinton issued a presidential directive that outlined precise
rules for future deployments abroad. They included the stipulations
that a given crisis be susceptible to a military solution with a clearly
defined goal, that sufficient force be employed, that a clear end point
be identifiable, and that U.S. forces go into combat only under U.S.
command. Trimming their sails, Lake and Albright said that the
administration would henceforth take multilateral or unilateral action
on a case-by-case basis. Dubbed “deliberative multilateralism,” it
seemed another example of reactive ad hoc policy making.

A final crisis inherited by Clinton was sparked by the North Korean
dictator Kim Il-Sung's apparent intention to build nuclear bombs and
the missiles needed to deliver them. One of the few remaining
hard-line Communist regimes, North Korea had agreed to sign the
Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1985 as the price for
receiving Soviet technical aid for its civilian nuclear program. When
communism collapsed in Europe, the North Koreans also gave signs of
wanting to shed their pariah status. In December 1991 they joined
South Korea in a pledge to make the peninsula nuclear-free (thereby
obliging the United States to withdraw its own nuclear warheads from
the South). By the end of Bush's term, however, evidence had come to
light that the North Koreans were cheating, first, by diverting enriched
uranium to military research and, second, by inhibiting inspections.
They threatened repeatedly to suspend adherence to the NPT.
Western experts pondered what Kim was up to. Did he mean to go
nuclear, perhaps as a last-ditch demonstration to prevent the collapse
of his regime? Did he intend to sell bombs and missiles abroad to boost
his failing economy? Or did he intend to use his nuclear potential as a
bargaining chip in exchange for foreign economic aid? The situation
posed a terrible dilemma for the Clinton administration, which had
made nonproliferation a top priority. Sooner or later the United States
would have to threaten the use of force, either because Kim refused
to allow inspections or because inspections revealed that North Korea
was in fact building bombs. A threat of force, however, might provoke
the mysterious regime in P'yŏngyang into unleashing nuclear or
conventional attacks on its neighbours. South Korea and Japan urged

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caution, while China, North Korea's only possible ally in the dispute,
refused to say whether or not it would support sanctions or help to
resolve the dispute. The United States alternated between brandishing
carrots and sticks, to which North Korea replied with a bewildering mix
of signals that culminated in a June 1994 threat to unleash war against
the South.
At the moment of greatest tension, when Clinton was engaging in a
military buildup in East Asia and lobbying the UN for sanctions, he
suddenly seemed to lose control of policy altogether. On June 15,
former President Carter travelled to P'yŏngyang and engaged Kim in
negotiations that resulted, four days later, in a tentative agreement.
North Korea would gradually submit to international inspections in
return for a basket of benefits. At times Clinton seemed unaware of
Carter's activities and at one point even denied that the former
president's words reflected American policy. Negotiations were then
delayed by the death of Kim and the accession to power of his son Kim
Jong Il. On August 13, however, a nuclear framework acc