Q1. What were the main factors which led to World War II?
Three main factors, all resulting from World War I, led to World War II: the Treaty of Versailles, the Great Depression, and the Russian Revolution. Along with these factors the rise of the Nazis in Germany in the 1930’s disturbances in East Asia, also contributed to the outbreak of war.
The treaty of Versailles had imposed sever sanctions on Germany and antagonized it. Treaty of Versailles had quite different results on France’s and Britain’s relations with Germany and each other. France shared a long border with Germany and had also suffered greatly during World War I. France signed a series of defensive pacts with Germany’s neighbors to contain any future aggression by Hitler. Among these pacts was one with the Soviet Union, which France saw as the primary counterweight to German power. Britain, however, feared Stalin as much as it did Hitler, and signed a naval pact with Germany allowing it to increase its naval powers. The two powers consequently were disunited and lacked cooperation. They also followed a policy of appeasement with Germany which fueled Hitler’s hunger.
Russian relations with the Western powers were bitter due to Allied intervention during the Russian Civil War and the deep ideological differences between capitalism and communism. There was no concerted action between Russia and the West against Fascist aggression.
The fascists government during The Great Depression had resorted to producing war machinery to improve employment and hence stockpiled huge stocks of arms. Japan on other hand grew desperate for resources and militarily took over Manchuria from China. China due to its internal strife was no match for Japanese aggression. It further started expanding in South-East towards the colonies of France, Britain and Holland.
All these factors, the disunity between France and Britain, Russian hatred and distrust of the West, and the unchecked aggression of Japan in the East combined to expose the weakness and disunity of the former alliance against Germany.
The Second World War, like the First, started in Europe and assumed the character of a world war. In spite of the fact that Western countries had acquiesced in all the aggressions of Japan, Italy and Germany from the invasion of Manchuria to the annexation of Czechoslovakia, the fascist countries’ ambitions had not been satisfied. These countries were planning another redivision of the world and thus had to come into conflict with the established imperialist powers. The Western policy of diverting the aggression of the fascist countries towards the Soviet Union had failed with the signing of the Soviet German Non-Aggression Pact. Thus the war began in Europe between the fascist countries and the major West European Powers—Britain and France. Within a few months it became a world war as it spread to more and more areas, ultimately involving almost every country in the world.