The study of international relations leading to the outbreak of the Second World War may have found the most favour with researchers of European diplomatic history in post—War Japan. In the 1950's, when the Cold War propaganda prevailed both in the East and West, Japanese researchers discussed the Munich Agreement and/or Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact through examining West European, American and Soviet theses on the basis of published diplomatic documents. The Japan Association of International Relations published in 1959 a special edition (No. 8 of Kokusai Seiji) under the title of Gendai Kokusai Seijishi (A Contemporary History of International Relations), in which several researchers treated the foreign policies of the great powers in the 1930's. Once the period of the Cold War was over, historians began to look back more objectively on the Second World War and events preceding it. Archives of Germany, Great Britain and the United States were opened. Japanese scholars have since produced works reflecting these more favourable research conditions. The Japan Association of International Relations organized a symposium on “Summer 1939: International Relations on the Eve of the Second World War” at the, Autumn Congress of 1980, the purpose of which was to bring together separate research projects which had been carried out by members of the Assochation. The oral reporters were later requested to develop discussion, and to contribute articles to the present special edition, “The Eve of the Second World War: International Relations in Summer, 1939.” This collection contains seven articles and one research note, the contents of which may be outlined as follows. To begin with, Masanori Tsunagawa discusses the role of German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop in the conclusion of the Pact with the Soviet Union, with an observation that Hitler's design for the world was consistent, and that he only happened to use as a means what appeared to be a different line of policy. Yuta Sasaki examines background to the British guarantee to Poland at the end of March, 1939, pointing out that Great Britain still hoped for the avoidance of war particularly in view of British lack of military preparation for the defence of its global Empire. Hirotaka Watanabe approaches the French foreign policy of 1939 in terms of France's international position, which was largely defined by the Italian threat and the Mediterranean situation. Osamu Nakanishi presents an hypothesis that the Soviet Union had already determined to change its policy of forming an alliance against Hitler at the time of the 18th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in March, 1939, and that the Nomonhan incident only gave the finishing touch to the Soviet decision to form an agreement with Nazi Germany. Katsuhiko Matsukawa deals with Polish Foreign Minister Beck's policy to “balance” Germany and the Soviet Union, and coucludes that Poland was actually a passive beneficiary of the existing balance. Besides the above articles dealing with European powers, two more articles shed light on the European political situation from outside Europe. The article by Shigeo Fukuda and Hiroshi Yoshii discusses F. D. R.'s European policy by examining conventionalists' and revisionists' theories, and by developing some of them. Masaki Miyake discusses mutual interconnections among Japanese-German, Japanese-British and Japanese-Soviet relations, closing the chapter with the comment that the “stratified structure” of the Nazi foreign policy deluded the Japanese political and military leaders in summer, 1939. The research note by Kyozo Sato presents a detailed account corresponding to Sasaki's contention through a study of British military strategies in the Far East. While these articles treat respective problems raised rather independently, taken together they supplement each other to present a panorama of the whole European
A conspicuous feature of recent studies on Nazi-German foreign policy in the West-Germany may be in the controversy: to which should more importance be attached, Hitler's leadership or what is called the pluralism in the regime, though the pluralism itself has been generally recognized? For instance, W. Michalka's new study on the Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, which seems to contribute much in this respect, and so which we take as a clue, has been proved, as the result of the inquiry, to be inclined to overestimate the influences of other leaders upon Hitler. This applies above all to the analysis of the two most epoch-making events immediately before the Second World War, namely, the conclusion of the Munich-Agreement (30.9.1938) and the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (23.8.1939). Therefore, as K.Hildebrand asserts, the pluralism in the regime should after all be interpreted as the premise of Hitler's leadership, and in this meaning also W. Michalka's study should be regarded only as an excellent hypothesis for the future development of research on the subject.
In the spring of 1939, Britain was faced with the possibility of the triple war against Germany, Italy and Japan. Towards the end of February, the British government set about a general reappraisal of the imperial defence programmes, and, by the summer of the year, the conclusion of the appralial was to proceed with defensive strategic planning giving top priority to Home defence. This conclusion was grounded upon the deep-seated reluctance on the part of the British policy-makers to become committed to a direct military confrontation with Germany. The British government's response to the crisis of Rumania, and then of Poland, in March 1939, must be analysed within the context described above. The British policy adopted during the first two weeks after the German occupation of Czechoslovakia was intended, not for saving a particular victim from German aggression, but rather for deterring the action beforehand by organizing a ‘peace front’ in South-Eastern Europe or by issuing ‘a general statement’ against militaly aggression, whereby to avert, or postpone, entering war with Germany. The British guarantee to Poland was announced on 31st March in the hope that the statement might produce ‘deterrent effect’ if presented before German took any military actions. On the contrary, it was true that Britain, as a result of that statement, had become committed to the war with Germany, which the British policy-makers were well aware of. But the British government laid down some strict conditions for giving support to Poland ; for example, the statement did not constitute a guarantee for maintaining the existing borders indefinitely. These conditions were, so to speak, the guarantee to Britain, which was to safeguard as far as possible the British position to avoid war with Germany. On the eve of the World War, the British government, returning strategically to the defensive planning of the Home Island, cotinued utmost diplomatic efforts to eliminate the casus belli.
This article, in which you can find the developments of French diplomacy, especially in 1939, is intended to make clear the policy for the European stabillity of Daladier's government. After Munich, it was only by the détente among the Four Powers that France and Britain could have re-established the European security system so as to prevent Germany and Italy from attacking them. And with the Franco-German declation of December 1938, France tried to carry out a policy of which the aim might be to pursue the collaboration with the Reich and to look for a means of settling troubles with Italy, through the intermediation of Germany. The German Occupation of Prague on 15 March 1939, however, introduced a New Diplomatic Policy of embarking on the negotiations with the Poles and the Soviet Union, but in vain. Indeed, this fiasco was due to the French recognition of them, which might be based on the notion of maintaining the West-European system by the Four Powers. From this point of view, naturally, Anglo-French relations had always been made much of by French leaders, even if it was Britain to have much more influence and there had been discords between the two democratic powers. But, after all, the absence of Anglo-French collaboration took the Europeans to the bankruptcy. In addition, it was remarkable that there had been differences among the French leaders, but they seemed to share the idea that the détente among the Four Powers would be the sine qua non for the maintenance of world-wide stability.
On Soviet diplomacy during the .period from the Munich agreement (September 1938) to the Soviet-German non-aggression pact (August 1939), many scholars have been debating two themes: when the Soviet Union changed its policy in regard to Nazi Germany and how the “Nomonhan Affair” (“Khalkin-Gol Incident”) influenced the decision-making of Soviet foreign policy. On the former we recognize Stalin's address at the XVIII Party Congress (March 1939) as the turning point of Soviet diplomacy and give special attention to the Munich agreement which brought about this very important change in Soviet policy regarding Nazi Germany. On the latter we presume from the documents which were sent by Richard Zorge, Soviet militaly intelligence agent from Tokyo to Moscow, that Soviet-Japanese relations, especially the “Nomonhan Affair”, definitely influenced the decision-making of Soviet foreign policy. In conclussion the Soviet-German pact is evaluated as a very skillful and clever maneuver from the point of view of “Power Politics”, but removed morality from Soviet socialist diplomacy.
The author intended to make clear the reason Poland was defenceless during the years prior to the Second World War. The then Minister of Foreign Affairs Beck believed that total war would never break out, because he regarded Hitler's territorial and political demands vis à vis Poland as only a bluff. Beck's policies to settle the disputes with Germany were as follows; 1) to reply to Hitler with the same bluff, 2) to maintain closer contact with Britain in order to restrain Hitler, 3) to control Polish public opinion in order to carry out 1) and 2). But Beck's plan turned out to be ineffective by the end of April, 1939, because his above-mentioned fundamental intentions from 1) to 3) all turned out to be false. Still remaining in office, he stirred up Poland to make better preparation for the War, though it seems that for Poland not many choices remained.
There is no evidence to show that the United States played any important role in the outbreak of the Second European War in 1939. There has been a hot controversy raged on the question of the “role”, however, in the United States between orthodox historians (conventionalists) and revisionists, just like the similar controversy over the problem of Japan's Pearl Harbor Attack or that of the Yalta agreements. The point in dispute is how to interpret the two faces of American foreign policy toward Europe in the critical years. From one point of view we see the following: (1) Franklin D. Roosevelt endeavored to revise the Neutrality Act in order to make possible America's arms-sale to Britain and France, (2) The United States itself began its rearmaments, especially in the mass production of war-aircrafts along with its new military plans called “Rainbow Plan” against the Axis Powers, (3) Roosevelt criticized Britain's appeasement policy and encouraged the Polish Government to take its own decisive attitude. On the other hand is the following; (1) Roosevelt's foreign policy had been conditioned by the people's strong sentiments of isolationism which had rejected the revision of the Neutrality Act, (2) Roosevelt had a plan to call an international conference to accomodate the European conflicts. The purpose of this paper is (1) to review the controversy in the early stage of post-World War II and the Cold War years, and (2) to comment on the new interpretations prevailing in the post-Vietnam War years. We acknowledge that there are two schools of interpretation on the question mentioned above. One school interprets that Roosevelt had successfully reconciled his country's global missions and his people's sentiments of isolationism. The other school insists that the United States had been endeavoring consistently to promote the formation of a world-wide free economic system including Nazi-Germany and militalistic Japan, too, after World War I. But we esteem that these two are fundamentally new revisions of former orthodox and revisionist theories.
This essay examines the relations between the Western Powers and Japan in the summer of 1939. Japanese diplomacy in this period was strongly characterized by the intervention of the military. To review the situation of those days, it is necessary to look back into the situation of 1938. It is often insisted that one of the first motives on the Japanese side that spurred Japan into negotiations with Germany for the purpose of “strengthening the Anti-Comintern Pact (November 25, 1936)” lay in the Japanese army's desire to check the Soviet Union and Britain from aiding Chiang Kai-shek's China in the Sino-Japanese Conflict. For example, the document “The Army's Hopes Regarding Current Foreign Policies” (Deterrent Diplomacy. Japan, Germany, and the USSR, 1935-1940, edited by James William Morley, New York, 1976, pp. 268-272), which was proposed by the War Minister Itagaki to the Konoe Cabinet on July 3, 1938, shows the army's fear for both the Soviet Union and Britain. On July 19, the Five Ministers Conference adopted a “Draft Policy for Strengthening Political Ties with Germany and Italy” (Ibid., p. 55). It is an interesting fact that both the “Hopes” and “Draft” aimed at concluding a pact with Germany to check the Soviet Union and making a secret agreement with Italy to check Britain respectively. Since the acceptance of Ribbentrop's proposal on August 5, 1938, which was brought to Tokyo by General Yukio Kasahara, the Japanese army changed its view immediately and eagerly followed Ribbentrop's idea to combine these two agreements. The move to the Tripartite Pact thus began in the summer of 1938. It was very much embarassing for the Japanese army that Germany started in the spring of 1939 to make contact with the Soviet Union which had been thought by the Japanese army to be the common enemy of both Germany and Japan. The Japanese Ambassador to Berlin, General Hiroshi Oshima, cabled the Foreign Minister Arita on April 21, 1939, indicating Ribbentrop's intention to bring about better relations between Moscow and Berlin. On July 19, Uzuhiko Usami, councilor of the Japanese Embassy in Berlin, raised objection against the German access to the Soviet Union which was becoming more and more evident at that time (Akten zur Deutschen Auswärtigen Politik 1918-1945, Serie D, Band VI, Nr. 688). The Japanese army started a local war with the Soviet Union in Nomonhan in May, 1939. This war turned out to be a total defeat of Japan at the end of August. It is a noteworthy fact that the staff of the Kwantung Army which waged this war were fully conscious of the interrelationship between the outcome of this war and the so-called Arita-Craigie talks which were to begin in Tokyo on July 15. Colonel Masao Terada, Chief of the Operation Section of the Kwantung Army, was hesitant to widen the war because he feared that this war would deter the talks. Major Masanobu Tsuji argued that Japan's coup in the battlefield of Nomonhan would strengthen Japan's position toward Britain in the talks and Tsuji persuaded the whole section in this regard. This operation conference on June 19, 1939, was recorded in the secret diary of the Nomonhan Incident (Gendaishi shiryo or the Source Materials of Contemporary History of Japan, vol. 10, Tokyo: Misuzu-shobo, 1963, pp. 74-75). Recent studies by Klaus Hildebrand and Wolfgang Michalka show that the foreign policy of the Third Reich possessed a stratified structure consisting of the core, i. e. Hitler's pro-British and anti-Russian policy, and the overstructure represented by Ribbentrop's anti-British and pro-Russian policy which was supported by the German Foreign Ministry, Navy and Big Business. The Japanese army and Japan as a whole was perplexed by this structure of German foreign policy which was regarded as enigmatic.
For the British strategists the “Ten Year Rule”—that there would be no war in the Far East within the next ten years—was no more than an illusion. The mounting anxieties and difficulties both in the Far East and Europe forced them to reconsider their whole strategy. The problem, however, was that they had little resources, economic as well as military, to counter these adversities. With this as a background, the issue of the dispatch of capital ships to Singapore came up to the surface. And it meant, in effect, a touchstone of Britain's strength as a maritime power, in other words, one of the numerous instances in which whether she could influence situations as she had hitherto done was put to the test. There is no denying that Far Eastern affairs were of secondary importance for Britain; she had other troubles to wrestle with much closer to her—Italian expansion into the Mediterranean and German overriding of Czechoslovakia and elsewhere. And yet, the ominous threats in the Far East—Japan's intention, to establish a “new order” and her subsequent advance southward—, too, could not possibly be overlooked. Britain had to do her utmost, without the American backing, to restrain Japan's activist policy, using the Singapore base as a deterrent. With that the reinforcements of Singapore became a matter of urgent concern. How could she strengthen the Singapore base ? Almost all her capital ships had been earmarked for the home and Mediterranean waters; and funds were also too scarce to build new ones. With the dispatch of a fleet rejected halfheartedly, Singapore remained unsafe and vulnerable. Even the “Tientsin crisis” in June 1939 failed to bring forth any change in her Far Eastern strategy; and she, too, remained passive and simply hoped it would be settled in due course. Thereafter she did not pay, to be more exact, did not afford to pay, much attention to what was going on in the Far East. Against this her strategy revolved round. And she could not find a way out until the autumn of 1939 when the outbreak of war in Europe relieved her, if temporarily, of the burdens in the Far East.