Were the Peace Treaties fair 1919-1923?
What were the motives and aims of the Big Three at Versailles? Why did the victors not get everything they wanted at Versailles? What was the impact of the Peace Treaty on Germany up to 1923? Could the treaties be justified at the time?
Background to Versailles
War was fought between two Alliance Groups:
a) Triple Alliance: Germany, Austria, Hungary, Turkey, Italy, Bulgaria b) Triple Entente: Britain, France, Russia and USA.
The War generated massive bitterness and hatred on both sides. This bitterness was to carry over into the public expectations of what should happen at Versailles. There was massive economic and social damage done to France and Belgium in particular on the Western Front. On the Eastern Front, Russia suffered heavily at the hands of the Germans and the Austro-Hungarians. Many Germans were bitter that their Government decided to give in to the Allies. This confusion plays an important part in shaping German attitudes to the peace process. On the British side it was clear that Germany had started the war (Sarajevo incident creates the pre-conditions for war) when German troops invaded France through Belgium. The Germans on the other hand argued that they were encircled by France and Russia and that encirclement threatened German security. In 1917 Russia became communist under the Bolsheviks and their leader Lenin. They signed a peace with Germany to get out of the war. The Treaty of Brest Litvosk imposed on Russia was harsh. In 1917 the USA joined the war on the side of the allies having been reluctant to become involved. In 1917 Wilson outlined his 14 Points which were supposed to provide a basis for future international relations
Problems for the Winners
Germany had nearly defeated Britain, Russia and France single-handed. Communists had seized power in Russia. What about the communist threat?? Central and Eastern Europe were in chaos. A new map of Europe would have to be drawn up The British and French Governments had entered into a number of secret treaties during the war. They had promised Japan special treatment in Asia. Under the Treaty of London 1915 Italy agreed to join allies in return for the promise of gains from Austria-Hungary. Japan and Italy now expected their rewards. Nationalists in Eastern Europe had set up new Governments before the War had officially ended. The end of the War came more quickly than the allies had expected. The victorious Allies had given little thought to the arrangements for peace. The winners had very different views about these arrangements. How severely should Germany and her allies be punished.
How should economic stability be restored to Europe?
What were the motives and aims of the Big Three?
United States (President Woodrow Wilson)
The policies of the USA at Versailles were shaped by President Wilson. Being a very religious man he wanted a just peace. Motives:
Wilson’s belief in self-determination comes from the ground belief of a country’s right to decide its own future. Wilson believed that wars were often fought because of secret treaties and petty rivalries. Wilson was fearful of the threat of communism because it prospered in war torn areas. America needed Europe to trade with.
USA not happy with war guilt clause because they wanted a just peace. Wanted Germany to recover to prevent communism and so they could trade with Germany. Aims:
1. ‘Just Peace’ based on Wilson’s 14 points.
2. Stop the rise of communism in Germany. Germany needed to be able to recover economically (a communist uprising took place in 1918 that failed – the Spartacist Uprising) 3. Self-Determination
4. Establish an organisation that would preserve and protect international peace. 5. Germany should be punished – reparations – but not too harshly. 6. They were keen to restore economic prosperity across Europe so they would be able to trade and repay their...