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The tension that various countries had with each other idealized inthe First World War. The war lasted for four years, and it left morethan nine million soldiers and seven million civilians dead. The warinvolved the world’s biggest economies by then who formed alliancesto intensify their forces. The United Kingdom, Russia, and Francejoined the powers against the German and Austria-Hungary forces. TheUnited States, Japan, and Italy joined the forces against German andAustria-Hungary. The destruction emanating from the Great Warincapacitated economic development of the key players includingGermany, Russia and the Astro-Hungarian Empire. After the war, themajor players found it important to have a peace treaty to disarm theforces as well as placing responsibilities on individual countries.They developed the treaty of Versailles and signed it on 28th June1919 after six months of negotiations. The provisions of the Treatyof Versailles led to the Second World War because it defied theFourteen Points developed by President Wilson and it did not considerthe specific needs of the contributing countries.
The treaty forced Germany to foot the responsibility of her alliesand cover all the losses that ensued from the war. The treaty alsoforced Germany to disarm its forces and implement territorialconcessions. Article 119 required Germany to give up some of itsterritories voluntarily. It required the Germans to pay reparationamounting to 132 billion.1However, the treaty did not concentrate on the possibility ofdissatisfaction from the individual countries. Germany felt that thetreaty was too harsh on their economy. Germany did not have a totallyweakened economy and it had a significant muscle to defy anoppressive economy.
The three major players including the United States, United Kingdom,and Russia had specific aims that require modifications to achieve anoverall agreement.2Germany was not part of the negotiations, and it felt humiliated.France did not feel entirely secure in the agreements while Britainaimed at re-establishing trade more than any other reform. The UnitedStates had to forego its determination on the interests thatoverlapped with the German interests. Reaching an agreement on such asignificant level of dissatisfaction and a significant level ofexclusion of some primary stakeholders was a recipe for another war.3
Also, the Treaty of Versailles contributed to the eruption of thesecond war due to its lack of fairness and failure to get insight onthe possible effects of its implementation. It created an alien formof democracy that was not consistent with the internal policies ofthe individual countries. The leaders failed to consider this as amajor risk to it honoring. At that’s time German was still fightingan internal revolt of extremist groups, Adolf Hitler, and the Nazis.Although Germany did not have a totally disenfranchised economy, itcould not concentrate on footing the responsibilities but on itspolitical instability.4The political upheavals gave the Nazis a chance to profile the Jewsresulting in a holocaust. It also gave the strong man Hitler toascend to power, and he had no regard for the Versailles treaty.
The Versailles treaty was like an aberration. The allies could notsettle on what to impart on Germany. They, therefore, accepted thedocument begrudgingly. Some of the countries accepted the provisionsmostly due to fear rather than forgiveness and the perpetuation ofpeace. For example, France and Germany shared a border. The treatydenied them a chance to shift their borders and create a buffer zonein the Rhineland.5The country there, could not relax but stay in anticipation from theGerman forces.
The key players in the First World War including America, Italy,Japan, Russia, France and the United Kingdom sought to forge apeaceful co-existence. However, its lack of fairness and onconsideration of the effects f the treaty in the individual countriesmade it an instigating factor to the Second World War.
Woodrow Wilson developed a blueprint of proposals on January 8, 1918,commonly referred to as the Fourteen Points. It was a primaryframework used during the peace negotiations during the First WorldWar. Also, some of the stakeholders in the First World War wereskeptical at first they referred to it later during thenegotiations.
The points addressed the issues that led to First World War. First,Wilson proposed the absolute liberty of the navigation in the seaseven outside territorial waters during peace and in times of war. Thegrowing naval power of Britain and Germany became a source ofconflict. Wilson also proposed the freedom of the French territory.France did not have a strong military power and Germany was expandingits territories, and it edged towards France.6The leaders used the fourteen points to address the border issuebetween France and Germany in the later Versailles treaty.
The Versailles treaty as implemented by Clemenceau, George, Orlandoand Woodrow defied the fourteen points in several ways. The fourthpoint in the Wilsons provision required a reduction of thestakeholders’ armaments to only the national requirement. However,Clemenceau wanted revenge against Germany and George shared hissentiments. German suffered a blow with the reduction of its forcesto 100, 000 personnel, and the treaty denied them a chance toestablish an air force. Although it was a requirement in the fourteenpoints, it was too intensive to punish Germany.7
In his fifth point, Wilson proposed the just settlement of thecolonial claims in the most impartial way and with the considerationof sovereignty. The treaty required Germany to free most of itsterritories and forced it to release its territories outside Europe.The release of the German territories outside the region was notamong the fourteen points as provided by Wilson.
Some of the leaders led by Clemenceau, the prime minister of Franceand Gorge Lloyd, the prime minister of Britain. Wilson looked forwardto a peaceful co-existence between the countries by establishing apeaceful pact with Germany. However, Clemenceau wanted revengeagainst Germany, and he could not agree with some of the provisionsin the fourteen points and considered them as lax for a country thatneeded to carry the burden of the war.8Their deviation from the fourteen points led them to tighten the lawson reducing armament and loss of territory, and this angered theGermans. When Hitler ascended to power, he recruited the citizensinto the air force and began building submarines. It was a majorcause of the tension that led to the Second World War.
In conclusion, the Versailles treaty had the power to stop the SecondWorld War if only the egocentric ideas of the France, Britain andItaly were not present. The need for revenge by France and thesupport it received from Britain led to the treaty tightening thenoose around Germany. Germans had popularized the fourteen points aspropaganda and the provisions of the Versailles treaty requiring themto maintain a small army and losing their territories angered them.When Hitler became the leader, he could not o without the navy andthe air force, and he established them against the treaty and theaggression for the Second World War began.
Churchill, WinstonS. The Gathering Storm: The Second World War. Vol. 1. NewYork: RosettaBooks, 2010.
Curry, George."Woodrow Wilson, Jan Smuts, and the Versailles Settlement."The American Historical Review (1961): 968-986.
Slavicek, LouiseChipley. The Treaty of Versailles. New York: InfobasePublishing, 2010.
Wilson, Woodrow."The fourteen points." Documents to Accompany America’sHistory (1918).
1 Slavicek, Louise Chipley The Treaty of Versailles. (New York: Infobase Publishing, 2010) p. 7
2 Slavicek, p. 12
3 Slavicek, p. 15
4 Churchill, Winston The Gathering Storm: The Second World War. (New York: Rosetta Books, 2010) p. 21
5 Churchill, p. 31
6 Wilson, Woodrow. "The fourteen points." (Documents to Accompany America’s History, 1918) p 18
7 Churchill, p.35
8 Curry, George. "Woodrow Wilson, Jan Smuts, and the Versailles Settlement." (The American Historical Review, 1961) p. 980.