Europe between the Wars-Geopolitical effects of the Paris Treaties
The Second World War is some of the most seminal moments in history. Other than being the source of millions of deaths of both soldiers and civilians, the war was also a source of suffering never experienced before due to its effects and aftermath. While historians have blamed Hitler and other totalitarians and their expansionist strategies for the breakout of the war, other historical factors might have had an immense impact on how the war started. Some of these factors are the Paris War Treaties that followed the First World War. This essay is an analysis of the geopolitical effects of the various Paris Treaties and how they might have led to the Second World War.
Geo-Political Effects of the Paris Treaties
At the end of the First World War, the countries that had participated in the war concluded various treaties that aimed to solve the issues that had obtained to the war. The treaties were also meant to guarantee that another war in the scale of the First World War would not happen as well, as per French demands, punishing German for the war. There were several of the treaties: the Treaty of Versailles, June 28, 1919, which the Allies completed with German. The second was the Treaty of Saint Germaine, September 10, 1919, that the allies completed with Austria. Thirdly, there was the treaty of Treaty of Neuilly completed November 27, 1919, with Bulgaria. Fourth, the Treaty of Trianon completed on June 4, 1920, with Hungary and lastly, the Treaty of Sevres that completed peace terms on August 10, 1920, with Turkey. Most of the treaties had similar effects. In all the treaties, there was dissolution and cutting-up of countries that had existed for a long time such as Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Consequently, they all seemed to lead to the creation of new countries and the introduction of minorities in the new ones.
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles ended the state of war between the allies and the German state. One of the more important facts about the treaty is that it was signed exactly five years subsequent the murder of Ferdinand, the Austrian prince whose assassination had sparked the war. The treaty was controversial for several reasons. First, it forced German to accept the responsibility for starting the war and the damage the war caused in Treaty of Versailles Article 231. Secondly, it also forced the German state to disarm. Thirdly, the treaty also forced German to lose some territory to its neighbors including their eternal enemies the French and the Polish. Lastly, the treaty was instrumental in forcing German to pay reparations that it could scarcely afford which ruined Germans economy.
b. Geopolitical Effects and the Second World War
The treaty was responsible for disrupting the geopolitical arrangement in Europe and leading to the war. Graebner & Bennett explains that the disruption is apparent in the effect it had on boundaries in Western Europe. With the French, the only country among the Allies that had a border with the German, among of its aims was to weaken the German state as much as possible. France wanted to have a buffer, preferably a country, between it and German included in as a term in the Treaty, but could not get the British and the Americans to agree to an independent state in the Rhineland. However, according to Sharp the French obtained the demilitarization of the Rhineland and a mandate over the Saar regions installed in the Treaty. However, France regained the resource-rich Alsace-Lorraine region which the Prussians had led other Germans in winning from German. This loss of this territory by German was to prove a sticking point in the run-up to the war. The treaty also disallowed the joining of German and Austria. Moreover, the treaty also forced Austria to drop the name German-Austria for Austria only so as to suppress the historical and social links between the two countries. This created resentment in German and Austria as a majority of ethnic Germans in both states wanted to form a single state. The reunification of German-speaking areas was to be one of the reasons that Hitler would use to justify the starting of the Second World War.
The Treaty also awarded independence to Poland. Other than that, it also gave large previously German regions to the Polish, an example being the regions of Posen and West Prussia. The territorial transfer also included half of Silesia which had large German majority. Moreover, to exacerbate the issue, the land that Poland gained meant that West Prussia was to be separated from the rest of the German mainland. The strategically situated City of Danzig, previously under German control, was made a free city under the League of Nations. The land loses to Poland and especially the separation of West Prussia from the rest of the country was to be one of the chief reasons why the Germans invaded the Polish 1939 triggering the Second World War.
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The Treaty of St. Germaine
The treaty was concluded with Austria, which up to until this period had formed part of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary. The treaty had the effect of breaking up the Austria-Hungarian Empire, forming not only the independent states of Austria and Hungary but also a plethora of other states and the incorporation of some formally Austrian regions into other states in central Europe. The treaty led to the slashing of Dalmatia, Bosnia and Slovenia and their awarding to Yugoslavia, thus creating another potentially unstable multiethnic state in central Europe. Austria lost large swathes of territory to Italy, Poland, Romania, and Czechoslovakia. The treaty also explicitly denied Austria the chance to unite with Germans thus reiterating the Treaty of Versailles.
b. Geopolitical Effects
The geopolitical issues from the Treaty of St. Germaine were apparent almost immediately as the division of the Austro-Hungarian Empire bought several negative issues. Before the treaty, Austria-Hungarian Empire had stranded the entire region as a single political and economic unit. Its subdivision created several small and weak states which not enlarged instability to the area, but also served as an invitation for German to invade later as it is apparent in the case of Czechoslovakia. There was also economic uncertainty the region because the empires regions had been interdependent economically, which also pointed towards instability. It is doubtable if the treaty had maintained strong states Hitler could have had the audacity to occupy countries such as Czechoslovakia, out of the fear of having to fight on multiple fronts. This treaty also resulted in minorities in many countries. With the intense nationalist fever in the years between the first and the second world wars, this was bound to create instability in Southern and Central Europe thus creating conditions conducive to the war, which Hitler fully exploited.
Treaty of Trianon
Like the Treaty of St. Germaine, this treaty was also responsible for breaking up the Austria-Hungarian Empire. Via this treaty, the Allies forced Hungary to give up more than two-thirds of its territory to several other states such as Austria (Burgenland), Czechoslovakia (Slovakia and Ruthenia), Romania (Transylvania) and Yugoslavia (Slovenia and Croatia). Like the treaty of St Germaine, the Allies seemed intent on reducing the influence of Hungary in the region by isolating the country in between countries that leaned towards the allies. This was meant to ensure that the two major German allies in the region, Austria, and Hungary, were too small and had too little influence to assist German wage another war in future. Gulyas asserts that the dismemberment of the Hungarian territory that ethnic minorities occupied was to the ethnic minorities like Serbs and Croats a decolonization measure while the Hungarians treated it as a process of punitive dismemberment. The different perspective on the issue was to cause continuous tension in the region.
b. Geopolitical impact
The dismemberment of the county had a profound effect on the By slashing large parts of the former Hungarian state, the treaty left the country with no sea outlet, with less than thirty percent in land mass of the pre-war Hungary that had formed one-half of the Austria-Hungarian Empire, and a population of less than forty percent the prewar Hungary. Moreover the treaty also prescribed that the Hungarian ethnic minorities outside the country would cease being Hungarian citizens after a year. This might have created restive populations in neighboring countries. It was thus inevitable that the country would eye its former seaports to the south thus resulting in continuous tension in the region between Hungary and its neighbors. Such tension would prove to be conducive to the war as none of the states could develop strong army and institutions to counter a German advance. Moreover, Gulyas explains that the more than thirty percent of the ethnic Hungarians would be outside the new Hungarian state scattered across the various countries which the Hungarian state had lost land. Daruvar explains that the reaction to the treaty in Hungary was that the country had been humiliated, and was not far from the reaction of Germans to the Versailles Treaty in Germany with the Hungarians blaming the international community and the ethnic minorities for betrayal, although Articles 5460 of the Treaty of Trianon had guaranteed the rights of the minorities. Moreover, during the Second World War, there were accusations that these ethnic Hungarian minorities in the neighboring states would either act as the third column helping the advance of the Hungarians and Germans or did not actively resist such. The realization that such ethnic Hungarians would assist or fail to counter the advance of Germans and Hungarians might have encouraged them to advance into those areas resulting in a brief Hungarian occupation of most of the lands it had lost.
Treaty of Trianon, much like the Treaty of St. Germaine, created new, possibly weak states in central Europe. Nationalism and ethnic diversity of these states meant that there was inherent instability in the region, both politically and economically. The ethnic enmity in the region meant that when for instance, Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia, rather than a nationwide resistance, and there was a part of the population that was willing to assist the Nazis due to their hatred of the other groups. The instability of the region led to frequent skirmishes in the region which further weakened the already weak states. For instance, Jesensky explains that the Polish and Czechoslovaks were to go to war over the coal-rich Teschen area that also served as an important rail transport hub.
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The subdivision of Hungary led to country perceiving it important to wage war in future against its neighbors in a bid to reserve some of the territorial losses. Thus, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia formed a military alliance to counter the potential war from Hungary. Consequently, the central European nations were in a state of permanent tension and political and economic weakness that made the countries vulnerable and ensured that little trigger was needed for the countries to go to war. However, according to Chaszar as one might have predicted, the perceived injustices led to the irredentist claims by the Hungarians in the Munich Conference and Vienna Awards by as the Nazi German and Fascists Italy sought to enforce the claims of their ally in the region. The German invasion was to occur in the occupation of Czechoslovakia thus laying the foundation for the war.
The Treaty of Neuilly
a. Discussion of the Treaty
Bulgaria had also participated in the war on the side of the Central powers. To settle a peace deal with the Allies, Bulgaria signed the Treaty of Neuilly. The Allies crafted the treaty in such a way that the country was to experience significant territorial loss to Greece (Western Thrace) thus ensuring that the country would not have an outlet to the Aegean Sea. Bulgaria also lost territory to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, and also had to endure the transfer of Dobruja to the Romania. It was also required to reduce its army to less than 20,000 people thus minimizing its aggressive potential in future as well as pursuing reparations to the tune of one hundred sterling pounds. It was also required to recognize the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, even against its wishes and better judgment.
b. Geopolitical effects and the Second World War
In Bulgaria, there was a feeling there was a feeling that the Treaty had been a source of national shame with many perceiving it as a punishment by the Allies. Consequently, the Treaty came to be termed as the Second National Catastrophe. The profound feeling of national loss fed resentment to the people and the population of the country, who sought to retake territories that the country had lost as soon as they could from the countries that the Allies had awarded them to. Thus, it was of little surprise that Bulgaria would join the Central powers in the run-up to the second world war giving the Allies the number they needed in the central Europe to wage an offensive in the rest of Europe. The Bulgarians, assisted by the Nazis would occupy a large part of the territories that had formally been their territory in the run-up to the Second World War. Consequently, this treaty had resulted in the disruption of the geopolitical order in the area consequently resulting in conditions that exacerbated the run-up to the war.
The Treaty of Sevres
Of the several mistakes the Ottoman Empire had made in the early twentieth century, joining the war First World War while many of the nationalities in it sought independence was one of them. After a resounding defeat in the war, the Ottoman Empire had to join in the peace process that involved the signing of the Treaty of Sevres. The treaty, among other things, broke up the Empire that had lasted for several hundred years. The Great Britain, Italy and the French were the castigators of this treaty and signed as the victorious allies while the Ottoman Empire signed as the vanquished. America stayed out of the process.
The Sykes-Picot pact that the French and the British agreed on whose entire import was to subdivide the entire Ottoman Empire greatly influenced this treaty. Writing for the Foreign Policy, Danforth has explained that the Middle East was to be shared between the British and the French with the French taking charge of the Greater Syria while the Britain took charge of the Iraq, with its large oil deposits and Palestine. The treaty also recognized the Kingdom of Hejaz. The Dodecanese Islands and some part of the Anatolian coastline also ended up with the Italians. Armenia also became a new country. The Ottoman Empires most important waterway, the Dardanelles Straits, was made an international waterway and the Ottomans lost control over it. The Ottomans also had their military restricted as they could not have more than fifty thousand soldiers in its army, no air force, and seven boats in the navy. This treaty was even more severe than that handed to Germans as while the Germans had been allowed to run their economy, the Ottomans had the control taken over by the Allies. This included control of the Ottoman Bank, the national budget, financial regulations and reformation of the tax system. Furthermore, Allies decided that only France, Britain and Italy could hold bonds in the country and forbade any economic contract with German, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria.
With the leadership about to sigh the highly punitive treaty, a rebellion led by Mustapha Kemal stopped this. Among the issues, he found to be unacceptable was the making of the Dardanelles and international waterway and the control of the economy.
Like the other treaties that the central powers were forced to sign by the Allies, the Treaty of Sevres left many people in the Ottoman Empire, bitter and disillusioned. Consequently, the treaty was to result in the Turkish War of Independence. Moreover, Greece while on the Allies side did not accept the treaty as it was and never signed it disputing the borders as they had been set. The Treaty of Lausanne later replaced this treaty without having been annulled by the international parties.
b. Geopolitical Impact and the Second World War
This treaty led to the emergence of the emergence of new states in the Middle East and Southern Europe like Armenia. Italy had hoped to get more concession that it eventually did, and lack of such concessions eventually led to the side of Nazi German during the war. Moreover, the devastating consequences the war had on Turkey convinced leaders to stay out of the Second World War, one of the few countries to do so in Europe. All the same, it is notable that this treaty had the least impact in the start of the Second World War as compared to the other treaties.
The paper was an analysis of the various Paris Treaties, their geopolitical effects and how they possibly allowed for the buildup to the Second World War. As it is apparent, in most of the cases, the treaties led to the submission of the most of the central powers into new states. The Allies also awarded some regions of the central powers to new states. There was also the creation of millions of ethnic minorities in a period where there was intense nationalistic feeling in the region. Consequently, there was a creation of a misbalanced the geopolitical balance in the region as the states ought to regain the territory they had lost. Moreover, the constant clashes in the region as well as weaken states served as a conducive climate for the Second World War.