World War goals - Part II

I'll do part II - about the Second World War - first.

An overemphasis on the great powers, wartime propaganda, post-wartime justifications of victors and generations of time have distorted the public perception of why there was a Second World War, and which countries wanted war. As a consequence, the understanding for how these wars happened and how severe an earlier peace would have been is widely lacking in my opinion.

Thus about WW2:

Here's little to say about Germany - its leadership was crazy and most perceptions of its government's reasons for going to war are correct (safe for Germany never having intended to force other nations to speak German and of course Hitler only meant to go to war with Poland only at first, not launch a huge war right away). The majority of the German population wasn't really in favour of the war until after the surprisingly quick and easy victory over France, though.

Italy's fascists had meant to expand and did so before WW2 (Abbessinia, Albania) already. They had clearly non-Italian possessions even in Europe (Dodekanes, Albania) before 1940. Mussolini's reason to enter the war was to grab French territories, such as Corsica and African territories. Additionally, with France and the UK unable to intervene, Italy would have grabbed additional non-Italian territories (particularly along the Adriatic Coast and in Greece).

The Soviet Union was in Russian empire restoration mode and based on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact it expanded into Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Romanian Bessarabia as well as into Karelia (after trying to gulp all of Finland) before it officially joined WW2 by being attacked. It might have attacked Central Europe itself if and once Germany and France had worn each other out in a First World War-style trench war. The Soviet arms build-up since the mid-1930's was the most extreme in all of Europe, dwarfing even the German effort (quantitatively).

Imperial Japan had its expansion plans to provide its industries with classic European colonialism/imperialism methods, subjugating foreign people who happened to live on resource-rich lands.

Now the lesser-known ones:

Hungary did not include all Hungarian majority settlements and wanted to expand to a greater Hungary that included almost all Hungarian areas, at the cost of including many minorities as well. They actually conspired with Germany in regard to the division of Czechoslovakia, and later took a huge territory from Romania.

Bulgaria wanted to expand as well, which was the driving force behind its declaration of war on Greece.

Romania went to war with the Soviet Union in the hope of getting at least Bessarabia back, and maybe even (though to be possible only with German toleration) the territory lost to Hungary.

France and the UK were content with the status quo, since France had taken what it wanted after the previous word war already. Poland meant to maintain its size even though it had no ethnicities-based border in the East. It lost almost exclusively Polish minority regions in comparison 1939/1945.

So WW2 was - particularly in Europe - a near-perfect storm of countries trying to expand for ethnic or ideological reasons. This included small powers as culprits.

I suppose if magic could have turned one or two great power aggressor governments peaceful, there would still have been one or multiple major wars. Germany could not have secured the supply of Romanian oil (in exchange for its protection) without the aggressiveness of the Hungarians and Soviets, and would not have secured oil supply from the Soviet Union (1939-1941) without the Pact that was essentially about a fourth Polish partition.
 _ _ _ _ _
Today we don't have that many countries desiring territorial expansion. Putin is in Russian Empire/Soviet Union territorial restoration mode, though he appears to be content with reasserting influence spheres rather than wanting to annex in every single case. I suppose even Erdogan doesn't plan on expanding an Ottoman Empire back to Vienna's gates; he too is looking mostly to rebuild it as an influence sphere, and primarily southward. I suppose the issue about the Greek islands is and always was nonsense.*
Hungary is leashed by the EU and the Serbs show signs of following Hungary in this regard rather than retrying the Balkan Wars once more.

I suppose this largely sated appetite for expansion (achieved through the need for unity during the Cold War and the unity-enhancing EU and NATO) is the main reason for the prevalence of peace in Europe and complete peace in Western Europe. The one exception - Putin's Russia - is at the same time the only real troublemaker in Europe (save for secessionist movements).


*: Though the Turks did have a huge amphibious fleet, which was of no use in the Black Sea.


  1. Territory yields income through exploitation of resources and taxation of the population. The profitability of most resources exploited in Europe is low, expect beaches for tourism (Yugoslavia). The ability to finance a resistance to resource exploitation by other means is quite high in comparison to available profits by the resources. So it is presumably no struggle worth financing. The history pre-WWII shows these financial aspects of foreign investments, both in Franco's insurrection that was heavily indebted to international donors and Haller's Polish tank force (taking with French supplied tanks the oil fields of Ruthenian settled Galizia and handing them out with advantageous contracts for France).

    1. Only Japan was driven by natural resources considerations. The others were driven by jingoism or some even more crazy ideology.

      Both Japan and Germany understood after the war that industrial activity and conquering markets is a much better path to prosperity than conquering anything by force.
      Sadly, many people even in the West didn't get the memo and only time will tell if the Chinese got it.

  2. That is a bit simplified view. Nations back then didn't set the goal of increasing the prosperity of they citizen per see, but rather wanted to increase the nation standing among other nation. As such it didn't matter how profitable an area was, but whether it improved the standing or not.

    And above all else it was about projections. Germany was afraid to never be a great power as USA and Russia both had greater potential. Colonies proved to be unreliable in WWI, and the resource starvation was seen as key reason for the lost WWI. As such expanding east made a lot of sense, especially as food could this way be . Same logic as for Japan.

    Italy got a bad reputation, but it had about 50% of Germany GDP and a higher population then France in 1939.
    It was late to the colonial party, and felt that it didn't got a fair share of WWI spoils.

    I fail to see how the SSSR arms race was more extreme then Germany. Germany had 10 divisions in 1933.

    1. As I already wrote - crazy BS ideologies.

      Look up more info on the Soviet military buildup during the 50's. Measured in absolute terms it was much bigger than Germany's in regard to both land and air forces.

      And yes, obviously a short blog post on such a big topic has an "a bit simplified view", that's trivial.
      I distilled what's of interest today, and meant to point at some less well-known historical facts along the way.

  3. Oversimplification to the point of falsification. Sehr brav umerzogen-deutsch, Herr Ortmann! Ausspreche Anerkennung!

    1. Step One: Prove someone wrong. Step two: Point it out for additional satisfaction.

      Step two without step one is a mere embarrassment.

  4. The simplified view is about the first comment.

    It didn't matter what the cost of occupation was or if more could be achieved by trade, if the objective was considered important "for the nation".

    Today, the biggest difference is the attitude towards the nation. Germans are probably not terribly worried that they are not a super power. They were 1933.

    China did get the memo, but the question is whether they have the Russian or German attitude.

    1. The Germans of 1933 were concerned about their job(lessness) and about some scapegoats. Jingoism and fantasies of great power were way down the ladder of priorities. And even in 1937 the concern wasn't about "super power" status, but about Danzig and other minor border issues. More importantly, by 1937 there was a foreshadow of the lust for consumption that did set in in the mid-50's for good, with even poor families dreaming of an own car and enjoying their own radio set.

    2. There's a difference between the attitudes of the general population (which were as you said) and the attitudes of the small-ish minority that became nazis or at least the famous "mitläufer". You summarize it as "crazy" which describes the top leadership very well, but many of its supporters were driven by very (historically) common sentiments, namely revenge and retribution for the post-WWI losses and of course general national power and influence. What really set them apart from their european neighbours of the late 19th century (not a long time ago then) was the subordination of these semi-rational nationalists to wholly irrational racial fanatics.

  5. Europe doesnt face war because theres no point, the land still has some value, but it comes with a vast population of lazy self entitled layabouts.
    The UK is voting on leaving EUrope because its sick of dealing with wasters from there, we're hardly going to force said wasters to suckle on our teat under threat of violence!

    Europes an economic disaster area.
    Who'd go to war to seize Port Talbot steel works? The UK would go to war to force it on someone!

    All Europe has left is its ever declining knowledge economy, and we struggle to keep that from leaving for Silicon Valley already, a Spanish knowledge worker is going to resent being nationalised by the Spanish State, he'll run for sure if nationalised by the French State.

    1. TrT, leave your right wing exasperation and condescension chamber and you might see that in reality, Europe is still an economic (and industrial) powerhouse and hardly anyone on the continent is impressed by British industries or workers.

      Moreover, people from the island of the NHS have no business being condescending about supposed nationalisations in other countries.

    2. "Europe is still an economic (and industrial) powerhouse"
      Keep telling yourself that...

      "hardly anyone on the continent is impressed by British industries or workers."
      Who said they were? Not me...

  6. One doesn't exclude the other in the minds of the people. Less spending on military allowing more of the good stuff isn't connected. E.g.USA today could probably safely spend less, but no presidential candidate is campaigning for it.

    Jingoism and great power fantasies were realities of 1913, not fantasy. All moves of Germany after 1870 make little sense if there is no wish to be considered a Great Power by the other nations. So clearly it was a factor in the decision making process.

    Very similar to Russia today, where the return to power gaming is seen as a success and important for national pride.

    1. I'm convinced that with "common people", those motives are usually dormant. It's interested paties that -at least for months- can awake an appetite for great power politics. The results are anecdotal evidences that the common people were supposedly interested in great power gaming.

      I suppose great power gaming actually is really high up on Maslow's pyramid.

    2. "I'm convinced that with "common people", those motives are usually dormant."

      What "the people" want and what happens are rarely the same thing.

      "There is little doubt that the Italian irridentismo was largely a project driven by small minority, mostly a central-northern urban middle to upper class. What interest had the Latin farmer or Tuscan artisan for war?"
      I wouldnt completely discount it, theres at least a portion of the population that likes to feel "we" are beating "them", especially if its cost free.

  7. There is little doubt that the Italian irridentismo was largely a project driven by small minority, mostly a central-northern urban middle to upper class. What interest had the Latin farmer or Tuscan artisan for war?

    The rise of facism has narrated by Lussu in Marcia su Roma e dintorni seems like a grotesque spectacle turning out surprising ly into a new order. Keep in mind that the author was a deputato in the lower chamber an political opponent, hardly a disinterested onwatcher. It is another of the many good lessons that one should not be too arrogant when it comes to predicting the future...

    Said that the Soviet Union had indeed a gigantic armamanet project which in many ways dwarfed the German one. It started earlier and had access to more raw ressources and was critically able to finish the large arms and dual use factories complete with machine tools far earlier. In the end all those tanks and artillery pieces available at the start of WWII had to come from somewhere...