World History/Consequences of the Second World War

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Maps | Resources | Contributors' Corner

The Second World War saw the most far-reaching transformation of world politics to date. The destructive technologies introduced during the war – foremost, the atomic bomb – made it very unlikely that a land-based conflict of similar scale and duration among the major nations could ever happen again, because of the potential for total destruction of all combatants.

No advanced industrial nation has been invaded since 1945, and all wars since that time have been guerrilla conflicts in less-developed countries, conflicts involving less-developed countries with more advanced ones, or some combination of these two scenarios.

From an economic standpoint, the war and its aftermath consumed much of the real and potential industrial production of the world over the period 1940–1960 (with the exception that the United States, its homeland untouched, was able to expand both its defense industries and its civilian economy very rapidly after 1945). Europe and Japan lay in ruins and would spend 15–20 years rebuilding the basis for economic life, with much assistance from the U.S. The Soviet Union and China, though victorious in the war, were also ravaged.

Splitting of the world

[edit | edit source]
Map of the "Iron Curtain"

Europe was split into two main camps by the "Iron Curtain", which divided Germany in half and separated Austria from Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and Italy from Yugoslavia. The Soviet Union absorbed eastern Poland, and "reassigned" large areas of German territory to Polish rule by way of compensation. Moscow intervened directly to install Communist parties in power in Poland, eastern Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Finland was able to keep its independence, but did not regain the lands it lost to the Soviets in the 1940 Winter War. Yugoslavia under Marshal Tito, already Communist, did not submit to direct influence from Moscow, choosing a more independent path and greatly angering Stalin. Elsewhere in the Balkans, Bulgaria, Romania and Albania also were brought into the Soviet bloc.

To the west were the democracies allied to the USA: the UK, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, and West Germany. Washington became quite concerned, however, that local Communist parties might gain power in France, Italy and Greece in the late 1940s, given the battered state of the postwar European economy and the proximity of the Soviet Union. French leader Charles DeGaulle received strong backing from the U.S., and anti-Communist parties in Italy were heavily financed. In the end neither nation left the Western sphere of influence.

In Asia, China, Vietnam, Korea and Mongolia were communist countries. Japan, first under occupation by the USA after WWII, had to reform its system – moving away from from militarism and expansionism and into democratic reforms. Military alliances were formed on both sides: First NATO, on April 4, 1949 in the USA geopolitical sphere and as a direct response due to the Cold War the Soviet Union (USSR), on May 14, 1955 created the Organization of Warsaw treaty, better known as Warsaw Pact.

In an attempt to set up a body for possible dialog between Western, Eastern, and Developing countries and establish international law, the Organization of United Nations was established in 1945 by USA initiative. The failing of the League of Nations, also initiated by the USA was one of several precursor stages for WWII. Special consideration must be given to the geopolitical interests behind these organizations, especially who they favor. Even if ultimately, they are a stabilizing force. Other USA international initiatives include: the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and more recently the World Trade Organization (WTO), that has its roots in the discussions to form the International Trade Organization (ITO) as an evolution from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) of 1947.