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Leonid Bershidsky

Post-World War I Deals Had Nasty Consequences

Today’s nationalisms were largely unleashed by the settlement commemorated on Sunday.



Photographer: Jim Wood/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

During the commemorations of the Armistice that ended World War I, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — the leaders of two key nations that fought each other in that conflict — both condemned nationalism as a prime cause of bloodshed. They, however, missed an opportunity to reflect on the lasting consequences of the great power deals that followed the Great War: Many of today’s problem spots and war zones were created by those deals.

By breaking up the loose, senescent Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, the winners of World War I, primarily the British and the French, freed up the nationalisms that had festered within them. It wasn’t always for the worse initially — but it invariably backfired.