Read this term paper to learn about the long term forces involved in the making of contemporary world.
Term Paper on the Contemporary World
Term Paper Contents:
- Term Paper on the European System from 1914 to 1945
- Term Paper on the Soviet Pursuit of Security in the 1930s
- Term Paper on the Important Long-Term Changes in International Relations between 1919 and 1956
- Term Paper on the Long Term Growth of American Power from 1917 to 1945
- Term Paper on the Respective Strength of United States and Soviet Union during 1917 to 1945
Term Paper # 1. European System from 1914 to 1945:
The system inevitably draws our attention to European imperialism. Attempt on the part of the European powers to extend their control over the Non-European countries was one of the significant features of the nineteenth century. In fact, this tendency is found from the fifteenth century and in the course of the next two centuries Spain, Portugal, Holland, England and France laid the foundations of their colonial empires.
But the new economic conditions produced by the Industrial Revolution created a new impetus for colonial expansion and henceforth the Age began to be known as the New Imperialism. J. A. Hobson, a famous British-economist, and, later on, Lenin attributed the colonial expansions of these years to special new economic forces at work in the most industrialised nations of western Europe.
But from 1898, according to G. Barraclough, this monopoly of Britain and France began to be shattered by the rise of Germany, as a European power, Japan, an Asian giant, and United States of America. Germany began to produce surplus industrial goods for which she needed markets abroad and, therefore, government responsive enough to national needs to undertake the political conquest of undeveloped territories. David Thomson aptly remarks “It was in these economic and political circumstances that the urge to exploit backward territories by the investment of surplus capital could make so much headway. It began especially after 1880, and gained rapidly in momentum until 1914.”
Rejuvenated and modernised Japan began pursuing her foreign policy to grab some economic benefits from her weak, disorganised neighbour Korea and China. On the other hand, the United States who had overthrown British over lordship and began to emerge as a power to be reckoned was worried about British domination over seas. The vigorous foreign policy of the United States soon developed into imperialism.
She annexed the island of Hawaii in 1898 for strategic reasons as an indispensable coaling station and naval base in the Pacific. In 1899 the United States acquired the largest of the Samoan islands by an agreement with Germany and Britain and thereby strengthened her position in the Pacific. This position enabled her to maintain a vigilant watch on the course of events in China. Russia also began expansion of her territorial limit in the Far East.
So what we find from the above discussion is that the ‘European system’ as it is called had come to an end and, on the other hand, some states beyond European continent became prominent. But still Germany became the central figure because of her attempt to grab some of the loot, large share of which was already acquired by Britain and France. A strong German navy was needed for that purpose which was disliked by Britain. Therefore, Anglo-German relation deteriorated. There was Franco-German relation which was strained from 1871. In the Balkans Germany found Russia, a determined enemy of her.
On the eve of war of 1914-18 the leading world and colonial powers were thus Great Britain, Russia, France, Germany and the United States. While the war was going on two significant factors took place which profoundly affected the fortunes of the war. One was obviously the Russian Revolution in 1917, and the other was the United States who had abandoned her old policy of isolation and declared war against Germany when the latter began an unrestricted submarine warfare which led to the loss of American lives and ships.
Thus, was the United States drawn into the vortex of world politics. As a member of Triple Entente Russia, also declared war against Germany in 1914. But after the Revolution the Bolsheviks quitted war and concluded with Germany the Treaty of Brest Litovsk in 1918. However, the entry of the United States transcended the European politics into world politics and Japan’s entry further expanded its diplomatic base. But still the European hegemony existed and it was not before 1945 that this European predominance was shattered.
Term Paper # 2. Soviet Pursuit of Security in the 1930s:
In fact, by 1927, official relations had been established by the Soviet Government with all the principal powers except the United States and in 1929 the re-establishment of official relations between the Soviet Union and Great Britain was a further step towards normal conditions. Only the United States and the League of Nations remained outside the sphere of Soviet foreign policy.
In 1932 the Soviet Union concluded non-aggression pacts with both Italy and France. Soon the Soviet Union had to abandon its former attitude of indifference to the League of Nations because of the aggressive activities of militant Japan and Hitlerite Germany. This suspicion of Russia brought her into the fold of the League of Nations in 1934 to safeguard her position. Next year Stalin concluded a Franco-Soviet pact of mutual assistance (1935).
It is imperative here to follow up the politico-economic developments that took place in both the USA and USSR which compelled both the countries to preach for international peace. After 1930 the Soviet statesmen, in their usual fashion, insisted on adhering to the line of Karl Radek (leader of the Third International) who endorsed international peace. At this stage two momentous developments occurred that brought about a change in the nature of Russian diplomacy.
The first was the great economic depression that hit the US badly and forced the American administration to come to economic terms with the Soviet Union. In a message to the American Congress on December 6th 1923, President Hoover preferred to abandon the traditional line of Presidents Coolridge and Harding. The second event was the rise of Racism in Germany under Hitler (1889- 1945). Already in his Mein Kampf Hitler boldly declared his programme of destroying Bolshevism from the world.
The suppression of the Communist Party and persecution of its members in Germany began from 1933 as soon as Hitler came to power. The events must have unnerved the Soviet Union for which the Soviet leaders heavily pressed by exigency began searching friends elsewhere. Furnishing evidence, F. L. Schuman observes that Moscow in quest of finding its allies came nearer to the Western powers and Soviet foreign policy underwent a great change.
Under same conditions the Western States also, apprehending possible German attack on them, came nearer to the Soviet Union. The Franco-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 29th November 1932 was supplemented with a commercial treaty of January 11, 1934. Closer relations were also cultivated by the Soviet Union with Great Britain and Turkey as well. The Litvinov Mission proved eminently successful in getting recognition of the USSR by the USA in 1933 as a result of which Soviet Union got admitted as one of the members in the League of Nations in 1934.
Paris signed a Mutual Assistance Pact with Moscow on May 2, 1935 and Prague did the same just two weeks after. Langsam comments then, while sympathising actively with the established Government during Spanish Civil War and plainly showing displeasure over the Anti-Comintern Pact, the USSR strove to keep strong its diplomatic connections with Paris and Prague. USSR in this way became the ally of France and Czechoslovakia.
The old slogan of World Revolution was replaced by a call for ‘Union against Facism’. But trust could no longer be placed by formulating treaties and agreements. Subsequent events will prove that despite making pacts the Western Powers cherished an intention to dump USSR when their needs be required.
The bourgeois powers desired in the heart of their hearts liquidation of Communism at the cruel hands of Fascism. For this sake, they desisted from giving their co-operation to the strategy of ‘United Front’ so assiduously pursued by the Soviet Union. At this stage an axis of the Caesars of Rome, Berlin and Tokyo concluded an anti-Communist entente in 1936 which almost threatened the very existence of Soviet Union.
This may be corroborated with a passing reference to four important events that took place during the period:
(i) Rape of Manchuria,
(ii) Conquest of Ethiopia,
(iii) Spanish Civil War,
(iv) Destruction of Austria and Czechoslovakia.
In all these events the bourgeois states followed the policy of appeasement and the Soviet Union apprehending his doom in this policy thought in terms of befriending the German Nazi leader so as to gain time for the preparation of the eventual last struggle with the sworn enemy of Bolshevism. Unfortunately, the British and French statesmen still cultivated a deep distrust in the bona fides of the Soviet leaders. Circumstances led to the conclusion of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of August 23, 1939 whereby the two parties obligated themselves to refrain from every act of force on one another.
As a matter of fact the Munich Pact concluded by Britain and France with Nazi Germany sacrificing Czechoslovakia’s national interests, fully and finally disillusioned the Soviet leaders with the real designs of the bourgeois power. British Premier Chamberlain described this act of Munich Settlement “as a drastic but necessary surgical operation.”
Churchill passed the final verdict – “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.”
However, it was the time when there was the urgent necessity of an immediate agreement between Britain and France on the one hand and the Soviet Union on the other for collective action against Fascism and, in fact, negotiations were started for that purpose. There were certain difficulties which could not be overcome. The views of the French and British Governments differed fundamentally from those of the Soviet Union. So nothing tangible came to sight. The Western leaders were driven by sheer fear psychosis of Bolshevism.
A. J. P. Taylor maintains, the Bolshevik peril was never as acute as people thought. There was not the slightest prospect between the two war that communism would triumph anywhere in Europe beyond the Russian frontiers. While the Anglo-French policy was aimed at throwing German military might towards East to destroy Soviet Russia once for all, the Kremlin’s policy was to restrict Germany from Eastward invasion. This culminated to conclude Russo-German Non-Aggression Pact in 1939.
There was a secret additional Protocol added to the Pact in which the two Parties agreed to divide the territory of Poland among them. The Pact was obviously a bargain between two enemies, each of whom gained by it. Germany gained through the assurance that Soviet Union would not launch any attack on Germany and in return Germany would not do the same. However, Germany was confident that she could choose the time of the conflict and Russia was too weak to begin an offensive war. Russia felt that she was making the best of a bad bargain. She desperately needed respite to reconstruct and organise military might.
She was not sure of the attitude of Britain and France and the agreement with Germany freed her for the time being from the fear of involvement in a war and increased her prestige in Eastern Europe. Soviet Union thought that the war was inevitable between Germany on the one hand and Britain and France on the other over Poland and, in that war, all of them would be exhausted and eventually Soviet Union would gain thereby. But all the conceptions on the part of the USSR were belied.
However, for two years from August 1939 to June 1941, there was collaboration between the Soviet Union and Germany. The Pact also benefited Soviet Union by allowing her to have Finland, Estonia, Latvia, the eastern part of Poland and the Rumanian province of Bessarabia. As Hitler nursed an intense hatred of Bolshevism so it was only a matter of time only when he would launch a deadly blow on USSR.
The long awaited attack on Soviet Union came at last at dawn on Sunday, June 22, 1941, by the Nazi soldiers without warning. So 135 divisions, raced forward on a 1500-mile front. Churchill at once pledged full aid to the USSR and Roosevelt two days later made a similar declaration. On the other hand, Italy, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Finland declared, on behalf of Nazi Germany, war against Soviet Union. In July, London and Moscow signed a military pact.
By December 1941 — after six months of the fiercest kind of warfare — the Germans advanced within striking distance of Leningrad and Moscow but eventually were held up by the heroic resistance of the Red Army of Russia. But in the South the Germans for a time swept everything before them. They overran the wheat-producing lands of the Ukraine, forced their way through the industrial area of the Don and advanced as far as the Caucasus. The calculated move of Nazi Germany in the Soviet Union proves that the ‘Operation Barbarossa’ i.e., attack against Russia, had been prepared dexterously long before the war.
The Russians retreated before the advancing German army, taking care to destroy all bridges and factories, to tear up railways and to damage the standing crops. It was a ‘scorched earth’ policy similar to that taken long before against Napoleonic invasion. The Russian made a desperate stand at Stalingrad where an epic struggle was waged for about six months. In September 1942 the Russians struck back. The German army, reduced to 12,000 from its original strength 3, 30,000, surrendered. This was the beginning of the end.
By January 1943 the Germans were in full flight along a front of many hundred miles, and in February the last of the Stalingrad besiegers were killed or captured. Meanwhile, with the attack of Japan on the United States, the war had assumed global proportions.
The opening of the ‘Second Front’ in June 1944, according to D. Thomson, brought fresh advantages to the Russians, because it confronted Germany at the moment of her greatest weakness with the traditional nightmare of holding two great land fronts at the same time – indeed three, since by then the only serious resistance in Italy was put up by hard pressed German Units.
Supported immensely with everything required for the advance of army, by Britain and the United States, the Soviet armies smashed ahead to recover all the territories which Germany had occupied. By the middle of April 1945, Marshal Zhukov, commanding the Central Red Army groups, reached the suburbs of Berlin.
Term Paper # 3. Important Long-Term Changes in International Relations between 1919 and 1956:
The Peace Treaty after First World War (1914-18) suffered a serious setback for the withdrawal of the United States from the international forum and remained isolated. Hence the entire responsibility of maintaining international peace had to be shouldered by Britain and France. Germany and Soviet Russia were kept out of the League of Nations.
The Senate of the United States refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and declined to accept the membership of the new League of Nations. The United States and Great Britain also refused to stand by the promise of military aid to France against future possibility of German attack.
Hence France felt herself helpless. She depended on the League of Nations whose primary function was to allay international rivalry and thereby to prevent war. But the League from the outset was handicapped because of the refusal of the United States to join it. Therefore, French quest for security became an important item of French foreign policy. She concluded treaties of military alliance with Poland in 1921, with Czechoslovakia in 1924, with Rumania in 1926 and Yugoslavia in 1927.
Thus just after the Great War (1914-1918) there appeared a distinct division among the allies who once fought together against a common enemy. The important consequence of the war was to carry nationalist enthusiasm and also to bring democratic ideals and institutions to the countries where it was not known before. One of the war cries was “to make the world safe for democracy.”
In the war democratic countries had won and withstood all the strains of war because of the unity among Great Britain, France, Belgium, Italy, the United States and Canada. Whereas the vanquished countries consisted only one great power like Germany which had enormous industrial capacity and naval power, but Germany was alone in being a great industrial and naval power.
Henceforth, the defeated countries adopted new democratic constitutions. But gradually militarism and aggressive nationalism were aggravated by the terms of peace settlement. Anti-Semitism took inflamed forms in Germany and even an armed patriotic rising took place to overthrow the legitimate government by force. The kapp Putsch of 1920 was one of the examples. Hider rescued Germany from utter collapse in 1933 and single party dictatorship began to rule in place of democracy.
Italy, although a victorious power, felt the heavy burden of war more acutely than Britain and France and, therefore, her Parliamentary governments were unstable and indecisive. The country experienced bitterest struggle by the brigandage in the south and strikes and industrial revolt in the north. Benioto Mussolini (1883-1945) a former Socialist journalist, founded Fascio di combattimento, a group of strong arm fighters and led them to stage a ‘march on Rome’. The trial of strength gave him chance to be called to form a government of his own choice.
Nowhere in Central Europe democracy, was firmly established within five years after war. Eastern Europe also failed due to difficulties of its own. The new States of south-eastern Europe found democratic institutions in their countries frail.
Immediately after the war the balance of power was in favour of the Allies. But the gradual rise of Germany as a powerful nation did not create much disturbance among the Allies for they were more afraid of the spread of Bolshevism into Europe. Western opinion was then shifting away from fear of German militarism towards fear of Russian Communism. This event allowed Hitler a free hand in his expansionist programme in Eastern Europe.
In Asia, the rise of Japan as an imperialist country became more evident after she inflicted a crushing defeat on Russia (1904-05) and then again defeated Germany after a lapse of ten years. This victory of Japan against European powers became a matter of exultation to the people of Asia and, as a result, the struggle for ousting colonial rule from Asian countries including India received ardent zeal. By the Treaty of Versailles, Japan got from Germany the ‘leased territory’ of Kiaochow in Shantung as well as a mandate to administer Germany’s North Pacific Islands as a reward of her joining in the First World War with the victorious powers.
While the war was going on, Japan presented ‘Twenty-One Demands’, a secret ultimatum to the Chinese government. This not only gave Japan practical control over Manchuria but established a virtual protectorate over China. Japan sought to close China to Europe, to keep Asia for the Asiatics, and, as such, it has been characterised as Asiatic Monroe Doctrine. Japan had established something like temporary hegemony over the Far East and had thereby shifted the centre of political gravity from the Atlantic to the Pacific. As such, Japan became one of the rivals in the field of international diplomacy.
But Japanese expansion in China produced a result quite unexpected by them. It brought about a rapprochement between the Chinese Communists and the Nationalist government of Chiang Kaishek, on the one hand. On the other, in the Second World War, Japan’s activities in the Far East caused the United States to stiffen her attitude towards that country and, eventually, both were involved in the war, thus developing the European war into a global conflict. In the war Japan was rapidly nearing her doom.
China was shaken out of her traditional self-complacency and immobility by the impact of the imperialist Powers of the West. The national feeling received an impetus from Dr. San-Yat-Sen’s dissemination of the Kuomintang ideology which was clearly anti-imperialistic from the standpoint of foreign relations. The movement against the imperialism of the West reached its height in 1926-27 owing to the association of the Communists with the revived Kuomintang.
Chinese nationalism received an added impetus on account of the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. Chiang Kaishek succeeded Sun-Yat-Sen as the leader of the Kuomintang party on the latter’s death. He set up a national government at Nanking, the Communists challenged the Nationalist regime and Chiang had to wage almost uninterrupted war against them. But the Japanese invasion of 1937 temporarily unified the parties in China in their common resistance to the foreign aggressor.
A common front was organised against Japan. With Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 the Sino-Japanese war entered upon a new stage and became contestant in the global conflict. If the Chinese had yielded to the Japanese before the Pearl Harbour, the entire world situation would have been different and the Japanese plan of establishing hegemony over Eastern Asia would have materialised. In recognition of this fact the United States and Great Britain signed treaties with China, abolishing their extra-territorial rights and special privileges.
With the collapse of Japan the quarrel between the Kuomintang and the Communists again surfaced. After about two years’ of fighting with occasional recess,, the Communists captured Mukden, then turned towards the South capturing in quick succession Bezing, Tientsin, Nanking and Shanghai (1949).
The Kuomintang, in spite of generous help they received from the United States, suffered a succession of military defeats which sealed the fate of Chiang’s regime. At last the Kuomintang was compelled to leave the mainland of China and to take refuge in Formosa where they were protected by the United States. The victorious Communists next proclaimed the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, with Mao Ze Dong as chairman and Chou-En-lai as Premier.
Term Paper # 4. The Long Term Growth of American Power from 1917 to 1945:
The two World Wars profoundly modified the relative position of the powers in Europe. By the opening of the twentieth century the United States had abandoned her old policy of isolation and began to make her influence felt in World politics. This new attitude found its access in Theodore Roosevelt who became President in 1901 and continued in that office till 1908.
The stage was set for the emergence of the United States as a world power to be reckoned. The United States declared war on Germany on, April 6, 1917. The entry of the United States saved the situation, for it placed at the disposal of the Allies enormous resources in men and money. The entry was, however, under compulsion. USA joined war as a protest against the unrestricted submarine warfare carried on by Germany in violation of all international law and the dictates of humanity.
In his address given to the Congress in January 1918, President Wilson made a statement of the war aims of the Allies in the famous ‘Fourteen Points’. The most important point was meant for peace, the reduction of armaments. To fulfill this aim after the war a number of Disarmament Conferences were held but without significant result.
On the basis of the Fourteen Points, subject to certain reservations, the Allies agreed to consider the German appeal for peace. David Thomson remarks that “The lofty idealism infused into Allied peace aims by Wilson was to be a heavy liability in the years to come. In 1920 the American Senate rejected both the Versailles Treaty and the League Covenant and the foreign policy of the Republicans, who grabbed State authority throwing the Democrats of power reverted to colourless isolationism.”
The new Republican President Harding remained completely aloof from the League of Nations. He busied himself with safeguarding American interests in the Far East and for this purpose summoned a Nine-Power Conference in Washington in 1921.
The United States had no territorial ambitions in the Far East and, therefore, there was nothing to ruffle the good feelings that existed between Japan and the USA. On the contrary, the friendly relation between the two encouraged to boost the volume of trade with each other. But after the Russo-Japanese war, the relation between the two were estranged. The victory in this war made Japan a formidable power in the Far East. It also encouraged Japan to consolidate her position in Manchuria.
The gradual development of Japan’s position as a dominant power in the Far East and her aggressions on China and Manchuria became a source of uneasiness to the United States. The United States strongly opposed at the Paris Peace Conference of Japan’s claims to the former German possessions in Shantung.
Why did America oppose Japan’s claim? The answer can be found in America’s interest in the Pacific. This was further intensified by the acquisition of Hawaii and the Philippines islands by the United States as a result of her war with Spain. Japan took this westward move of the United States as an ulterior motive. The Americans maintained that their attempt to declare ‘Open Door’ policy in China was for mutual interest of both the United States and China.
The argument was discarded by Japan and Japan declined to buy this theory. Japan, at the same time, looked askance at the expanding American trade in China and at America’s increasing participation in Far Eastern affairs, which Japan regarded as her own sphere of influence. Japan did not want any other country to tread there. Hence, in both countries, there were many who, believed that war was inevitable between Japan and the United states. The situation was aggravated by increasing competition in naval construction.
Thus when war was looming large in the horizon because of the conflicting interests and clash of rival policies, President Harding in 1921 summoned a conference at Washington to which all the Powers, except Russia, that had interests in the Far East, were invited.
The Problems that had to be Solved by the Conference were two:
(a) Problem of the limitation of naval armaments and
(b) A resolution of the conflicting interests of the Powers in the Pacific area.
With regard to the question of the limitation of naval armaments, treaties were concluded, which fixed the naval ratio, in terms of capital ships, for the several Powers as follows:
Great Britain 5, the United States 5, Japan 3, France 1.67, Italy 1.67. Another treaty forbade the construction of additional fortifications in the islands of the Pacific except in certain specified cases. Apart from this ‘Big Five’ of the Paris Peace Conference there were four other minor Powers like the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal and China. All of them agreed to the above ratio at which their naval strengths should be maintained.
Then all nine powers reaffirmed the ‘Open Door’ in China. A further four-power treaty binding signatories to respect one another’s rights in the Pacific — and to consult about any future differences — was signed by the United States, Britain, Japan and France. All these agreements — reached outside the framework of the League of Nations — were regarded by Japan as a check and a rebuff, says Thomson.
The Washington Conference temporarily ironed out the differences among the Powers over the Far Eastern Question. America secured the recognition of her pet ‘Open Door’ policy, while at the same time scrap the Anglo-Japanese Treaty concluded in 1902. China was safeguarded — on paper at least — against further spoliation, and she, of course, gained her point in having Shantung restored to her.
After 1923 the trend of foreign policy was shaped by a realization among Americans of certain recent and vital changes in their national financial position in the world. Until 1914 Europe had been the world’s banker. But after the war the situation underwent a striking transformation. By 1930 USA became the creditor nation and Europe a debtor.
The European war debts to the Washington government amounted to $ 11 billion while the USA’s foreign trade amounted to, in the five year period 1924-1928, averaged $ 9 billion annually. Naturally, the Americans wanted to protect these foreign interests and the government also promised to assume the obligation.
American foreign policy towards the Latin American countries also took a drastic modification. Hoover disliked American intervention in the Latin American countries; therefore, he withdrew American marines from there Dominican Republic in 1924. Next President Coolidge following this footstep called back American marines from Nicaragua in 1925.
In 1927 the activities of the Chinese Communists threatened the safety of the foreigners as well as American lives and property in China. However, after establishment of Nationalist government in China, the fear was alleviated.
During the Coolidge and Hoover administrations, the United States cooperated increasingly with the League. All the League’s disarmament and economic conferences were attended by United States delegates. The United States during these years also collaborated with Europe in efforts to establish world harmony. In 1924 and 1929 United States financial experts played a leading — though unofficial — part in the formulation of new reparation arrangements. In 1927 the Geneva Conference was held aiming at the limitation of naval armaments at the suggestion of President Coolidge.
In 1928 Washington adhered to the Paris Pact for the renunciation war as an instrument of national policy. In 1930 the United States became a party to the London Naval Treaty. Efforts were made to aid disarmament at the Geneva Conference of 1932. The American historian Thomas N. Bonner has indicated that, “no less than in Cleveland’s day, Americans in the twenties insisted on the unique mission of the United States, the need to maintain independence of action and avoid permanent alliances….”
Ketelbey points out the Great Depression in America “produced F. D. Roosevelt and the New Deal”. On March 4, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt took the oath of office as President of the United States. The overall financial and as well as, political situation, was worse at this time. But he assured the people to give them good days in the coming months. He says ‘There is nothing to fear but fear ‘ He promised a “New Deal”, thus permanently labelling his administration. By the beginning of 1935 a changed situation was at sight.
The pressure of domestic affairs for a time absorbed most of the government’s energies, but foreign question soon demanded attention. In the thirties of the century, sometime after 1933, events in Europe shocked the Americans. The League failed to perform its primary object of founding peace and securing international co-operation. The aggressions of the Axis Powers could not be thwarted.
Therefore, the American public opinion desired to remain aloof from all International embarrassments and disputes and so their foreign policy expressed itself through a series of Neutrality Acts which embodied their policy of avoiding foreign complications. The object was to prohibit trade with, or giving credit to, any belligerent. America also was not to be involved in any non-American war.
Towards the end of the thirties of the 20th century danger of global war loomed large on the horizon of Europe. President Roosevelt realised that Germany’s dangerous activities under Hitler would seriously jeopardize the peace of the world. The question was whether the United States should isolate herself or should render all aid “short of war” to the defenders of democratic faith or should outright military help be given to the enemies of democracy.
But Neutrality Act was a stumble block, for which the United States could not render any help to any-one. Therefore, President Roosevelt appealed to the Congress to revise them so that American aid might be available to those powers who were opposing German militarists.
The decision was to be taken immediately and this became all the more urgent particularly after the collapse of France in 1940. Viewing United States’ attitude to European situation David Thomson identified United States as a “reluctant dragon”.
However, in March 1941, Congress passed the ingenious Lend-Lease Act, authorising the President to put American resources at the disposal of any state whose defence he regarded as necessary for the security of the United States. This began the steady flow of supplies to Britain and her allies regardless of their ability to pay for them in dollars.
There is a controversy about United States’ entry into the Second World War. If Japan did not compel United States by bombing the latter’s military installations at Pearl Harbour the United States would not have entered into war directly. Immediately the whole situation was transformed by this event in the far-away Pacific islands of Hawaii.
On the morning of 7th December 1941, 189 Japanese bombers swept in low out of the morning haze and bombed United States warships in Pearl Harbour. Eight battleships, three cruisers, three destroyers, and many grounded aircraft were destroyed or seriously damaged. Next day the United States and Great Britain declared war on Japan. Three days later (11th December) Germany and Italy, honouring the Axis treaty, declared war on the United States.
Even after the surrender of Germany and Italy, Japan continued to fight. The allies gave ultimatum threatening Japan to destroy her if she did not surrender immediately, Japan did not pay heed. Thereupon, atom bombs were dropped on two cities of Japan, namely, Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6th and 9th August 1945 respectively. The two cities were completely destroyed and under exigency Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945.
Term Paper # 5. Respective Strength of the United States and Soviet Union during 1917 to 1945:
Undoubtedly both the United States and Soviet Union were equally strong in resources of man-power and greater industrial potential but militarily United States was stronger than the Soviet Union during the period of our discussion. Even in 1945 both Churchill and Roosevelt had kept secret the first progress made in the manufacture of atomic weapons. At Potsdam, Truman told Stalin of a ‘new secret weapon’ in American hands. But Stalin did not pay much attention to this comment.
When atomic bomb was dropped on 6th August 1945 on the city of Hiroshima and a second was dropped on the naval base of Nagasaki on 9 August 1945 in Japan, Soviet Union, which was dillydallying so long to declare war, against Japan even under the pressure of the Allied powers, now, on 8th August 1945, promptly declared war on Japan and invaded Manchuria. At the same time, the uncomfortable discovery that the United States possessed so devastating a weapon reawakened all their deepest distrusts and fears of American powers.
If the economic system of Soviet Union was not particularly successful in resisting the results of economic depression, she was admirably geared to preparation for foreign war. The Second Five-Year Plan, launched in 1933 and completed by 1937, and the third, started in 1938, effected the most far-reaching transformation of the country’s economy.
In fact, as a result of the First Five-Year Plan, the average living standard of Soviet people was much improved. Though the control of price and trade remained, rationing was abandoned in 1935. The nature of planning was modified from time to time to take account of changing needs and conditions. This was done so that the government could give more importance to strengthening the armed forces as the possibility of war loom large in the horizon.
The strength of Russia for war could be measured partly in terms of the number of trained men and this was estimated to be twelve and a half million by 1939. The output of coal, iron, oil, steel, electrical power and all other essential materials for war increased many times over production during the years before 1928. But even after the fulfillment of Third Five-Year Plan the production of pig iron and steel was less than that of Germany and less than half that of the United States.
Collectivization and mechanization were introduced in the agricultural sector and thereby production was increased many fold; but still it was less than that of United States. According to David Thomson “By 1940 more than nineteen million peasant population was established in collective farms, though now less than half the whole population was engaged in agriculture. Nearly 7,000 machine tractor stations provided the machinery and technical labour needed to ensure methods of mass-production farming”.
In Soviet Union there were “forced labour camps” organised by N. K. V. D. or Commissariat for Internal Affairs, where millions of forced labourers were employed in building highways, railroads, canals, and in mining.
These years also saw some resumption of trade between the Soviet Union and Europe. Machinery and technical help were the two essential things needed by Soviet Union for her economic and industrial recovery. The British government in 1924 gave preponderance to the issue of recognition to Soviet Union for her vast market so far untapped and therefore de jure recognition to Soviet Union was proclaimed.
Britain arranged a loan to the Soviet Government. Though British attempt bore no fruit, France and Italy and Germany improved their relations with Soviet Union. In 1925 Germany was able to conclude a treaty with Soviet Union for the resumption of trade and commerce between both countries.
The Soviet Union ensured long term credits at Berlin and successfully thwarted any attempt by other nations to form a front against Bolshevism in Europe. Grateful Germany in return supplied Soviet Union not only with machinery, but also with engineers.
In return, the German General Staff enjoyed the facility for experiments in aeronautics and in military techniques of Soviet Union. But it 1929 the world slump created havoc on European economy and, therefore, Russian economy was also stabbed at the back. Americans stopped lending money to the recovery of war-torn Europe.
When in 1939 Germany declared war against Britain and France, Soviet Union was still lagging behind in economic self-sufficiency. Her military strength was also under severe strain because of the Russian ‘Purge’ launched by Stalin. At one stroke in January 1937 Stalin almost annihilated the entire top-ranking officials of the Red Army on the pretext of conspiracy to assist foreign aggressors in an attack on the Soviet Union.
Marshal Tukachevsky, the Chief of Staff, and seven other top Red Army generals, were convicted and sentenced to death for military conspiracy. It is likely that some 20,000 military officers were arrested and several thousand of them were shot. Naturally when the Second World War began the Soviet army still lacked in several thousand officers and the condition was one of unkempt.
In comparison to USSR the United States’ condition prior to world slump was far better. The United States after the First World War displaced Europe as world’s banker and installed herself in that position. By 1930 USA became the creditor nation and Europe a debtor. In the post-war world the United States neither needed nor wanted. Rich in her diversified natural resources the United States also enjoyed industrial and agricultural richness.
She raised a wall of high tariff against foreign imports and American goods — finding no competition in her vast internal markets — accumulated high profits. Besides, United States demanded the repayment of war debts from the European States and also their markets to sell her own surplus goods. “Debtors to the United States paid in gold until their own reserves of gold ran dry, and the great bulk of the world’s gold lay safely buried in American vaults.”
In 1929 the ‘Great Crash’ came. The repercussion of the collapse on governmental finance and on industry produced devastating effects on economy not only in the United States but throughout the world. Trade between nations shrank rapidly and steadily from the end of 1929 until 1934.
Factories slowed down production and millions of workers were thrown out of work. The dislocation caused by this unforeseen impact has been termed by historians as great as that of a war. Really it was so. Steel industry in the United States suffered setback. Thomson has described the event as the ‘breakdown of capitalism’.
Anyway, the havoc created little impact on USA’s military strength. America’s military establishments during the period was not as vast and gigantic as that of Soviet Russia for America apprehended no external attack on her people and therefore immediately after the First World War she again went to her pet isolationism. It was only after Hitler declared war against Britain and France, in 1939, that America began re-modeling, developing and strengthening her military might.