Coming Back to the Problem of the Causes of the Great War of the ХХ-th Century

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Y. Klymenko
O. Potiekhin

Abstract

At the beginning of the twentieth century, among the European ruling elites, military circles and imperial non-governmental organizations, the force-based approach to the resolution of international conflicts dominated. The emphasis was on the irreconcilable struggle for the so-called “national interests”, the need to change the world for the better, the undoubted advantage of interstate competition over cooperation and the use of force, primarily military. The unconditional priority of the state was the ability to mobilize national resources to protect its “interests”.


The Great War to realize geopolitical dreams was a waste of available resources. Its initiators, primarily Germany, were guided by ideological rather than pragmatic considerations, and obtained results that directly contradicted the calculations of their grand strategies. Among the reasons for the war there were no rational ones that solved basic economic, security, social or any other problems. But there were those, who made money in preparation for the war.


The decisive factor that triggered the war was the adherence to myths: about exaggerated or fictitious “national grievances”; “the discrepancy between the obtained share of colonial seizures and the weight in the world economy and politics”; “insignificant nations, incapable of contributing to civilizational progress, their destructive nationalism”; “cultural superiority, which, if necessary, must be extended by force”; “windows of vulnerability that should be closed immediately”; “the call of blood, will and fate”, etc.


The origins of war are to be found in the views of the rulers, representatives or servants of the old regimes of the dynastic aristocracy. The ruling imperial class was in crisis, it was threatened by social and national upheavals, which is why it was inclined to seek salvation in a victorious war at a “low cost”. But how did the parties to the conflict hope for a quick victory? Indeed, regardless of the type of regime – an absolute or constitutional monarchy, a democratic or an authoritarian state – too often their top leadership was deeply mistaken, in particular in such matters as entering the war, choosing allies and forms, methods and degree of interaction with them.


Note that the war in Europe could have happened earlier, because the states constantly threatened each other, and repeated attempts to eliminate the threat of aggression blew up international stability. The efforts of European leaders were not aimed at creating sustainable military capabilities of the allies united by a common strategy to achieve agreed goals. But diplomatic games prevailed: the sides bluffed, tried to play trump cards, which they actually did not have. As a result of the Great War, four empires collapsed: the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, German and Ottoman and the explosion of two of the largest totalitarian revolutions in Europe in the XX-th century – Russian (Bolshevik) and German (Nazi).

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How to Cite
Klymenko, Y. and Potiekhin, O. (2020) “Coming Back to the Problem of the Causes of the Great War of the ХХ-th Century”, Problems of World History, (12), pp. 100-117. doi: 10.46869/2707-6776-2020-12-6.

Section
Articles
Author Biographies

Y. Klymenko

Klymenko Yuriy – Ph.D in Political Sciences, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN Office and other international organizations in Geneva.

O. Potiekhin

Potekhin Oleksandr - Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor of Educational and Scientific Institute of History, Law and International Relations of Sumy State Pedagogical University named after A.S. Makarenko.

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