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The Road to War (1900 - 1911)
France, Germany and "Revanchism"
At the turn of the century, Franco-German relations were at an all time low. In the 1870s, Germany had defeated and humiliated France in the Franco-Prussian War and taken the title as the supreme power of continental Europe. Since then, anti-German sentiment had steadily grown in France, and frustration toward the government increased as well due to inept leadership, scandals, and a weak military. While the colonial empire of France far exceeded that of Germany, the French military was beginning to lose its grip on this as well, which in turn translated into further anger toward the Germans -- after all, France's weakened state was due to their war against Napoleon III.
Throughout the early 20th century, many French people fostered an extreme nationalist anti-German ideology known as "revanchism", named after revenge due to the desire to reclaim losses from Germany through aggressive military policy. However, German chancellor Otto von Bismarck had kept the French in check through strategic military alliances and shows of strength until he was forced to leave office in 1888 by Kaiser Wilhelm II, who drastically changed the course of German politics to pursue aggressive foreign policy through military alliances which would end disastrously.
Regardless, the German Empire's "New Course," as Wilhelm II called it, only furthered the French's calls for war. The kaiser called, throughout the first decade of the 1900s, for massive naval expansion, as he wished to compete with the British Royal Navy's fleet and to gain naval superiority. As the French military was far too weak to even attempt to defend itself against Germany on its own, the French were forced to seek outside assistance in possibly waging war against Germany. This assistance eventually came from Britain in 1904 with the Entente Cordiale. Great Britain had, unarguably, the most powerful navy on earth, which reassured the French that should a war break out, they would be well defended.
The Franco-German animosity eventually boiled over into the Moroccan Crisis of 1905, in which the Germans attempted to spark a revolt within French Morocco, to which both France and Britain threatened to respond to with military action. However, the situation was eventually defused through peaceful means at an emergency conference of several major nations, in which Germany realized it was largely unsupported by other nations in its ambitions in Morocco, prompting the Germans to sign an agreement only forcing the French to give up control of the Moroccan police.
The Balkan Crisis of 1908
At this point, Russia was not extremely powerful militarily, but was still a major player in eastern and southern European politics. The nation was allied with some of the Balkan States, such as Serbia. In 1908, Austria-Hungary announced its annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was still technically under the control of the Ottoman Empire but was administered to by the Austrians. This allowed Austria-Hungary to take advantage of the power vacuum left by Ottoman decline in the region, and was an outrage not only to the Ottomans, but also the Russians and Serbs. To make matters worse, Bulgaria proclaimed its independence from the Ottoman Empire at the same time, which nearly eliminated Ottoman influence in Europe, which was viewed as unacceptable.
Eventually, the Austrians agreed to pay the Ottoman Empire for its land, which was deemed less than ideal by the Ottomans but was its only viable option in the situation other than war (which was nearly impossible). However, the Ottomans did end up permanently losing Bulgaria in this process. At the same time, the Russians and Serbs refused to allow Austria to seize power in the Balkans through such means, and Serbia mobilized for war. Russia's army, which had been revitalized enough to pose a threat through the use of the gold in Alyeska, prepared to go to war also. Even so, the Austrians were confident that they could emerge victorious, prompting the Russians to call on the British per the Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907.
At this point Austria-Hungary realized they were in a situation they needed to get out of quickly or a massive war would break out. So, in the Treaty of Berlin (1908), the Austrians relinquished control of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Serbs, a profound victory for the Russians and Serbs alike, surrounding Austria-Hungary with a wall of enemies on its east and southeast borders.
The Confederacy Gets Involved
The CSA was considered the stronger of the two "Americas" in 1905, although the United States was improving rapidly. While the Confederates held the greater military strength, they severely lagged behind the US in terms of social and political progress. Regardless, the Confederates commanded the larger influence on the world stage, which meant that it held more weight in international politics. So, when the Agadir Crisis occurred in 1911, the Confederacy sent a few ships to Morocco and attempted to confront the Germans and defuse the situation.
Eventually, an emergency conference was called in London to try and settle the dispute through diplomatic means. This helped Confederate-German relations significantly and eventually led to another crisis -- the Atlantic Incident. The Atlantic Incident involved the United States and Confederacy. The Confederate ships that went to Morocco accidentally crossed into American waters upon their return and they were stopped and boarded. The US, still very wary of and resentful of the Confederates, refused to release the sailors until they were tried because they believed the ships were headed into their waters for "military purposes." The detention of these sailors was condemned by American enemies and allies alike as irrational and unacceptable.
The Confederate Navy then blockaded several ports in southeastern America and the army prepared for mobilization. On July 16, 1911, the Confederacy called for the release of the sailors within a day or a war would follow. The US prepared to release the prisoners, seeing the situation they were in. However, as Confederate troops mobilized along the border with the United States, one division accidentally entered the United States, which was interpreted as an invasion by the American troops stationed there, and a battle took place in which the Confederate division was killed or captured. Within hours Congress declared war on the Confederacy and, regardless of how the Confederates tried to explain it, a war was inevitable.
The Great War (1911 - 1918)
Stalemate in the AmericasOn July 18, 1911, American President Eugene V. Debs addressed the people in Washington DC, saying that "America will remain safe, as she and her allies will not be defeated." This speech was delivered as American troops marched across the southern border and into Virginia, hoping to capture Richmond and several other major cities and force an early surrender. Many world powers declared neutrality, including France and Britain, which was unexpected from their respective North American allies. Plans were quickly developed for invasions of the western and central Confederacy and troops prepared to defend their country.However, the Confederacy had been planning for about a week longer, and struck hard blows to California and Nevada before the US could even react. The two armies met in Springfield, Illinois as well on July 31 when the Confederates invaded. Neither side made much progress in the east or midwest, and eventually the defending army on both fronts (the US in the midwest and Confederacy in the east) settled into trench warfare to defend themselves. In the west, though, the Confederate generals initially ran a brilliant offensive campaign, occupying Nevada and southern California within 4 months before being pushed back to the border. The war would continue this way until 1914, when the European powers would enter the conflict.
The Other Powers Enter
On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated by Serbian nationalists, prompting a massive war scare across the continent. Germany declared support for the Austrians. Eventually, the Austrians issued an ultimatum to Serbia, which it did not comply to, and war was declared on July 28th, splitting Europe into two opposing alliances: Austria-Hungary, Germany, the Ottoman Empire, and Italy on one side, and Russia, France, Britain, Greece, and Serbia on the other. Per military treaties with Britain, the Confederates then declared war on Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, and the Ottoman Empire, while the US did the same per its treaty with France. In response, Britain declared war on the United States, which severely strained the alliance between France and Britain, but France did not enter the American conflict because it needed to concentrate its resources on Germany. In late 1914, Mexico entered the conflict on the Confederate side.
In early 1915, the British army invaded the northern US through Canada and blockaded the American east coast. Japan, which was allied with the British, also declared war on the US and blockaded the west coast and barraged Oregon and Washington. Quickly into this year, the American west coast was entirely lost, and the British made fast progress into the United States, sending the nation into chaos. Mexican troops also helped break through the defensive lines in Illinois and capture Chicago, crippling American manufacturing and industries. The British also helped the Confederacy on the eastern front break away from trench warfare and go on the offensive, reaching Washington DC by March of 1916.
At this point, the US was in a completely hopeless position and was forced to surrender to humiliating terms in the Treaty of Richmond. Southern California was given to Mexico, Washington to the British, and Nevada and Kansas to the Confederacy. America also had its navy severely limited, since it was what started the conflict in the first place.
In Europe, the Triple Alliance and its allies made slow but steady progress against the Entente powers. Germany advanced toward Paris quickly after the British sent troops to North America, eventually laying siege to the city in 1916. The siege was repulsed, however, but the Germans dealt huge damage to the French and British militaries. On the other hand, the Ottoman Empire suffered heavy losses throughout the war and engaged in the failed Persian Campaign, which led to its defeat in 1918. Eventually, the Serbs were conquered by Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary, eliminating an entire nation from the Entente powers.
In 1917, the communist Russian Revolution broke out and Russia withdrew from the war, freeing up Germany to focus only on the western campaign against France, which it went on to lose in 1918 when France and Britain launched a joint offensive against the Germans in France, eventually breaking the defenses and reaching the German homeland. Germany then surrendered, along with its allies, in November, 1918, ending the Great War. The Italians (which switched sides early in the war) forced the surrender of the Austrians, and the Bulgarians and Ottomans were forced to surrender by allies of the Entente powers.
AftermathWhen all was said and done, the Great War claimed the lives of over 20 million people and decimated entire regions. Out of all the nations on the losing side of the war, the United States took the most damage. It lost thousands of miles of land, millions of lives, its infrastructure was destroyed, and its economy was drained. The nation descended into chaos and President Eugene V. Debs of the Socialist Party (formerly the Greenback Party) was ousted in favor of the United Nationalist Party's nominee, Gifford Pinchot, who promised to avenge the losses the United States had suffered. He promoted aggressive foreign policy, low taxes, and similar policies. However, 4 years into his presidency, things had only moderately improved, and he was voted out in favor of the Socialist nominee George A. Nelson, who advocated a militaristic foreign policy and communism.
Germany hardly fared better than the United States. Germans were outraged by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and overthrew Kaiser Wilhelm II, replacing the government with the Weimar Republic, which entered an economic depression trying to pay back its war debts and reparations. The French also occupied a decent portion of western Germany. Widespread civil unrest caused chaos and led people to extremely radical ideologies and later lead to the rise of national socialism and Adolf Hitler. Austria-Hungary simply ceased to exist after its military collapse and it fractured into several smaller republics, marking the end of the Habsburg Monarchy. The Ottoman Empire fell after ruling the Muslim world for centuries, and was partitioned among the French and British, as well as new, smaller successor states, although the official successor state was Turkey. Persia took this opportunity to invade what remained of the Ottoman state and snag a large amount of territory in the Arabian Peninsula and a bit north of it, solidifying the utter defeat and dissolution of the once great empire.
The Russians dropped out of the war in 1917, and began one of the most significant events in modern history, the Russian Revolution, which would transform Russia into a communist nation, and would later spill over into the rest of the world. Russia lost a significant amount of territory, including the Baltic region and the nation of Poland, as it was undergoing severe hardships.
The "Calm Era" (1918 - 1935)
The two decades following the Great War were generally a time of peace, although international tension and nationalism were at an all time high. Many new that another war was coming, they just didn't know when. It wasn't until Hitler's rise to power in Germany or Trotsky's doctrine of "perpetual revolution and warfare" took hold in Germany and Russia respectively, that people saw this fear begin to materialize. Regardless, nations left in tatters by the Great War were revitalized and rebuilt, with bigger and deadlier militaries.
Following the Great War, the United States was utterly devastated. History began to repeat itself and Americans turned to radical leftist ideologies to solve their problems, electing George A. Nelson in 1920. He ran as a Socialist, but was considered by many to be a full-on communist. This was attractive to many Americans because it gave them a sense of national unity and a common goal to work toward (the restoration of their country). It also once again put America at the forefront of global cultural change as only Russia existed as a communist state at this point. Nelson promoted extreme nationalism among Americans, and promoted the view that America was a collective group of people, rather than a nation of individuals.
Nelson was narrowly able to institute reforms forcing corporate executives to take enormous pay cuts in favor of raises for workers. He planned to phase out currency in general as well, however not even a Socialist congress would allow for this to happen, so he settled for what he could. To the surprise of many, the economy did stabilize, and to this day it is debated as to whether communism helped or hurt the American economy in the long run. Nelson also instituted a law requiring at least 2 years of military service from individuals between 18 and 30 who were "extremely wealthy," which tripled the size of the military and made the United States a respectable military power once again.In 1923, Leon Trotsky, a high ranking member of the Russian Communist Party reached out to Nelson for help. He claimed that the man he believed would become the next leader of the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin, had ambitions to become a dictator, and he leaked several documents to the United States government to back up this claim. Nelson and Trotsky reached an agreement that communism must have democracy, and therefore Stalin and other corrupt Communist Party members must be eliminated for the greater good. Operation Blizzard was launched early in the year by the National Safety Administration, in which the US government assisted Trotsky in eliminating these corrupt bureaucrats, including Josef Stalin. Both Nelson and Trotsky believed that true communism could only be achieved through continuous global revolution, and signed a secret military pact, known as the Pact of Red, to support their fellow communists in military conflicts.
Trotsky's RussiaAfter the rule of Vladimir Lenin laid the framework for a communist Russia, Leon Trotsky assumed his position in the Soviet Union after his death in 1924. Trotsky believed in democracy and freedom, but also strength, unity, and nationalism. He immediately dissolved the Soviet Union and replaced it with the Russian Republic. His new position was President, and the massive nation enjoyed direct democracy. He called on the people of Russia to work together and try to improve not only their own lives, but that of all Russians and all people of the world.
Trotsky granted suffrage and equal rights to the women of Russia and religious and ethnic minorities relatively quickly, and added a national flag (both the original soviet flag and the new flag were official) that was the Romanov dynasty's flag upside down, which he felt represented "the new order, in which the people are at the top and those in charge have been taken down." He ordered the buildup of the Red Army and the creation of a "People's Revolutionary Army" which would spread the revolution to the rest of the world. He wanted to properly arm this military force, however, and allow the dust of the revolution to settle, so he set the target year for an invasion of eastern Europe for 1930, but this didn't pan out as both the people and the military were not ready to take on powers such as Germany, France, Italy, etc. by the time 1930 rolled around, so the date was extended to 1935.
However, the people called for the invasion and reoccupation of Latvia, Lithuania, and Belarus, which he of course responded to positively. By the end of the year, the Baltics were back under Russian control and were directly added to the Republic. The Russian economy then began to stabilize very quickly as the people learned to live with their new system. The military began to use tanks, the Russian Pacific Fleet was massively expanded, and the military in Alaska was fortified to protect against potential attacks from Canada. Trotsky was reelected by wide margins every two years until his death in 1949.
The Rise of National Socialism
Following the Great War, the political landscape of the entire world began to change. As the United States turned to communism and aggressive military expansion (in violation of the Treaty of Richmond), the other defeated powers, and some victorious ones, also began turning to radical ideologies. For example, the Confederacy was the second nation to turn to a system that came to be known as "national socialism." The Confederates began to believe that its victories over its northern neighbor and other nations in the Civil War, Caribbean War, and Great War were "sanctioned by God" and that they were destined to retake the rest of their land from the USA. Due to this radical ideology taking hold through propaganda campaigns and high nationalism, the Black Legion Party, a national socialist party, won a majority in the Senate and won the Presidency in the 1928 elections, where Virgil Effinger was elected President of the Confederacy. In 1931, in a national referendum, the Confederate people voted by a large margin to suspend Congress and the judicial branch to allow Effinger to create a, as he called it, "grand new system." Effinger, from this point on, was essentially dictator of the Confederacy.
Following the rise of national socialism in the Confederacy, several European nations fell victim to the radical ideology as well, most notably Germany. However, the complete list of national socialist nations by the end of this political movement would be Italy, Spain, Great Britain, Germany, and Japan. Spain became a dictatorship under Francisco Franco in 1938, Italy under Benito Mussolini in the early 1920s, Germany under Adolf Hitler in 1933, and Great Britain under Oswald Mosley in after the British Civil War.
Hitler's rise to power came due to high nationalism among Germans and resentment of the Treaty of Versailles following the Great War, in addition to rising racism among the Germans as they searched for a scapegoat for their defeat. Eventually, he was made Chancellor of Germany, then he became dictator when the Reichstag gave him the authority to pass laws and make decisions without their consent, making Germany the second nation to democratically defeat its democracy. National socialism was attractive to many people in Great Britain because they saw their American ally prospering under it and figured it would work for them. The British also began fostering the idea that God had chosen them to subdue the rest of the world through their superior strength and culture. So, Oswald Mosley founded the British National Socialist Union in 1933, and would later seize power after the British Civil War and abolish the monarchy, marking the end of centuries upon centuries of tradition.
Descent Into War
While many thought the tension in the western world would explode into a war, the first war to break out in the world as the calm era came to a close was in east Asia. Tensions had been building between Japan and China for years, and in 1931, Japanese and Chinese forces began to fight each other in minor border skirmishes, which would later boil over into a fullscale war in 1937.