Europe on the Road to World War II: Polemical Notes

  • Post category:Issue XXII

Yurii Klymenko
PhD in Political Science, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
ORCID: 0000-0001-7296-6208

Oleksandr Potiekhin
Doctor of History, Chief Scientific Officer, Institute of World History of the NAS of Ukraine
ORCID: 0000-0002-1856-2672

DOI: 10.37837/2707-7683-2021-6

Abstract. The Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine, preceded by the war of the Russian Federation against Georgia, raised the question of a joint repulse of democratic states to actions aimed at undermining European stability. The problem of protecting small and medium-sized states from the threat posed by Russia has arisen in a new way. In this context, the inability of leading European states to stop the aggression of Nazi Germany is repeatedly mentioned. To assess the relevance of such parallels with modernity, the authors of this article seek to briefly and objectively analyse what was happening in the 1930s. The threat of a military catastrophe and complete destabilisation of Europe had been growing since 1933, when Hitler came to power in Germany. He and his entourage gradually dragged Europe into a series of international conflicts and the World War II. According to the authors of the article, the leading motive for the inaction of Western powers within the military and political allied cooperation was not the desire to balance Germany’s military power and thus deter aggression but the attempt to avoid involvement in a world war by appeasing Hitler. In pursuit of European stability, France aimed to secure the military support of as wide a range of European countries as possible, and Great Britain was seeking to build a stable European system without making clear military commitments to the continental powers. London felt at peace with Berlin’s continental ambitions, as they did not cover the seas. London entertained the illusion that its security could be guaranteed without interfering in the war on the mainland. The authors emphasise that only in a state of conscious self-blindness could Western politicians for years retain the illusion of the prospect of civilising and taming the German dictator by satisfying his whims. Such illusions, however, never concerned Stalin. In the pre-war period, the Stalinist regime did its best to prevent the Soviet Union from being involved in building a system of collective security in Europe. The authors come to the following conclusion: in an effort to preserve at least the remnants of stability in Europe, the states have consistently moved towards continuous destabilization and war.
Keywords: Europe, military and political union, World War II, Germany.

Download Article (ukr)

  1. Young, R. (1996). France and the Origins of the Second World War. London: Palgrave-Macmillan, p. 28. [in English].
  2. Schuker, S. (1986). France and the Remilitarization of the Rhineland, 1936. French Historical Studies, vol. 14, no. 3, p. 304. [in English]. 10.2307/286380
  3. Schweller, R. (1998). Deadly Imbalances: Tripolarity and Hitlers Strategy of World Conquest. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 28–31. [in English].
  4. Ripsman, N. and Levy, J. (2007). The Preventive War that Never Happened: Britain, France, and the Rise of Germany in the 1930s. Security Studies, vol. 16, no. 1, p. 38. [in English].
  5.   Shirer, W. (2017). Zlet i padinnia Tretioho Raikhu. Istoriia natsystskoi Nimechchyny: u 2 t. [The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich]. Vol. 1. Kyiv: Nash format. p. 330. [in Ukrainian].
  6. Ripsman, N. et al. (2007). The Preventive War that Never Happened: Britain, France, and the Rise of Germany in the 1930s. Security Studies, vol. 16, no. 1. pp. 54–55. [in English]. 10.1080/09636410701304549
  7. Boyce, R. (1989). ‘Introduction’, in: Boyce, R. et al. (eds). Paths to War. New Essays on the Origin of the Second World War. Basingstoke, London: Macmillan, p. 9. [in English].
  8. Bogaturov, A. (2007). ‘Krizis Versalskogo poryadka’ [The Crisis of the Westphalian Order], in Bogaturov, A. (ed.). Sistemnaya istoriya MO v dvukh tpomakh [Systemic History of International Relations in Two Volumes]. Vol. 1. Moscow: Kulturnaya revolyutsiya, pp. 255–256. [in Russian].
  9. Ripsman, op. cit., p. 62.
  10. Fest, J. (1993). Hilter. Biografiya [Hitler]. Vol. 3. Perm: Alteya, p. 5. [in Russian].
  11. Ibid., pp. 6–7.
  12. Snyder, T. (2018). Kryvavi zemli: Yevropa pomizh Hitlerom ta Stalinym [Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin]. Kyiv: Laurus, p. 12. [in Ukrainian].
  13. Bogaturov, op. cit., pp. 270, 281.
  14. Rostow, E. (1993). Toward Managed Peace: The National Security Interests of the United States, 1759 to the Present. London: Yale University Press, pp. 212, 234. [in English]. 10.1017/s0021875800025676
  15. Mearsheimer, J. (2001). The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: W.W. Norton, pp. 297-322. [in English].
  16. Kennan, G. (1967). ‘Russia – Seven Years Later’, in Memoirs (1925–1950). Annexes. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., p. 503. [in English].
  17. Ibid., p. 504.
  18. Duroselle, J.-B. (2004). France and the Nazi Threat: The Collapse of French Diplomacy, 1932–1939. New York: Enigma Books, p. 268. [in English].
  19. Shirer, op. cit., p. 395.
  20. Adamthwaite, A. (1989). The Making of the Second World War. New York: Routledge, p. 81. [in English].
  21. Weinberg, G. el al. (eds). (1999). Reflections of Munich after 60 Years. The Munich Crisis, 1938: Prelude to World War II. Milton Park, New York: Frank Cass, p. 5.  [in English]. 10.4324/9780203045077-4
  22. Lukes, I., et al. (eds). (1999). Stalin and Czechoslovakia in 1938–1939. The Munich Crisis, 1938: Prelude to World War II. Milton Park, New York: Frank Cass, pp. 13–47. [in English].
  23. Ripsman, op. cit., p. 53. [in English]. 10.4324/9780203045077-5
  24. Bouvere, T. (2019). Appeasing Hitler: Chamberlain, Churchill and the Road to War. New York: Tim Duggen Books, p. 182. [in English].
  25. Bouvere, T. (2019). Appeasing Hitler: Chamberlain, Churchill and the Road to War. NY: Tim Duggen Books, p. 185. [in English].
  26. Ibid., pp. 57–58.
  27. Roi, M. (1997). Alternative to Appeasement: Sir Robert Vansittart and Alliance Diplomacy, 1934–1937. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger. [in English].
  28. Smetana, V. (2008). In the Shadow of Munich. British Policy towards Czechoslovakia from the Endorsement to the Renunciation of the Munich Agreement: 1938 to 1942. Prague: Karolinum Press, p. 46. [in English].
  29. Holman, B. (2014). The Next War in the Air: Britains Fear of the Bomber 1908 − 1941. London: Routledge. [in English].
  30. Jackson,P. (2000). France and the Nazi Menace. Intelligence and Policy-Making, 1933–1939. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [in English].
  31. Churchill, W. (2020). Vtoraya mirovaya voyna: v 3 kn. [The Second World War (book series)]. Book 1. Vol. 1: Nadvigayushchayasya bury [The Gathering Storm]. Moscow: Alpina non-fiction, p. 155. [in Russian].
  32. Ibid., p. 154.
  33. Ibid., p. 155.
  34. Ibid., p. 153.
  35. Homeniuk, I. (2017). Provisnyky Druhoi svitovoi. Prykordonni konflikty v Tsentralno-Skhidnii Yevropi. Vid rozpadu imperii do Hliaivitskoi provokatéři [Harbingers of World War II. Border Conflicts in Central and Eastern Europe. From the Collapse of Empires to the Gleiwitz Incident]. Kharkiv: Klub simeinoho dozvillia. [in Ukrainian].
  36. Kissinger, H. (1997). Diplomatiya [Diplomacy]. Moscow: Ladomir, pp. 296–297. [in Russian].
  37. Franklin D. Roosevelt Day by Day (n.d.). Roosevelt to Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of the German Reich, April 14, 1939 [online]. Available at: [in English].
  38. Shirer, op. cit., p. 521.
  39. Ibid., pp. 522–523.
  40. Ibid., p. 526.
  41. Kissinger, op. cit., p. 290.
  42. Duroselle, J.-B. (1995). Istoriia dyplomatii vid 1919 roku do nashykh dniv [Diplomatic History from 1919 to Our Days]. Kyiv: Osnovy, pp. 211–213. [in Ukrainian].
  43. Ibid., pp. 196–197.
  44. ‘Dogovor o nenapadenii mezhdu Germaniyey i Sovetskim Soyuzom i sekretnyy dopolnitelnyy protokol, 21 avgusta 1939 g.’ [Non-Aggression Treaty between Germany and the Soviet Union and the Secret Supplementary Protocol, 21 August 1939], in Myahkov, M. (ed.). (2002). Mirovyye voyny XX veka [World Wars of the 20th Century]. Book 4. Moscow: Nauka, p. 80–82. [in Russian].
  45. Ibid., p. 81.
  46. Shirer, op. cit., p. 596.
  47. ‘Dogovor o nenapadenii’, p. 81.
  48. Ripsman, op. cit., pp. 66–67.
  49. Ibid., p. 38.