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The lessons of the Great War

July 1st, 2014

Columnists on both the left and the right project the lessons of World War I onto current events, and warn that defiant and unyielding geopolitics may trigger a chain reaction that cannot be contained.

The outbreak of World War I could have been avoided in the weeks after Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, Szabolcs Szerető writes in Magyar Nemzet. The conservative columnist contends that the competition between the great powers sparked a chain reaction that could no longer be stopped after the mass mobilization and an arms race on all sides, despite the fact that none of the states involved were interested in a fully-fledged war. The consequences of World War I were destructive sociologically, culturally as well as geopolitically, Szerető adds. The redrawing of the borders of Europe at the end of the war led directly to the subsequent conflicts of the 20th century, including World War II. In conclusion, Szerető hopes that history will not repeat itself, and the US and Russia will show more reason in their competition over Ukraine.

In Népszabadság, István Földesi agrees that World War I was an unintended consequence of great power rivalries. Földesi also likens the current Ukraine situation to the prelude to the Great War. He points out that the US has not taken Russian interests seriously since 1989. Földesi believes that the expansion of NATO’s sphere of interest below Central Europe was an open threat to Russian strategic interests, which Moscow could not ignore. In the absence of reasonable compromise between the power players, their rivalry may again escalate into something large, unforeseen and unwanted, Földesi warns.

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